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Ehrman & Licona: Are the Gospels Historically Reliable? Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my debate with Mike Licona on whether the Gospels are historically reliable.  You won’t necessarily have to have seen Part 1 to make sense of this one; a lot of it involves penetrating questions from the audience (trying to trip us up!) which one or the other of us addressed.   Enjoy!

Mike Licona is author of Why Are There Differences in the Gospels and Evidence for God: 50 Arguments For Faith From The Bible, History, Philosophy, And Science

Part 2: Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition:


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  1. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  March 26, 2018

    I found this debate to be frustrating because Licona’s definition for reliable is different from what it actually means. Something that’s reliable means it can be trusted. He was turning it around and saying that the Gospels are generally telling the same story. Of course they are or else more Christians would be able to see its discrepancies. But do the Gospels give us a truthful depiction of what really happened? No way.

    I’m not even sure what Matthew’s point was with the walking dead story because he says the saints came back to life when Jesus died but came out of their tombs when he was resurrected. What were these saints doing in between the time of coming back to life and Jesus’ resurrection? Hanging out in the tombs waiting?

    • Avatar
      rburos  March 28, 2018

      I would believe it would be a bit of Jewish apocalypticism peeking it’s head out?

  2. Avatar
    Wilusa  March 26, 2018

    A question that may as well go here, since it deals with things in the Gospels! I’ve been rereading some of your books, and I forget where I read this.

    You made a list of all the things most scholars agree took place leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion. As two separate items, you mentioned the Romans’ wanting to apprehend Jesus because they considered him dangerous, and Judas’s “betraying” him.

    Do you still believe the Romans had been planning to arrest him before Judas brought him to their attention? I would have guessed otherwise.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 27, 2018

      Yes, I don’t think Judas is the one who told them that Jesus was someone to be concerned about.

      • Avatar
        Pattycake1974  March 29, 2018

        I thought you believed Judas betrayed Jesus and turned him over to the authorities.

  3. Avatar
    Boltonian  March 26, 2018

    Apropos, a JW knocked on our door today so I decided to engage with him (which I don’t usually). I asked him my usual first Q. – who was the father of Jesus? A: God. How come Jesus is the Messiah as well if he had to come from the line of David through his father? A: Joseph was his adoptive father. Next – why are the nativity narratives contradictory? A: they are not. Did the family flee to Egypt? A: yes. I grabbed my Bible and read Luke. But they went straight back to Galilee. A: ah but they went to Egypt afterwards. Where does it say that? A: it doesn’t have to because it has already been stated in Matthew. Etc etc etc. It was like wrestling an eel (I imagine, never having done such a thing).

    A question for you though, Bart, out of all this. The JW said that Jesus was not crucified, which took me back a bit. How so? said I. The Greek word used is ‘Storos’ which means ‘Impale’ he said. Is that true? And, if so, could it mean something other than death by crucifixion? Thanks.

  4. Avatar
    john76  March 26, 2018

    Very cool debate. If any of the members of this blog are interested, I just finished my Easter blog post about what kind of source the Pre-Pauline Corinthian Creed/Poetry is for the resurrection appearances of Jesus. My blog post looks at the account of the resurrection appearances of Jesus in the Pre-Pauline Corinthian Creed/Poetry from religious and secular perspectives. Check it out: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/2018/03/examining-easter-peering-behind-veil-of.html

    • Avatar
      rburos  March 28, 2018

      I’m not really comfortable with this blog used as a pitch for the blogs of others. . .

  5. Avatar
    rburos  March 26, 2018

    I’m glad you both had fun, and I did enjoy watching it, but these videos often frustrate me. I seem to cherish the idea of earning a Ph.D. more than many of the people you debate, and this is again one of them. You didn’t have to prepare much for this one (excepting of course the decades you had ALREADY spent in preparation), as I didn’t see you get any deeper than your undergraduate text book. I get frustrated when people actually try to claim things like ‘a majority of critical scholars think the apostles wrote the gospels’. I was waiting for you to ask him to give names. . .

    What do you feel your biggest gain out of doing these debates? Have you ever been truly frustrated during a debate and if so how did control it? You seemed a bit perplexed during the questioning when he admitted to instances of mistakes but still wouldn’t give that the Bible might not actually have mistakes, but that’s not the level of frustration that I feel.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 27, 2018

      Yes, I’m usually horribly frustrated during these debates — which is why I often vow not to do them again. I do them because I think in the long run they may do some good, at least for three or four people who are there, who might have their minds opened up.

      • Avatar
        justinbezanson  March 27, 2018

        I am grateful you take the time to do these debates. Your books, lectures, and debates have made a profound difference in my life. Thank you.

      • Avatar
        rburos  March 27, 2018

        For what it’s worth your scholarship has changed my life, with the debates being an interesting diversion. I was interested in comparative religions when in college, but had no real outlet for it. If I had been able to read your books in the 80’s I would have gone in that direction and would not have attended where I did, or ended up in the Army. Alas, I also wasn’t academically ready for you back then anyway so you might have simply scared me away. But again, thanks.

      • Avatar
        justyn  April 4, 2018

        I find the debates that you do, when they are with a very knowledgable but also clearly honest opponent like Dr Licona, to be incredibly stimulating. What was said by both of you made me think (and I’ve already read your books). I’m sure a great many more people than three or four would be affected, since the debate is online and will no doubt be watched by many thousands in time!

        And of course the more debates you do the more powerful you become 🙂

        I hope you continue to do many more in the future.

  6. Avatar
    Eskil  March 26, 2018

    This is a bit confusing. Here you are arguing that the gospels are not historically reliable but elsewhere you are treating yourself gospels as historically reliable to proof for example that Jesus wasn’t Essenes because he did incompatible acts in the Bible. How can we know that those parts in gospels are reliable? Maybe the gospel writes just invented those stories to loose the rules.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 27, 2018

      That’s the entire task of scholarship — on the Bible or any other historical source — figuring out *what* is reliable and what is not. See my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, where I discuss the matter at length.

      • Avatar
        Eskil  March 27, 2018

        To be more price, I understood that you have said earlier that Jesus couldn’t be Essenes because he was friends for example with tax collectors like Zacchaeus (Sakkai) and in this debate you were arguing that the story about Jesus and Zacchaeus (Sakkai) is not historically reliable because it relies on twist in Greek language that Jesus didn’t speak. Sounds like double standard to me 😉

        By the way, I just read the community rule and based on it seems that Essenes held views on afterlife like immortality of the soul, eternal bliss or torment or purgatory after death around 100 years before the birth of Jesus. Views that that are absent in New and Old Testament. Views that Christians developed around 100 years after Jesus death. Will cover these views in your next book?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 28, 2018

          I don’t recall ever saying that about Jesus not being an Essene because he was friends with Zacchaeus, or that his conversation with Zacchaeus wasn’t historical because of twist int he Greek. I think you’re possibly confusing a few things I said?

          • Avatar
            Eskil  March 28, 2018

            Yes, you are right. I did mix Zacharias and Nicodemus. Sorry.

            And there’s your blog about “Was Jesus an Essenes”…
            “[Jesus] was roundly accused and slandered for being friends with the lowlifes, the tax collectors (notorious sinners) and prostitutes.”

            What I’m pondering is …

            On the one hand, how can we be sure that Jesus was fiends with tax collectors and prostitutes is a historical fact? On the other hand, Essenes would have considered everyone living outside their community as sinner anyhow. Hence, maybe it was true.

            And there are more interesting details…
            Even in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ family thinks “He is out of his mind” by doing whatever he is doing even when he is not claiming of being the God.

            In the story on Good Samaritan, Jesus is criticising a Priest and a Levite, that where the two top ranks in the Essenes community.

            Could Gospels be seen as propaganda against Jesus’ family, disciples and community, the Essenes? That all were waiting for a quite different kind of a Messiah.

          • Bart
            Bart  March 29, 2018

            Right — I wasn’t specifying Zacharias in particular. I’m not sure that it’s a *fact* that Jesus associated with those seen as standing on the margins of religious society, but since it doesn’t seem to be a tradition Xns would be proud of, it’s usually taken to be accurate. As you probably know, the Essenes are never mentioned in the NT, so it seems a bit unlikely they would be the object of any direct polemic.

          • Avatar
            Eskil  March 29, 2018

            Neither do the dead sea scrolls mention Essenes by that name. Still the consensus is that Community Rule was written for Essenes. Christians were first called Christian in Antioch after Jesus death according to Acts. Still the consensus is that Jesus was teaching Christians. Aren’t these both names invented by the latter generations?

            One theory is that NT is not identifying Essenes as separate Jewish sect because Christians and Essenes were parts of the same sect. I think there are enough similarities between them to think so. There are differences but the same has been true between various Christian groups through out the history.

            Anyhow, what should we find in the NT to say that it refers to Essenes? Can you tell from the below text which one refers to Christian and which one to Essenes?
            “for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness”
            “love all the sons of light, each according to his lot in God’s design, and hate all the sons of darkness, each according to his guilt in God’s vengeance”

          • Bart
            Bart  March 30, 2018

            Sorry, I”m not sure what you’re asking. Yes, some sayings can be acceptable to both (certain) Essenes and (certain) early CHristians. But what is your ultimate question?

          • Avatar
            Eskil  March 30, 2018

            Why would and should NT writers have distinguished Jesus’ followers from Essenes? What would have been the dividing doctrine?

            Both groups could have easily been qualified under the banner of Christians interpret as followers of the Messiah waiting for the future Kingdom of God to come.

            Philo’s Account of the Essenes tells that “their main rule and maxim being a threefold one: love of God, love of manhood (self-control), and love of man.“ Isn’t that very similar with the Jesus’ Great Commandment?

            Not all the Essenes lived in the wilderness as ascetic monks as many lived also in the rural villages based on Philo and Josephus. Essenes needed also a constant influx of new proselytes. Couldn’t that have been Jesus’ role?

            Even if Gospels are not historically reliable, sometimes they make more sense by presupposing Essenes doctrines, I think.

        • Avatar
          rburos  March 28, 2018

          Was it Jesus probably wasn’t an Essene because he wasn’t into social isolation in order to maintain his ritual purity?

          • Bart
            Bart  March 29, 2018

            YEs, that’s one of the main reasons.

  7. Avatar
    jdub3125  March 26, 2018

    Are there any Gospel stories explicitly denoted as parables which actually might be mostly historical (not just the setting), or better, stories intended by the originator to be a teaching parable but the denotation was lost after a few decades of oral tradition prior to recording and/or incorrectly omitted by the copyist, thus leading to a false and superstitious literalism that carried forward?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 27, 2018

      STrictly speaking parables are never historical accounts, but simple stories about the sorts of things that typically happen (a farmer sowing seed; a recalcitrant son who comes home in repentance; a sheep that gets lost).

  8. Avatar
    Franz Liszt  March 27, 2018

    There was a claim made that I was interested in. You said at one point the Gospels were written in highly literate Greek, and that therefore Aramaic speaking day laborer’s couldn’t have written them. I know that Luke and Matthew, and John especially, are written in advanced Greek, but I was under the impression that Mark’s Greek was actually pretty rusty and that he makes a number of grammatical errors which Matthew and Luke corrected. Could Mark have been written by someone who knew Greek and used an amanuensis? I don’t see how Mark would fall under the “highly literate Greek author” point.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 28, 2018

      Mark’s Greek is not highly literary (either are the others, actually), but it’s completely coherent. That would have made Mark one of the top 1-3% (I suppose) in terms of education in the empire.

  9. Avatar
    Franz Liszt  March 27, 2018

    I also had a question just regarding the term ‘historically reliable.’ It comes up all the time and I just think it’s the most slippery and vague term there is. I don’t know what Licona thinks, and I don’t know if he has a blog I could ask him, but I was wondering what you think. What ancient sources do we have that in your opinion are historically reliable? Is someone like Julius Caesar or Tacitus reliable? Or does the fact that they surely embellish and make things up mean that they don’t count as historically reliable? If they are reliable, why could the same rule not apply to the Gospels, if they are not, then does any written source from the ancient world count as historically reliable? Sorry for the long question, I’d appreciate if you took a crack at it though. Thanks.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 28, 2018

      Yes, I would say Julius Caesar and Tacitus are both *far* more reliable than the Gospels — by which I mean that they have far fewer stories that are significantly embellished or even made up.

  10. Avatar
    evanball  March 28, 2018

    Licona argues that ancient writing norms allowed the author to tweak the story, but this should be very unsettling for Christians who care about doctrine. We can’t know when the author was using his artistic license. Doctrines have been meticulously crafted and fine-tuned from the precise words that God purportedly inspired the authors to write down. But if the authors have the artistic freedom to use their sources loosely and imprecisely, then one cannot hold confidently to their foundational doctrines. Is God really a Trinity? Is predestination true? Do we really need to be saved from hell? Is homosexuality really a sin? Can we rely on the Bible to give us these answers?

    Would you agree that without inerrancy, conservative Christianity is on shaky ground?

  11. Avatar
    john76  March 28, 2018

    There were a few things I didn’t understand about Licona’s points. For one, Licona brought up Jesus’ rejection by his family as embarrassing. But Mark specifically relates this to the theological point that a prophet is without honor in his hometown and among his family. Also, Licona concludes from the fact that there were reliable historians in antiquity, that the gospel writers were just as reliable as these historians. But there were also terrible historians in antiquity. Seneca went so far as to call all historians liars. Who is to say the gospel writers weren’t terrible historians?

  12. Avatar
    RAhmed  March 28, 2018

    That was great to listen to. You did an excellent job Prof. Ehrman. Dr. Licona was convincing enough if I put myself in the shoes of a believing Christian. However, his insistence that the gospels are eyewitness accounts falls apart when looked at even a little bit closely. For example the idea that Mark is a direct account of what Peter had told Mark. According to Mark, all foods have been made lawful. This is awfully strange because according to Paul’s eyewitness testimony in Galatians, Peter clearly didn’t know about this!

    People forget that when Matthew, Mark, Luke, John wrote their gospels, they never expected or imagined that one day their own book would be compiled back to back with other gospels. Each of these authors wrote their own versions based on their own ideas of Jesus and didn’t expect or intend for their gospels to be combined with any other gospel.

    Here’s a question. Knowing that Acts was written by the same author as Luke, and knowing that Acts is a very historically unreliable account (at times plain dishonest), is it fair to say that his gospel should also be considered very unreliable? I imagine he took the same kind of liberties with his sources as he did with Acts.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 29, 2018

      Yes, I’d say it cuts both ways: Luke is not what we would call a highly accurate historian, about either Jesus or his apostles.

  13. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  March 28, 2018

    Several people on various social media have said the definition for historical reliability needs to be made clear. I’m not sure if they skipped that part of the debate or if they mean the term should have been defined beforehand. Both of you did state what you thought it meant.

    Licona said historical reliability has 6 criteria: the author’s intention to write an accurate account, only a small percentage of details reported by the author is false (minor geographical and chronological errors), author was capable to report accurately (eyewitnesses were available; ex. Peter was Mark’s source), the author used good judgment, the author used good judgment in his use of the sources, and numerous items can be verified (common names and places). He said historical reliability was an accurate gist or faithful representation.

    Bart—needs to be accurate. (lol simple and to the point!) The numerous inaccuracies and inconsistencies within the Gospels fall far outside of the range expected for reliability.

    Licona seems like a nice man but he’s exasperating to watch as a scholar. He says the Gospels are reliable based on criteria that he created (?) and based on ancient writers in the ancient world. That’s like saying the ancient world’s scientific methods are reliable because we shouldn’t judge them by our modern standards. I don’t think he realizes that his view of Inspiration for the Gospels requires the everyday Christian to have a personal scholar at her side to explain what is factual or possibly an error, and what part is a literary device or a matter of compression.

    One of my current pet peeves is the overuse and misuse of pointing out supposed logical fallacies. Licona said you were making an argument from silence regarding the authorship of John. This is a *logical* argument because John does not claim authorship, there’s evidence of it not being known as John in earlier references, and is not mentioned until the time of Irenaeus. So it’s a *logical* argument from silence (not to be confused with the popular fallacy). An illogical argument from silence is claiming that Justin Martyr should have mentioned Jesus in Josephus. The difference here is Josephus has the James passage in every manuscript while Justin argues for a virgin birth narrative; the evidence supports no mention of it. So when a mythicist says (in every single discussion ever) that Josephus never wrote about Jesus because we should expect Justin Martyr to have mentioned it, it’s illogical; it’s an argument from silence.

  14. Avatar
    ftbond  April 9, 2018

    Great debate…

    I honestly don’t know why most Christians (of which I am one) can’t be more honest about the differences, discrepancies, and errors in the gospels.

    But, then, I became a believer before I had even read any of the gospels, so once I started reading them, the differences, discrepancies, etc, really didn’t matter much. My faith was never in a book…

  15. Avatar
    ftbond  April 9, 2018

    Dr Ehrman –

    I’d venture to say that if nobody, way back there in history, had ever pronounced the gospels as being “The Inerrant Word of God”, the gospels would be regarded entirely differently than they are by those of a more “conservative” background – and certainly far differently than they’re regarded by those of a “fundamentalist” background.

    In the debate, I see your arguments as being arguments that might hit at the heart of that “inerrancy” thing, and as such, might shake the faith of a “fundamentalist” who actually has faith in *inerrancy* of written documents, rather than in the resurrection of Jesus.

    But, it’s clear that the story of the resurrection had long preceded the written gospels. It’s also clear (from Paul’s writings) that his readers already had some idea of what Jesus taught, and what Jesus was like.

    Paul writes “you also became imitators of us and of the Lord ” (1 Thess 1:6): the congregation could not have become imitators of Paul and his ministry
    companions without having known what they were like, nor could they have become imitators of the Lord without already having known what he (Jesus) was like.

    Paul writes of many things that are found (later) in the gospels:

    “…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant , being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”

    John says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh…”). John also records Jesus as having said “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”. I don’t know if Jesus ever really uttered those words, but, is it not an expression of the point that Paul taught?

    In Galatians 4:4, Paul writes “…But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law…”. Paul is not imparting some kind of *new* information here. He’s reasoning with the Galatians regarding a *story* that they already *knew*. Jesus, born of a woman (and not popping out from under a cabbage, nor descending from Heaven at the apparent age of 30) – and born “under the Law” – a Jew. AND – Jesus’ father was God Himself. Let me put that another way: God “fathered” Jesus. There is no inconsistency at all with what Luke later writes when he says “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for *that* reason [ie, the fact that God quite literally had “fathered” Jesus] the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

    Paul already knew that Jesus was born “a descendant of David” (Rom 1:1). This knowledge long preceded the genealogies of the gospels, and this knowledge was (apparently) already “in circulation” by the time Paul used this tidbit of info in writing to the Romans. After all, he had himself never *met* the Romans at this point, yet, he’s talking about stuff they must already have had some knowledge of. He is clearly not writing a biography.

    Paul writes “Romans 4:2. He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification”, and in Matthew, this shows up as Jesus telling the disciples “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death. and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”

    Did Jesus actually *say* that? Well, I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But, Paul sure seemed to have that *info*.

    Paul writes “do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God” – a bit of info that later shows up in the gospels as Jesus saying these things:

    Matthew 5:2. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
    Matthew 7:2. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father [ed. living righteously, etc] who is in heaven.
    Matthew 5:1. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake , for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    Paul writes “Romans 12:19-20 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink”. In the gospels, we read that Jesus says “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”, and “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

    Paul writes “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?”, and in the gospels, we have Jesus saying “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

    Paul writes “the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread. And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.. In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me..”. Is this not quite similar to the story found in the (later) gospels? Is this not a story which Paul’s readers *already knew*?

    I could go on and on an on and ON, but, to me, it is quite clear that there was already a *story* of an “historic Jesus” that had been circulated, and known, long before the gospels were written down, because Paul repeatedly refers to knowledge *about* Jesus that is already *known* by those that he is writing to. Jesus, born of a woman, a descendent of David, son of God, equal to God, existing “as God” (and hence, “before Abraham”), being humble and in the form of a servant, preaching of the Kingdom of God and righteousness, preaching “you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself”, “don’t judge…”, “bless those who persecute you”, “delivered over”, sharing a meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified, then betrayed, crucified, died, buried, resurrected.

    MY QUESTION – (twofold): If Paul is writing to people who *already knew the ‘story’* – making references (as I mentioned above, plus many other references that show that he is writing to people that already have a knowledge of Jesus) – then, in your estimate, how far “off” can the written gospels really be from the *story* that those people already *knew*? Are those differences really *material* to the story? IE, does it matter to anyone *except* a fundamentalist whether Jesus’ family went to Egypt or not?

    Second part: Is it possible, as that lady asked you in the “Q & A” part of the debate, that you have “thrown the baby out with the bathwater”?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2018

      1. Yes, some of the differences are absolutely material to the story; 2. It’s possible. It’s also possible that she hasn’t drained the tub! (I’ve always wondered how one knows what is baby and what is bathwater. I simply try to exercise my judgment as carefully and intelligently as I can, rather than hold in reserve certain beliefs that I’m not going to change no matter what.)

  16. Avatar
    ftbond  April 10, 2018

    Actually, I agree with you totally about some aspects of the Gospels being inaccurate — you can’t have Jesus’ family headed to Egypt and staying in Bethlehem at the same time… (and, as per your other examples in the debate). Either Matt or Luke – or heck, maybe both – got the story of the birth of Jesus wrong.

    But – when I referred to “the story” – I really meant (and was totally unclear about) the story that (evidently) the people that Paul wrote to already knew: Jesus existed “as God”, took human form in the birth by a woman, of the family of David, was poor, humble, taught some nice things (which maybe were available in “Q”? perhaps?), was even still doing miracles, and was betrayed on the night that he shared a meal with the disciples, talking about “this bread is my body…” (etc), was “delivered over”, crucified at the Passover, died, buried, resurrected (and probably any number of other things that seem to indicate Paul’s readers already knew “the story”). *That’s* the story I was referring to, and the circumstances of his birth in the conflicting accounts of Luke and Matt don’t change that one bit.

    QUESTION FROM DEBATE: *IF* I remember correctly, it seems you said something about the Gospel of John putting the crucifixion on the Day of Preparation, when the lambs were being slaughtered, and, the other Gospels say he was crucified *on* the Passover? (I *may* just not have understood correctly. OH, just to tell you, I do understand how the Jewish calender works).

    But, as far as I can tell, *all* the Gospels put the crucifixion on the Day of Preparation:

    Mark 15: When evening had already come, because it *was the preparation day*, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea came [asking for Jesus’ body]

    Matthew 27: [after Jesus’ crucifixion and burial] “… Now on the next day, the day *after* the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ Therefore… [blablabla]”

    Luke 23: And he [Joseph of Arimathea] took it [Jesus’ body] down and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid Him in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever lain. It *was the preparation day*, and the Sabbath was about to begin.

    John 27: Then the Jews, because it was *the day of preparation*, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

    Did I just misunderstand what you were saying in the debate, or, did you mean to say that John differs from the other Gospels about which day Jesus was crucified on? If I understood correctly, could you take a moment to elaborate?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 11, 2018

      In the Synoptics he dies on the day of preparation for the *SABBATH* (i.e. Friday) not on the day of preparation for the *Passover* (which for them was Thursday). In John the day of preparation of the sabbath was also the day of preparation for Passover (I.e. the day of preparatoin fell on a Friday).

      • Avatar
        ftbond  April 11, 2018

        Ah, yes… That’s right! John says the two days – preparation for Sabbath and for Passover – were the same day! Wow! Looks like a real “gotcha”.

        Except… It’s pretty well documented that since the Babylonian capitivity, changes were made to the Passover/Unleavened Bread… It was once that in a home celebration, the lamb was sacrificed “ben ha arabayim”, “between the two evenings” – which was understood as the dusk between the 13th and the 14th, and the lamb was then roasted and eaten once it got dark (still on the 14th). But, especially with the Temple – “ben ha arabayim”, “between the two evenings” – was interpreted to mean anytime after sundown on the 13th (thus, becoming the 14th), and the next sundown (which became the 15th) – so that, in the Temple, they’d have *all day* to slaughter lambs on the 14th (and not just at that time of dusk), and the meal was then eaten on the 15th.

        My guess is that John is simply going by “Temple reckoning” here – “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour.” It was indeed the “day of preparation”, *as far as the Temple was concerned*. It was the daylight hours of the 14th, during which they had the whole of the day (if needed) to sacrifice lambs. But, in home celebrations? It was still a common practice to sacrifice the lamb during the time of dusk between the 13th and 14th, and eat the Passover meal at dark – also on the 14th.

        The changes due to the re-interpretation of “ben ha arabayim” – perhaps to accommodate the plethora of sacrifices at the Temple – effectively “stole” a day away from the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was indeed to have begun on the 15th, as a *totally separate* thing from the Passover.

        Matthew, Mark, and Luke all seem very much to be describing a “Traditional” Passover observation, where the lamb is killed at dusk, and the meal is eaten on that same night (the 14th).

        And, if this is correct, then Matthew, Mark and Luke were all attesting to Jesus’ having shared a Passover meal with them (indicating that for them, and probably for thousands and thousands of homes across Judea/Galilee) the lamb had been killed at sundown, the blood put on the doorposts, and the lamb roasted and eaten. And, John would also be quite correct: Jesus was crucified *as they killed the lambs In The Temple* – which was the *daylight* hours of the 14th, by that reckoning.

        I’d be happy to provide you with considerable documentation to support what I’m saying, if you like. But, just know that this “change” I’m talking about is even documented in the Jewish Encyclopedia – so – it’s not as if it’s something totally obscure…

  17. Avatar
    garlandf  November 30, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,
    What works of ancient history would you consider reliable and why? *I didn’t see this question come up in any debate)

    • Bart
      Bart  December 2, 2018

      I’m not sure what you’re referrig to. Do you mean which “ancient historians” were accurate? If so, I’d need ot know which kind of historians you mean (Jewish historians? Roman? Greek? Something else?)

  18. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 18, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Although you clearly disagree,
    What would you say the best argument is that the resurrection did take place?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 19, 2018

      There can’t be *evidence* for miracles. They either happen or they don’t. But if they do, they are not susceptible of historical proof. That’s why they’re miracles.

  19. Avatar
    Brand3000  December 20, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,
    Without getting into philosophy, what would you say the other side’s best argument for the resurrection is at least prima facie i.e. would it be the group appearances found in Paul?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 21, 2018

      There is no good historical argument for any event that cannot be established historically. (A miracle is not subject to historical cause and effect, and so is not open to historical verification)

  20. Avatar
    Phazer  January 2, 2019

    Dr. Ehrman,
    Just catching up on some of these debates, but I think there was an important point left out of this debate. Dr. Licona concedes that there are many minor variations between NT manuscripts, but there are actually relatively few “meaningful” variations. This provides evidence that over the centuries the gospels were actually pretty good in capturing the “gist” of the meaning.

    However, it was never mentioned that for over a thousand years, any original or early NT manuscript that contained major variations from the orthodox scriptures would have been deemed heretical and would have been systematically destroyed. (And possibly the owner of such material as well!). So who could really know the extent of the “meaningful” variations in early NT manuscripts? Shouldn’t we take into account how effectively this filtered out the non-conforming early works?

    Thanks!! Love following the blog!
    Paul (not the original)

    • Bart
      Bart  January 3, 2019

      Yes, there were almost certainly large variations in mss that did not survive. I suppose Licona could say it was providence they were destroyed!

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