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Bart Ehrman vs Tim McGrew – Round 1

On Saturday 18th July 2015 I held a kind of radio debate with Timothy J. McGrew, a conservative Christian apologist and professor of Philosophy at Western Michigan University.  It was a two-part back-and-forth on “Unbelievable,” a weekly program hosted by Justin Brierley, which airs on UK Premier Christian Radio.  I taped the interview from the station’s London studio.

The debate was on the topic: Can We Trust the Gospels?” Here Part One.

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Bart Ehrman vs Tim McGrew – Round 2
The Value (or Not) of Debates



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    Matt7  March 22, 2016

    This is my summary of the debate: “I think it’s possible to reconcile just about everything, if you work hard at it.” (B. E. at 42:15).

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    JUMA  March 24, 2016

    Listened to this debate on unbelievable when it came out. All I can say is this guy seemed liked he had a chip on his shoulder, he went after Bart pretty hard. Stop being so nice! Keep up the good work.

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    RonaldTaska  March 24, 2016

    This is very interesting and reminds me of my many discussions in church Bible classes. My two cents:

    1. I don’t think you skipped class the day that “mechanical inspiration” was debunked at Moody Bible College.

    2. I admire your ability to stay calm and not get too frustrated.

    3 I admire your ability to stay clear.

    4. I admire your ability to understand and translate Dr. McGrew’s points as he tends to wander around in rather esoteric history,

    5. The two main areas of discussion were rather predictable: Were the Gospels written by reliable eyewitnesses or colleagues of eyewitnesses and how significant are the contradictions in the Gospels? I was not very persuaded by Dr. McGrew’s contention that the Gospels were ascribed to authors much earlier than the end of the second century, but we just have lost the evidence for this. I also was not persuaded by his argument that most of the contradictions that occur are of little significance. Taken together there are just too many of them and that is the main point.

    I look forward to the second debate.

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    dragonfly  March 25, 2016

    Wow, what a difficult listen. This is a good lesson in how NOT to do history. It becomes obvious that Tim believes in biblical inerrancy, which is why he wouldn’t answer the question at first. He couldn’t say he doesn’t because he does. And he couldn’t say he does because that would compromise his ability to appear objective. It took me a little while but when he told Bart that Polycarp not naming the authors wasn’t evidence that he didn’t know them, I got it. His approach is to take all traditions as accurate unless there is enough evidence otherwise. The problem with this is evidence is not weighed equally. Any evidence that what he already believes could be *possible* is given a higher value than evidence that it is not *probable*. So where Bart sees zero evidence that anyone called the gospels by the names we know them before the late second century, Tim sees evidence that it’s possible they did and concludes it’s probable. And where Bart sees it almost impossible that Jesus could have shut down the whole temple cult for practical reasons, Tim is able to imagine a way that it could be possible and concludes it must have happened as described in John. This is not how to study history. Sorry for my long post.

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    Pattycake1974  March 29, 2016

    This was stressful right from the start. Tim acted as though you were trying to trap him with the inerrancy question, so he immediately went on the defense. He was hyper-defensive the entire time. I’d like to know, was he correct that there was only 1 gate into the temple? Could Jesus have temporarily brought selling in the temple to a halt?

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    Elisabeth  April 1, 2016

    Yikes. Ditto to all the comments above about how frustrating that was. First time in a longgg time I’ve listened to an Evangelical debate someone – now I remember why I stopped -_-

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    dostonj  April 12, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, you have stated in the past that Jews in ancient Palestine were not typically literate. Accordingly, you have argued that the Aramaic speaking followers of Jesus were probably not capable of composing the New Testament gospels. However, this article published by the New York Times suggests that literacy was considerably more widespread among ancient Jews than once thought. What are your thoughts, particularly as it relates to the possibility that 1st century Palestinian Jewish tradesmen could have composed the gospel narratives in their primitive forms?


    • Bart
      Bart  April 13, 2016

      But read carefully what it says. Of the 100,000 Judeans, hundreds could actually read. Then work out the percentages!

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    car3366  April 28, 2019

    I know this debate was 3 yrs ago, but I just recently stumbled upon it! Very interesting!

    Tim McGrew made a couple decent arguments, but he clearly has a theological agenda to harmonize and privilege the NT. Further, like many Christian Apologists, he seems very angry and pompous. I viewed some of his other Youtube lectures and interviews and he appears to be on a Crusade Against You and other Atheists and Skeptics!

    Any plans for another debate with Tim McGrew?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 29, 2019

      No, not really. I’m afraid I wasn’t aware of his work when we debated, and thought his arguments rather strange.

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