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

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

Does Paul’s Conversion Prove Christianity?

Does Paul’s conversion prove Christianity? Some apologists have argued that it does. We all know Paul’s story: He was a zealous Pharisee bent on wiping out Christianity before it could get too far off the ground. While on his way to Damascus, Paul saw what he believed to be the risen Jesus. He did a complete 180 and started preaching the faith he was once determined to destroy. This is a big deal because Jesus’ followers were preaching bodily resurrection from day one. Paul considered himself to be charged directly by Jesus to preach the same message. When he later met with the apostles, they gave his Gospel their stamp of approval.  There’s no sense … 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 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

Unexplained Allusions – A Sneaky Good Why Reason the Gospels Aren’t Myths

Have you ever noticed that people often mention trivial details when describing events they were involved in? You know, stuff not totally related to the story?  The Gospel writers do that, too. Some comments are left dangling without any explanation. These remarks don’t seem to advance the story or serve any sort of theological or literary purpose. Scholar Lydia McGrew calls these unexplained allusions. Verses like these usually fly under the radar. But when we pay attention to them, we find they have the ring of truth. Fiction writers would have no reason to include unexplained, puzzling details and would have every reason to leave them out.  Let’s look at some examples, and you’ll get … Read more

Video: Did the Feeding of the 5000 Really Happen?

According to the Gospels, Jesus fed the 5000 with fives loaves, and two fish. But is this a legend, or a historically reliable account? I believe it is historical, largely due to the evidence of undesigned coincidences. Philosopher Lydia McGrew defines undesigned coincidences as “a notable connection between two or more accounts or texts that doesn’t seem to have been planned by the person or people giving the accounts. Despite their apparent independence, the items fit together like pieces of a puzzle.” These are hard to fake and even more unlikely to come about by pure chance in fictional or manipulated stories. Fictions and forgeries don’t normally converge. Or when they do, it’s in an … Read more

Are Christian Apologists Guilty of Committing the Spider-Man Fallacy?

The New Testament has archaeological and historical evidence in spades, lame pun intended. For example, we have Caiaphas’ ossuary, an inscription of Pontius Pilate, the discovery of the pool of Siloam, and a lot more. We also have external confirmations of Jesus’ existence found in Tacitus and Josephus, among others.  When Christians share this information online, untrained skeptics will snarkily accuse believers of committing the “Spider-Man” fallacy. The ever-reliable and usually offbeat Urban Dictionary defines the ‘Spider-Man fallacy’ like this:  “Often used to illustrate the flaw in the assertion by evangelical Christians that archaeologists unearthing biblical cities today “proves” that the Bible was written by a supernatural force. The Spiderman Fallacy is committed any time the … Read more

Is Jesus Alive?