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Ehrman vs Licona Debate on the Resurrection

On April 16, 2011 I had a kind of radio debate with Mike Licona, a conservative Christian apologist and professor at Houston Baptist University.  The venue was the English radio broadcast, “Unbelievable,” hosted by moderator Justin Brierley, and the main question under discussion was whether there is “evidence” that Jesus was raised from the dead. Mike had just published his (large) book, called The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach and wanted to talk about it. He is also the author of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.  The debate careens among different topics as the conversation escalates into scholarly challenges.

Here it is, for your listening pleasure.

Getting Together and Speaking Gigs
Why Do Translators Include Passages They Know Are Not Original?



  1. Avatar
    Ehteshaam7  November 10, 2017

    Hi Dr Ehrman

    Fairly recently I did an interview with Richard Carrier which can be viewed here:


    Let me know what you think of his views of the resurrection.

    Thanks Ehteshaam Gulam

    • Telling
      Telling  November 18, 2017


      Carrier’s a smart kid, but I think he may have been “institutionalized” for too long, if you know what I mean (you may not in which case I can do a follow-up).

  2. talmoore
    talmoore  November 11, 2017

    I had a whole, lengthy comment prepared for Licona et al’s case for the resurrection of Jesus, but then I realized I can simply post one link.


    • Avatar
      GregLogan  November 12, 2017


    • Avatar
      Pattycake1974  November 12, 2017

      Oh talmoore…..lol

    • Telling
      Telling  November 18, 2017


      Reality may be a little bit more complex. When we come to better see the greater nature of reality, this world being an illusion created by the mind in the same way we experience lucid dreaming, the great logic and wisdom of the world falls to dust. Our experiences are created out of the imagination, our thoughts of today make for our reality of tomorrow, individually and en masse. This is basic elementary rudimentary metaphysics.

      The resurrection is a foolish story founded on above underlying truths, and so it is “wrong”, impossible for such a thing to have happened because there is no good reason for it, but it symbolically does represent what believers cannot easily comprehend — that by our very natures we live on beyond this life. For those having this background and resultant understanding it is laughable that people may think otherwise.

      Who will have the last laugh?

  3. Avatar
    DavidNeale  November 11, 2017

    I have two other queries which are off-topic. Apologies for asking so many questions, especially off-topic ones! I’m just super curious about every aspect of this field.

    (1) It’s often asserted (including by a US politician this week) that Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an older man when they married. You’ve pointed out before that this claim is nowhere to be found in the canonical Gospels, and that it comes from the Proto-Gospel of James / Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. So it seems to me that we simply don’t know how old Mary and Joseph were when they married.

    When I point this out, however, some people respond by claiming that in light of the social norms of the time, it’s likely that Mary would indeed have been a teenager. But I don’t understand why people think so. It seems to me that we don’t have enough data about the marriage customs of the working classes in Roman Palestine to make such an assessment. As I understand it (correct me if I’m wrong), the only other primary source we have about life in first-century Roman Palestine is Josephus, and he was from a much higher social class than Mary and Joseph (and I don’t know whether he says anything about the typical age of marriage). Contrary to popular belief, not all pre-modern societies routinely practised child marriage. So it seems to me that there’s no historical reason to assume that Mary was a teen when she married (and equally, no historical reason to assume that she wasn’t). Am I right about this? I could be barking up the wrong tree since I’m not at all an expert.

    (2) I understand that the virgin birth is a relatively late addition to the tradition which is unlikely to be historical. But do you have a theory about *why* some Christians in the late first century started claiming that Jesus was born of a virgin? What was their motive for making this up? Do you think it was an attempt to shoehorn Jesus into the (famously mistranslated) prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 that Matthew quotes – and if so, why did early Christians feel the need to do that, given that Isaiah 7 has nothing to do with the Messiah? Or was it an attempt to counter docetism or adoptionism? Or some other reason?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 12, 2017

      My sense is that this is right, girls were married very young in antiquity. What was not sanctioned in antiquity was 30-year old men engaging in illegal and explicit sexual acts with young teenage girls they were not married to. As to the Virgin Birth, it may have been to fulfill prophecy or it may have been to emphasize both his special character AND the “fact” that he really, literally, was the Son of God (not of a human)

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  November 12, 2017

        Is it true, as I’ve heard, that males in Palestine at that time also married very young? Specifically, that Joseph would probably have been older than Mary, but still in his teens?

        • Bart
          Bart  November 13, 2017

          My impression is that a lot of men were older. I guess especially the ones whose first wives died in childbirth (of which there were a lot). But I have to admit, I’m not up on the social history of the question.

      • Avatar
        DavidNeale  November 13, 2017

        Indeed – thanks. (Of course it was a terrible defence, and remains so regardless of the truth of the historical claim. But I won’t derail by talking about modern political events here.)

        I guess I was just curious as to how much we can really know about marriage and family life among the working classes in first-century Galilee. Given that we have such limited records, and (as I understand it) most of what we do know about Jewish life at the time comes from Philo and Josephus who were members of the elite.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 13, 2017

          I wonder too! It’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time looking into.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  November 12, 2017

      This is a common misconception. There, indeed, were cases where very young females — as young as nine in the case of Muhammad — were married to adult men, even much older men. But when you dive into the actual historical, archaeological, sociological and anthropological evidence, you’ll find a couple very, very consistant (and telling) factors.

      1) Disparity in age between groom and bride is highly correlated with socio-economic status. That is, the wealthier, more powerful, more prestigious they and their family are, the more likely the bride is to be much younger than the groom (and vice versa, cf. Henry XIII and Catherine of Aragon). And, inversely, the poorer, more powerless, more disenfranchised they and their family are, the more likely it is for a woman to marry older (that is, relatively older, such as 19 or 20) to a man closer to her age. So while you’ll often see the 13 year old daughter of a viscount being married off to the 29 year old son of an earl, it was exceptionally rare for the 13 year daughter of a cobbler to marry the 29 year old son of a butcher. In the case of the cobbler’s daughter and the butcher’s son, you’re usually going to see a much more typical age difference of, say, 19 and 24, respectively.

      2) As a consequence of point #1 (or possibly a cause), marriages between the powerful tend to be arranged by the respective family for some socio-politico-economic benefit. In that case, if the bride is only 13 while the groom is 29, well, so be it. They’re doing this for family, not for themselves. Meanwhile, since the cobbler’s daughter and the butcher’s son are already poor and powerless, the union doesn’t bestow any benefits on either of them, so it’s not imperative to force a marriage between the butcher’s 24 year old son and, say, the baker’s 14 year old daughter. Neither family is establishing any net positives from the union of children of such disparate ages.

      • Avatar
        DavidNeale  November 14, 2017

        Yes, this is what I was thinking. I know that child marriage in pre-modern societies was typically more of an aristocratic thing. So I couldn’t see any reason to think that Mary was particularly young, or Joseph particularly old, when they married. (I mean no one thinks the Proto-Gospel of James is a reliable historical account.)

        • talmoore
          talmoore  November 14, 2017

          The traditional age disparity of Mary and Joseph is probably the result of legends created to answer some lingering questions about Jesus’ birth, namely:

          1) Why would Jesus have siblings if Mary was a virgin (presumably her entire life)? Maybe it’s because they were step siblings from Joseph’s previous marriage, which could suggest Joseph was much older than Mary.

          2) How can we be so sure Jesus wasn’t just Joseph’s child? Maybe it’s because Mary was too young to consummate with Joseph when they first married, forcing them to wait until Mary was old enough to bear a child (again, compare Muhammad marrying a 9 year old, but only consummating that marriage when she turned 13), and that’s why it was such a shock when Joseph found her pregnant before they had actually consummated.

          Having Mary be really young, like 13 years old, and Joseph relatively old, like in his 30s, answers these thorny questions. It’s merely a case of making a seemingly unrealistic story seem plausible.

  4. Avatar
    Judith  November 11, 2017

    This is random, I know, but will you be meeting with blog members this coming Thursday in Boston? And will you consider doing it again when closer to those of us living in the south?

  5. Avatar
    Carl  November 11, 2017

    Very interesting talk.

    Just a question regarding 1 Cor 15. When Paul mentions handing on what he received; did he mean verses 3-7 or specifically the creed from 3-5?

  6. Avatar
    nbraith1975  November 11, 2017

    I am amused by Prof. Licona’s defense of the many contradictions in the gospels regarding the resurrection as some sort of “narrative elasticity” and lack of “precision” in recording “precise details” of the events.

    All I have to say is: ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

    To simply boil down a defense of narrative contradictions of Jesus’ resurrection in the gospels to antiquated writing techniques is beyond absurd. If one was defending what kind of cloths Jesus wore it may be an acceptable defense, but we’re talking about the central piece of the entire story of the gospels.

    My counter argument to this kind of defense is that Christian apologists tell us that the Bible is the “inspired word of God.” So if the all knowing and all powerful God were in any way involved in writing the gospels he surely would have used a writing style that would hold up to scholarly historical scrutiny across the ages. Not to mention that his “inspired” gospel authors would tell the same story without contradiction.

  7. Telling
    Telling  November 11, 2017


    I had watched this debate already on YouTube. You have a good number of debates and talks posted there. It appears that you’re the man to beat; theologians and atheists alike wanting to “cream” you (in your words), probably because you’ve been the more successful at delivering your message. I find these debates truly entertaining and informative.

    It seems though that all of you have some parts of the puzzle, but none has anything like the whole of it. My sense is that the apostle Paul didn’t understand the elevated teachings of Jesus, but did understand and believe doomsday prophesies, particularly given his scholarly Jewish background. I also believe that the Muslim Quran has the one point exactly right, that another man was crucified and was mistaken as Jesus, identified as the “messiah” by Judas Iscariot, who was trying to protect Jesus, this other man having turned over the tables of the money-changers in the temple courtyard, an act wrongly attributed to Jesus. This general scenario is briefly sketched in the Jane Roberts metaphysical book “Seth Speaks”. It makes good sense to me (but the money-changer story is my own), although impossible to prove, of course.

    You could suggest that the Quran is not founded upon facts, but can you really argue that the Christian bible is infinitely more reliable? If you cannot, then this critical information found in the Quran should be considered.

    Now, as to some theological “evidence”. Consider that within just several hundred years the churches of Paul were overrun by the Muslim invasion, Antioch, his main base, remains under Muslim control to this day, and the sacred Jewish temple ground in Jerusalem is curiously occupied by a sacred Muslim structure, the Dome of the Rock. Old Testament prophesy has such things invariably happening when God’s chosen people turn away and follow a false God. You may not believe the theology, but you could be wrong. You don’t know, nor do I, but it is curious that the only theological or historical (non-metaphysical) person or organization saying Jesus was not crucified is in control of the main churches Paul founded. And the central temple of both Paul and Peter is no more, under Muslim control. Here you would find the “unerring word of God” – bad things happening when the society loses a connection to the higher truths and falls into darkness.

    If there was no crucifixion of Jesus, Peter would know this, but Paul would not. I suggest, keeping to my narrative (my “rewrite” of the New Testament bible), that the confrontation in Antioch between James and Paul — purportedly it was “the law” versus “faith” — had an underlying foundation of this crucifixion mix-up, and is why Peter and everyone else, even Paul’s friend Barnabas, sided with James and left Paul in isolation. They all would know the actual truth, and so left Paul abandoned, for the gentiles would not know the truth whereas many of the Jews would. By communing with the gentiles who believed (per Paul) that Jesus had been crucified and was resurrected, Jews would begin doubting Peter’s message of salvation through the wisdom-knowledge obtained from adherence to Jewish law and through Jesus’ elevated teaching of the Kingdom being right here in front of our faces – no doomsday prophesy from the wise.

    And what happened to Jesus? As Jane Roberts/Seth says, with a dual narrative in play where people seeing Jesus now think he had risen from the dead, it becomes something of an embarrassment for him to stick around. He gives his blessings to his disciples and merely wills himself away from our world to “heaven”, the spiritual plane that is in front of our faces but people don’t see it. A mere change in conscious focus would be visualized as an ascension to heaven by the minds of observers who cannot comprehend the actual mechanics of the event, exact as is the biblical narrative.

    You may find this “rewrite” incredible, but it will not be so incredible to those having some metaphysical understanding, and it does resolve a number of problems. This narrative, this biblical rewrite, works out just fine, in my opinion.

    I am curious and would be more than grateful to know if you can find any serious flaws in my “rewrite”. Some suggestion of faith in miracles is required of course, but you can entirely hold on to your logical reasoning otherwise. Note, the resurrection narrative is an incredible story that makes no sense logically (an unnecessary display of a natural process) but could be construed as a crude symbolic way of understanding the eternal nature of the Self by those unable to grasp the idea. Birth and death are a serious thing, more important and serious than all the money, fame, erotic sensations or worldly-knowledge the world can ever offer.

    Thanks very much for your time. You are being generous even just to read all this. But I am hoping you might offer your thoughts as to its cohesiveness and perhaps even believability, given all that you know.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 12, 2017

      I’m afraid this is too much for me to interact with!

      • Telling
        Telling  November 12, 2017

        Bart, I’ll narrow it down:

        Do you give any consideration to the below phrase in the Quran? And if not, why not, without even weighing the trustworthiness of the Quran? Why couldn’t another man have been mistaken for Jesus and crucified instead of him; some of Jesus’ followers later believing he was raised from the dead? This seems at least as believable as anything else I’ve heard.

        That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:

        • Telling
          Telling  November 12, 2017


          Regarding your new book “The Triumph of Christianity”, it does appear you’re having a little fun with the cover image.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 13, 2017

            Took a lot of work, but I like it a lot.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 13, 2017

          Generally I don’t credit sources that are over 600 years after the fact written by people who had no inside information.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 13, 2017


            But it is a curious suggestion, another man mistaken for Jesus. Shouldn’t we consider it possible that, using normal reasoning, contrary phrases in the bible might have been told by more than a single “Master” and later complied and said to be from the single source? Is there any reason we should not explore such an idea?

            Evidence is in all four of the canonical gospels – multiple sources. Peter, the Master’s closest disciple, watched the trial from a distance and several times repeated that the man on trial was not Jesus.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 14, 2017

            Peter doesn’t say the man was not Jesus; he denied knowing Jesus. (Otherwise he wouldn’t have gone out afterward and wept at what he had said)

          • Telling
            Telling  November 14, 2017


            The passages are clear and make for good sense when we forget the church theology and see the words as they are: another man, not Jesus, tried and crucified.

            Mark: “Surely you are one of them, for you too are a Galilean.” But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak!”

            Matthew: “I don’t know the man!”

            Luke: “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said

            John: “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.”

            If we’re to believe Peter’s weeping was not added proto-orthodoxy spin, then we must also believe that Jesus has supernatural powers, capable of seeing the future in precise detail, and has mental powers over the mind of a rooster. Are you willing to believe that?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 15, 2017

            No, I don’t believe that.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 15, 2017


            f you don’t believe that part of it then Paul’s weeping makes no sense. This reopens the question of what Peter was addressing when he said “I don’t know the man”. Either he didn’t know him (supporting the Quran, another man, not Jesus, crucified) or the strange passage was put in all four of the gospels for another reason. Which of these two scenarios would you suggest is the more likely, and why?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 17, 2017

            I don’t think either scenario is right. Peter was denying that he knew Jesus when he knew full well that he knew Jesus. That’s the point of the story. He denied him, just as Jesus predicted he would at the Last Supper.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 18, 2017


            You say “that’s the point of the story”, which is certainly true, but I thought we were looking to transcend the added spin and try and learn the real truth.

            Why would all four gospels feel it important to put in a fake narrative showing a serious fault in Peter, the head of the movement in the years when the New testament was being formed? Maybe to show that only Jesus is perfect, but would all four gospels feel this same need, Mark and John included?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 19, 2017

            Readers have come up with numerous reasons for doing that over the years! You can probably think of some too! (One example out of many: it’s to show the readers someone like themselves who denied Christ but later repented and were forgiven for it)

          • Avatar
            James Cotter  November 19, 2017

            Dr ehrman

            The amount of times peter is attacked by the author of mark seems to imply that mark knew peter was not promoting Paul’s crucified Jesus.


            Peter follows Jesus immediately as he should, is keen to learn, but by the time we get half way through the plot the central hero suddenly calls the leader of the Twelve “Satan”; at the same time Jesus delivered his warning that whoever will be ashamed of Jesus would be cast out in the last day (Mark 8:33-38); and at the end all disciples, and Peter in particular, did indeed demonstrate their shame in knowing Jesus.

            End quote

            Is there a slight possibility that mark is rebutting a peter who is not promoting Paul’s crucified Jesus??

          • Bart
            Bart  November 20, 2017

            Interesting idea. And does Peter ever learn that Jesus was raised?

          • Telling
            Telling  November 19, 2017


            If historians can say that John did not copy from Mark, then how can a dubious story showing both weakness in Peter and Jesus having supernatural powers show up in both gospels?

            John either copied from Mark or he didn’t. If he did copy from Mark then we have only one source for the four gospels and cannot consider any of them to be reliable on anything. If he didn’t copy from Mark then how does the fake story get added to both gospels?

            This leaves only the third possibility that you and I both reject: Jesus predicting the future in fine detail and telepathically controlling the moment when a rooster crows.

            This is a glaring problem that cries out for resolution.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 20, 2017

            It’s because the story was floating around broadly in the oral tradition.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 20, 2017


            If the whole narrative of Peter’s denial, with the crowing cock and all, is a complete fabrication then the story is without any doubt from a single source, because there can never ever be two independent sources to a fabricated story. It throws the whole concept of independent sources in doubt.

            If the denial was true but the crowing cock added myth, the story loses its luster. Peter’s not going to go around bragging that he denied Jesus, and the story would have a quick death, certainly not something Peter’s followers would have interest in promoting.

            But if the denial was just as Peter said it, “I don’t know the man”, it would be a critical and central message — Jesus not crucified, a mistaken identity. Peter’s group would be proclaiming such a message if it were true, except that it would literally blow up Paul’s churches, which are dependent on a crucifixion. So I continue to believe that the Quran has the Crucifixion story right, and I am absolutely certain that Jesus taught an elevated message but the budding Church liked Paul’s simpler message. And this then fully explains the mysterious rift that happened in Antioch between Peter and Paul, and the near total lack of material on Peter after the middle of Acts.

            I’m 2 hours into your audio book about Jesus before the gospels. With 8 hours audio yet to hear, I cannot here now see how anything can explain the glaring problem of the four gospels: all the myths repeated in multiple gospels from an obvious single source, how can anything in the bible be trusted to be from anything but from the one source for all the gospels, called: oral tradition?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 21, 2017

            That’s right. Someone would have fabricated the story, it would have been passed along in the oral tradition, and it would have been heard later in different forms by the authors of Mark and John.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 21, 2017

            Bart, I have 3 hours audio remaining on the “Jesus Before the Gospels” audio book. I like it, it keeps my interest, I feel your evaluations are good.

            Now, regarding your response, the “multiple sources” method, as I best understand, gives more legitimacy to stories appearing in both Mark and John because a fabricated story, by definition, cannot show up in two “independent” sources. But when a known myth appears in both gospels then it sure looks to me like “multiple sources” method fails; the two separate gospels are drawing from a common oral tradition. There may be something to learn about the slant of the separate gospel stories, I’m not addressing that now.

            In her book “Beyond Belief”, Elaine Pagels suggested that the Gospel of John puts “doubting” Thomas in a bad light, and she suspects that the Gospel of John was written to knock down the Thomas gospel. I’d be interested on you take on Pagel’s idea.

            I bring this up now, thinking similarly that the fabricated story knocking Peter (showing him a coward) maybe had a purpose of weakening Peter so that Paul’s message prevails. Does this seem plausible?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 22, 2017

            My view is that the Gospel of Thomas came later than the Gospel of John (not earlier); and yes, that may have been a reason to emphasize Peter’s faithlessness (though one could think of other reasons as well).

          • Telling
            Telling  November 22, 2017


            I recall your speaking of the Gospel of Thomas in an earlier book. As I recall, you agreed with other historians that Thomas phrases seemed to be as old as, or even older than, the canonical gospels but that you believed the gospel had later “Gnostic” influence, and I am supposing this is still your position.

            At the time I read your book (or was perhaps watching your Great Courses video) I would have liked to have told you my beliefs regarding this, and it is quite good that with your blog here, I am able to do that now.

            I have a 40 year background studying metaphysical and should thus hopefully know what I’m talking about regarding metaphysics. I recognized Thomas sayings as being of this nature, consistent with your idea of “Gnostic influence”, except that in my mind there is no doubt that these are the central ideas of Jesus, not added by others, but actually originated by Jesus. You have said you don’t believe this, but if you did believe it then is there any reason (any other reason) to say this not among the oldest gospels?

            Note, this idea goes hand in hand with the Peter versus Paul conflict. If Jesus was teaching the elevated message of the mystic, then he would not have been giving a doomsday or crucifixion prophesy because they are incompatible with the elevated message focusing on action and mediation, movement and rest, the nature of the Self as energy, and our formless eternal natures, etc. And thus the disagreement makes perfect sense, Paul’s incompatible message winning the conventional narrative, winning it precisely because the gentile church didn’t understand these higher concepts.

            My question is above, regarding your rejection of Thomas as an old gospel on account of Gnostic influence. Is that the only reason, or do you have others?

          • Bart
            Bart  November 24, 2017

            I think Thomas is old, but not as old as the first century. Some of the views it presents are otherwise unattested in the first century but are very much at home in the second. I’m more hesitant to call these views “gnostic” these days, but they are certainly views that would have been seen as comfortable by later gnostics.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 24, 2017


            Re: “Some of the views [Thomas] presents are otherwise unattested in the first century but are very much at home in the second.”

            Could it be that these ideas appearing in Thomas are not much found in the first century because they didn’t survive? After all, The Thomas gospel didn’t survive, it was discovered only on an anomaly.

            Is there some historical trace or record of the origin of these ideas? Sure mysticism is the source, but how can we know that mysticism wasn’t Jesus’ teaching? After all, what we call “miracles” have a mystic nature. Miracles ARE mysticism. How can anyone attribute miracles to a man who isn’t a mystic? Jesus would be a mystic by definition. For serious scholars an Apocalyptic message is incompatible with mysticism. That’s really the source of confusion regarding the Jesus message, in my opinion.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 26, 2017

            Sure, it could certainly mean that. But one would have to find evidence, since we can’t reconstruct history on the basis of “it’s in the realm of possibility”.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 27, 2017

            Well, I think the Nag Hammadi find shows evidence of a purge of manuscripts that were contrary to official church doctrine, and most if not all your evidence falls inside the area under Church control.

            And, while the Quran was written 600 years after the fact, it could be distinctly of a different nature because it came out of a physical area free from this Church oppression.

            I can think of two reasonable explanations of why the Crucifixion story is different in the Quran from official Church version; one of which is the Quran knew the truth was not what surviving Christian texts said.

            Wikipedia- The tribes of southern Arabia asked the Persian king Khosrau I for aid, … The Persian intervention prevented Christianity from spreading eastward into Arabia, and Mecca and the Islamic prophet Muhammad, who was at the time six years old in the Quraysh tribe, “would not grow up under the cross.”

            It’s a possibility that cries out fo be explored: The Quran not under the curse of mandatory Christianity.
            The book is also in agreement with your position that Jesus was a man, not God, something not found in the surviving Christian texts, as I understand..

            Sure there could be other reasons, but perhaps maybe the simplest explanation is the true one. Certainly it is worth exploring, isn’t it?

            Add to that, please bear with my repeating myself, Jesus’ closest disciple, congruent with the Quran, saying he didn’t recognize the man on trial who would be crucified as Jesus. And then we have Jesus every time saying another man (Son of man) would be arrested and crucified.

            There are some hints there, I think, without it being firmly said aloud. And it may explain why Paul’s gentile converts won the day.

  8. Avatar
    Stephen  November 11, 2017

    There is a certain class of apologist like Licona and Craig who make historical arguments the centerpiece of their apologetic. But I can’t help wondering, “Why go there?” Isn’t “faith” the most important part of the belief anyway? Why would you NOT defend the Resurrection on that basis? Interestingly if you investigate these folks’ biographies, historical arguments are not what originally convinced them.

    Any insights into why these apologists take this historical approach rather than simply admitting (and defending) their faith commitment?


    • Bart
      Bart  November 12, 2017

      Because at heart they are modernists who believe in objective proof for all of reality. It’s a huge irony I’ve long noted: extremely conservative evangelicals are more the children of the Enlightenment than most university professors!

      • Avatar
        GregLogan  November 12, 2017

        Nice point!!

        And we note – Paul’s perspective is that the power of God was sufficient and that we did NOT need “the wisdom of men’s words” – which is exactly the opposite of Licona and Craig’s approach…


  9. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  November 11, 2017

    This is excellent and I strongly recommend it.

  10. Avatar
    wostraub  November 11, 2017

    I’ll add this comment, knowing it’s an old debate that many have already responded to.

    Licona repeatedly uses the terms “narrative flexibility” and “time compression” to excuse the contradictions that Ehrman raises, but I see this as just semantics.

    In Matthew, the holy family runs off to Egypt to escape King Herod’s men, whereas in Luke they not only go to the Temple for the purification rites (logically the last place they’d want to be, according to Matthew) but they then proceed immediately to Nazareth. I fail to see how “time compression” resolves this irreconcilable contradiction. Similarly, I don’t see how “narrative flexibility” resolves the contradictions involving who witnessed the empty tomb or whether the disciples stayed in Jerusalem or fled to Galilee. Bart is spot on when he implies that narrative flexibility is just another way of rewriting the gospels to make the contradictions go away.

    I know these are old issues, but Licona has simply replaced dogmatic belief in biblical inerrancy and the inability of believers to accept obvious errors with a few new terms that sound plausible on the face of it.

    At any rate, I hadn’t listened to this debate before, and I thank Bart for posting it again.

  11. Avatar
    ardeare  November 11, 2017

    I remember listening to you and Bauckman debating about who the gospel authors may have been. Your argument that 3% or less of the Palestinian Jews could have written legible Greek makes it highly unlikely that Matthew or John wrote the gospels named after them, since it appears the authors were native Greek speakers and the gospels are very intelligently written. Mr. Bauckman argues that the number of Jews who could write in Greek is closer to 10% and the Greek in the gospels is very simplistic. The arguments were deeper but this will suffice to make my point.

    When dealing with the resurrection, the 3% number works better for the argument that Jesus was raised but that the 500 witnesses and others were unable to construct a written statement. If 10% of the Jews could write, it becomes less plausible that we would not have an eyewitness account by the hand of one the famous 500. As an interested lay person, it’s neat to see how some arguments bolster a case if the opposition’s numbers are used other than your own.

    • Bart
      Bart  November 12, 2017

      I actually didn’t make the argument per se: I simply pointed out that this is what the most recent scholarship has argued emphatically. BUT, an important point, it is NOT that 3% of Palestinian Jews at the time could write coherent Greek; it is that 3% of Palestinian Jews at the time could *write*. They would have written in Aramaic. We have Greek writings from only *one* Palestinian Jew (Josephus) from the entire first century. Far, far fewer than 1% could have pulled it off. JOsephus himself who was one of the highest of all elites had to get assistance to do it.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  November 12, 2017

      The only Palestinian Jews who could write Greek were those who went to Greek academies. And the only Palestinian Jews who went to Greek academies were the children of the Jewish ultra-elite. For instance, one would expect that Herod Antipas could read and write in relatively educated Greek. If that’s the standard we’re talking about, then the precentage would probably be closer to a hundredth of a percent. That is, not 3%, but something like 0.03% of all Palestinian Jews.

      • Avatar
        ardeare  November 13, 2017

        Talmoore, thanks for the info. Bart just made his point clear. However, there are scholars such as NT Wright and Robert Bauckman who could write 600 page ancient Greek non-fiction novels based on tens of thousands of hours of scholarship who profoundly disagree with your claim. Furthermore you assertion that ” Palestinian Jews who could write Greek were those who went to Greek academies” is absolutely unprovable. Provide me with the names of the academies that existed? Provide me with the locations and the size of their classrooms? Provide me the the names of the instructors? Bill Gates never graduated from college. Henry Ford never received any academic training. Tesla’s introduction of the AC motor was rejected by Edison. It is totally fallacious to state assumptions……….turned probabilities……….into facts. If there are facts, show them to me.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  November 14, 2017

          Bill Gates went to Harvard. Even though he didn’t graduate, the very fact that he was admitted to Harvard already puts him into an elite category.

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    Pattycake1974  November 11, 2017

    I used to think WLC made a good case for the Resurrection apart from his whack-a-doodle math problem. Not so much anymore. Some didn’t believe Paul when he said there was a resurrection for the dead, and some doubted actually seeing Jesus risen from the dead. What Licona gave for evidence was really based on faith.

    • Avatar
      GregLogan  November 12, 2017

      I appreciate your allowing further consideration in your thinking. I have done the same – and “following the truth” has brought me to places that I would otherwise never imagined.

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    Tobit  November 12, 2017

    It’s a shame you were moved on from the creed in 1 Corinthians, that seemed like the crux of the evidence: are claims of seeing a dead person reliable evidence for the dead person having been resurrected?

    It seems difficult to make a case for it, would any historian say Muhammad being transported to Jerusalem by God is best explained by God’s actual miraculous intervention? (Quran 17:1)

  14. DestinationReign
    DestinationReign  November 12, 2017

    The last ten minutes of this gentlemanly debate is a validation and reinforcement of the fact that historicity and literality will NEVER provide a conclusive answer on the resurrection. (Concrete analysis leads to bizarre rationalizations and hypotheticals about decapitated people coming back to life, etc.) The only thing that can be “proven” is that there is NO proof. (There has never been a conclusive answer in 2,000 years!)

    The fact is, those prone toward belief will insist that the “historical evidence” shows that Jesus rose from the dead, and those prone toward DISbelief will have the opposite view. (This is merely an exhibition of confirmation bias.) Same evidence, different conclusions.

    Now remember, Christ, the “King,” said that when He would leave, darkness would fall. Since then, no one has been able to work, or to SEE. There has been no King; no guiding light. Let us then reference the living parable found in Judges 21:25:

    “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.”

    So, with no King, the believer believes what is right in his own eyes, and the skeptic does the same. And moreover, Christianity is the ultimate example of this, with 30,000+ denominations all seeing conflicting “truths.” This is all a result of having been enveloped in darkness while the King has been absent (John 9:4-5).

    But, when using the metaphorical/metaphysical/living prophecy application of Scripture, particularly through GOSPEL MATRIX interpretational methodology (and ESPECIALLY the Gospel/Timeline template), we begin to see how all of these things come together. The Gospel/Timeline template itself reveals that the age of Christianity has been a dispensation of darkness and blindness.

    Matthew > Mark > Luke > John

    Church Age begins > Dark age of Christianity > Church Age ends, light is returning > Kingdom revealed

    We are now at the juncture most applicable to the Gospel of Luke (“light-giving”), as the light is beginning to shine after a long age of darkness. This is why Luke’s version of the calling of the first disciples differs greatly from Matthew and Mark. Only in the living and active Gospel of Luke (5:5-6), the disciples-to-be concluded that they had “worked all night and caught nothing.” Then, and only then, did they catch a great multitude! This represents the realization that the Christian Church Age has been an age of darkness in which no man could work. An age in which men have been trying to prove or disprove the Scriptures based on literality or “historical accuracy.” When it is accepted that this has been a faulty approach, unprecedented transformative Truth will be unveiled!

    So, to reiterate what was said in a recent post – it does not matter if some fellow with a beard miraculously came out of a tomb 2,000 years ago. What matters is embracing the Truth that the divine essence within has been dormant, and must now be awakened on the “third day.” And involved in this awakening is a newfound understanding of what Scripture is, and what it is telling us.

    • Telling
      Telling  November 17, 2017


      Considering that Eastern religions, mysticism, spiritualism, metaphysics, and select quotes of Jesus, all tell of the eternal nature of the Self as not something miraculous but rather of an ordinary nature, we can say that the resurrection is a crude symbolism of it. That’s what it represents, and is why it is so tightly held dear in the West. The West is indeed eating the table scraps of the wise.

  15. Avatar
    stokerslodge  November 12, 2017

    Licona Had you on the ropes there Bart, it’s a good job the Ref stepped in and stopped the fight ; ) any plans for a rematch?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 12, 2017


      • Telling
        Telling  November 17, 2017


        I watched your YouTube debate on the afterlife (forget who it was with, I think it was 2015). It concerned me that you call yourself an atheist and don’t believe in an afterlife, and that you’re teaching this to students.

        The truth is, and I know this for a certainty: “God” is a word in the dictionary, and for you (us), with your (our) limited understanding, God is reasonably defined as all that is in your experience and all that underlies your five physical senses,and this goes deep to within the mind. . Now I’m going to quote from Mahayana Buddhism and say: “All heavens, and all hells, and all worlds are in a single thought: the thought you are holding in your head at this very moment.” These various heavens and hells and worlds are thought-creations. We are the creators and the destroyers. God is the pure energy, a gestalt awareness, from which all springs. It is up to us, call us God’s children, to tame the beast and bring harmony to these various heavens, hells, and worlds, because they are our creations.

        I know it’s a mouthful. I hope it to be of some use.

        • Bart
          Bart  November 19, 2017

          No, I don’t teach my personal beliefs about afterlife to my students! My courses involve historical examinations of the New Testament and early Christianity, not personal beliefs.

          • Telling
            Telling  November 19, 2017


            I looked up the debate. You were an apparent guest at the University of North Alabama on April 4, 2014, debating Kyle Butt. It is this debate I was referring to.

          • Bart
            Bart  November 20, 2017

            Right — public debates are very different venue from classroom lectures!

  16. Avatar
    Wilusa  November 12, 2017

    I got a kick out of it. But why didn’t you ask him *on what basis* he didn’t conclude *hallucination* was a more likely explanation of those “visions” than actual appearances of Jesus? If someone insists on “miracle” being considered as an explanation of something, it should only be when all natural possibilities have been *ruled out*.

    I’d hoped the discussion would go beyond that. That a man who’d written a book on the subject had *some* sensible “evidence” for a claim that Jesus had been seen alive after he’d supposedly died.

    Or that you’d get into such areas as why, if he was miraculously still alive, he didn’t choose to reveal himself to *Pilate*? Why he supposedly “ascended into Heaven,” without letting *the whole world* know about this once-in-all-of-history miracle?

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    Matt7  November 12, 2017

    Is Mike claiming that no faith is required to believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

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    dragonfly  November 12, 2017

    It seems to me the issue is about the most probable explanation for the evidence. The evidence is that there were stories of some people claiming to see a person alive after they had died. To claim the most probable explanation for that is that the person actually did come back to life, just isn’t right. Pretty much any other explanation would be more probable. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but you can’t say it’s the most probable explanation.

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    Skepticalone  November 13, 2017

    It seems to me that Truth just is and needs no defense and will not be accepted by unbelievers because by their very definition , they are unbelievers . Jesus has been quoted as saying ” If I told you, you would not believe . ” He spoke to many in parables and later revealed those who were child like and possessed enough humility to be wrong and to not understand. I don’t know is a perfectly good response but the greater the scholarship whether atheistic or in things pertaining to religion , the greater the temptation to prove things . In the natural world ( particularly from the well educated and/or successful in the business world , I often see those who are unable to display or admit that there are things which they do not know . The enemy ..the adversary Satan often tried to trick the Lord Jesus into giving over His authority to Satan by ” proving ” something . ” If thou be the son of God , turn this stone into bread . ” …Jesus had no need to “prove” what both He and Satan already knew to be true. Jesus is Lord just as God is I Am. And God demonstrated this for He did not have to “prove ” it to unbelievers . God gives grace to the humble but opposes the proud for the proud can not be wrong nor can they be submitted to a higher power . But to be submitted to meekness , forgiveness , love , mercy, gentleness and thus eternity is truly and act of grace.

    • Avatar
      flcombs  November 15, 2017

      That appears to assume what the truth is in advance. If you want to know a truth without already assuming it takes some kind of evidence. Else we could just say that the truth is that Jesus was an alien from another planet, hence his powers. It doesn’t require any proof because it is just true and naturally unbelievers just won’t believe.

  20. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  November 13, 2017

    It’s always uncomfortable for me to hear the sound of someone who tried to do a good job (Mike Licona, in this case) realizing that the last 6 years’ work just went down the tubes. Fortunately for him, I’m confident evangelicals are still buying his book and pronouncing it good.

    • Avatar
      T20011152  July 31, 2018

      No need to be concerned about Licona’s book selling. He teaches at Houston Baptist University where it is a requirement of the students to purchase his book(s) for the class.

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