In chapter 5, Cremer tackles the question of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.
Now, to back up, recall that Harnack denies the resurrection of Jesus. He does so from the point of view of a historian for whom the credibility of any event rests on having a historical analogue. But the resurrection stands out of analogy with all that we know and experience in human history (p. 76). Harnack thinks that the early Christians clothed their hope of a future eternal life with God (kernel) in the form of an end-time, apocalyptic mythology in which the earth, the sea, and Hades give up their dead (husk). Since their hope of experiencing this future bodily resurrection was grounded in Jesus, they made him a partaker in this fabricated dogma as well (p. 77). The record of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus is explained by Harnack as a psychological self-delusion in which the inner longings and imaginings of the disciples were externalized and turned into false memories of seemingly actual events (p. 78).
In response, Cremer makes the following points:
(1) Paul's statements in 1 Cor 15:3-8 regarding the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection are our earliest record, pre-dating even the Gospels.
(2) Paul places the Damascus epiphany of Christ on a par with the appearances to the disciples, thus indicating the actuality of the latter in space-time history. They are not to be viewed as mere pictures produced in the soul (p. 79).
(3) Contrary to Harnack, the disciples did not imagine or wish that Jesus had risen. In fact, they had denied him and fled in unbelief. Then, in this state of unbelief, Jesus shockingly appeared to the women and to the disciples. Their immediate reaction to the reports that Jesus had risen was not one of joy but of terror and fear. Thus, their state of mind was the opposite of what Harnack supposes, i.e., their inner imaginings that Jesus had risen. The only explanation for their sudden change of mind was the reality of an external event that impinged on them from the outside. (p. 80)
(4) Likewise with Paul on the road to Damascus. His state of mind pior to the epiphany of the risen Christ was one of total hostility to any belief that Jesus really was the living Messiah. There is no question of Paul externalizing a spiritual imagination. Furthermore, Paul has the clearest affirmation in the NT concerning the corporality of the resurrection of Jesus and that of those who belong to him (1 Cor 15). So any notion of Jesus being raised in a spiritual sense while his body still lay in the grave would have been a flat contradiction.
(5) Finally, the reality of the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for the Christian belief that in Jesus we experience the forgiveness of sins. The disciples could not have regarded the death of Jesus as an atoning death that provided forgiveness of sins unless Jesus had been raised after his death. "There is therefore only forgiveness of sins because Jesus has risen" (p. 84). If he had died and remained dead, then his death would have been proof positive that all of his claims, his teaching, his miracles, and his offer of forgiveness to sinners were an empty sham. After the death of Jesus and prior to his resurrection, the disciples seemed to have concluded just that. But when Jesus came back from death, everything changed and they realized that indeed he was the Messiah, the bearer of the kingdom, the Savior in whom they had redemption and forgiveness.
So Cremer answers Harnack. He concludes this chapter by pointing out that, ultimately, these questions cannot be decided by minute historical-critical considerations, but by faith.
Historical criticism can the less decide, since the question is whether or not the history with which we are here concerned stands actually outside of all other history, and thus differs from all other history. The Christ whom the apostolic account describes has for His object to save, not humanity in general, least of all the wise, the noble, the mighty of the earth, but the sinners and the whole world of sinners. Has Jesus solved this problem? Has He solved it for me and in me? Could He and can He solve it? This question can not at all be historically decided, tho it concerns a fact which is either real or an illusion. But in order to decide this question it requires not a "scientific" disinterestedness, but it is to be put and treated, as Harnack also treats it, as a question of the most burning personal interest. One must enter into a personal relation to Jesus, and that not a relation in which, by certain claims which he makes or repudiates, one restricts from the very beginning the influence of Jesus on men; but where one examines the records to ascertain whether the effect which proceeds from that influence is a redeeming one or not, and whether or not this Jesus, as He is here "described before our eyes," has redeemed us, and still redeems from the ban of sin, of guilt, of death, and the judgment. Harnack has omitted this task. (pp. 100-101, emphasis added)