2010 debate on the reliability of scripture between bart ehrman and craig evans

If you have an hour, you really ought to listen to the 2010 debate between Dr. Bart Ehrman and Dr. Craig Evans on the reliability of scripture. Below are the YouTube videos in 9 parts.

Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Craig A. Evans is the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College of Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The audience is the First Family Church in Kansas City and Dr. Ehrman acknowledges at the beginning that most people there will not agree with him. However, throughout the debate you will notice a growing trend: Dr. Ehrman demonstrates the discrepancies and inconsistencies and errors of the biblical text, and dismantles any possibility of an “inerrant” or “infallible” text. In response, Dr. Evans does not dispute Dr. Ehrman’s arguments, but instead dismisses these errors as “insignificant” or attempts to argue that the text is still reliable despite the textual problems.

I’ll let you decide whose argument is more compelling. However, I agree with the moderator, Pastor Jerry Johnston, who states after one of Dr. Evans’ responses (Pt. 3, @ 3:37), “Sounds like an evangelist.”

The key questions are as follows:

  1. Are the gospels reliable? (Pt. 1 @ 3:50)
  2. Do the gospels accurately preserve the teachings of Jesus Christ? (Pt. 2 @ 3:42)
  3. Do the gospels accurately preserve the activities of Jesus Christ? (Pt. 3 @ 3:42)
  4. Do the gospels contain eyewitness tradition? (Pt. 4 @ 4:25)
  5. Do archaeologists and historians use the gospels as sources? (Pt. 5 @ 4:05)
  6. Have the gospels been accurately preserved down through the centuries? (Pt. 6 @ 6:22)
  7. Do scribal errors and textual variants significantly impact any teaching of Jesus or any important Christian teaching? (Pt. 7 @ 7:33)
  8. Final Remarks (Pt. 8 @ 7:01)

Here are the videos. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

Part 9:

herod really was great (well, at least a better king than the bible paints him)

A prutah of Herod the Great from year 3 of Herod's reign (

A prutah of Herod the Great from year 3 of Herod’s reign (“LG” = Year 3 = 37 BCE) with a helmet on the obverse and an inscription around a tripod reading HRWDOU BASILEWS (= of King Herod) on the reverse. The coin commemorates Herod’s capture of Judea in 37 BCE. (Photo by Robert Cargill. Coin from collection of John F. Wilson.)

All of the students in my Religion 102: History and Religion of Early Christianity course are familiar with one of my standard final exam questions:

“Herod the Great is painted in the New Testament as a terrifying, paranoid king. However, evidence shows that he may not have been as bad for the Jews as we are told in the Bible. While he was indeed paranoid and self-aggrandizing, he also did much good for the Jews he governed.

Was Herod the Great a good or bad king? Support your answer with specific evidence. Explain, regardless of your answer, why the Jews hated him and why the New Testament depicts him in such negative light.”

Well, if you always wanted to know the correct answer to the essay question, Dr. Geza Vermes has now provided the bulk of it for you in an article in Standpoint.

This article is definitely worth the read, especially if you take my class (hint, hint).

HT: Jim Davila and James McGrath.

has mark goodacre solved the gospel of peter’s ‘talking cross’?

Mark Goodacre (Duke) has posted some excellent thoughts reexamining the famous “talking cross” text from the Gospel of Peter. It’s a text that’s made me chuckle for some time, but Dr. Goodacre has pieced together a very nice alternative reading that makes the text a bit more germane to the Gospel of Peter’s resurrection narrative.

His alternative reading is as follows:

And while they were narrating what they had seen, they saw three men come out from the sepulchre, two of them raising up the one, and the crucified one following them (40) and the heads of the two reaching to heaven, but that of him who was being led out by the hand by them reaching beyond the heavens. 41. And they heard a voice out of the heavens crying, ‘Have you preached to those who sleep?’, 42. and from the crucified one there was heard the answer, ‘Yes.’

To see how Dr. Goodacre got to this reading, read his post here.

goodacre on the use of internet resources in scholarship

Duke University Professor Dr. Mark Goodacre.

Duke University Professor Dr. Mark Goodacre.

there is an absolutely wonderful article by dr. mark goodacre (duke) entitled, ‘celebrating the use of internet resources,’ on the bible and interpretation website that is mandatory reading for anyone – student or scholar – doing research on the internet. goodacre is the brains behind ntgateway.com – an online resource for all things new testament.

of particular note is goodacre’s spot-on reasoning for why so many professors despise the internet as a source for research:

Part of the problem is that many scholars are innately conservative in their teaching methods, and they are working with a print-dominated mindset. They are used to print, they like print, they have always used print. They may even print out their emails. Exploring internet resources will be time consuming and difficult. It might take away from valuable research time, or might be squeezed out by the weight of the administrative burden that they are are already struggling under. Add to this the concern that their students probably know far more about the net than they do. Faced with the fear of looking inadequate in front of their students, it is preferable to go into denial, and to stick with what they know.

equally as profound is goodacre’s nostalgic, yet realistic conclusion:

In a world where we think that anything and everything of any use can be found on the internet, it is easy to forget the warm glow inside as we enter the stacks of the university library. That smell is the smell of accumulated wisdom and knowledge of many generations. But the joy of being in the library stacks, or of digging out some wonderful old volume, cannot any longer represent the full extent of our experience of the scholarship we pass on to our students.

give it a read.

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