The Historical Paul vs. The Legendary Paul?

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Skeptical critics argue that Luke wasn’t a traveling companion of Paul’s. Why do they say this? Let’s discuss one reason. NT scholar Uta Ranke-Heinemann asserts that in: “Acts and the epistles there are two Pauls. The historical Paul of the authentic epistles and the legendary Paul of Acts.” 1 In other words, don’t confuse the colorful Paul of Acts with the actual Paul we read about in his letters. This indicates that Luke didn’t have firsthand knowledge of Paul. He must have lied about being his traveling companion and embellished a bunch of stories. But is the Paul of Acts that different from the Paul we read about in his letters? I’d say no. Not … Read more

Is John’s Jesus Different Than The Synoptics?

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New Testament scholars often treat the Gospel of John like a red-headed stepchild. We’re often told that John presents a Jesus who is fundamentally different from the Synoptics. For example, here is the well-known NT critic Bart Ehrman:  …if Matthew and John were both written by earthly disciples of Jesus, why are they so very different, on all sorts of levels? … Why do they have such fundamentally different views of who Jesus was?… (interview with NPR 12/14/05) Ehrman certainly isn’t alone in his opinion here. Even Craig Evans, an evangelical New Testament scholar, concedes this point to Bart. He says: I suspect we (Ehrman and I) don’t have too much difference on John. My … Read more

Why Was Paul and Mark Silent About the Virgin Birth?

It’s Christmas time, and I can already hear the choruses. No, I’m not talking about Christmas carolers. I’m referring to the chorus of biblical critics and skeptics poo-pooing the Christmas narratives found in the Bible. A favorite argument of skeptics is that there’s scant mention of the virgin birth in the New Testament. It’s Matthew and Luke against the world.  For example, here’s an older quote from NT scholar Geza Vermes: “Considering the importance of the Virgin Mary in Christianity, the historian is struck by the scarcity of supporting evidence in the New Testament. St Paul never speaks of the virginal conception. All we learn from him is that Jesus had a Jewish mother.” And … Read more

Artless Similarities: More Evidence for Gospel Reliability

While reading the gospels, you’ll notice similarities between the characters portrayed across the different stories. Parallels between the gospels concerning character depictions are unlikely to be the result of mere chance. And these correspondences seem so casual and subtle that it’s unlikely they were designed that way. Philosopher Tim McGrew calls these ‘artless similarities.’ In an earlier video, we saw this kind of unity of character with Jesus between John and the Synoptics. But let me give another example with two somewhat lesser-known characters in the gospels — Mary and Martha. We find their stories in both Luke and John. For this evidence, I’m drawing from Peter J. Williams’ excellent book Can We Trust the … Read more

Learn to Make a Maximal Case for the Resurrection

I used to love sharing the minimal facts with unbelievers.  It’s easy to present in a few minutes and sounds rhetorically powerful. When I tell my friends that the facts I’m sharing are universally acknowledged by scholars, even those who are skeptical, it seems like I am not coming at them with something that only conservative evangelicals believe. And on the surface, taking an end-run around the Gospels seemed helpful because unbelievers tend to view them as dubious sources.  However, I ran into a couple of issues. One was practical. Let’s say I got the skeptic to hear me out. Does it really make sense to say: “OK, I granted for the sake of argument … Read more

How Not to Argue for the Resurrection of Jesus

Here’s a pitfall I’ve seen quite a few Christian apologists fall into when arguing for the resurrection of Jesus. The argument goes something like this: Paul probably believed that Jesus’ resurrection was physical. This is evident from his letters. In 1 Corinthians 15:4, Paul says Jesus was buried and then raised. What goes down in burial must come up in resurrection. In Romans 8:11 and Philippians 3:21, Paul also refers to resurrection as something physical. Paul thought what happened to Jesus’ body will someday happen to ours.  According to Paul, Peter, James, and John approved of his Gospel in his letter to the Galatians. He was preaching what they were preaching. Therefore, the other apostles … Read more

Has the Minimal Facts Created a Monster?

Paulogia grinds the gears of resurrection apologists with his trademark “For the Bible tells me so” jingle. He has created several response videos to apologetic superstars like William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, and Mike Licona. Many people ask me why I don’t respond to more of his videos.  There are many reasons not to respond to Paulogia, often because he can come across as unserious or trollish. But this is also because Paulogia and I both believe that the minimalist approach isn’t compelling enough to persuade skeptics. You might want to see my earlier post for more on that.  I am afraid the popularity of the minimalist approach has helped create this monster called Paulogia … Read more

Why Minimal Facts Isn’t Enough

Unpopular opinion time: I’m not a fan of the minimal facts argument for the  resurrection. I don’t think it works, and it might even do more harm than good. I know this is a rather spicy take. And I understand people who absolutely love minimal facts might want to click away. But hang on a second! I used to love this argument, too. So put down your torch and pitchforks for just a moment. Hear me out for a few minutes!   When I first got into apologetics, I came across Gary Habermas’ popular talk “The resurrection argument that changed a generation of scholars.” I was blown away. I bought Habermas and Licona’s popular level book … Read more

The Parables of Jesus Disprove the Telephone Game

Skeptics frequently argue that the Gospels are not based on eyewitness accounts. They were composed decades after Jesus’ death by people not familiar with first-century Israel. And they wrote after hearing stories passed down to them. And those stories came from others who heard these stories. It’s one long game of telephone. How can we know if we have the actual words of Jesus?  One piece of evidence that goes against the telephone game theory is the parables of Jesus. The gospels present Jesus as a formal teacher or rabbi, with disciples. NT scholar Peter J. Williams notes that the Gospels use the word disciple or disciples 195 times. They also describe Jesus as a … Read more

Interview: Defending The Gospel of John with Dr. Lydia McGrew

In this interview, I speak with Dr. Lydia McGrew about the reliability of the Gospel of John. Dr. McGrew is a widely published analytic philosopher and author. She received her Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University in 1995. She has published extensively in the theory of knowledge, specializing in formal epistemology and in its application to the evaluation of testimony and to the philosophy of religion. She defends the reliability of the Gospels and Acts in her books Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, The Mirror or the Mask: Liberating the Gospels From Literary Devices, and most recently The Eye of the Beholder: The Gospel of John as Historical Reportage, … Read more

Is Jesus Alive?