Assessing Bart Ehrman’s case against the resurrection of Jesus

Let’s start by listing some of Bart’s debates, and then we can take a look at his argument.

Bart Ehrman’s debates

  1. William Lane Craig vs. Bart Ehrman. The full transcript of the debate is here, so you can follow along with the video.
  2. Mike Licona’s first debate with Ehrman (audio, video).
  3. Ehrman’s debate with Peter Williams on the UK-based Unbelievable radio show.
  4. Ehrman’s debate with Dan Wallace
  5. Ehrman’s second debate with Licona can be ordered here for $10. Review is here.

Here’s William Lane Craig’s opening speech against Bart: (in 12 parts)

Part 1 of 12:

Part 2 of 12:

Bart’s argument

Bart Ehrman has a standard case based on 1) manuscript variants and 2) David Hume’s argument against miracles. Basically, he says that because the massive number of manuscripts contains a massive number of minor disagreements (see below), that the Bible cannot be trusted and therefore we can’t know whether Jesus rose bodily from the dead.

In Ehrman’s debate with Peter Williams on the UK-based Unbelievable radio show, and in Ehrman’s debate with Dan Wallace, Ehrman lists the 4 worst problems caused by the invariants:

  1. the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) is a late addition not present in the earliest manuscripts
  2. the long ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20) is a late addition not present in the earliest manuscripts
  3. Jesus was angry and not compassionate when he healed the leper (Mark 1:41)
  4. that Jesus died apart from God, and not by the grace of God (Hebrews 2:9)

I personally dislike that story in 1), because I think a lot of feminized Christians like it because they do not want to have their happiness diminished by moral judgments. They misunderstand this passage to support self-serving moral relativism and postmodern hedonism. Or worse, anti-capital-punishment. Eww.

This Bible verse is a favorite of all the liberal “Christian” women I’ve met. I’ve noticed that they are terrified of moral judgments and they don’t like to have to do anything for God, like study apologetics. I don’t like that. So I say: throw the girly-verse out! If you want a good verse that shows that Jesus liked women, you should be reading the woman at the well story. Or the women witnesses to the empty tomb.

Regarding 2), I like that long ending because it’s more useful from an apologetics standpoint. So I do care about this invariant, and I just don’t use that ending when I debate. For 3), I prefer angry Jesus to compassionate Jesus. And for 4) I really don’t care. It’s Hebrews! It’s not like it’s Mark or 1 Corinthians 15.

Ehrman’s argument against miracles is really just David Hume’s argument against miracles, which even non-Christian scholars, like John Earman, have defeated at the highest level here:

So, one can easily see that Bart Ehrman’s case is silly and amounts to nothing in a formal debate on the resurrection. If you want to understand why he is selling so many books, just like Dan Brown, you need to understand that people want space to invent a Jesus that they like. Bart gives them that space by fueling their skepticism of traditional Christianity.

Responding to Bart Ehrman with the minimal facts

Bart seems to be under the misapprehension that Christians argue for the resurrection by assuming the whole Bible is inspired. But we don’t. We use a minimal facts case where each fact had to pass a battery of standard historical tests for the genre of historical biography.

We come up with a list of minimal facts like this list:

  • the burial narrative
  • the empty tomb
  • the appearances
  • the early belief in a bodily resurrection

We argue that the bodily resurrection is the best explanation of these facts, and we refute all naturalistic explanations of these minimal facts like these:

  • Jesus wasn’t really dead
  • Someone stole the body
  • The appearances were hallucinations

One other thing that may be of interest is British scholar N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection, based on the changes introduced in the belief and practice of the first Jewish converts to Christianity.

Further study

For further study of Licona and Ehrman, I would recommend the book “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus”, by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona on the resurrection, which is the best introductory book you can get on how to argue the minimal facts case.

If you like Lee Strobel’s interviewing style, then you can’t go wrong with this book, “The Case for the Real Jesus” and his earlier book “The Case for Christ”. All the Lee Strobel books are excellent, the best books that a beginner can get – the ground floor of apologetics, so to speak.

If you prefer books featuring debates between opposing scholars, check out William Lane Craig against Gerd Ludemann here, (audio of their re-match is here), William Lane Craig against John Dominic Crossan here, (audio of the debate is here), or N. T. Wright against John Dominic Crossan here, (audio of the debate only is here).

Gary Habermas, (has dual doctorates from Oxford and Michigan State) is also a good source.

He debates a Duke University professor here: (one of my favorites)

Two Views on the Resurrection: Dialog with Dr. Joel Marcus, Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Duke University Divinity School
PART I (8MB) :|: PART II (8MB) :|: PART III (8MB) [MP3 files]

And he responds to Dan Brown’s fictional novels here:

Cracking the Da Vinci Code
PART I (8MB) :|: PART II (8MB) :|: PART III (5MB) :|: PART IV (5MB) [MP3 files]
Lecture given at the 4th Annual Worldview Apologetics Conference
April 21-22, 2006, Seattle, Washington

Hugh Hewitt demolishes MSNBC’s Larry O’Donnell

I was browsing over at my buddy Muddling’s blog and I found this amazing story. (He finds, without fail, the best stories!)

Hugh Hewitt does a great interview, the best in the business. He’s interviewed tons of people in the mainstream media over the years. This time, he interviews Larry O’Donnell. This is a must listen. I feel like I should put in a policy on the blog that no citations of left-wing journalists will be permitted.

Excerpt:

HH: What was the last book you read about terrorism?

LO’D: The last…I don’t think I’ve read a book about terrorism.

HH: Ever?

LO’D: No.

HH: About al Qaeda?

LO’D: No.

HH: About…how about the mullahs in Iran?

LO’D: No.

HH: I’m just stunned.

LO’D: Well, I’ll tell you, I’ve read Bob Woodward’s books about the accounts inside the Bush administration from what they were doing from the day they got sworn in, okay?

HH: You’ve never read a book about terrorism?

LO’D: There is no, there is absolutely no evidence, and I defy you today, Hugh,

HH: Larry, you’ve never read a book about terrorism?

LO’D: I defy you to point to me, point to me a citation of one memo or one meeting that Dick Cheney was in where he says anything about al Qaeda.

HH: Larry, I’ve got to go lie down. I really do. Do you think you’re a well-informed MSNBC, by MSNBC standards, do you think you’re above the grade of people on that network?

LO’D: That’s a trick question, Hugh.

Good Lord, it’s his job to know about these things. Where is he getting his news stories? Daily Kos? Firedog Lake? Feministing?

Now Hugh asks him to substantiate an assertion that he made:

HH: You said people have been prosecuted for exactly this. Did you mean for waterboarding?

LO’D: Yeah.

HH: Who?

LO’D: Well, we’ve done it, you know, this country has prosecuted that, that, torture method before.

HH: When?

LO’D: Um, I don’t know, what’s…I think it is was…umm, I don’t know. I…you know, I’ve…I know that we’ve done it, and I don’t have the research in front of me as to exactly when we’ve prosecuted who for it and which conflict.

Hot Air has a link to the transcript and MP3 podcast.

The Media Research Center has some admissions about media bias from the lefties themselves.

Friday night funny: Evangelism, names, unions and capitalism

First video here, for those of you haven’t seen this.

He loves apologetics, too.

He played cornerback in the NFL, and I played cornerback in high school. For one year. Back-up bench warmer.

Second, a video from the BBC here: (H/T Jill Stanek)

And a cartoon from IMAO.us on capitalism:

Commenter ECM sent me this video from Double Plus Undead:

Yeah, these are the kind of people that Obama is kow-towing to now. Newsflash! Democrats are not good people, which is why we shouldn’t be subsidizing their poor decisions with our money. It just encourages them, like feeding racoons.

Three funny Christian videos are here. (H/T Commenter ECM)

Happy Friday!

UPDATE: One more from ECM: Lightbulbs or dimwits! These are pretty funny!

Atheist explains why Christians ought to evangelize him

Here’s a neat video from a normally mean atheist, named Penn. Since I don’t own a TV, I have no idea who he is, but this is a thoughtful talk. Penn does not expect Christians to act like atheists in public.

From this, we learn two things:

  1. Making fun of atheists on the Internet is one thing, but if you have atheists that you relate to in person, be nice.
  2. Some atheists are grown-ups. They admire authentic, consistent Christianity, boldly expressed.

I will be surveying Christians soon to see why we don’t do what Penn says, and I’ll publish the results.

By the way, blogging is light today, because I had to work on a guest post for someone.

If you haven’t read any of my mentoring posts, you can read some of those to keep busy!

Mentoring

Apologetics advocacy

The challenge of postmodernism

My testimony is here, in case you missed it.

What is it like to be a Christian in an Islamic state?

Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch links to some interesting stories.

First, this story from Singapore, from AFP:

A Christian Singaporean couple were found guilty of sedition on Thursday for distributing evangelical publications that cast Islam in a negative light, court officials said.

Ong Kian Cheong and his wife Dorothy Chan had been charged with distributing a seditious publication to two Muslims in October and March 2007 and sending a second such booklet to another Muslim in December that same year, a district court official told AFP.

The publications were found to have promoted feelings of ill-will and hostility between Christians and Muslims, the Straits Times said on its website….

The sedition charge carries a jail term of up to three years or a fine of up to 5,000 Singapore dollars (3,437 US) or both….

I’m surprised, because Singapore has one of the most free economies in the world, next to Hong Kong. I guess someone there cannot tolerate a public discussion about which religion is more likely to be true. This story reminds me of atheists, who sometimes sue people for offering to pray for them.

Second, this story from Pakistan, from Compass Direct News:

Nine pastors from two neighboring villages in Pakistan could face prison time for using loudspeakers to broadcast prayers and sermons from their churches on Easter Sunday. Martinpur and Youngsnabad, 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of Lahore, are majority Christian villages. The nine pastors who lead congregations there say that local Muslim security forces have twisted the law to solicit a bribe….

This reminds me of the left-wing ACLU, which sometimes sues people for mentioning Jesus in speeches.

Third, this story from Tanzania, from Compass Direct News:

Worship in a house church near Zanzibar City, on a Tanzanian island off the coast of East Africa, did not take place for the third week running on Sunday (May 24) after Muslim extremists expelled worshippers from their rented property. Radical Muslims on May 9 drove members of Zanzibar Pentecostal Church from worship premises in a rented house at Ungunja Ukuu, on the outskirts of Zanzibar City.

Angered by a recent upsurge in Christian evangelism in the area, church members said, radical Muslims had sent several threats to the Christians warning them to stop their activities. The church had undertaken a two-day evangelism campaign culminating in an Easter celebration. On the morning of the attack, more than 20 church members had gathered for Saturday fellowship when word reached them that Muslim extremists were about to attack.

As the radical group approached, the Christians fled in fear of their lives. “The group was shouting, saying, ‘We do not want the church to be in our locality – they should leave the place and never come back again,’” said one church member who requested anonymity.

Scary, but free speech is regulated in Canada, too, thanks to those Human Rights Commissions.

Fourth, this story from Pakistan, from Worthy news:

Suspected Muslim militants with links to the terror groups Al Qaeda and the Taliban attacked a historic church in northwestern Pakistan and burned Bibles and other Christian books, but police are reluctant to investigate the case and detain suspects, Christians said Tuesday, May 26.

The destruction of the St. George Grecian Church was discovered by workers renovating the building, said the church’s pastor Ijaz Masih in a statement distributed by rights group International Christian Concern (ICC).

Masih said that shortly after he presided over a Sunday service, workers “were shocked when they arrived” in the morning of May 12, “and found the church’s cross broken in pieces, the altar demolished and partially burned, Bibles and hymnbooks burned and torn apart, and the pews reduced to ashes.”

Well, the secular left does commit violent acts against defenders of traditional marriage.

I was surprised to learn from an Indian commenter that Christians are also persecuted in certain areas of India for evangelizing. Why do states insist on forcing their view of evangelism on individuals who have a different view? I wouldn’t force my view on anyone else, yet atheists and some nationalist Hindus and fundamentalist Muslims seem to do it all the time.

And it isn’t just dogma or strongly-held beliefs that causes extremism. There is no room for coercion in Bible-based Christianity. The more you believe in Christianity, the less you believe in coercion, and the more you believe in persuasion by reason and evidence. That’s what Jesus did.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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