This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.


When discussing the Empty Tomb, you often cite van Daalen, and quote him: "It is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions." I was discussing this with someone who claimed van Daalen was a skeptic, and I found the book very cheap, so decided to buy it. The actual quote is: "Nevertheless it would be extremely difficult to object to the grave story on purely historical grounds. Even if we assumed that it served the purpose if checking an incipient grave cult, that would not explain how the story arose in the first place." I appreciate the sentiment is the same, but I feel getting the quote right is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, the misquote has now spread across the internet…


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Dr. William Lane Craig's Response

Dr. William Lane Craig

Andy, thanks so much for bringing this to my attention! When I first read your question, I thought to myself, “Oh, that wasn’t a direct quotation. Andy has added quotation marks to my indirect citation of van Daalen to make it look like a direct quotation.”

Imagine, then, my surprise when I looked up my citation of van Daalen in Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, Ill.:  Crossway, 1994), p. 370, and, lo and behold, found that it is represented there as a direct quotation! “That just can’t be right,” I thought. “What’s going on here?” Since I was out at Talbot, I asked Harry Edwards, who manages our webstore, to retrieve copies of my books The Son Rises: Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus (Chicago:  Moody Press, 1981) and Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus (Toronto:  Edwin Mellen, 1989), my original books on the resurrection on which the chapter in Reasonable Faith was based. I looked up the citation in each.

Sure enough, just as I suspected, in both of these original works, the reference to van Daalen is not a direct quotation but my summation of his view:

As D. H. Van Daalen has pointed out, it is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions (like the assumption that miracles are impossible) (Son Rises, pp. 84-85).

As Van Daalen has remarked, it is extremely difficult to object to the fact of the empty tomb on historical grounds; most objectors do so on the basis of theological or philosophical considerations (Assessing, p. 271).

Here we see my giving the substance of van Daalen’s position in my own words.

Somewhere along the line quotation marks crept into the text of Reasonable Faith. How did this happen? Reasonable Faith is the re-publication of my book Apologetics: An Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984). Did the citation there have the quotation marks? When I arrived home from Talbot, I looked up the citation in the out-of-print Apologetics (p. 191). Ha! The identical direct quotation appears there. It looks as if an overzealous copy editor at Moody Press, perhaps seeing the footnote number and thinking I had forgotten the quotation marks, inserted the quotation marks into my citation. 

The only thing more that needs to be said is that my summation of van Daalen’s position is correct.[1] Earlier on the same page van Daalen says even more clearly, “Most people who object to the story, however, do so on other than historical grounds. It is commonplace to say that the story fits into an ancient view of the world but not into ours.” As even one blogger who accused me of misquotation states, “I appreciate the meaning of the quote is not changed; but good scholarship does require that a quote be an exact copy of the original not a paraphrase.” Of course; but I was not quoting van Daalen. That’s why there were no quotation marks.

Harry Edwards remarked to me that this incident reminded him of the way in which the New Testament manuscripts were copied and transmitted. That’s right! By comparing the dates and texts of various manuscripts we can reconstruct the original text of the New Testament to about 98% certainty. In my case, any publication which stands in the “stream of tradition” emanating from the Moody Press publication will have the error. Texts reflecting the earlier, uncorrupted text (e.g., Wm. L. Craig, “The Historicity of the Empty Tomb of Jesus,” New Testament Studies 31 [1985]:  39-67) will be free of that error. So there is a positive take-away from this affair.

Still, I wish I had caught the mistake when the quotation marks were introduced into Apologetics: An Introduction. I have now written to Crossway and asked them to correct the mistake in the next printing of Reasonable Faith. Thanks again for bringing this to my attention!



[1] On the pattern of German scholars, who refer to the empty tomb as “das leere Grab” [lit., “empty grave”] and the empty tomb story as “die Grabesgeschichte,” van Daalen calls the empty tomb story “the grave story.” By way of comparison French scholars use an expression closer to the English: le tombeau vide.

This Q&A and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website.