Bart Ehrman and Mike Licona

Justin Brierley on the Unbelievable program moderated Bart Ehrman and Mike Licona on the debate of the resurrection on April 2011.

Ehrman gave his opening at 3:20

Well there are a number of things for I was the strong evangelical for a long time. And in part my biblical scholarship showed me that my earlier views that the Bible was without mistake was wrong that in fact there are mistakes in the Bible and there are mistakes in the resurrection narratives. There are contradictions between the different accounts about how Jesus was raised from the dead this eventually led me to become a more liberal Christian who didn’t hold to the inerrancy of the Bible. What ended up leading me to be a non-christian all together was unrelated to that it really had to do with the problem of suffering and how to explain why there can be so much pain and misery in the world. If there’s a god who’s in control of it and I came to a point where I simply didn’t believe that there was a God who was active in the world and that necessarily had implications for beliefs from the resurrection. Because of course there there can’t be a miraculous resurrection of Jesus. If there’s nobody who’s performing miracles and so I don’t I don’t believe that that God is active in the world in such a ways we allow for something like the resurrection of Jesus.

So, there’s two main reasons that led to his deconversion – contradictions in the Bible and the problem of suffering.

One of the main reasons I created this entire thread is to address his first argument. Ehrman had believed the Bible was inerrant while he was a Christian. As he studied the Bible deeply, he discovered many contradictions in the Bible and it uprooted his belief in inerrancy. My claim is the entire notion of inerrancy is fallacious and should be discarded. And even if the Bible is not inerrant, the Bible can still be considered reliable and authoritative, even to the point of still holding to fundamentalist beliefs.

The problem of evil is a very strong argument against the Christian God and will require another topic to address, perhaps after this thread has concluded.

He gives examples of contradictions at 39:00

What happened when on the morning of the Resurrection the the alleged resurrection and and to compare their notes and they’re struck by just how different they are. Who actually goes to the tomb that morning is it Mary Magdalene by herself or with other women? If with other women how many other women what are they named it depends which gospel you read? Was the stone rolled away from the tomb one before they got there or after they got there? Depends which gospel you read. What did they see there did they see a man there did they see two men there did they see an angel there? Depends which gospel you read. Do they are they told to go to get to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where Jesus will meet them or are they told to tell the disciples what Jesus had said to them while he was in Galilee? Depends which gospel you read. Do they tell anyone Mark’s Gospel says they didn’t tell anyone Matthew says they went and told the disciples? Well which is it depends which gospel you read. Did the disciples go to Galilee or not in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus disciples go to Galilee they see him day of Pentecost they never go to Galilee at all. So I mean up and down the line when you look at these accounts there are there are massive differences precisely the kind of differences that would make any any historian of any other account simply scratch his head and throw up his hands and say we have a problem here because there are so many contradictory

These are all minor contradictions and really don’t affect the doctrine of the resurrection. You can throw out all these claims and it still would not impact the claim Jesus rose from the dead. What Ehrman is arguing here is against inerrancy, not against the resurrection.

He is also wrong to say because there are discrepancies in the accounts then historians should simply dismiss everything. All historical accounts have discrepancies between them, esp when there are multiple witnesses testifying. Even the same person can contradict himself at different points in time and still be reliable. It is the job of the historian to sift through it and separate the wheat from the chaff and reconstruct a possible narrative, not just dismiss everything as person says because of alleged contradictions.

Contradictions is a massive topic by itself. Licona has written a book on explaining differences in “Why are there differences in the Gospels?” He does not address it like other apologists do by trying to reconcile them, rather he analyzes the gospels and compares it contemporary historical documents and argues they both use the same literary devices. So, the gospels were written and to be read like any other historical document and are just as reliable as any non-Biblical text. If you discount the reliability of the gospels, then you should reject all secular ancient historical documents as well.

You can hear his 12 part series on it at: … ast/#2022p

Ehrman states, fundamentally what he rejects is any supernatural causation at 45:16

The bottom line I think is one we haven’t even talked about which is whether there can be such a thing as historical evidence for a miracle and I think the answer is a clear no and I think virtually all historians agree with me on that.

I can agree with Ehrman on this point that historians should not invoke a supernatural causation. The resurrection is beyond what historians can reach to using their methodology of the assumption of naturalism. Ehrman claims one has to use faith to come to the conclusion of the resurrection.

At 59:40

That is that he actually rose from the dead you want to leave the cause of the resurrection as a question mark. It’s fine with that know you’ve moved from history to faith so you can show historically that people claim they saw him alive afterward. You can draw the conclusion that they probably believed it. But if you yourself agreed that Jesus was raised from the dead you’re saying that is an act of God in history and you’ve already agreed that historians don’t invoke God when they come up with their explanations so what you’re doing is not history anymore it’s faith.

It depends on what Ehrman means by faith. The resurrection is not “blind faith” where there is no evidence. However it is faith in the sense that the resurrection cannot be proved to be 100% true. But nothing can be proved to be 100% true. In all historical claims, nothing can be proven to have actually occurred. So, by Ehrman’s own criteria, even he would be using faith if he claims anything in history actually occurred.

The resurrection in the gospel accounts goes beyond what historians can go to and the resurrection with the Turin Shroud goes beyond what scientists can go to. But we can still use the principles of logic. Given all the evidence, what is the most reasonable explanation that aligns with all the data that we have? If a supernatural explanation fits with the data the best and there are no viable naturalistic explanations, then it is rational to accept the a supernatural causation. For the skeptic, if they do not want to accept a supernatural explanation, the only option is “a question mark”.

At 1:01:04

We just agreed that every historian and every research university in North America would refuse to invoke miracle or reviews to talk about divine causality and yet you’re saying that in this one instance we’re going to make an exception. Actually I said just a moment ago that we could say Jesus was raised and leave a question mark pertaining to the cause of his resurrection.

I can sympathize with the skeptic argument that textual evidence alone would leave the resurrection explanation as a question mark. However, given the artifact evidence of the resurrection with the TS, it is no longer a question mark. All historians should agree that there’s only two ways to confirm the historicity of an event – through textual evidence and artifact evidence. Since the textual and artifact evidence agree on the resurrection and there are no viable counterarguments or viable counterevidence, then the question mark is now an exclamation mark.