I see that Brian Auten of Apologetics 315 is posting a lot of Tim McGrew material on his channel. Timothy J. McGrew (University of Scranton BA Philosophy 1988; Vanderbilt University PhD Philosophy 1992) is a Professor of Philosophy at Western Michigan University.
Here are a couple of Dr. McGrew’s videos – with slides! – on alleged errors in the gospels.
Alleged errors in Mark and Matthew:
In this lecture, entitled Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels, Dr. Timothy McGrew critiques seven of the strongest objections to the historical reliability of the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. This is about 55 minutes of content followed by fifteen minutes of Q&A.
In this lecture, entitled Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels, Dr. Timothy McGrew critiques the strongest objections to the historical reliability of the Gospels of Luke & John. This is about 55 minutes of content followed by thirty minutes of Q&A.
Dr. Timothy McGrew is Professor of Philosophy at Western Michigan University. He specializes in theory of knowledge, logic, probability theory, and the history and philosophy of science, and he has published in numerous journals including Mind, The Monist, Analysis, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and Philosophia Christi. His most recent publications include the article on “Evidence” in The Routledge Companion to Epistemology (forthcoming), a co-authored anthology in The Philosophy of Science (Blackwell, 2009), and a paper (with Lydia McGrew) on the the argument from miracles in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Blackwell, 2009).
Always remember not to get bogged down in these low-level issues, though, until you have agreement from the skeptic about the higher order issues, e.g. – does God exist? etc. Scientific arguments first, historical and philosophical arguments second, Bible “errors” last of all.
Dr. Craig’s famous minimal facts case for the resurrection has been posted at the Christian Apologetics Alliance. He presents 4 facts admitted by the majority of New Testament historians, and then he supplies multiple pieces of evidence for each fact.
Here are the four facts:
FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.
FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.
Here’s the detail on fact #3, the post-mortem appearances.
FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
This is a fact which is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars, for the following reasons:
1. The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances which is quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15. 5-7 guarantees that such appearances occurred. These included appearances to Peter (Cephas), the Twelve, the 500 brethren, and James.
2. The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestation of these appearances. This is one of the most important marks of historicity. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Luke, and the appearance to the Twelve by Luke and John. We also have independent witness to Galilean appearances in Mark, Matthew, and John, as well as to the women in Matthew and John.
3. Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to the position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late AD 60s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, “then he appeared to James”?
Even Gert Ludemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”3
Yes, Gerd Ludemann is actually an atheist new Testament historian, and he has even debated Dr. Craig on the resurrection – not once, but twice. That’s the kind of evidence Dr. Craig uses in his case. Not just what your pastor will give you, but what atheists will give you. We need to learn to debate like that.
And, if you need a good book to help you do that, this is the best introductory book, and it’s only 99 cents on Kindle right now. Not sure how long it will stay that way!
How early is the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus?
When I answer this question, I only want to use the earliest, most reliable sources – so I can defend them on historical grounds using the standard rules of historiography.
The 4 sources that I would use are as follows:
The early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, and 1 Corinthians 1
A passage in Philippians 2
Two passages from Mark, the earliest gospel
A passage from Q, which is an early source of Matthew and Luke
So let’s see the passages.
I’ve written before about the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, which skeptical scholars date to 1-3 years after the death of Jesus, for a variety of reasons I covered in the previous post. Here’s the creed which definitely makes Jesus out to be more than an ordinary man. Ordinary men don’t get resurrection bodies after they die.
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,
8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
Additionally, 1 Corinthians 1:21-25 talks about Jesus being “the power of God and the wisdom of God”. Paul is identifying Jesus with the divine.
21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
But it gets even stronger! You all probably already know that the most important passages in the Old Testament for Jews is the famous “Shema“, which is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The Shema is a strong statement of Jewish monotheism.
4So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.
5For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),
6yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
Holy mackerel! How did that get in there? Paul is splitting the roles of God in the the Shema and identifying Jesus in one of the divine roles! Jesus is not an ordinary man. That passage “through whom all things came” foreshadows John identifying Jesus as “the Word of God”, which “became flesh and dwelt among us”. Holy snark – did you guys know that was all in here so early?
The date for 1 Corinthians is 55 AD. It should be noted that skeptical scholars like James Crossley accept these passages, and you can check it out in the debate audio yourself.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The date for Philippians is 60-61 AD. Still within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, and written by an eyewitness who was in contact with the other eyewitnesses, like Peter and James, whom Paul spoke with numerous times on his journeys to Jerusalem.
Mark’s gospel is the earliest and atheists like James Crossley date it to less than 40 AD, which is 10 years after the death of Jesus at most. When you read the gospel of Mark, you are getting the earliest and best information available about the historical Jesus, along with Paul’s epistles. So what does Mark say about Jesus? Is Jesus just a man, or is he something more?
1He then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.
2At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.
3But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed.
4Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully.
5He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’
8So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.
And Mark 13:32, talking about the date of the final judgment.
32“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
And again, this passage is establishing a hierarchy such that Jesus is being exalted above all men and the angels, too. And the passage is embarrassing to the early church, because it makes Jesus look ignorant of something, so they would not have made this passage up. Jesus is not an ordinary man, he is above the angels – God’s unique Son.
27“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
22“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Since this passage is in both of Matthew and Luke, but not in Mark, scholars believe that it is in the earlier “Q” source used by both Matthew and Luke. Q predates both Matthew and Luke, and so it is also fairly early (maybe 67-68), although not as early as Mark and Paul. Bill Craig writes that this passage is also embarrassing because it says that no one knows Jesus.
Mike Licona is one of my favorite Christian historians, and so I’m going to rely on him to answer the questions in this post. He explains why the four biographies in the New Testament should be accepted as historically accurate: (55 minutes)
What a Baltimore Ravens helmet teaches us about the importance of truth
What happens to Christians when they go off to university?
The 2007 study on attitudes of American professors to evangelical Christians
Authors: Who wrote the gospels?
Bias: Did the bias of the authors cause them to distort history?
Contradictions: What about the different descriptions of events in the gospels?
Dating: When were the gospels written?
Eyewitnesses: Do the gospel accounts go back to eyewitness testimony?
This is basic training for Christians. They ought to show this lecture whenever new people show up, because pastors should not quote the Bible until everyone listening has this information straight.
Dr. Licona has a new book on the differences between the gospels coming out with Oxford University Press in 2016 (I just found out!), and so I thought it would be a good idea to re-post a lecture featuring the man himself.
He tweeted this about the new book:
The manuscript for my new book pertaining to why there are differences in the Gospels is almost complete and is scheduled to be published by Oxford University Press sometime in 2016. This book will reflect my research in Plutarch during the past 7.5 years.
I’m excited! Will definitely get this! Oxford is the most prestigious academic press, so it must be good.
Dr. Ehrman, is a graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Professor Ehrman received both his Masters of Divinity and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where his 1985 doctoral dissertation was awarded magna cum laude. Since then he has published extensively in the fields of New Testament and Early Christianity, having written or edited twenty-one books, numerous scholarly articles, and dozens of book reviews. Among his fields of scholarly expertise are the historical Jesus, the early Christian apocrypha, the apostolic fathers, and the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.
Dr. Evans received his B.A. degree in History and Philosophy from Claremont McKenna College, his M.Div. degree from Western Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon, and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Biblical Studies from Claremont Graduate University in southern California. Author and editor of more than fifty books and hundreds of articles and reviews, Professor Evans has given lectures at Cambridge, Durham, Oxford, Yale, and other universities, colleges, seminaries, and museums, such as the Field Museum in Chicago and the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.
Note: This is a very snarky summary, and I am just paraphrasing things to be silly and funny. Reader discretion is advised.
Snarky things I made up are in italics.
Question 1: are the gospels historically reliable?
Bart Ehrman opening speech:
I used to be an ignorant fundamentalist like you!
but then I went to Princeton, and now I know better
to Craig: are there errors in the Bible
the gospels have some reliable and some unreliable info
only careless readers don’t see contradictions in the gospels
contradictions in the genealogies
contradictions in timing of recognizing Jesus as the Messiah
contradiction about when Jesus died
contradiction about when the stone was rolled away
contradiction about who was at the empty tomb
contradiction about when the disciples went to Galilee
contradictions in minor details means the gospels are unreliable
Craig Evans opening speech:
the question is “do the gospels tell us enough about Jesus for faith?”
the gospels don’t tell us everything, but they tell enough for faith
the extremely early creed in 1 Cor 15:3-7 has an outline of the gospel
it contains the burial, the appearances to eyewitnesses
and it agrees with the early sermons of Peter in Acts 2
the gospels agree with these extremely early summaries
the gospels are based on earlier sources
the gospels are corroborated by the Jewish historian Josephus
Question 2: Do the gospels accurately preserve the teachings of Jesus Christ?
are there any discrepancies in the gospels?
the gospels have things Jesus said, and things he didn’t say
if the Bible is inaccurate in some minor details, then it’s all unreliable
in the latest gospel, John, Jesus calls himself God and sees himself as divine
but these high-Christology statements are not in the synoptics
therefore, Jesus really didn’t say these things
why didn’t the synoptics record these claims to divinity
the author of John changed the words of Jesus and John the Baptist?
E.P. Sanders (a non-Christian scholar) says we can know what Jesus taught
cites E.P.’s list of Jesus’ core teachings that are agreed on by most scholars
Jesus’ focus was talking about the Kingdom of God – the rule of God
Jesus’ followers were expected to record and understand the words of Jesus
It is permissible for the followers of Jesus to have some editorial license
Question 3: Do the gospels accurately preserve the activities of Jesus Christ?
E.P. Sanders agrees with me that there are discrepancies in the gospels
E.P. Sanders agrees with me that there are mistakes in the gospels
If Jesus’ followers changed his words a little, then we can’t know anything he said
If the author changes the story a little, then the story was changed a lot
If there not 100% accurate, then they’re not accurate at all
contradiction of the ordering of Jesus’ temptations
contradiction of the number of animals Jesus rode into Jerusalem
contradiction of whether Jesus spoke or didn’t speak in some instance
contradiction of what Jesus said on the cross
contradiction of the number of robbers who speak to Jesus
Jesus can only say ONE THING when he’s on the cross
the gospel writers have to be in complete agreement
E.P. Sanders (non-Christian) lists 7 virtually indisputable facts about Jesus
just because there are discrepancies, doesn’t mean there are no minimal facts
in additional to E.P. Sanders, there are other facts that are widely-accepted
many assertions in the gospels are embarrassing to the author
many liberal scholars think that Jesus was a healer and an exorcist
all scholars agree on the crucifixion
most scholars accept the “King of the Jews” placard placed over the cross
this means that Jesus was viewed by his followers as the Messiah
Question 4: Do the gospels contain eyewitness tradition?
I used to be an ignorant uninformed fundie, like you all
but then I started to study seriously, not like Craig Evans
I changed my mind based on intense research, not peer pressure
My apostasy has nothing to do with the problem of evil and suffering!
I use my brain, and Craig Evans and you fundies don’t use your brains
the gospels don’t claim to be written by eyewitnesses
the titles of the gospels were added later
the gospels don’t claim to be written by the authors attributed to them
the gospels were written anonymously
the gospels only had names attached in 120-140 AD
even if gospels were written by eyewitnesses, they are not always accurate
written 40-60 years after Jesus died
written in Greek, not Aramaic
written in different countries
based on stories that were told and retold and changed over time
Richard Bauckham says the gospels are largely based on eyewitness accounts
the gospels were written while there were still eyewitnesses alive
the people who met Jesus were there to correct the written accounts
there were many disputes about things in the early church, so if the early church invented sayings, then why not invent sayings of Jesus to resolve the disputes?
there is no evidence of things being invented wholesale by the early church
Pappias says that he talked to Christians who knew the eyewitnesses to Jesus
Question 5: Do archaeologists and historians use the gospels as sources?
archaeologists do not use the gospels, they just dig things up
historians do use gospels
Jesus is not mentioned by any Greek or Roman non-Christian source for 80 years after Jesus’ death
The earliest Jewish source is Josephus, writing 60 years after Jesus’ death
Paul is the earliest source, but says nothing about Jesus’ words and deeds
the earliest sources for words and deeds are the discrepancy-filled gospels
the gospels are based on telling and re-telling of the stories
James Charlesworth has a 700-book about archaeology and the Bible
the book contains hundreds of references to the four gospels
the four gospels and Acts are viewed as the best sources for archaeologists
they provide accurate information about the way things were
the gospels and Acts helps archaeologists to know where to dig for things
the Biblical sources are early and based on eyewitnesses
the gospels and Acts fit well in the first century culture
the gospels and Acts talk about real events and real places and real customs
the gospels and Acts talk about real buildings and real public figures and real groups
the language of the gospels traces back nicely to Aramaic
the gospels talk about geography and climate
archaeologists discover many things discussed in the gospels
Question 6: Have the gospels been accurately preserved done through the centuries
if God inspired the Bible without error, he should have preserved it without error
but the originals have NOT been preserved without error
so I no longer accept the inerrancy of the autographs (the originals)
we don’t have the originals
we only have copies of copies… of copies… of copies… of copies
and the copiers all made mistakes
the first manuscripts are decades later
and the manuscripts we have are different from one another
the earliest copies have the most mistakes
even if we have many copies, they are late, so we don’t know what the original said
we don’t have early manuscripts
we know where the discrepancies in the manuscripts are
the discrepancies are marked in your Bible
the discrepancies affect peripheral issues
some discrepancies are supported by other verses
Mark doesn’t have the appearances, but 1 Cor 15 does, and it’s earlier
the errors are things like spelling and grammar errors, typos, etc.
we have fragments that are earlier than the full manuscripts
some early manuscripts have errors, but other early manuscripts are correct
Question 7: Do scribal errors and textual variants significantly impact any teaching of Jesus or any important Christian teaching?
the woman caught in adultery is a late addition
the ending of Mark is a late addition
can we handle snakes or can’t we?
did Jesus sweat blood or didn’t he?
some manuscripts have errors – that should not be allowed by God
some scribes are careless – that should not be allowed by God
we have to have perfect copies of the originals, or I won’t believe!
if God really inspired it, it all has to be perfect! Perfect! I was lied to!!!!
if the snake-handling verse isn’t there, then the whole Bible is lies! Lies!
no variants impact any teaching of Jesus or significant Christian teaching
the vast majority of the manuscripts agree on 98-99% of the text
often, the theology gives rise to a variant, which is introduced later
variants aren’t central enough to affect any theological doctrines
And then there are concluding speeches by each speaker.
I made this summary based on the video, which is here on Apologetics 315.