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2009 Debate With Mike Licona: Can Historians Prove the Resurrection of Jesus?

I’ve decided to take a day or so off from my discussions of Reza Aslan’s Zealot, both for my sanity and yours.  Here, for a bit of variety, is a video of a debate that I had a few years ago with Mike Licona on the topic or whether historians can *prove* that Jesus was raised from the dead.  Mike thinks the answer is “yes”; I think the answer is “no way.”  It’s important to note: the debate was *not* about whether Jesus was raised from the dead.  The debate was about whether historians can *prove* that he did (if he did).

Mike Licona has burst onto the scene as a conservative Christian apologist.   He did a master’s degree at Liberty University (that’s Jerry Falwell’s place) and then a PhD in New Testament at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.  Someone may be able to correct me on this, but I *think* that is the kind of degree where instead of taking PhD seminars and so on, as at an American university, it involves finding a faculty member willing to work with you, and writing a dissertation on a topic of your choice.  If it passes muster, so do you.  Mike now is an Associate Professor at Houston Baptist University, which I know nothing about except, well, that it is in Houston, is Baptist, and is a university.

Mike’s major area of interest — by far — is with the resurrection of Jesus.  He thinks that it can be proven to have happened, historically.  His dissertation was on that topic, and I believe that this was what was revised (slightly?) in his 2010 book The Resurrection of Jesus.  It’s a monster — over 700 pages.  In it he talks about how historians do their work, and then spends the bulk of his time showing that on purely historical grounds, one can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that Jesus was physically raised from the dead on the third day.

As you might imagine, there is very little in the book that I agree with.  Mike and I have had several debates.  The video here is of a debate we had at Southern Evangelical Seminary in 2009.  I enjoyed the debate — Mike is one those people I have debated over the years whom I think is a really nice guy (I absolutely cannot and will not say that about everyone I debate!).   I did not enjoy the aftermath.  After we were finished with our back and forth we were taken out of the auditorium — I *thought* (as I had been told) that it was to sign books.  But we just sat around for a half hour or forty minutes.  Later I was told why.  The seminary had arranged that immediately after our debate faculty members from the school would get up for ten minutes each to explain to the audience why I was wrong in everything I had just said — in my absence!!  Ai yai yai.   I don’t know what it is about these evangelical schools, but sometimes they drive me crazy.  Anyway, it wasn’t Mike’s fault.

Here’s the debate on whether Historians can “prove” that Jesus was raised from the dead.

Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition. Some video angles are not high quality.


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Comments

  1. TomTerrific  December 27, 2013

    Did Lacona say anything about the aftermath of the debate?

    I suspect he was in the dark as well.

  2. Steefen  December 27, 2013

    Can historians prove Near Death Experiences?

    • Steefen  December 28, 2013

      I have to thank Dr. Ehrman once again for creating a space to think. For the longest time, I’ve been pinning Near Death Experiences as a necessary topic to address. Because of this blog post, I came across a second medical/scientific incidence of relevance:

      LAZARUS SYNDROME: or autoresuscitation after failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation[1] is the spontaneous return of circulation after failed attempts at resuscitation.[2] Its occurrence has been noted in medical literature at least 38 times since 1982.[3][4] Also called Lazarus phenomenon, it takes its name from Lazarus who, according to the New Testament, was raised from the dead by Jesus.[5]

      Occurrences of the syndrome are extremely rare and the causes are not well understood. One theory for the phenomenon is that a chief factor (though not the only one) is the buildup of pressure in the chest as a result of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The relaxation of pressure after resuscitation efforts have ended is thought to allow the heart to expand, triggering the heart’s electrical impulses and restarting the heartbeat.[2] Other possible factors are hyperkalemia or high doses of epinephrine.[5]

      A 61-year-old woman from Delaware, USA was given “multiple medicines and synchronized shocks”, but never regained a pulse. She was declared dead but was discovered in the morgue to be alive and breathing. She sued the medical center where it happened for damages due to physical and neurological problems stemming from the event.[4]
      A 66-year-old man suffering from a suspected abdominal aneurysm who, during treatment for this condition, suffered cardiac arrest and received chest compressions and defibrillation shocks for 17 minutes. Vital signs did not return; the patient was declared dead and resuscitation efforts ended. Ten minutes later, the surgeon felt a pulse. The aneurysm was successfully treated and the patient fully recovered with no lasting physical or neurological problems.[2]
      A 27-year-old man in the UK went into cardiac arrest after overdosing on heroin and cocaine. After 25 minutes of resuscitation efforts, the patient was verbally declared dead. About a minute after resuscitation ended, a nurse noticed a rhythm on the heart monitor and resuscitation was resumed. The patient recovered fully.[5]
      A 45-year-old woman in Colombia was pronounced dead, as there were no vital signs showing she was alive. Later, a funeral worker noticed the woman moving and alerted his co-worker that the woman should go back to the hospital.[6][7]
      A 65-year-old man in Malaysia came back to life two-and-a-half hours after doctors at Seberang Jaya Hospital, Penang pronounced him dead. He died three weeks later.[8]
      A 49-year-old woman came back to life at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after being dead for 45 minutes.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lazarus_syndrome

      • webattorney  January 28, 2014

        These people who have “died” and came back to life don’t prove that souls or soul-like state exist after death. There are probably many kinds of electric and biological activities still going on in the brain and body even after the death (some time after), so I never thought these near-death experiences of white lights proved existence of higher being.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      I’m not sure what you’re asking. They can certainly show that people who were pronounced dead have in fact returned to life. (Not after three days, of course, but after some minutes.)

  3. Keith Collura  December 27, 2013

    Has Mike ever mentioned a list “all” of the historians that could “prove” the resurrection in order to support his claim? I have seen this debate and the debate with William Lane Craig who also makes the same claim. I don’t believe either of them ever cite historians who claim the resurrection to be provable. I could understand proving the resurrection was widely believed but the notion of proving this historically is tinfoil hat crazy-talk.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      To my knowledge he never has. Those who think it can be proven, of course, are all Christian believers.

  4. RonaldTaska  December 27, 2013

    Some Evangelicals have an amazing capacity to spin, distort, and discount evidence. This can be very frustrating if one is trying to follow evidence and reason wherever they lead as they spin everything you say..

    • yes_hua  January 12, 2014

      Have you ever debated William Lane Craig? He has such a great reputation but he’s only a great Sophist. Please point me in that way if you have.

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  January 13, 2014

        Yes, you can find the debate on Youtube. We both thought we creamed the other guy. 🙂

        • Robert  January 16, 2014

          Reread, on-line, the transcript of the (one?) debate you had with Wm. Lane Craig. He introduced a formulation for calculating the probability of the Resurrection. Did you ever have a statistician or mathematician review those formulas? To me there were undefined terms, such as, “B = Background knowledge of world apart from any evidence for resurrection,” “Pr(R/B and E)” in which “and” may mean +?, and no indication of values for “specific evidence.” For example, if we were to divide R (resurrection) by B (background knowledge of world…) and give, e.g., resurrection a value of 1 and knowledge of the world(whatever he means by that, but assume he means a knowledge of other resurrections) a 0, then the formula would reduce to the values of E (assuming “and” means +). I did think his alliteration well done.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  January 17, 2014

            Yes I did have a number of mathematicians and statisticians write me to explain that the way he used it was bogus….

        • DanielC  January 30, 2014

          I thought you creamed him as well and this was what made me start following you in the first place since Craig rarely gets creamed in a debate. I thought you did a good job of pinning him down on his basically irrational belief in the inerrancy of the Bible and avoiding his sophistry about plugging in unquantifiable variables into Bayesian equations and coming out with ludicrous probabilities for the resurrection actually happening (a debating practice he seems to of since stopped.)

        • countybaseball  November 22, 2014

          At 51:15 mark is one of the reasons I left the church. Now you take a story like that and it sounds really good. But then you would think that would be all over the news. I have looked and looked for anything about this story. Nothing about it nowhere. Now why would someone say that?

  5. Adam0685  December 27, 2013

    The evangelical world can be a very difficult one for a scholar. The founder of SES, norman geisler, has attacked mike for his interpretation of Matthew 27. All over his interpretation of the the story of the raising of some saints as not literal he lost his teaching position at SES. crazy

  6. CalifiorniaPuma  December 27, 2013

    Now that was truly a crucifixion!
    A remarkable admission by Licona at around 1:47:30 that the writer of the Gospel of John knowingly altered the crucifixion timeline.
    Do you ever find yourself asking the question, “How could I have believed all of that?”

  7. maxhirez  December 27, 2013

    Must be fun to walk into a “debate” scenario where they essentially put signs that say “right” and “wrong” on the front of the lectern before you step up to it.

  8. Xeronimo74  December 27, 2013

    If the ‘resurrection’ could be proven to be true then wouldn’t the Christian god have been proven true? In that case: why would he still be hiding since his existence has just been proven?

  9. fishician  December 27, 2013

    Your experience at SES relates to one of the reasons I came to re-examine and then reject fundamentalist Christianity: I saw too many examples where people who claimed to be defenders of truth were willing to compromise truth and either hide or distort facts in order to further their “holy” goals. Pursuit of truth should be central to religion but in my experience religion is primarily concerned with maintaining a religious system and its traditions.

  10. hwl  December 28, 2013

    Now you know how evangelical seminaries treat their guests, you won’t fall for their trick again.
    His niceness aside, do you consider Licona to be a serious biblical scholar? He got one article published in a reputable biblical studies journal – the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus:
    http://www.hbu.edu/Choosing-HBU/Academics/Colleges-Schools/School-of-Christian-Thought/Departments/School-of-Theology/Faculty/Mike-Licona.aspx
    Do you know if anyone has review Licona’s book “The Resurrection of Jesus” in a biblical studies journal?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      I think Mike is a smart guy who knows a lot. He has not yet established his scholarly credentials yet (his book is not with an academic press); but he may well do so! He’s just starting out in the profession. But I’m not sure he is interested in doing scholarship for the sake of scholarship; he is more interested, so far as I can tell, in doing whatever it takes to defend the Christian faith (i.e., Christian apologetics).

  11. gavriel  December 28, 2013

    Around 39:10 you have a board stating “What miracles are: The Least Probable Occurrence”. I would rather say that miracles are outside the scope of probability. The “likelihood” or “plausibility” of a miracle is neither less nor higher than other explanations, being rightly based on probability theory. Probability is something that is calculated from scientific models of reality. These models does not exclude the existence of miracles, but they have no place for that within them. To explain miracles, one would have to introduce some sort of a logic of a higher order, with corresponding test logic and so on. But would that be outside the scope of a historian? Is a historian an extension of a natural scientist?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      Interesting. But I’m not sure scientists are the only ones allowed to talk about probability.

  12. LJuedes  December 28, 2013

    The seminary certainly followed an interesting format for the debate. Sort of like allowing both sides to play a game and then giving one side extra innings after it is over to allow them to score additional points. Or better yet, how about in golf where the weaker golfer is given a higher handicap? In any case, their pre-debate preparations suggest an expectation that the two sides of the debate would be unequal even before it started. This should not make you crazy, it should make you ever-so-slightly proud.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      Yes, I suppose in one way it’s flattering to be thought “dangerous” to someone’s cherished views.

  13. Justin Cobbett  December 28, 2013

    I dislike the word “prove” in this context. With history things can only be likely or unlikely. The debate should have been titled “Is it reasonable to believe that Jesus rose from the dead?” I find myself divided on these debates because 1) I empathize with the person who believes historically that the evidence can point towards resurrection appearances 2) I empathize with the person who looks at the world we live in and doesn’t think something so out of this world could happen here.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      Yes, I may be wrong about this, but I think “proof” is really more Mike’s way of looking at it. I’m more inclined to speak of “evidence” and “probability.”

  14. dewdds  December 28, 2013

    Interesting debate. Professor Licona, though, strayed so frequently into theological arguments that it gave me an impression that he has a muddled distinction between theology vs. history. The ‘debriefing’ period for the audience post-lecture is both sad and funny. I guess they needed some extra time to quash the various and multitude heresies you spoke during the debate.

  15. webattorney  December 28, 2013

    Enjoyed the debate. How much evidence is there for there being a identical twin of Jesus?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      VERY little. It doesn’t start showing up until about 150 years after Jesus’ death.

  16. Wilusa  December 28, 2013

    Wow. That was an outrageous stunt they pulled, having multiple faculty members try to refute what you’d said without your even being aware of it.

    I don’t think Licona could make a valid case even within his own parameters. If he was willing to accept non-provable explanations for those “appearances” by Jesus (thwarting the purpose of the debate!), the disciples’ and Paul’s having seen a ghost would be much more plausible than their having seen a once-dead man who’d been restored to life. The reported behavior of the “resurrrected” Jesus is much more suggestive of a ghost.

    And in terms of probabilities: If “God” had restored a dead Jesus to life, doesn’t it seem probable He would have wanted Jesus to *do* something? The “resurrected” Jesus doesn’t “do” *anything*, except “appear” to a few agitated people! Why didn’t he confront the Sanhedrin again…confront Pilate again…go to Rome and confront the Emperor? Why didn’t he prove to those actual *authorities* – as conclusively as could be proven in that era – that he was now in a physical body that had become invulnerable and indestructible? And why, after he’d made himself the most famous man alive, did he not continue his public preaching for years?

    Getting back to normal, real-world explanations of his “appearances”: Licona never even considers that some of Jesus’s followers might have used hallucinogenic drugs. Or might, in that era, even have ingested hallucinogens unknowingly. Or achieved the same result with plain, old-fashioned alcohol! Nor does he consider what you’ve claimed: that people in that era didn’t make the distinction we do between waking visions and dreams.

    And we don’t even have to acknowledge the possibility of group hallucinations to explain reports from that era. Suppose a hundred people were assembled, and one man began screaming that he was “seeing Jesus.” One or two more – very suggestible – cried out that they saw him, too! Then the whole group began hooting and hollering, though none of the others saw anything unusual. By the time someone wrote an account of the incident, a decade or so later, the story could have morphed into its having been *five* hundred people, all seeing the exact same thing.

    • Steefen  December 29, 2013

      Wilusa:
      If “God” had restored a dead Jesus to life, doesn’t it seem probable He would have wanted Jesus to *do* something? The “resurrected” Jesus doesn’t “do” *anything*, except “appear” to a few agitated people! Why didn’t he confront the Sanhedrin again…confront Pilate again…go to Rome and confront the Emperor?

      Steefen:
      Jesus thought God had forsaken him on the cross but after he died, he really learned how deeply he had been forsaken. When Jesus died, he realized he was not coming back to Jerusalem as the Son of Man; and it did not happen. Jesus did not see his Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven. He did not see his Kingdom of God on Earth in his lifetime and after his resurrection. He was forsaken by God AND those who believed in Jesus were forsaken by Jesus because there was little truth in his advertising and because there wasn’t the power in Jesus or His Father or the Holy Spirit or his magic to manifest said Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus did not get to become king and have those who didn’t want him as king slain before him.

      So Paul resurrects him and creates a Gentile religion out of none of Jesus’ promises but out of Jesus’ death and a resurrection, as you say, marked by little accomplishment. This should tell people how valuable Paul’s Gentile religion promises are. If Pauline Christianity promises resurrection and Jesus didn’t do much of anything after his resurrection, what’s the post-resurrection quality of life for believers in Pauline Christianity? Paul reminds me of Josephus who led men to kill themselves for the promise of death, but after everyone else killed themselves, Josephus didn’t kill himself but gave himself over to Rome and lived.

  17. Steefen  December 28, 2013

    Can historians prove reincarnation? Martin Scorsese needed historians for his movie Kundun (about the Dalai Lama) in which there is reincarnation content.

    Life proves, historians record. If life can prove resurrection, historians can prove resurrection.

    Reincarnation is a type of resurrection: a resurrection of an identity into a new incarnation. There are SO many accounts of this type of resurrection. So, historians can prove the reincarnation type of resurrection. It cannot prove Ancient Egyptian reincarnation of Osiris. It cannot prove Ancient Greek reincarnation into immortality.

    It can prove life after death via Paranormal studies. There are recordings of former human beings. See the book “The Dead Are Alive” by Harold Sherman. There is a Hollywood movie called “White Noise” starring Michael Keaton (who played Batman in 1988 with score by Prince) which puts some of the paranormal research to a film depiction.

    It cannot prove Jesus’ resurrection. It can prove Jesus survived crucifixion. It cannot prove Jesus survived stoning, which is how he dies in the Babylonian Talmud. Historians can prove Jesus’s resurrection as a fictional telling of Joseph (Latinized: Josephus) asking Vespasian and/or Titus to take three friends down from crucifixion and one was resuscitated. (Yep, Joseph of Arimathea and the historical Joseph ask for the body of Jesus.)

    Joseph (Latinized: Josephus) has a significant number of biographical similarities to St. Paul. Both got beat up for public speaking activities. Both did not like circumcision for Gentiles. Both got shipwrecked on their way to Rome. Both published with the help of Epaphroditus. (The list of similarities goes on.)

    If the resurrection of Jesus is only a ruse of Josephus-St. Paul, in a Post-Christian world, we can really stop staking our spiritual salvation on a risen historical Jesus. We can stake some parts of salvation on a risen Christ, on the Earth moving in relation to the Sun to brings us longer days again, on the idea that the underdog will rise to a position of power, on the phoenix rising from the ashes.

    If Jesus died on the cross for 30 minutes or so at the point when he was taken down from the cross but when he was laid to rest in private, his Lazarus Syndrome (bing or google Lazarus Syndrome–or see my reply above on Near Death Experiences) kicked in but he was too much in critical condition to walk until the second or third day, then fine. Also, then, WE CANNOT HAVE AN ASCENSION, unless you’re going to make a second type of resurrection. In the bible, Lazarus does not resurrect into a “resurrection body,” he resurrects into the confines of a regular mortal body. The second type of resurrection body would be a Jesus resurrection where the body is not confined by Newtonian Physics, this body does more: it isn’t recognizable, then it is, it can ascend.

    There are accounts. I heard Joel Osteen the other week say in a sermon a man underwater felt someone rescue him by pushing him out of his submerged vehicle. When he got to the top of the water and saw the rescuers, he thanked them for pushing him to life salvation. The rescuers told him, it was not us. We could not get to you. So, there are accounts of moments of incarnation not tied to the regular human life-span: guardian angels, personal savior or what have you. This really is an alleged case of telekinesis because the drowning man did not see a body, he was moved. SO, was the resurrected Jesus only a paranormal spirit which do exist that had strong power of telekinesis such that his ghost appeared more dense than other ghosts and the power of telekinesis could be localized for the moment where and when doubting Thomas touched him?

    It’s one thing for scholars to prove a Lazarus Syndrome resurrection where the person stays in “intensive care” seclusion from the world for two days. It’s another thing to be transformed into an immortal with ascension capability. That sounds like pure Ancient Greek hero immortalization: mythologizing going on.

  18. Jim  December 28, 2013

    Not related to the debate topic: I have read (G. J. Goldberg web site) that Josephus’ work appears to place John the Baptist’s death possibly around 36 CE; therefore a few years after the crucifixion date of Jesus that is typically inferred from the NT. Possibly precise dating wasn’t Josephus’ forte?

    What are your thoughts on the dating for John the Baptist, i.e. Josephus vs NT?

    Also, do you think John the Baptist was more popular (better known) in the region of Judea than Jesus was?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      It’s a great question! I’ve never thought about it, I’m sorry and ashamed to say! I may ask some Josephus/JB experts about it!

      • Steefen  December 30, 2013

        Rome attacks Parthis with Legions from the Syrian Province
        The Emperor Tiberius ordered Lucius Vitellius, Roman proconsul of the province of Syria, to march several Roman legions from Syria deep into Parthia … Our historical sources date these campaigns against Parthia and Cilicia to 35 CE. Thereafter, in early 37 CE, Vitellius marched into Palestine at the head of two Roman legions. … Luckily for the Nabateans, before Vitellius and two legions made it to Petra, Tiberius died. Vitellius ordered both legions back to Syria.
        I believe this to be an important historical fact in dating Jesus’ attempt to seize the Jewish throne. The perfect time from a military standpoint was 36 CE. It was the low-point for Roman power in the region. At least 2 legions, 50% of the entire Roman troop strength for the Syrian province, were engaged in a campaign over 500 miles to the east. Furthermore, a large Jewish army allied with the Romans under Antipas had just been defeated by Aretas, king of Nabatea, thus reducing the number of local auxiliary troops available to the Romans in Judea. 36CE represented a small window of opporunity for Jesus to place himself in Jerusalem so God can stage him or the Son of Man as the first king of the Kingdom of Heaven..

        Passover did not fall on a Friday in any year from 29 to 36 CE.15 Nisan fell on a Saturday with Passover beginning the previous evening (there’s your Friday) only in 33 and 36 C.E. As per Josephus, John the Baptist was executed not long before Aretas defeated Antipas in 35 CE. Therefore the biblical Jesus dies in 36 CE, not 33 CE.

        Why did Jesus turn himself over to the authorities? By sacrificing himself to the Sanhedrin and Romans, Jesus averted a larger retliation against his followers.Judas, perhaps, arranged this with the chief priests before turning Jesus over. Jesus and his followers carefully studied the political and military landscape before marching into Jerusalem and Jesus proclaimed himself the messiah on Palm Sunday.

        The unexpected return of Roman legions under Vitellius from Parthia turned the tables against Jesus. In 35 CE, the Romans placed a puppet on the Parthian throne … the Romans unexpectedly made peace with Artabanus throwing their client Tiridates under the bus. Vitellius made a beeline from Babylon for Jerusalem. The Passover festival-goers in 36 CE learned that Vitellius and two Roman legions were on the way back earlier than expected. This grim news put a wrench in Jesus’ plans. Jesus’ man count could hold off partial Roman military presence but not the Roman military might added by the return of two legions.

        (Please see Chapter 6 of Herodian Messiah: Case for Jesus as Grandson of Herod by Joseph Raymond. I am not persuaded that this lawyer proved his case BUT some of his information is persuasive.)

        I think at this time, it would be helpful if Dr. Ehrman shares with us his ideas on the above. Even if Jesus didn’t start a military campaign against Rome, he could have could have been staging a theocratic coup. He knew Pilate could not call on two legions because they were out of Syria but to Jesus’ surprise they were on the way to Jerusalem!

  19. SJB  December 29, 2013

    Prof Ehrman

    You do an excellent job of illuminating Mike Licona’s question begging and circular reasoning but my question to him would have been – What about faith? It seems to me that attempting to “prove” the reality of the resurrection historically does as much to undermine faith as simple unbelief. Or does he not think faith is important?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      I’m sure he thinks faith is important. But for him, I would guess, faith is not blind, but has intellectual basis.

  20. TracyCramer
    TracyCramer  December 29, 2013

    Dear Bart,
    Do you really think that you shook the audience up so much with your logic that the school felt it was necessary to reassure the faithful among them (in the post debate wait) that what you said was misguided or mistaken? After all, all I thought you were saying was that historians can’t establish that the Resurrection did or did not happen, and that it was the least probable of explanations. (I mean no disrespect, but you did seem a little gruff. Not what you said, but your volume and gravelly voice! Perhaps that shook them up! :D)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      Gravelly voice?!? Wow, I’ve not been charged with that before! 🙂 They set up the “refutations” before I ever showed up, so it wasn’t because of anything I said. they just wanted to make sure that no one in the audience was going to be misled….

  21. timber84  December 29, 2013

    I finished watching your debate with Mike Licona. Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians that Jesus appeared to Peter and then the 12 disciples. (I wonder if Paul was aware of a betrayal by Judas. I don’t think he mentions it.).
    We don’t really know do we, what these 12 disciples saw or heard. Licona mentions this point in his debate, since Jesus appeared to all 12 disciples the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation since a mass hallucination could not have occurred.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      Yet he believes that mass hallucinations happen all the time! (unless he thinks that the blessed Virgin Mary really does appear to crowds of adoring followers)

  22. Eric Rodvan  December 29, 2013

    I am reading Mike’s book and I think he makes some great points about the resurrection. As far as the best explanation of the “facts”, I do think it is plausible, but I wouldn’t go any further than that. I myself think it is perfectly reasonable to believe in Christ if one believes in God. However, due to my views on history, I don’t think we can establish miracles in the work of history. I think that belongs to the theological and philosophical implications of the evidence, but again I think a reasonable person can arrive at the Resurrection through the evidence.

    My question to you Bart is: What do you think of N.T Wright, and have you read his volumes on “The New Testament and the People of God”?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      Wright is a very well-known, erudite, and articulate scholar, with an international reputation. And I don’t agree with him on very many things. 🙂 I’ve read a number of his books, but not all of them cover to cover.

  23. Steefen  December 29, 2013

    Given Jesus’ mistakes (1. overstating the change of the Age of Aries into the Age of Pisces a Jewish, ethnocentric, apocalyptic event for the Jewish Son of Man; 2. stating he would have anyone who did not want him to be king of the world brought before him to be killed, which would include Herod Antipas, Caiaphas, and Pilate) , a global god, or a god of the solar system, or a god of the galaxy would not have elected only him as the only person worthy of resurrection, as described explicitly in the New Testament, in the 120,000 years of human existence (existence of Homo sapiens sapiens).

    Let’s say Simon bar Kokhba was worthy of resurrection. Let’s say Socrates was worthy of resurrection. Let’s say Hypatia of Alexandria was worthy of resurrection. God, at whatever magnification (Earth, Solar System, or Galaxy) found only one human being to resurrect?

    We cannot say only an Ancient Hebrew God’s son could be resurrected, while no other God identified by another ethnic group can have a son or daughter worthy of resurrection. Tut-ankh-amun, the young king, was not worthy of resurrection? Pericles, not worthy of resurrection? Deified Julius Caesar was not worthy of resurrection? Alexander the Great, the young king or his lover was not worthy of resurrection?

    We cannot even prove Jesus was God’s only begotten son because that is tainted by the likelihood that is a reference for the reader to see the connection of Jesus to Queen Helena and King Monobaz’s “only begotten son”–King Monobaz called Prince Izates his only begotten son. Prince Izates would have been born about the same year as the biblical Jesus. Second, we cannot say Jesus was taken down from the cross by Joseph of Arimethea because that, in all likelihood, is a reference for the reader to see Joseph [Latinized to Josephus] took down a crucified man who also survived crucifixion.

    While there are Near Death Experiences, buried alive cases (especially before the 20th century), the Lazarus Syndrome, and reincarnation, the Jesus biblical case of resurrection cannot be proven by Science or History given current available information. Besides, the biblical case of resurrection is trumpeted by St. Paul who had trouble telling the truth and being known for telling the truth. St. Paul cannot even write autobiographical episodes without it reading like he stole it from Flavius Josephus.

  24. nichael  December 29, 2013

    I found particularly interesting your point about the fundamental theological nature of the argument for the physical Resurrection; i.e. setting aside Dr Licona’s red herring (there’s that term again…) about aliens, what other mechanism can one propose *other* than divine intervention?

    But I’m afraid Dr Licona showed his hand at other points in the debate, most notably in reference to any religion other than fundamentalist Christianity. To simplify a bit, Dr Licona seems to be repeatedly insisting that if Christianity makes a claim, even if we do not accept it outright we should at least take it seriously. On the other hand if another religion –say Islam– makes the same assertion we can dismiss it without another thought.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  December 29, 2013

      Yes, it’s odd, or amusing, depending on your perspective, that Christian apologists cite “evidence” for their views that can be cited just as easily for religions they oppose (the Blessed Virgin Mary appears to groups of people all the time!)

      • Eric Rodvan  December 30, 2013

        This may be a bit off topic, but recently some people have been arguing that 1 Corinthians 3:15-11 is a interpolation, and I was wondering what do you think about it. They argue that there seems to be a direct contradiction between the gospel Paul preached to the Galatians, and the gospel Paul preached to Corinthian church. Paul says he received his gospel from no man, but yet scholars argue that 1 Corinthians 3:15-5 is passed from oral tradition. If this passage is interpolated, then Christian apologetics is dead?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  December 31, 2013

          Do you mean 1 Corinthians 15:3-11? I’m always suspicious of people who argue for an interpolation that happens to go against their point of view!

  25. TubaMike  January 14, 2014

    Interesting debate. I have to admit that I had trouble starting to view it as I did not see the point in sitting for two hours listening to something when I knew in the end my views would not be altered (I’m biased). However, I have never seen you debate and decided to view it. I am glad I did. The one (to me) glaring flaw in Mike’s agrument (and one I was surprised you did not point out) was his three”facts” in proving the Ressurection Hypothesis. I thought it interesting that his closing remarks stated that he proved that this hypothesis still stands. Still stands? When did it stand to begin with? In order to prove it he would have to actually have “facts” and the only thing he produced that (100% … his words) scholars agree on is that Jesus was crucified. The other two are not facts. It is a fact that they are mentioned in the bible. It is a fact that many people believe them to be true, to be facts, to have actually happened. But, they are not facts. They have not been proven and his methods did not show them to be facts. He simply said “we have three facts” and they pass my “method” test. In closing, I raised an eyebrow when he commented on the Titanic and how “eyewitnessess” had different recollections of what happened. An excellent point and en excellent way to shoot himself in the foot. Yes, we had eyewitness and they could not agree on what exactly they saw. So, how are we to expect to take, as evidence, the conflicting stories in the gospels when we don’t even have eyewitness accounts to go on. Anyway, as I stated, I am biased. I have my beliefs but that doesn’t mean I cannot be swayed. Mike gave me nothing on which to even consider an alternative way of viewing the question “can historians prove that Jesus was raised from the dead”. Good job, Dr. Ehrman.

    • webattorney  January 28, 2014

      As far as I am concerned, people who want to show existence of God has to prove that first. If the existence of God is proven, then go further and prove that it’s Christian God. I, like you, already know that these things cannot be proven, but have heard from many sincere Christians that I lack the Holy Ghost to see the true light. When I feel the Holy Ghost, I will make sure I post here, so you guys can see that I have finally seen the light.

  26. TracyCramer
    TracyCramer  January 29, 2014

    Regarding the post below on “many kinds of electric and biological activities still going on in the brain and body”, some of you may be interested on how some people interpret those “activities” in the below link from CNN on near death experiences:
    http://edition.cnn.com/2013/11/29/us/to-heaven-and-back/

    Author: webattorney
    Comment:
    These people who have “died” and came back to life don’t prove that souls or soul-like state exist after death. There are probably many kinds of electric and biological activities still going on in the brain and body even after the death (some time after), so I never thought these near-death experiences of white lights proved existence of higher being.

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