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: 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. In this video, I look at several examples. … 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 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

The Man Who Carried Jesus’ Cross: The Hidden Significance of Simon of Cyrene’s Sons

Simon of Cyrene met Jesus in the most unusual way. Mark and Luke tell us he was coming back from the country. Whether out of curiosity or just being stuck in foot traffic, Simon ends up being a bystander to Jesus making his way to Golgotha. Weakened from the flogging, Jesus could no longer carry his cross by himself. Whether Simon felt any sympathy for Jesus or not, Roman soldiers forced him to help Jesus bear the weight of the cross the rest of the way. Coming face to face with the Man from Galilee in such a fashion would likely leave a lasting impression, and so his inclusion in the gospels makes sense. But what … Read more

Undesigned coincidences in the gospels: Surprising evidence for Jesus’ feeding of the 5000

The feeding of the 5000 is one of Jesus’ most popular miracles. If you grew up in church, you probably saw it depicted on many a flannel graph. You know the story: Jesus was in a deserted place where large crowds were hanging on his every word. When it started to get late, Jesus’ disciples asked him to disperse the gathering to the surrounding villages so they could grab a bite to eat. Rather than sending them home, Jesus took five loaves and two fish and fed the multitude. The young lad who shared his food became famous that day and was sent home with 12 baskets full of leftovers.  Critics of the Bible tend … Read more

Is Jesus Alive?