The Gospels Are Embarrassing for the Apostles

If you want people to trust their leaders, you usually would try to paint them in the best light possible. You don’t go out of your way to undermine their authority. But that isn’t what we see at all in the Gospels. Those who would eventually lead the church often look impulsive, incompetent, boastful, and stupid. If the Gospels are supposed to be PR for the apostles, their propaganda team was a dismal failure.  This kind of information is what NT scholars call the criteria of embarrassment. In his book, Marginal Jew, Meier writes: The point of the criterion is that the early church would hardly have gone out of its way to create material … Read more

Video: Evidence That the Gospels Are Based on Eyewitness Testimony

Skeptical critics like Bart Ehrman claim that the gospels aren’t based on eyewitness testimony but are mostly legends that grew with the telling. However, New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham defies that hypothesis. He argues that the presence of particular names is very strange unless they were eyewitnesses behind their stories. Why is that? Aside from the apostles and a few important figures, most people in the gospels are nameless. Using Mark as an example, Jesus heals an unnamed leper, a paralyzed man, a demoniac, the woman with the issue of blood, the Syrophoenician woman, a blind man, and an epileptic boy. There’s also the unnamed rich young ruler, the poor widow, and the woman who … Read more

Video: The Early Use of the Gospels: Evidence for Traditional Authorship

Previously I’ve discussed what the early church fathers said about the authorship of the Gospels. We saw that they believed Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote them, and there wasn’t a shred of disagreement over it. This attestation of authorship is early and geographically diverse, and there’s no competing tradition.  But there’s even earlier evidence we can look at — the early use of the Gospels. Many early church writers use the Gospels without mentioning or describing their authors. This takes us back even further than the evidence in the earlier video.  If you’re quoting something as authoritative to your audience, it means you assume they’ll recognize the quotes and accept them as genuine. That’s … Read more

We Know About John the Baptist From Outside the Bible (and How it Confirms the Gospels)

How can we tell the Gospels are trustworthy? One way is by fact-checking them against details of their contemporary history. If the Gospel writers make incidental references to historical facts we can test, it would show the evangelists knew their setting. And it would also show their truthfulness in reporting matters of detail. A stark example of this is the case of John the Baptist. We get some interesting pieces of corroborating evidence about John from the Jewish historian Josephus. Erik ManningErik is a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He’s a former freelance baseball writer and the co-owner of a vintage and handmade decor business with his wife, Dawn. He is … Read more

Video: The Virgin Birth Isn’t Based on a Misunderstanding (Response to Paulogia)

How did Christians get the doctrine of the virgin birth? Counter-apologist Paulogia says it was a mix of Matthew’s creativity and stupidity. Paul and other critics say that Matthew was too quick to connect Jesus to the Old Testament, even if it caused him to get sloppy and make a fool out of himself. So to bolster Jesus’ Messianic credentials, he invented the virgin birth story. He did this by misreading the Greek version of Isaiah 7:14, which does use the word virgin or parthenos in Greek. But the original Hebrew passage wasn’t referring to a virgin at all, but a young woman. If Isaiah was prophesying a virgin birth, he would have used the … Read more

Video: No, the Resurrection Narratives Are Not Hopelessly Contradictory

Christians are often duped by the common mistake called the ‘fallacy of the expert witness.’ While there’s nothing wrong with appealing to expert authorities, fancy credentials can’t cover up weak arguments.  Enter Bart Ehrman. Dr. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He’s written several scholarly and popular-level works that cast doubt on the reliability of the New Testament.   As an agnostic, one reason Ehrman says we should reject the resurrection of Jesus is that the Gospel narratives are “hopelessly contradictory.” But are they really? What is his case for this? Erik ManningErik is a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. … Read more

Video: Undesigned Coincidences in the Passion and Resurrection Narratives

Skeptics love to tell Christians that the Gospel stories developed over time, adding more mythological elements as they went along. Matthew and Luke copied Mark plus added more fables. And then you get John’s Gospel, which is total theological fan-fiction according to the critics.  But if that’s true, why do the Gospels have interlocking details that seem to be unlikely if they were just copied from each other or some other common source? The Gospels frequently add passing details that answer a question raised by the other in a way that fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. Fictions and forgeries don’t work that way. Some scholars call these undesigned coincidences. So what the heck is an undesigned … Read more

Video: No, the Pastoral Epistles Are Not Forged

13 letters in the New Testament claim to be written by the Apostle Paul. But some New Testament scholars like Bart Ehrman say that 6 of them are blatant forgeries, notably 1st and 2nd Timothy. This puts the Christians in an awkward spot, as forgery is…well… just another way to lie, which goes against the 9th Commandment. And that’s allegedly what we have in our New Testament: one big fat lie about who wrote the Pastoral epistles. But if the critics’ arguments turn out to be weak sauce, then it’s not the New Testament that loses credibility but its detractors. In his book Forged: Writing In The Name Of God – Why The Bible’s Authors Are … Read more

Video: Names in the Gospels: Unexpected Evidence for Their Reliability

For a moment, imagine that you had to invent a story about people who lived in Germany 100 years ago. In order for the story to appear genuine, you’d have to give people the right sort of name that fit the time and place in which they lived. You might know Hans, Franz, Adolf, and Günter are older German names. But you’d probably peter out after a little while.  And you’d not only have to know the right names, but you’d need to get them right in the same proportion and frequency without the help of Google. This would be a tough test for your home state, let alone some faraway land. So why do … Read more

Video: The Gospels Were Written Before 70 AD

Most scholars say that the Gospel of Mark dates from AD 66–70, Matthew and Luke around 85–90, and John 90–100. Skeptics like Bart Ehrman imply that they’re too late to be reliable, as a decades-long time-gap leaves plenty of room for myths and legends to creep in.   When it comes to history, chronological closeness matters. But where exactly are critics coming up with these later dates? In this video, I look at one bad reason that scholars often date the Gospels late. And we’ll discover there are several good reasons to think they were written while Peter and Paul were still alive. Erik ManningErik is a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He’s … Read more

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