The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry
Alter (Michael J.)
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Amazon Customer Review 1

  1. I write1 this review as an Evangelical Conservative Christian and a graduate of Talbot Theological Seminary. No, I do not just read material that supports my belief system. A good number of2 a massive research and reference library I have is devoted to those volumes seeking to rip to pieces what I have accepted as true from the Bible. My philosophy of education is to always know the various systems that would oppose what I have accepted as true better than they do3. I want to know the best arguments and how to respond to them. A teacher like myself who seeks to prepare his students to give answers for their faith must utilize the very best sources. Otherwise, it becomes a case of pastoral malpractice by omitting what would amount to a better argument and creating a false sense of security.
  2. This brings me to this title by Michael Alter entitled "The Resurrection". This volume, in my opinion, is the new gold standard for the perspective that would seek to destroy Christianity by taking out the pivotal event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Apologists for the Christian faith [which I count myself as a member] MUST deal with his arguments4 as they are, hands down, the best of the best I have ever encountered.
  3. This book will easily appeal to skeptics of the Christian faith and it should appeal to just about every Bible school and Seminary of the country as a standard textbook for students in apologetic classes. It is well organized and academic in its approach. It deserves a wide readership especially by those who would seek to "always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."

Amazon Customer Review 2
  1. I've written before against the attempt to defend Christianity via Natural Theology. Michael Alter destroys it, and along the way refutes the claims of the resurrection of Jesus in his book. Natural theologians claim they can argue to the existence of God and then argue there is sufficient evidence for the resurrection of Jesus afterward. I've argued they cannot legitimately do that. Alter's book is premised on all of the things that the arguments to God's existence grant. And yet, even as a Jewish theist who believes in God, the inspiration of Old Testament, miracles, and certain other things about Jesus, he easily rejects the resurrection. His book is a massive masterpiece at 746 pages of text with 81 additional pages of bibliography!
  2. Believing that God exists does not grant Christians any better position regarding the evidence at all. They still must deal with the evidence. For who knows? Maybe God does exist but didn't raise Jesus from the dead. How can they know if God did? They must look at the evidence without any special pleading, the same way Alter does.
  3. In my experience most Christians won't read books like this one. They only read the ones that support what they were led to believe from childhood5. That's because they don't really want to know the truth. But from skim-reading this book by Alter they should.
  4. Alter's book is another example of what I mean when I say believers debunk each other. So I consider Alter an ally in my attempts to debunk Christianity, even though I go on to offer a criticism of his belief in God and the Old Testament as the inspired word of Yahweh.
  5. He tackles many details not addressed by other similar texts, like the significance of the name Arimathea (p. 213). He has done his homework even with regard to this small detail. Other small details he discusses are whether Jesus was crucified in the Spring or more likely in the Fall (pp. 52-54), whether the Last Supper was the Passover meal (pp. 69ff), whether Jesus was crucified on Friday (pp. 94ff), and whether the disciples had any homes to return to, as stated in John 20:10, when they had previously "left all" to follow Jesus as stated in Mark 10:28 (p. 411). Of the claim that the temple veil was torn from top to bottom at the death of Jesus, Alter asks us to "imagine tearing a cloth fabric the thickness of a good-size telephone directory6" which was the length of 82 feet (p. 141). There are many such discussions in his book. It is a treasure trove of research, including hundreds of important quotes from both conservative and liberal scholars.
  6. Alter takes the Christian story as chronologically believed from the beginning to the end of the supposed events, from the Last Supper, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and appearance to Paul. Before each section Alter presents the relevant biblical verses in parallel columns. In the process he finds 120 contradictions and offers 217 speculations7 that seem to be more reasonable to him than what most Christians believe. He spent eleven years traveling around to different libraries in researching on the issue and writing this magisterial work. It more than rivals any other book-length treatment on the subject. Even as an encyclopedic work it still leaves a few issues unaddressed (like the role of cognitive bias in the minds of the dejected disciples, how to properly do historical research, and a discussion of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 538). Nonetheless, it's the best volume on the resurrection by a single author one can find. It's certainly better than most of the ones coming from liberals and atheists. It's a tour de force. Best of its kind. From now on Christian scholars don't need to concern themselves with atheist books on the resurrection. Deal with fellow believer and theist Michael Alter's book, if you can. But if you cannot convince a fellow theistic believer against the massive amount of evidence he presents, then you should give up all attempts to convince non-believers.
  7. Christians, you're already on the same page with Alter so try to convince him otherwise. My prediction is you can't, and he's a theist of a different stripe very similar to you. Until Christians can convince Alter his Jewish faith is wrong, or until Alter can convince Christians they are wrong, I'll remain a non-believer. The reason neither of them will win this war of beliefs is because of the nature of belief itself. It's because of the cognitive bias of faith that resides in the brain of every believer. It causes them to overestimate the probabilities in favor of what they want to be true. Faith is the problem. Neither side really wants to know the truth. They all defend what they were raised to believe in their respective cultures (however small or large), which in turn is what they prefer to believe.
  8. Let the contest begin! I'll be watching. When it comes to the resurrection I'm solidly in Alter's camp. On this issue he's defending atheism.
    John W. Loftus

In-Page Footnotes ("Alter (Michael J.) - The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry")

Footnote 1: This is not me, of course.

Footnote 2: This isn’t my dreadful prose, either.

Footnote 3: So, presumably, his mind is closed to the possibility that any of these opposing systems may actually be (partially) right.

Footnote 4: Fair enough – but are they dealt with anywhere?

Footnote 5: “Support”, yes; “from childhood”, not necessarily.

Footnote 6: This is interesting background – but – it is said – the tearing is from “top to bottom” rather than “bottom up” to show that God did the tearing, not man. Presumably God can tear a mean telephone directory.

Footnote 7: Footnote 8: Disappointing, but any Jewish Bible commentary will address this passage.

  • Xlibris (21 Feb. 2015)
  • I came across this book via a series by Bradly Bowen on Patheos Secular Outpost (Link)
  • The author is a Jew aiming to inoculate other Jews against Christian evangelism. He may not therefore be giving a balanced account. No doubt he will protest too much.

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  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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