Why Do the Gospels Contain Unnecessary Details?

The Four Gospels are full of pointless minutia. Have you noticed this? For instance, John tells us there were six waterpots at the wedding in Cana that could hold 20-30 gallons of water each. Well, that’s oddly specific. It serves no obvious theological meaning or literary purpose. Why are statements like these there?  Scholar Lydia McGrew calls these “unnecessary details.” She writes: “An unnecessary detail appears to be there for no special reason; it is just there because the author believed it was true. It lends verisimilitude to the account precisely by being so pointless, and in some cases (though not always) vivid. Such details are thus plausible marks of eyewitness testimony — either from … 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: No, Christian Apologists Aren’t Committing the Spider-Man Fallacy

Ah, the Spider-Man fallacy. It’s a card that skeptics love to play. While I can define it, you’ll recognize it better if I give you an example:  Christian apologist: “Critics of the New Testament have repeatedly been proven wrong by archaeology. Some skeptics have said that Nazareth wasn’t a real city, or that there couldn’t have been a synagogue in 1st-century Capernaum. But archaeologists have proven them wrong.” Internet atheist guy: “Bro, you’re committing the Spider-Man fallacy. 2,000 years from now archaeologists could dig up the ruins of Columbia University or the Empire State Building. Does that prove that Spider-Man exists? LOL.” Or to give another example:  Christian apologist: “Jesus’ crucifixion is historically certain. Even if any of … Read more

Video: The Gospel Authors Knew Local Geography

Skeptics argue that the Gospels were written far after the events they report, in distant lands like Rome, Egypt, Turkey, or Greece. They’re not a product of eyewitness testimony but a collection of stories passed on for decades. The original story of Jesus got mixed up over time, like a long game of telephone. But is that really what happened? As it turns out, the Gospel writers don’t just know 1st-Century Palestinian geography when compared with other sources, they are actually valuable sources themselves, proving the skeptics wrong. The video is just under 6 minutes long. Erik ManningErik is a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He’s a former freelance baseball writer … Read more

Video: 5 Times Archaeology Debunked Gospel Skeptics

Skeptical critics love to try to poke holes in the Gospel narratives, claiming they’re full of historical blunders. But in recent times, many of these so-called holes have been filled by the shovel of archaeology. In this video, I run through the top 5 examples of critics looking bad in the light of new archaeological discoveries. 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 passionate about the intersection of apologetics and evangelism.

Video: Sorry Jesus Mythers, But Tacitus Proves Jesus Existed

It isn’t shocking that Christian texts are our primary source about Christian origins. After all, baseball fans tend to write about baseball history. American history buffs tend to write about American history.  But what does come as a surprise is that we can learn a fair bit about Jesus from early, non-Christian sources. One is the Roman historian Tacitus, who lived in the 1st to early 2nd-century. In this video, I look at what we can learn from Tacitus about the life of Jesus. I also examine four objections against Tacitus being a reliable source for Christ and see if they carry any weight. Erik ManningErik is a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director located in Cedar Rapids, … Read more

Was Jesus Being Racist and Harsh When He Told the Woman at the Well That the Samaritans Didn’t Know Who They Worshiped?

There are some wonderful spiritual lessons in John’s story about the Woman at the Well. We learn that salvation comes to those who recognize their spiritual thirst. We discover that Jesus is the source of this salvation and that only he can answer our spiritual needs. And it doesn’t matter if we’ve marred our own lives with sin, Jesus is willing to accept anyone.  But some might complain that Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman were too harsh. They smack with religious and racial superiority. Here are the passages in question:  “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where … Read more

Is Bart Ehrman Right When He Says Half of Paul’s Letters are Forgeries?

Out of the 13 letters of Paul found in the New Testament, skeptical critics like Bart Ehrman will only grant that 7 of them are genuine. (Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon, in case you were wondering) That leaves Christians in a precarious situation — either throw out six books in their Bible or acknowledge that the New Testament contains some pious lies. Whoever wrote these letters passed themselves off as Paul.   But if Ehrman’s arguments turn out to be weak and there’s good evidence that Paul wrote all of the letters, then it’s Bart who loses credibility, not the New Testament.  I’ll start with the Pastoral epistles since they have a … Read more

Unexpected Evidence for the Gospels’ Truth From the Names of the People in Them

The late Christopher Hitchens said, “The New Testament is a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events, and full of improvised attempts to make things come out right.” One example of this alleged makeshift handiwork is the names of the Twelve. If the gospel writers can’t get the names of Jesus’ disciples straight, how can we trust them with other details?  On the face of it, it looks like Matthew and Luke contradict: Matthew 10:2-4: “The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, … Read more

Did early Christian scribes really completely fake The Josephus Testimonium?

If Jesus was such a big deal, then why isn’t he mentioned by more historians of his time? This is a question that often gets asked by skeptics. The common Christian reply is that he was mentioned by 1st and early 2nd-century historians – namely Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Josephus. This is where some critics – particularly the “Jesus-is-a-myth” crowd – cry foul. They’ll argue that Josephus never really mentioned Jesus, and if we’d critically examine the passages for ourselves, we’d admit that this popular Christian apologetic is pretty flimsy. This reply is a bit odd, seeing that even some of the strongest critics of traditional Christianity like Bart Ehrman and JD Crossan think that … Read more

Is Jesus Alive?