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Fund Raising Event on the Blog: Contradictions in the Gospels??

We will be engaging in an unusual fund-raising event on the blog in a week or so.   A well-trained Anglican priest named Matthew Firth had issued a challenge that no one could point out any contradictions in the Gospels of the New Testament that could not be explained.  As I understand it, he offered an award of $1000.  OK then!  Someone on the blog contacted me to see if I’d be willing to take up the challenge.

Of course, there is not a contradiction in the known universe that someone cannot explain away to his or her own satisfaction, given sufficient ingenuity and the deep inclination or desire to think that contradictions do not exist.  So in a sense the outcome is pre-determined.  Rev. Firth will not be convinced, nor will his followers, nor anyone on either side of the pond who comes into the question with mind already made up.   So in one sense, at least, it’s a pointless exercise.

On the other hand, outsiders might be interested in a back and forth.  There’s no way Rev. Firth will pay up — he has a degree in Theology from Oxford and nothing anyone says will change his mind, I’m relatively sure . So I wouldn’t take up the challenge thinking it might pay something.  But the blog is all about discussing issues of the NT/early Christianity to raise money for charity.   So I was asked by this interested third party: what would it take in terms of donations?   Simple!  I said I’d do a blog debate for $1000, in hopes of raising much (much) more!

And so it is in place.   We will be having a blog debate.  I will propose several contradictions in the Gospels and explain why they *are* contradictions; Rev. Firth will respond to show why they are not; I will reply arguing they are; he will give further evidence they are not.  And so on.

I know all of you are already paying to be on the blog.  But would you be willing to make an additional donation in honor of the event?  We’d like to raise oodles of money for the good causes we support, helping the hungry, homeless, and needy.  Important endeavors!  Not to mention the important endeavor of trying to understand the New Testament better.

Many thanks to Tim Cottingham, a blog member who first proposed and then organized the debate; and to Nathan Gordon who has generously contributed already to make the funding possible and has set up the fund-raising efforts.  And to both of them for working out the logistics (which ended up being a bit complicated)

Here is a brief video (2 minutes) about the debate and its purpose; following that is a couple of sentences on who Rev. Firth is; following that is the format etc. that we’ve agreed on for the debate.   Please give!

First the video!  (Note: it indicates that it is about contradictions in the NT: but we will be talking *only* about the Gospels)

Now: on Matthew Firth.

Matthew Firth did degrees in  Natural Sciences at Cambridge and Theology at Oxford. After completing his title post in Ipswich, he went on to be Chaplain to the University of Cumbria and Young Adults Church Pioneer for Carlisle Deanery. He is currently Priest in Charge of St Cuthbert’s and Holy Trinity, Darlington, and he has wide ranging interests in the areas of science, theology, contemporary mission and politics.

Topic: Are there contradictions in the New Testament Gospels?


  • Dr. Ehrman – affirmative stance (yes)
  • Rev. Firth – negative stance (no)

Forum/Audience:  Posts on the member section of the blog, with accompanying blog member comment section

Format: 3 rounds of back and forth posts, potential for answering comments (with an eye to not overextending your time commitment; NB: I myself will of course deal with all the comments; Rev. Firth will have the opportunity to do so as well, as much as he chooses)

Round 1

  • Dr. Ehrman proposes 3-4 candidates for contradiction in one post
  • Rev. Firth counters each in one post

Round 2

  • Dr. Ehrman responds in one post
  • Rev. Firth counters in one post

Round 3

  • Dr. Ehrman responds in one post
  • Rev. Firth counters in one post

Post Length:  targeting approx. 1000 words each post;  1200 word hard limit per post

Time Limit:  3-4 days between volleys


  • Principals:  the aim is for informative and collegial engagement on the issues between the principals in the debate
  • Comment Section:  the blog member community is generally welcoming and friendly.  In addition, the comment section is proctored by Dr. Ehrman

Commencement:  nearest mutually convenient timing after April 15, 2019

Charitable Giving:  in addition to stimulating dialogue, this is the project’s true purpose

  • Dr. Ehrman
    • Amount:  at least $1K
    • Recipient:  Bart Ehrman Foundation (https://ehrmanblog.org/philanthropy/; EIN 45-4810987), entirely for the benefit of:
      • The Urban Ministries of Durham
      • Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina
      • CARE
      • Doctors Without Borders
    • Sources
  • Rev. Firth
    • The intent: Should Rev. Firth desire to also raise funds, the recipient is entirely his choice of charitable cause(s) (e.g., church community outreach, some or all of the blog causes listed above, etc.)

Who Were The “Pagans” Christians Were Converting?
Jesus “Only” Adopted to be the Son of God?



  1. Avatar
    lobe  April 10, 2019

    If we wish to donate in support of this particular event, how should we do it? I didn’t see a link to donate extra to the blog outside of the membership fee, but I may have just missed it.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2019

      Easiest just to go to the bottom of the screen (of any post) and hit the DONATE tab. Thanks.

      • Avatar
        jwesenbe  April 10, 2019

        It took me a while to find. Button is way down, where most never look. If you don’t read the comments or post one, you never scroll down that far. Even then, as I write this I don’t see the donate button.
        I would suggest putting a donate button closer to the top where most readers are looking. I wouldn’t want you to miss a single potential donation.

      • Avatar
        lobe  April 15, 2019

        Apparently the bright yellow DONATE button wasn’t quite obvious enough for me to find on my own, lol. Thanks, donated, looking forward to reading the exchange!

  2. Avatar
    John Murphy  April 10, 2019


    If I recall correctly, you said you have no interest in further debates on the question of Jesus’ existence; so why, at this stage of your career, do you bother rebutting this kind of nonsense? Surely it’s just as silly and thankless a task.

    I know the money that will go to charity is a strong inducement to participate, but, to be honest, I think you’re giving a platform to people who deserve to be treated with disdain on account of their dishonesty in relation to this subject. And there is no word other than dishonesty that is appropriate. (I’m talking about ‘educated’ Christians, of course, not regular folk who don’t know any better).

    Anyway, since it’s going ahead, I hope you’ll raise plenty of money!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2019

      Ah, because I think an argument can be made about contradictions. And why not — it’s a good cause and might help people see reasons for thining there are contradictions (rather than simply assuming they are).

      • Avatar
        John Murphy  April 12, 2019


        Actually, I think the arguments that Jesus didn’t exist, though quite ridiculous, are more persuasive than those put forward by apologists who try to sell biblical innerancy or whatever it’s called these days.

        Anyone who is willing to spend even half an hour reading the Gospels can see that there *are* contradictions that can’t be reconciled. 100%. No grey area! It’s just silly and dishonest to claim otherwise.

        Anyway, I won’t labour the point. Good luck with the debate, but I fear I know what the reaction of your opponent will be at the end of it.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 13, 2019

          Ah, for me it isn’t a fear so much as a certainty! I have no chance of persuading him! But that’s OK: Of the six billion people in the world, there are roughly six billion who disagree with me on one thing or another, and since there’s no way I can change that, I simply don’t fret it!

        • Avatar
          Pattycake1974  April 13, 2019

          Oh, it’s people who believe in bible inerrancy that you have a problem with more than mythicists but both are problematic. I find myself conflicted with these two issues. On one hand, it bugs me when conservative and evangelical Christians are attacked or denigrated for their beliefs. The same goes for mythicists. They’re oftentimes treated like they’re stupid. On the other hand, the arguments from both of these parties irritate the heck out of me.

          • Avatar
            Pattycake1974  April 13, 2019

            I guess I should say *some* of the arguments are irritating, not all of them.

            I can see how people would think the Bible is inerrant though. Even when I was a fundamentalist, I knew the stories were told differently in each of the Gospels. That didn’t make them contradictory. It was more like, if 3 people witnessed a car accident, there would be 3 different perspectives of what happened.

          • Avatar
            TL8476mn  April 16, 2019

            The point about biblical inerrancy is, while 2 authors may have different accounts of an event, both may not be correct. If one says Jesus died on the day of Passover and the other says the day after, one account is in error. OR maybe both. Certainly it indicates that fallible men wrote the bible, not God.

    • Avatar
      Pattycake1974  April 12, 2019

      The debate isn’t about mythicism. But why would people who don’t believe Jesus existed deserve to be treated with disdain?

      • Avatar
        John Murphy  April 13, 2019

        I know it’s not about mythicism. I think you misunderstood the point I was making; namely, mythicism and inerrancy are *both* ridiculous, so why would Bart bother refuting the latter when he said refuting the former is not something he plans to waste time on in the future. He has already written a book on each subject.

        And I never said anyone who doesn’t believe Jesus existed should be treated with disdain (though *some* probably should!). I specifically said ‘educated’ Christians, i.e. those who have looked at the evidence, who insist (pretend) there are no contradictions in the Gospels should be.


      • Avatar
        Nexus  April 14, 2019

        John Murphy,

        I think you should consider that people may weigh the same evidence differently. Popularizers of mythicism likely (I forget) make a hay out of the fact that there are no primary sources for Jesus’s life. I along with them weigh this heavily in my opinion. Bart, for example, for some very defendable reasons does not weigh it as heavily.

        One thing that I find fascinating is that according to Bart there were not that many followers of Jesus in the early years after his death. But Pauls suggests that there were numerous followers, and he is going around arresting them, and he is well known for this. I think Paul is the best evidence for a historical Jesus. If we say Paul is a fabulist in this case then that really casts a large shadow of doubt for me over other things he says and subsequently a historical Jesus.

    • Avatar
      tcasto  April 13, 2019

      John Murphy, as you will know from following the blog, there are many contradictions in the Gospels that have nothing to do with whether Jesus existed or not. His last words on the cross, where the family went after his birth, and many others.

      Dr. Ehrman is no doubt correct that no minds will be changed by this discussion, but I am interested to see what arguments the good reverend might put forth.

  3. epicurus
    epicurus  April 10, 2019

    I’ve read works by Christian apologists trying to explain away contradictions and I always come away thinking they have a double standard as they would quickly dismiss another religion’s attempt to explain contradictions in its own book- the Book of Mormon or Koran for example.

  4. JulieGraff
    JulieGraff  April 10, 2019

    Verry interesting! 🙂

    Do the contradictions have to be within the Gospels or can they be pointing to the original text they sprung from (i.e. the Torah)?

    To clear my question: if I speak within a room and then in that room I contradict myself, that is a contradiction regarding what I said in that room… but if I enter a room after hearing a conversation, and I speak in that room of that conversation, and I do not contradict myself in that room regarding what I am saying in that room, but I contradict the conversation I am speaking of before entering the room, will that be a contradiction?


    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2019

      We’ll just be talking about what the Gospel writers themselves say.

      • JulieGraff
        JulieGraff  April 14, 2019

        Sorry but I feel like saying that debating on that level is like scooping ice cream with a fork…

        You may do it for a good cause, but by G.od, please get a spoon!

        • Bart
          Bart  April 15, 2019

          If the ice cream is thick enough, a fork works just fine….

          • JulieGraff
            JulieGraff  April 15, 2019

            Ha! Ha! Right! 🙂

            Just make sure it doesn’t get to hot! 😉

          • JulieGraff
            JulieGraff  April 16, 2019

            Sorry, I have to write this as a reply on your post instead of the one that I posted because I reached the limits of replies… but I wanted to make it clear (I dont know if you can see the time of the postings on you dashboard) that when I wrote “Just make sure it doesn’t get to hot!”… it was on my lunch break, before Notre Dame de Paris started burning.

            As I am sure you agree there is a big difference between debating, exchanging thoughts and opinions… and being insensitive!

            I believe that respectfully debating, exchanging thoughts and opinons with people who have different ones is what helps us to be more sensitive, more Adam!

            Thanks for your work

  5. Avatar
    JohnKesler  April 10, 2019

    John 21:14 claims that the John-21 resurrection appearance at the Sea of Tiberias “was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.” Two others are narrated in John: John 20:19 and a week later in 20:26. I’d be interested to know where Rev. Firth places the Matthew-28 appearance on “the mountain to which Jesus had directed [the eleven disciples]” in Galilee. If he says it was before any of GJohn’s appearances–or at any point in the same time frame covered in John–then John 21:14 is wrong. If it was after the John-21 appearance–which clearly goes against what Matthew 28 indicates–then why did “some” still doubt that they were seeing Jesus? And why would an angel, then the risen Jesus, say on resurrection morning to tell the disciples to go to Galilee, and *there* they would see him (per Matthew 28), if the first appearance was actually behind locked doors in a house in/near Jerusalem (per John 20)?

    Bart, I’m sure that you have a bunch of contradictions lined up, but I think this would be a good one. Thoughts?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2019

      Surely he would say it was the fourth. And the angel doesn’t appear to the disciples but the women.

      • Avatar
        JohnKesler  April 12, 2019

        “And the angel doesn’t appear to the disciples but the women.”

        I know. I said that the angel said *to tell the disciples* to go to Galilee. And if Firth argues that Matthew 28 is the fourth appearance, he would need to explain why Jesus was en route to Galilee on resurrection morning (Matthew 28:7), if he actually was to appear first in/near Jerusalem, then make two other appearances, before he went to the mountain in Galilee.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 13, 2019

          Yup, that’s a different argument!

        • Avatar
          meltuck  April 13, 2019

          I think Firth may have already won the debate if he is going to say that the contradictions can be explained by saying the gospel writers worked from different sources which themselves contained contradictory information and each gospel writer had to decide which information he was going to believe. If, however, Firth hopes to prove that what appear to be contradictions really are not, then he’s going to be undertaking some impossible intellectual gymnastics.

  6. Avatar
    rburos  April 10, 2019

    I’ll add $25

    • Bart
      Bart  April 12, 2019

      May your tribe increase!

      • Avatar
        rburos  April 12, 2019

        Done. Come on everybody–by donating to Doc’s worthy causes you simulataneously donate to my worthy cause (ME!).

  7. Cheryl
    Cheryl  April 10, 2019

    I am looking forward to the debate, Bart. Great fundraising idea. Thanks to you, Rev. Firth and those who are handling all the logistics for this learning opportunity.

  8. Avatar
    Hume  April 10, 2019

    If Jesus or his followers were calling him the king of the Jews and the Jews interpreted this as Messiah, and the Romans as a king that would usurp their power, wouldn’t the crucifixion be just a massive misunderstanding?

  9. Avatar
    HawksJ  April 10, 2019

    I will absolutely donate extra. Thank you, Dr. Ehrman, for participating and to the two organizers!

  10. Avatar
    AstaKask  April 11, 2019

    Too bad you didn’t do the whole New Testament. I understand that Paul and Acts contradict each other in quite a few places. Also, is this just any contradiction or is it theologically significant contradictions?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 13, 2019

      Yeah, for the sake of focus we decided to stick to the Gospels — and even that’s going to have to be narrowed way, way down. The contraditions I’ll be offering are not about theology but facts, though some of them will have theological implications. (To say that one Gospel has a particular theological view and another one has a different one isn’t normally an actual *contradiction*)

  11. Avatar
    castaway  April 11, 2019

    I vote for bringing up the different dates for the passion events vis a vis Passover, in John, vs in the Synoptics 🙂

    • Bart
      Bart  April 13, 2019

      Ah, he’d be expecting that one!

      • Avatar
        Hngerhman  April 14, 2019

        That’s a personal favorite… If you don’t use it: What is (a) your favorite retort to it and (b) the strongest retort to it you’ve heard (and perhaps where that retort goes awry)?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 15, 2019

          There are very complicated “solutions” that involve different calendars being used; it’s such a mess that it would take several posts for me to try to explain why the solutions don’t work, and I’d rather go with something less convoluted.

          • Avatar
            Hngerhman  April 15, 2019


          • Bart
            Bart  April 16, 2019

            Ha! That would be a good one!

  12. Avatar
    Eric  April 11, 2019

    I have a proposal for future such opportunities:

    You co-market a debate with someone Like Mr. Firth, perhaps our mutual acquaintance Peter Williams. I’m sure he also has charitable causes he would like to represent. You each ensure you find the other’s charity “acceptable”.

    You each market to your blogs, etc, and also try to market together more broadly.

    Debate occurs (in person?), videoed. Or phases like the above, but each round and reply on posted video.

    For a period of time viewers are invited to “vote” for who is winning or won the debate by contributing to your charity, or to his. Running total (who’s ahead?!??) in $$$, at the end of the period, a winner is “declared,” congratulations are exchanged, and two deserving charities EACH get a lot(?) of money.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 13, 2019

      Great idea. If I had more time to devote to such things I would do it! But alas….

  13. Avatar
    wostraub  April 11, 2019

    Any seemingly implausible miracle or other extraordinary event in the Bible can be explained by God’s magic. No one, not even the notable Bart D. Ehrman, can overcome that kind of illogic. “God did it” is the be-all, end-all explanation for everything, and it simply cannot be overcome by rational means. I fear that either Bart will lose the bet, or it will be declared a draw.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 13, 2019

      I can’t “lose” if I don’t agree to the premise! And the nice thing about fundamentalist readings of the Bible is that they are always based on post-Enlightenment understandings of “objectivity,” weirdly enough, that concede the grounds for contradictoin (e.g. in other sacred writings than their own)…. But yes, each participant in this debate, and his supporters, will avidly declare himself the clear winner!

  14. Avatar
    vienna1791  April 11, 2019

    Forget “Avengers: End Game” and the Final Season of Game of Thrones, both coming out this month as well. The Battle of the Bloggers!! This is were the April action will be!! Well, it will be for me at least.

  15. Avatar
    Hogie2  April 11, 2019

    Looking forward to this! I will definitely contribute.

  16. Avatar
    Pattylt  April 11, 2019

    I love that you’re doing this and sent a little somethin, somethin your way. Looking forward to it!

  17. Avatar
    J--B  April 11, 2019

    Sounds like fun – for us, that is.
    Donation on the way.

  18. Avatar
    mikezamjara  April 12, 2019

    wow I cant wait.

    As you say it will be just an entertaining exchange. It only would be useful if it is requested that any explanation of the contradictions in the bible that the reverend gives should be accompained by archeological or scientific evidence that show that it is the right explanation or interperetation of the text. If not, the contradiction should be the default proposition since it is the literal reading of the text. It is anoying how apologists just “explain” but not give any evidence that the “explanation” is the correct interpretation. Why is it that in other debates about any biblical topic skeptics give all kinds of evidence and apologists just “explain” and “explain”?
    However my donation will get to your foundation and be watching the debate. ¡Good luck!

  19. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  April 12, 2019

    Blog members might want to check out the Apologetics Press website to see what arguments conservative Christians often make about such contradictions.

  20. Avatar
    jwolfrath  April 12, 2019

    I would challenge him to provide two English sentences that are contradictory. Then use the same techniques to resolve the contradiction (even if it requires appealing to a supernatural explanation). The analogy should be clear… any contradiction can be resolved.

    In any case, thank you for doing this! I will add a donation.

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