Bart’s Blog

Is The NT Portrayal of Jesus Accurate? Debate With Craig Evans

47

This video is of a debate that I participated in nearly two years ago in Nova Scotia with Dr. Craig Evans, a very well-known and widely published scholar of the New Testament who is also a conservative  evangelical Christian (not “ultra-conservative,” and nowhere near a fundamentalist – but still conservative).   This was the first of two debates that took place, in two different locations,on subsequent evenings.   The topic of the debate was: “Does the New Testament Present a Reliable Portrait of the Historical Jesus.”   As you might imagine, Craig Evans argues that Yes, it does.  I argue that No, it does not.   Both of us, naturally enough, focus our attention on the four Gospels of the New Testament.   We each gave an opening speech of 30 minutes; and then we had a chance for a rebuttal, followed by some Q & A.

I have to say, this was one of  the favorite debates that I have ever done, in part because Craig Evans is a very learned scholar, a worthy opponent, a really good guy, and someone with whom I disagree massively!

Craig did his PhD in New Testament studies at a high quality institution, Claremont Graduate Program in Claremont California, one of the leading (non-evangelical) programs at the time.   He has taught in a variety of places, including twenty-one years at Trinity Western University, where, among other things, he founded the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute.  (He considers the Dead Sea Scrolls, along with the NT, as an area of major expertise.)    He is now a chaired professsor at Acadia Divinity College, part of Acadia University.  He is extraordinarily well published in major journals and with reputable book presses; he has edited or authored sixty (count them, sixty!) books.  Most of these, to be sure, are collections of essays (often by other people, in which he will himself contribute an essay, but for which he served as the editor of the whole); I don’t know how many of the sixty are stand-alone books (apart from collections of his own essays – which is his preferred mode of publication).  But that’s not a problem at all – he is a scholar with a justified international reputation.

A member of this blog, Greg Monette, a graduate student working with Craig, put the event together, hosted us (very graciously and generously), and provided the introductions, as you will see.

Ehrman-Evans-2012-debate
Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition:

 

Print Friendly

Discussion

  1. Mikail78  November 18, 2013

    Hey Bart, does it ever get old destroying and humiliating Christian Apologists/snake oil salesmen?

  2. donaltd  November 18, 2013

    Thank you for including the video of the debate. i really enjoyed it. I do have one question. If the Matthew and Luke both use Mark as a source, do you think the copies they used were identical?

    Thanks

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 19, 2013

      It’s a great, and complex question! My sense is that the answer is probably “no, not completely”

  3. Jdavis3927  November 18, 2013

    Good job Bart. I sometimes wondered about this guy Evans in the past. Sometimes the people you debate with really get on my nerves..I am sorry. After listening to him I really like the guy. This is not to say I agree with everything he said, but I guess I like him because, I believe, he gives you the respect I think you deserve.

  4. Matt7  November 18, 2013

    Craig talks like a politician. When he says that the Gospel of John is a different “genre”, he means that somebody (probably not named John) made up a bunch of stuff about Jesus and then wrote it down as if it were history.

  5. FrankB57  November 18, 2013

    Thank you for bringing the topic to focus repeatedly during the debate. Would you mind elaborating on the issues you had with the Jesus seminar? Was the intent of the seminar or processes used in some way wrong or misguided? I haven’t heard or read your criticisms before. Perhaps your points are already in another post?

  6. toejam  November 18, 2013

    This is an excellent debate. But like most debates of this nature, it came down to an argument over the definition of “accurate portrait”. It’s like asking does scientology.com’s biography of L.Ron Hubbard contain an “accurate portrait” of their founder? Well, sort of, but not really. Depends on what you mean by “accurate portrait”!

  7. hwl  November 18, 2013

    How would you distinguish an ultra-conservative evangelical from a conservative evangelical, and a conservative evangelical from a non-conservative evangelical?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 19, 2013

      Hmm… good question. These are just my highly subjective ways of thinking about it to myself. I would call an ultra-conservative evangelical someone who is borderline fundamentalist who believes the Bible is inerrant in every single thing it says. A conservative evangelical would believe that the Bible is infallible in everything it affirms to be true (so no serious discrepancies or contradictions). A non-conservative evangelical would consider the Bible inspired but be open to the idea that there would be variations, discrepancies, and so forth; for that person, it is the overarching message that counts, and that message is not *different* from one author to another. In some ways the spectrum goes from closed minded to open minded.

  8. Wilusa  November 19, 2013

    Very enjoyable! It was only when you mentioned the real “whopper” in the Gospel of Peter – its resurrection narrative – that I remembered the *other* problem with it, its prejudice against the Jews. That’s another type of discrepancy in the Synoptics, that you didn’t mention – *Matthew’s* pinning blame on the Jews. No unbiased history there!

  9. RyanBrown  November 19, 2013

    I like (don’t like) how Mr. Evans conflates the historian’s job of sussing out reliable sources with “picking and choosing” details from the gospel that fit his religious upbringing. I’ve seen it several times. Great debate Bart!

  10. timber84  November 19, 2013

    When you debated while in high school, what type of topics did you debate about? Will Craig Evans and you get together for any debates in the future? Who do you consider your most formidable debate opponent?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 19, 2013

      a. High school: always on set topics for the entire year. My senior year, when we won the state debate championship, it was on whether the federal government should take over financing of all public primary and secondary education.
      b. No plans, but I’m always open.
      c. Craig was good. William Lane Craig is very smart and smooth. Dan Wallace knows his stuff and his rhetorically effective. Dinesh Disouza is unbelievably quick. Most of my opponents have been very good!

      • ExMech  November 19, 2013

        You are far too kind for some of them, Sir. Of those mentioned… which do you think the more intellectually honest?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  November 20, 2013

          That’s a great question. But I’m not sure that any of them is saying something he doesn’t really believe….

  11. willow  November 19, 2013

    Thank you, Bart, for posting this video. Though I’d seen it before, it was well worth the time, and again, as next time I’ll be taking notes! Dr. Evans’ comments regarding the Book of John are quite stunning!

  12. Wilusa  November 19, 2013

    Something I thought of later – did Dr. Evans make a major boner, or would people not raised Catholic understand what he said differently? He said “Immaculate Conception” when he was clearly talking about the claimed virgin conception/birth of Jesus.

    Anyone from a Catholic background, who’s reasonably knowledgeable about Catholicism, would hear “Immaculate Conception” with the first letters capitalized – referring to the *doctrine* that Jesus’s mother was conceived without the “stain of original sin” on her soul. (Interesting…I’m sure Catholics *wouldn’t* capitalize any letters in “virgin birth.” Probably because that’s not the specific *title of a doctrine* – the doctrine is asserted just as strongly, but it can be worded in different ways. Nowadays, I’m sure most Catholics interpret it as meaning “virgin conception,” not Mary’s having an intact hymen after giving birth.)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 19, 2013

      I didn’t relisten to the entire debate, but if he said “immaculate conception” with respect to the “virginal conception,” yes that would have been an unfortunate mistake. But when speaking in public, mistakes happen! Oh boy do they happen!!

  13. RonaldTaska  November 19, 2013

    I look forward to hearing the debate. Thanks.

  14. Steefen  November 19, 2013

    Thank you for introducing me to another author, Craig Evans. His Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels is now on my amazon.com wish list. The chapter that made me put this book on the list is “Dubious Uses of Josephus: Understanding Late Antiquity.”

    Josephus teaches us that King Izates was his father’s only begotten son.

    Josephus teaches us that King Izates was as well known as Jesus for being a holy man. King Izates’ mother was as well known as Mary for being holy.

    Josephus teaches us that King Izates fed 5,000 hungry Jews during the time of a famine. Why wouldn’t Izates have disciples to help him distribute the food? Because fish and bread was distributed in the biblical account, we are being told Pisces (Jesus-fish) and Virgo, the zodiac sign of a virgin holding wheat (his virgin mother-bread) are part of the allegory. King Izates and Queen Helena would never be mentioned explicitly in the Gospels written post-Revolt-Defeated because Rome would not tolerate the legacy of the zealots/rebels/bandits being publicized. Helena and her son, called the only-begotten son by the biological father were from Adiabene/Edessa/Osrhoene/”beyond the Euphrates.” Where did Josephus’ legacy “correcting” history-propaganda get sold first? He marketed his books from where this opposition came.

    For those who do not believe in the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, here is the natural explanation in history (works of Josephus): there was a famine and a king well known for his holiness did feed the multitudes.

    Finally, it is through Josephus that we come to the conclusion that Em-Manu-El does not mean “With Us, is God.” Em-Manu-El means, “With Manu, is God.” Manu was a king from the geographical area of Queen Helena and King Izates. Izates “saved us” from starvation. In Izate’s second generation of offspring and relatives (and possibly in his older brother), we find zealots rebelling against Rome. All of them would have been hailed Em-Manu-El.

    To see the connection between Monobazus, Izates, and the Manu line of kings who fought with the Idumeans against Rome, see Jesus, King of Edessa by Ralph Ellis. The book does have problems, but it seems the players have been identified correctly. If Craig Evans has done his job well with the chapter on Josephus, he will not only have addressed the issues above, but he would also need to have compared the biography of Josephus and Saul-Paul.

    In conclusion, the Gospels (major part of the NT) do present an accurate picture of Jesus. Point #1: Jesus had an opportunity to feed a multitude of people. Point 2: Jesus was known for his goodness. Point 3: His mother was known for her goodness. Point 4: Jesus was known as his father’s only begotten son. Point 5: Jesus told the Pharisees isn’t it written in your law as opposed to our law because Jesus did not share an “our” with the Pharisees. Jesus was an outsider who converted to Judaism with his mother–Queen Helena and King Izates both converted to Judaism.

    • Steefen  November 19, 2013

      P.S.: How did Jesus become so smart, delivering classic parables? His father, Monobazus, was well known for his wisdom, so much so, that Augustus befriended him. King Izates’ father passed on his wisdom, that won an emperor’s heart, to his son Izates.

    • judaswasjames  November 20, 2013

      Steefan,

      This is right up my alley. Have you read Dr. Eisenman? You would know if you had. And since you didn’t mention what I’m about to say, I think it is safe to assume that you have not. Are you aware that the Lukan story of Queen Candace and the ‘Eunuch’ converting to Christ is a tendentious remake of Josephus? Compare the Acts 8 conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch with the Queen Helena and son Izates’ conversion to Judaism story in Josephus’ Antiquities (20:2:4):

      http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/ant-20.htm

      You’ll notice for sure, that the one is a parody of the other, and I think it is clear who came first. The “Eunuch” is a ribald jab at Jewish circumcision, which just happens to be what Izates was reading (Genesis 17, presumably). In the Lukan version, the Eunuch is reading Isaiah 53, interestingly enough — the Christian proof text, which Luke proceeds to cite, incorrectly (the sheep and lamb are reversed). As Eisenman points out, at the time there were NO eunuchs in Ethiopia where they were supposedly from, to guard the harem, but there WERE in Adiabene where Helena and Izates were from!

      Eisenman goes on at length to say that this is the poster-child for the gospel authors’ m.o. regarding tendentious reversal of theme. At every turn, seemingly, the gospel authors want to stick it to the Jamesian ‘Jewish Christians’. My favorite, as you might guess, is ‘Judas’ as James the Just. Inspired by Eisenman and his expose’ of Luke’s Acts 1 cover of James as Judas, I took the next logical step of investigating Judas in the “Betrayal” where I found the most astounding evidence of all for Judas as James, successor to Christ. Eisenman did not recognize him there, because as a Jew himself unfamiliar with serial Mastership, he didn’t see the hidden parallel of Judas to James, as Master — inverted tendentiously! — another jab at Jamesian preeminence. (James was Righteoous Teacher at Qumran, or one of them.) I think it is fair to say we now can understand what the true purpose of the New Testament writing and compilation really was: the hiding of James the Just as successor to Jesus Christ. One good DEAD savior is easier to control than a living one who might just get on your nerves as you suck the wealth out of your compliant subjects — the Pauline proto-orthodox church…

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  November 20, 2013

        Yes, I’ve read Eisenman.

        • judaswasjames  November 20, 2013

          I was asking Steefan, since he was talking about Queen Helen and Izates. I skimmed through the chapter in Eisenman on Acts 8, Queen ‘Candace’ and the ‘Eunuch’ the first time I read his book “James”, because it comes at about page 850 and I was tired, not knowing why he was bringing up something so seemingly peripheral to James. But after rereading later I now know why he made so much of it. It is an undeniable borrow from Josephus, INVERTED by Luke to disparage Jews, usually Jamesian Jewish Christians. This is the m.o. repeated over and over by all four gospel authors. Do you understand the full significance here? I don’t see that you do, or that any of your fellow scholars do, or else you would all be all over it, with Academia conferences and press releases. This is a BIG deal. The NT, shows Eisenman, IS NOT HISTORY. It is a tendentious polemic designed TO WRITE IT, at the expense of James and his followers.

          • Steefen  December 5, 2013

            JudasWasJames:
            It is an undeniable borrow from Josephus, INVERTED by Luke to disparage Jews, usually Jamesian Jewish Christians

            Steefen:
            Luke picks it up from Josephus or was it common knowledge or oral history such that we do not have to wait for Josephus to publish anything.

            It seems to disparage Queen Helena and Izates, does it not?

            You should be able to write to me directly through my humble blog, http://www.waterbearingfish.wordpress.com, or my website, http://www.waterbearingfish.com. (Hopefully, you have a facebook account. For some reason, neither my blog nor my website gives an email. I’ve gotten messages through my youtube videos. Searching the historical Adam and Eve and Steefen should get you there.

      • Steefen  December 5, 2013

        JudasWasJames:
        As Eisenman points out, at the time there were NO eunuchs in Ethiopia where they were supposedly from, to guard the harem, but there WERE in Adiabene where Helena and Izates were from!

        Steefen:
        That IS interesting.

        (I started reading James the Brother of Jesus. The layout of the book is not inviting. The writing style is not inviting. Third, while Izates was the only begotten son of Monobazus, I do not see how James is a brother of Izates.)

        JudasWasJames:
        Inspired by Eisenman and his expose’ of Luke’s Acts 1 cover of James as Judas, I took the next logical step of investigating Judas in the “Betrayal” where I found the most astounding evidence of all for Judas as James, successor to Christ.

        Steefen:
        I saw the video (History Channel?) on the Gospel of Judas. How does that factor in? Was James the disciple Jesus could confide in and the disciple he asked to kiss him?

        Is the “Beloved Disciple” Judas/James?

        So, was it Luke vs. Paul or Luke vs. Stephen and the Hellenists or only Luke vs. James?

        JamesWasJudas:
        I think it is fair to say we now can understand what the true purpose of the New Testament writing and compilation really was: the hiding of James the Just as successor to Jesus Christ.

        Steefen:
        I think you have to end the successions if you’re going to deify Jesus as high as God.
        As for apostolic succession, James did not reach out to the Gentiles.
        The Gentiles did not need Jewish apostolic succession.
        The Roman Church did not need Jewish apostolic succession.

        This may be your point.

        • judaswasjames  December 6, 2013

          Steefen,

          You have to read Eisenman differently from other writers. (Obviously!) He is so smart, he packs information into your eyes and mind like a record-attempt salamis sandwich. You have to just let it come and go as he presents, trying to hold onto what makes sense to you, and letting the rest settle into a cloud of particles that you hope will coalesce sometime down the line into a comprehendable mass. There is no one else who writes like him (thank God), but we owe him everything when it comes to deciphering the New Testament. Stay with it. it will be worth it. His “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the First Christians” is an easier read, maybe a better starting point.

          I don’t know where you get James as brother of Izates, Steefen. I must have missed something. The Gospel of Judas is crucial. It is going to prove to be the link that shows James was ‘Judas’. Coming from left field, even the DSS are not as definitive. From Nag Hammadi, both First and Second Apocalypses have the infamous kiss as a positive sign of transference of authority from Jesus to James, as James kisses him. That’s not in the Gospel of Judas, but the dream Judas has is, showing he is James, who was stoned to death by fellow disciples (per Hegesippus) as in the dream he has. He also is the obvious replacement for Jesus: “someone else WILL REPLACE YOU *in order that* the Twelve may come to completion in their God”. Scholars miss the importance of this passage in Gospel of Judas 36:1-3 because they are unaware of serial Mastership! They immediately think > “Oh. Matthias!” NO. James is THE SUCCESSOR TO JESUS. He is the character ‘JUDAS’ wherever he appears! I can show this plainly, undeniably, and clearly, and I do so in my book. Email me at judaswasjames at AOL dot com and I’ll send it FREE to anyone. The details are involved, numerous, and require some education in mystic teaching, so it is impractical to cover it all in a post such as this. But the impact of all this, I’m telling you, is going to be enormous for Christianity. The wheels are already set in motion by Eisenman. I just took what he started, like I said, and looked at the role of ‘Judas’ in the canonical ‘Betrayal” where Eisenman didn’t recognize him as James, because as a Jew, he didn’t see the successorship dynamic. I am a practicing Satsangi (follower of an Eastern Mystic) and know all about serial Mastership. I recognize an installation event when I see one. I have seen one happen myself (from overseas, 1990). The ‘Betrayal’ is a cover-up of the installation of James the Just as A MASTER (a savior).

          The “Beloved disciple” was James. “Stephen” was James. “Judas” was James. “Lazarus” was James. “Nathanael” was James. The “naked young man” was James. I think even Jesus himself was James (partially). I think Jesus is a composite fictional creation gleaned from the lives of John the Baptist and James the Just, two real Masters, created so that the Pauline church could have one good DEAD savior and run their church without constraint of a living one. Masters come to the world ALL THE TIME. That’s the big elephant in the room. There is one here TODAY (Baba Gurinder Singh). Think Elijah and Elisha, they are an obvious one-two Master and successor duo. Elisha “picked up the mantle that had fallen from him” (2 Kings 2). That wasn’t a coat that Elijah ‘dropped’. It was his Mastership that he transferred. Jesus said “he who ascends to heaven is he who has *descended from heaven*, the Son of man”. Elijah must be Son of man, as he ascended (in a whirlwind of fire, even). Just like Jesus to James with the ‘kiss’. Jesus calls James (as ‘Judas’) “Son of man” in John 13:31. The gospel authors wanted TO HIDE IT. The New Testament was written and collated for one reason only: to hide James as successor Master. It isn’t history. It isn’t a handbook to salvation. It is DISinformation, and that is all. it’s great writing, and very clever, but it’s not helpful to understanding the spiritual life.

          I want so much for Bart to weigh in, as he has a great deal of information which will be of great value to further investigate what I’m saying, but so far, for whatever reason, he has not seen fit to do so. I am not a trained scholar, maybe that’s why, but I can back up in detail with well-researched argument what I have found out about this. It is the most amazing thing I have ever learned, and it is all I do now that I am retired. I will never stop. Think of me as the Bible “Terminator”. The New Age is going to roll out its karma over the dogma! What fun.

          Hey, Bart, we are both former Christians, even starting at nearly the same time, place, and circumstance: I was a disillusioned evangelical in 1973 in Norfolk, VA, when I left the fold. You took the academic fork after that, I took the Mystic one. Look — we meet again! Let’s pull together and see what we can find. You have no idea what awaits from Eastern Mysticism. I read your “Orthodox Corruption of Scripture” and I know you know some of what I am sharing, at least on a textual critical basis. The truth is much more encompassing and concertedly deceptive. Perhaps you are somewhat aware. This is huge. HUGE. If I am not the one to show the world that mystic Masters are ever-present, someone, someday, will. It is only a matter of time before really astute investigators put all this together! Eisenman came really, really close: “Who and whatever James was, so was Jesus.” I’m still looking for the scholar who has the daring to consider that this is the true “Holy Grail”. I tried to tell Marvin Meyer, Elaine Pagels, and Robert Eisenman. They couldn’t get past their orthodox bias. That’s all it takes. I’d love to answer any questions. Or you can ask THE MASTER: http://www.RSSB.org

          email: judaswasjames at AOL dot com. Book pdf is FREE to all.

          –Bob Wahler

          • Steefen  December 7, 2013

            Steefen:
            If Judas was James and both Judas and James count as one disciple when numbering the 12, won’t we be short a disciple?

            If Judas and James were also Stephen and Jesus, that is somewhat interesting with respect to the Babylonian Talmud claiming Jesus was stoned to death.

            JudasWasJames-Bob Wahler:
            The New Testament isn’t history. It isn’t a handbook to salvation. It is DISinformation, and that is all. it’s great writing, and very clever, but it’s not helpful to understanding the spiritual life.

            Steefen:
            The New Testament isn’t a handbook to salvation? I’m not sure about that. Some of what Jesus says, mirrors what Plato wrote about Socrates’ piety. Many of the parables are uplifting, lifting us above the danger of not knowing the parables. The Beatitudes tell people they are appreciated and blessed. I think the New Testament gets people part of the way to salvation.

            Remember so many firemen/firewomen and policemen/policewomen who have lost their lives saving others. Look at Mandela who lost so much of his life when imprisoned, but he saved others through his loss.

            Jesus lost his life and John the Baptist lost his life so we could be saved to righteousness. How many whistleblowers lost their lives or suffered to save others (the movies: Silkwood – Streep and the Insider – Crowe and Pacino; Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi).

            Looking forward to our offline correspondence as well as participating here.

  15. pucochamp  November 19, 2013

    I really enjoyed this, thank you Bart. I also really liked the debate between your friend Dale B Martin and Michael Licona which also took place at St. Marys. Can you post that one too on the blog so others can see it?

  16. pucochamp  November 19, 2013

    ^^ their debate from this year (2013) is on youtube. They debate two questions:

    1) Was Jesus Divine?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkjzQO5aaSc

    2) Did Jesus physically rise from the dead?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oU5z4AlxJ4U

  17. SBrudney091941  November 20, 2013

    It was a shame and it was frustrating that neither of you never directed your attention to an issue that was critical, it seems to me. Prof. Evans alluded to it twice: your disagreement, he thought, might well be a matter of semantics. I so much wanted the two of you to stop and each explain what it would take for one to say that the New Testament offers up a historically reliable portrait of the historical Jesus. Dr. Ehrman agrees that scholarship is necessary to put such a portrait together: criteria for historicity must be applied to expose what is and is not historically reliable. Your disagreement was over the question of whether that’s enough to justify declaring that the New Testament gives us historical information. Yes, if you believe it gives us material from which we can extract some things about the historical Jesus. No, if you believe that merely offering up the raw material from which one might determine what is historical information about Jesus is enough to call the New Testament historically accurate about Jesus. The debate got to the point where that, it seems to me, should have become the point of debate. But the opportunity was lost.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 20, 2013

      I tried to explain what I meant by that at the beginning of my talk. If a gospel says that Jesus said or did something, can we trust that he really did say or do it, in the way described.

    • judaswasjames  November 20, 2013

      You can’t refer to the gospel as received as accurate in any way. It is so compromised by scribal interference as to be useless historically, even if you accept the gospel authors as writing history, which they weren’t. One case in point: John 9:4. Codex Sinaiticus has “sent US” not “sent me” for “We must do the works of him who sent me while it is day; night comes, when no one can work.” Read the last part again: “NO ONE can work”. Last time I checked, Jesus was considered a “one” – meaning a human. When he originally said “sent US” it is clear that that is what he meant, especially when followed by “AS LONG AS I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (9:5) The *only* reason Jesus said these two verses is because his “work” was just as limited as anyone else’s. He is one of an endless line of living saviors. The orthodox scribes wanted, or were told, to eliminate passages that showed Jesus was not alone coming as savior. James was his successor, John the B his predecessor. In fact, Hebrew Matthew has John as coming to “save all the world” — not “restore all things” — at 17:11. I can cite dozens of alterations like this, aggrandizing Jesus at the expense of other saviors. Douglas Del Tondo has found hundreds of similar changes in his research of Hebrew Matthew, although he doesn’t know of the living Masters like I do (www.RSSB.org).

  18. judaswasjames  November 20, 2013

    The video is disappointing. I learned exactly … nothing. Much was accepted not in evidence, by you both, but especially Evans, as is to be expected: “the four gospels record the experiences of disciples who knew Jesus, not something the students would have with Jimmy Carter” or something silly like that. Then on the harp on how this proves he existed … All circular logic. And four people will give four versions of the same events just observed (as you, Bart, did in your classroom) so this is not evidence that Jesus didn’t exist. What? THAT is supposed to be some kind of PROOF? There are four different versions of events because they all four MADE UP four versions of a similar character!

  19. judaswasjames  November 20, 2013

    Evans is a smooth talker with little to say. Here is the one who Bart should debate:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwUZOZN-9dc&feature=em-subs_digest-vrecs

  20. Slydog1227  November 20, 2013

    I really, really enjoy watching your debates! Thank you for posting the links. My question is….what in the world are you writing that you have like 10 pages of notes by the end of the debate? Perhaps your next book? Grading papers? :) I’m watching the clock tic down to the last 2 minutes and you are feverishly flipping and writing and I’m thinking you can’t be simply checking a quote to make a counterpoint this late in the debate! ….an inquiring mind wants to know.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 21, 2013

      I have no idea! Maybe I was trying to figure out what I was going to say in the closing? Or maybe I was making my grocery list for the next day….

  21. Rosekeister
    Rosekeister  November 21, 2013

    Do you think it fair to say a reader can’t truly understand the gospels and Acts until the reader understands that the genre is historical fiction? Oral traditions floated around for decades before eventually narratives were written by writers with apologetic agendas. The growth of fiction is best illustrated by reading Mark and John back to back while Acts is the clearest example of apologetics when it is compared with Paul’s letters.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  November 21, 2013

      I’m not sure “historical fiction” is the best genre assessment — though I know what you mean. I would call the Gospels bioi, that is, the ancient equivalent of biographies, and Acts a “general history” (that’s a technical generic classification.)

  22. kidron  December 8, 2013

    I enjoyed listening to the debate. Since in my opinion the gospels are not reliable history then I agree that Bart won the day. However, there did seen to be some agreement on the idea that the gospels did contain nuggets of true history. What I saw as the difference was that as a Christian believer, Craig was able to see many more nuggets than Bart.

    There were several points emphasized by Bart which I think are important. These include …
    1.the gospel stories were written AFTER the Jewish revolt, the first being Mark, dated around 70 CE
    2.Mark most likely lived and wrote in Rome.
    3.They were all well educated Greek writers and it is questionable if they knew church members who spoke Aramaic
    4.The gospel writers were not immediate followers of Jesus. They never met him and therefore they relied primarily on possibly a few Greek manuscripts and mostly on the oral stories that had been told and retold..
    5.Most of Mark is copied in both Matthew and Luke
    6.The added problem is that we do not have the originals and thus the existing copies are replete with mistakes.

    There are some coralies from these statement which were NOT addressed in the discussion.

    The first follows from #1 and #3. Just before the Jewish revolt the Jerusalem church was scattered. James who had been the leader had been stoned to death. The Jewish followers of Jesus were illiterate and thus there were no Aramaic written manuscripts nor oral traditions from the Aramaic speaking followers of Jesus to which the gospel writers could have access.

    From #2, #4. Rome, and indeed the surviving Christians at this time were primarily Greek speaking converts who importantly had been strongly influenced by the teaching of Paul. The gospel writers might even had access to some of Paul’s letters.

    From #5. Duplication of materials in Matthew and Luke are really only singly attested.

    From Paul’s letters it is very clear that he advocated disregard of the Mosaic Law. This especially included laws of cleanliness and diet. In addition his primary thrust was to include the Gentiles into the fellowship. Thus it is almost inevitable that Paul’s teachings were rehearsed as the oral tradition that Mark relied on to write his gospel. However, since Mark’s thrust was to speak of Jesus he does not mention Paul, but inadvertently puts many of Paul’s ideas into the mouth of Jesus. We have the obvious insertion of the Eucharist symbolism from Paul in his letter to the Corinthians and thus repeated by Mark as being spoken by Jesus. We have the repeated examples of Jesus eating and conversing with Gentiles as per Paul, yet also have a few nuggets where Jesus states that the gospel is for Jews only. We have Jesus breaking the Mosaic law on several occasions, and yet a nugget where Jesus states that one should not break even the smallest Mosaic law. There are indeed nuggets of history in the gospels but I doubt that Craig would ever find them and sometimes I wonder about the non believing New Testament scholars.

    From both Biblical and non canonical resources it is attested that James lived as a Nazarene. This includes, celibacy, vegetarianism, abstaining from all wine, and keeping the Mosaic Law. Eisenman in his book ”James the brother of Jesus’ ends with the statement … Just as James was, so was Jesus. I cannot but help think that the clue to the truth of this statement is the comment in the gospels that Jesus was known as a Nazarene. This is obviously not a reference to Nazareth, but actually to Jesus also as his brother James, keeping the Nazarite oath. This would indeed account for his not being married … but then what about the other part of the oath? I think that one method of finding nuggets of truth in the gospels is by contrasting Jesus statements and actions and comparing them to the Nazarite oath. Those outliers are in my opinion most likely Pauline influence on the gospel writers.

    • Steefen  December 9, 2013

      “it is almost inevitable that Paul’s teachings were rehearsed as the oral tradition that Mark relied on to write his gospel.”

      1) Paul’s perspective are in the gospels.
      2) But only Luke writes about Paul, not in the gospel but in a separate text.

      I don’t think Mark was all that pro-Paul. I definitely do not believe Matthew was pro-Paul. Luke did not think highly of Paul and contradicts elements of Paul’s biography found in the letters.

      I don’t see how the gospel writers could not edit out Pauline ideas.

      On the other hand, maybe the gospels writers thought a Kingdom of God run by the Nazarenes was a bit too holy of a theocracy, so non-Nazarite ideas had to come from the mouth of Jesus.

  23. gavm  January 12, 2014

    some very good public speaking there prof. was actually quite moving the way you described the variations in the crucifixions. there was a badly timed joked at the end of it mind you

You must be logged in to post a comment.