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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

On credentials

I have resisted for a long time the idea of entering into a discussion of my credentials. As reader John DePoe pointed out here, Dr. Licona has not-so-subtly tried to give the impression that I am some sort of unqualified hack. It's a little more difficult for him to do this with Tim (Esteemed Husband), who has a lengthy teaching career, is chairman of his department, and is an established, internationally known scholar with a specialty in the history of arguments for Christianity. So for the most part Licona has stuck to referring in public to my alleged lack of relevant credentials. But his recent outlining of the credentials that supposedly would be needed implicitly rules out Tim's being qualified either, though Tim has also criticized his approach.

It has become so odd that Licona seems to think of me as just some "blogger on the Internet" with nothing in the way of credentials besides a PhD in English that I have seriously come to wonder if he literally does not know about my extensive professional publication record in analytic philosophy, spanning two decades and coming up to the present. My CV is easy enough to look up, and my professional standing as a philosopher is mentioned in the blurb on the cover of my most recent book and on my bios in various places. But perhaps he has just managed to avoid this information. Have all of his followers avoided knowing it as well, or do they excuse the implication that I am only an utterly unqualified blogger by silently telling themselves that mere philosophy doesn't matter to the whole thing anyway?

In any event, though I dislike going into the matter of my credentials, with the recent podcasts that Dr. Licona has made, in which he publicly brings up the credentialist meme again and again, I have finally decided to address the issue of credentials head-on. Instead of my taking the time to repost and put in all the links, etc., here at W4, please see the full post here.

Comments (50)

Here is an instructive situation where we can see the difference between the fallacies of an appeal to illegitimate authority and ad hominem circumstantial. It is useful to learn when to reject claims made by illegitimate authorities. This occurs when someone commends a claim to others on the grounds (implicitly or explicitly) that he is an expert and that is the reason others should believe what he has claimed. The ad hominem circumstantial fallacy occurs when someone rejects a person's conclusion because of circumstances about the person (e.g., gender, hair color, weight, hair style, where they were born, where they went to school, etc.). It is worth noting that Lydia does not simply claim Licona's views are mistaken because she is an expert and we ought to trust her. She actually gives us reasons to support her allegations. These claims are either true or false; they either soundly imply her conclusion or they do not. So, pointing out that she isn't a NT expert is a fallacious response. Indeed, to deny her conclusions simply because of her credentials commits the ad hominem circumstantial fallacy!

In brief, when someone asserts an argument for a position (assembling reasons that supposedly imply some conclusion) there are two logically sound ways to criticize the argument that has been put forward. First, one could show that the claims made in the argument are false. Second, one could show that the claims made in the argument do not actually support the stated conclusion. Attacking the person who gave the argument is a textbook example of the ad hominem fallacy. This is an important difference between the responses wer have seen from William Lane Craig (engages Lydia's argument) and Licona's (subtle attacks against the person who stated the argument, but does not address Lydia's arguments).

By the way, I have a Ph.D. in philosophy and have taught logic and critical thinking for years. So, you can believe what I have to say about logic and fallacious reasoning. ;)

Philosophers like Peter van Inwagen have remarked on the logical fallacies that often afflict NT scholarship.

Lydia can't say this because it would be immodest, but high IQ trumps credentials. There's no substitute for superior intelligence.

I realized that I typed my first comment too quickly. When I mentioned the fallacy of appealing to an illegitimate authority, I should have added that the person who is claiming that you should accept a claim on the basis of his expertise lacks

the appropriate expertise to justify accepting the claim solely on the basis of his authority.

Lydia's criticism of those who employ literary devices to interpret the Gospels reminds me a lot of C. S. Lewis's essay, "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism." An intelligent, well-informed outsider often is equipped to make insightful criticisms that are blind to those working within a discipline or who may be insulated from certain ways of thinking for a variety of reasons. I find Lewis's criticisms of modern theology and biblical criticism refreshing and insightful. Of course, he wasn't trained as a theologian or a biblical critic. I don't see why someone like Lydia or her husband cannot be in a position to offer a similar helpful critique from an outsiders perspective.

One would think a PhD in English would give better skills to understand "literary devices" than most new testament degrees. And for all of Mike Licona's skills on the resurrection, he's never struck me as the type of guy who has a knack for literature.

Also, the leading evangelical expert on biblical literature, Leland Ryken, is a professor of English. Robert Alter's and Myer Sternberg's degrees are in comparative literature; the writing they do outside of biblical studies tends to be on the art of the novel.

But credentials really aren't important; the argument's the thing.

Truth is truth, the source is irrelevant. I imagine "The Emperor's New Clothes" would have a very different ending if it had been written by one espousing a "credentialist" view. The kid in the story, who was clearly in the right, would have been shouted down by the elites as not having the "relevant credentials", and for being a "mere peasant boy" or something to that effect.

I've known people with little to no schooling who were absolutely brilliant, and those with college degrees that made me wonder how they remembered to breathe. Then there are those who are book smart, but don't have much common sense. Those in that category tend to be starstruck by certain scholars, and don't do much thinking about what is actually being said. Lately it seems that "higher learning" is more about regurgitating prevailing views, than actually sifting through information critically. Because of this, I place little value on credentials.

Paul says:

One would think a PhD in English would give better skills to understand "literary devices" than most new testament degrees.

You'd think so. In the older, deleted version of his post last fall, Licona took the trouble to assert emphatically that this was not so. His argument was the alleged great gap between the cultures surrounding various forms of English literature and the Greco-Roman cultural context in which the gospels were written. He also asserted that he himself had found it a steep learning curve despite already knowing (he believed) a good deal about late Roman culture when he first started studying the gospels in their true cultural milieu. He even said that he would have gone wrong had he not been directed by a "handful of classicists."

Of course, we know who the foremost of those classicists is: Christopher Pelling, whom Licona has cited again and again as having awakened him to these literary devices in the gospels.

What Licona does not realize is that one's judgement of an expert's alleged expertise can go both ways. One may be more positively inclined toward a theory because (alleged) Expert A espouses the theory. But by the same token, if one investigates the arguments for a theory and finds them sadly wanting, one will duly downgrade one's estimate of the judgement of Expert A.

Since I've investigated carefully and then argued at length and in great detail that the arguments for these fact-altering literary devices in Plutarch, Tacitus, etc., are sadly wanting, that of course legitimately affects my judgement of Christopher Pelling and the "handful of classicists" who have led Licona to think that there are such devices. In short, what am I going to believe, Christopher Pelling or my lying eyes?

At that point presumably Licona would tell us that we just have to take the word of Pelling and whatever other classicists he has in mind just *because* they are experts in these ancient cultures, more than we are. But that is just another argument from authority. Plutarch's works are all available on-line. I looked up the alleged examples. I developed the flowchart to show the burden of proof and the simpler explanations available. And it's my considered judgement that the method involved, which is mere discrepancy hunting (and often "finding" discrepancies where none exist, sometimes by ironically anachronistic means), is woefully inadequate to support the heavy conclusions asserted. I have also read the relevant, cited portions of Theon's Progymnasmata and have concluded that these are writing and rhetorical exercises, not prescriptions for writing putative history that characterize the gospels. (In this latter conclusion I apparently have no less an expert than Richard Bauckham in my corner, which is interesting.)

The advent of the INternet has made it a good deal harder for experts merely to make assertions and expect everyone to accept them without looking into matters for themselves. Anyone can read the relevant Plutarch passages, consider the theory, and ask whether the minor alleged discrepancies (or in some cases the real appearance of minor discrepancy) can support the theory.

Indeed, if those alleged discrepancies support the theory, then there are no more minor discrepancies in history! We should decide of *all* cultures that they had such literary devices, since we find minor apparent discrepancies (and alleged ones that can be harmonized) *throughout* history in age after age and culture after culture. They are a normal feature of history and even of court cases to this day!

In other contexts, I believe that Licona's followers have alleged that my not reading Greek somehow means that I must defer to the judgement of NT scholars who do read Greek.

But this argument also fails. First, though I do not *read* Greek, I am certainly not just illiterate in that language. Indeed, if one reads my series, one will see me making points about the Greek on my own side of the argument from time to time. Second, it's ironic that occasionally in the very same passages where Licona alleges a fact-changing literary device, there is some small Greek point that tells to some degree on the other side and that he has ignored. I could cite three or four cases like this. Just one of them arises in the very alleged discrepancy he cites in his recent podcast with Tim Stratton concerning whether or not take a staff. He alleges that Luke and Matthew changed the wording of Jesus' instructions to "emphasize complete dependence on God," but this ignores the fact that the Greek word in Matthew is to "acquire" a staff, not merely to take. Luke appears to be an amalgamation of the instructions in Mark and Matthew. (Perhaps from notes.) No heavy theological "changing" is involved. He also failed to mention that Mark does not even purport to be quoting Jesus but rather summarizes his instructions. These points have long been noted by traditional harmonizers and are easy to look up.

Third, Licona himself rarely uses Greek points on his side of the argument anyway. Fourth, when he does, he says what they are (as he should), making it possible to evaluate their force, which is quite insufficient to support the existence of a fact-changing literary device in the passage! It is not like the mere citing of a Greek word means that anyone who does not *read* Greek must simply accept the conclusion because the scholar mentioned a Greek word. A philosopher in particular is well-suited to see whether the Greek point supports the alleged conclusion! Evaluating arguments is what analytic philosophers do. Of course, a person who has neither credential may do very well at that as well. Fifth, the existence of on-line tools is incredibly helpful both to scholars and to laymen and makes it much harder to turn "if you look at the Greek" into an esoteric invocation that must simply cause one who does not read the language fluently to fall silent and follow. Sixth, there have of course been many scholars over the centuries whose Greek could be put up against Licona's, Pelling's, or anyone else's and who have drawn different conclusions. One of them was the highly harmonistic John Wenham who just died recently. Richard Bauckham has disagreed with the interpretation of the term "chreia" in Papias that is currently espoused by Craig Evans. Colin Hemer, incredibly learned, who died only in the 80s, disagreed with the conclusion that the "bios" genre is helpful for limiting the historicity of Luke. And Craig Blomberg disagrees with Licona concerning (at least) John's alleged moving of the day of the crucifixion. This is not to mention learned men like Lightfoot, Paley, and Blunt, who should not be left out of account out of mere chronological snobbery, as I fear the Licona crowd is increasingly moving to do. In short, the impression of some sort of monopolistic agreement with his, Evans's, et al's, conclusions by everyone who knows the relevant language and culture is incorrect.

There is no such thing as Greek Magic that supports Licona's conclusion in such a way that a person who does not *read* Greek has no right to differ from him.

So now I've given you the arguments for the irrelevance of my, or anyone else's, knowledge of literature to this allegedly highly special ancient language and culture and argued that these arguments/assertions too are wanting.

In his commentary on Genesis, Bruce Waltke applies the literary techniques of Robert Alter and Myer Sternberg to the text. Another example is Alan Culpepper's Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design.

And of course I have no intention of endorsing those without looking into them and might disagree with them. But I understand the point is that these are taken seriously in scholarly circles despite the fact that the scholars in question have degrees in literature.

I have had four years of education in Greek and two in Latin and I'm able to read and translate Greek (at least Koine) texts. However, to identify a subtle wordplay or the exact meaning of a word, I also use blueletterbible.org and the LSJ Lexicon. I would be surprising if Licona wouldn't, although he undoubtedly is more trained in Greek than I am. Nowadays, with many helpful tools, only a limited understanding of Greek is required to use the language in your research.

Whoever has red just a part of your philosophical work, especially about epistemology and it's application and importance in apologetics, would not dare to ignore you because of your "lack" of credentials... Also, as someone noted, the quality of the arguments is all that matters at the end of the day!

Lydia, thanks for your explanation. I find it interesting that the four leading experts on old testament narrative, Shimon Bar-Efrat, Adele Berlin,Robert Alter, and Meir Sternberg, are all on the same page as to their methodology, though the first two teach old testament studies and the last two's background is in comparative literature. Their method is reading carefully, close reading. Also, this methodology fits well with the evidentialists' historical/legal etc. method of defending the Bible. The historical/legal etc. approach offers a robust foundation to, and a fair amount of overlap with, the more nuanced literary approach.

I had previously been concerned that an exclusive minimal facts approach offered no foundation or connection to actually reading the Bible once one excepted Christianity. After reading your series of articles on Mike Licona, it looks to me that an exclusive minimal facts approach with its hyper-skeptical, conflict in the text, anti-common sense, and focus on being "scholarly" methods is actually a negative when one gets to studying the biblical books; it lays a foundation for a hermeneutical method that is also hyper-skeptical, conflict in the text, anti-common sense, and focused on being "scholarly". What do you think?

Correction – accepted Christianity, not excepted Christianity. My voice to text let me down!

After reading your series of articles on Mike Licona, it looks to me that an exclusive minimal facts approach with its hyper-skeptical, conflict in the text, anti-common sense, and focus on being "scholarly" methods is actually a negative when one gets to studying the biblical books; it lays a foundation for a hermeneutical method that is also hyper-skeptical, conflict in the text, anti-common sense, and focused on being "scholarly". What do you think?

I think the key there is the word "exclusive."

In my webinar called Minimal Facts vs. Maximal Data I lay out several different versions of the minimal facts argument. One of them I called something like "Introductory version: clear-eyed." This involved more or less admitting that one could only get the skeptic reasonably to say, "Huh, that's strange" if one restricted oneself to Habermas & Licona's three minimal facts. Then if one chose to start there, one would have to do some beefing up. And at no point even in using those three facts should one say, "I'll concede for the sake of the argument that the gospels are unreliable," because one would need to backtrack on that later in order to strengthen the argument.

In contrast, I suggested two ways (one deductive and one non-deductive) in which one can lay out briefly a stronger position from the beginning. (Spoiler: It involves asserting as a premise that the disciples claimed to have experienced detailed interactions with Jesus like those found in the gospels.) One is then prepared to back up these stronger premises as necessary. Since you're going to need to go there eventually, I argued, you might as well go there from the outset.

I think Licona's progress shows how the minimal facts approach can interact in a highly problematic way with a decision to abandon the reliability of the documents (in a meaningful, non-redefined sense of "reliability"). It is certainly true that making a minimal facts case doesn't logically *require* one to abandon that, but it makes strong reliability seem unimportant. Indeed, Dr. William Lane Craig has said, in his introduction to the 3rd edition of REasonable Faith, that it is not necessary to defend the reliability of the Gospels in order to have a strong case for the resurrection. (More recently he seems to be using a somewhat different, and to my mind less clear, sense of the term "reliability," which tends to confuse matters as far as the intersection with his earlier remarks.) While Dr. Craig does not consider his own approach a "minimal facts case" (a terminological point I learned only after doing the webinar), it is *minimalist* in the sense of being boiled down and not asserting definitely that the disciples had or even claimed to have the detailed experiences reported in the Gospels. The term "appearances" must also be meant in a minimal sense in order for Dr. Craig to claim the assent to the "appearances" on the part of various more skeptical or liberal scholars. Its chief difference from the Habermas/Licona version is that it includes the empty tomb as a minimal fact.

Licona summarizes the minimal facts case in his recent interview with Tim Stratton in a rather eyebrow-raising fashion using some phrase like, "You don't need the Gospels. You can do it all with Paul."

If *I* had described the case thus, I'm sure I would have been accused of misrepresenting, but there it is, right out in audio on-line.

Now, once one has decided that one doesn't need the strong reliability of the Gospels, then there is a great motivation either to abandon it openly or else, as Licona is now doing, to redefine "reliability" in a rather radical way so that it is compatible with all of this fact-changing on the part of the authors.

I call this calling the bluff of the minimal facts case. We're told that we don't need robust, unambiguous, literal, historical, reportage that is reliable in the Gospels in order to defend the faith. Then along comes Dr. Licona and says that, in fact, we don't *have* that sort of narrative in the Gospels after all. But that's okay, because minimal facts will save us.

This is why in his most recent debate with Bart Ehrman he spoke so highly of Dale Allison at the end and even went so far as to say that Dale Allison believes in the historical resurrection of Jesus because of the strength of the evidence! In fact, that is far from accurate. Allison does not affirm the *bodily* resurrection of Jesus, and he constantly emphasizes (and Licona knows this, because his 2010 book has a long section on Allison) that he affirms some sense or other of the "resurrection" in no small part because of his "worldview," *not* because the evidence for it is just so strong. In fact, Allison is constantly downplaying the strength of the evidence for the resurrection and hence up-playing the role of "worldview" in drawing any supernatural conclusion whatsoever. The quotation that Licona read *approvingly* from Allison at the end of the Ehrman debate was bizarre in that context. It is a quotation in which Allison states that on his deathbed he won't be worried about the historicity of "this or that part" of the Bible but rather about whether he's embodied faith, hope, and charity. On the face of it, the quotation has a strongly Barthian flavor and is about as far as possible from an assertion that he believes in the resurrection because he's examined the evidence. I could scarcely believe that Licona chose *that* quotation to emphasize in his closing statement of a debate with Bart Ehrman on the reliability of the Gospels!

In short, the short answer to your question is that I agree, though I wouldn't want to say that *some* uses of the minimal facts *necessitate* such a trajectory in scholarship. In fact, I think Habermas has not taken that trajectory and *does* think full reliability of the Gospels is important (he has recently said so right here in Michigan), though at this point it seems highly unlikely that he will ever say anything in criticism or correction of the direction that Licona has gone and continues to go.

even went so far as to say that Dale Allison believes in the historical resurrection of Jesus because of the strength of the evidence! In fact, that is far from accurate. Allison does not affirm the *bodily* resurrection of Jesus

Now, now. Licona is being reliable by the standards of Plutarch. His literary needs at the time allowed for him to massage the message so that it is, in the words of Christopher Pelling, "true enough".

Let's not forget that Licona also knows of Chrei. He undoubtedly used Allison's quote to pull out the hidden, truer than true can be Burride style, thoughts on the resurrection.

Doesn't Allison think the "resurrection" of Jesus is Jesus appearing to people as a ghost?

Callum, that's right. And if we paraphrase the discussion between Craig Evans and Lydia, we find that Lydia agrees with him on the reliability of John!

Steve, he's dodgy on it. I think he leans in the direction of some kind of God-ordained ghostly appearance with objective content--what used to be called the objective vision theory, but with a paranormal edge to it based on all of the grief hallucination stuff that Allison researches.

But all he'll say is that in some sense "Jesus saw the disciples and the disciples saw him" and that he really can't say more because he doesn't know what bodily resurrection means anyway.

I would just add that Allison has quite a double standard, as Gary Habermas has pointed out. When it comes to grief hallucinations and alleged paranormal appearances of the dead, he takes everyone's word for what allegedly happened with something like childlike faith. When it comes to the Gospel accounts, he debunks their probable authenticity as eyewitness accounts with all the vigor of the average "mainstream" (aka liberal) NT scholar.

One can't respond to all the cranks out there, but for anybody to imply you're somehow just a blogger or just a layman or just whatever despite your actual work and results is either dishonest or lazy. It is interesting to see a supposedly non-liberal scholar like Dr Licona play the same tune as do the liberal scholars when somebody questions them.

My own experience with negative critical theories or positions that ultimately lead to undermining confidence in the reliability of the historical portions of the Biblical texts is that I am constantly told that I don't understand, that I am operating with an 18th-century critical apparatus, that my views are outmoded, outdated, and that the academy has moved on. But I'm never really shown that my views are wrong. In the Morris volume of studies of the fourth gospel, Morris revists Bishop Westcott's arguments and presentation of the evidence that St John the Apostle was the primary author behind the fourth gospel, and finds that in the century since Westcott, there has been no real new evidence to argue against Westcott's points. In Morris' words, Westcott has not been refuted but bypassed. That's what a lot of my own personal views and conclusions feel like --- never really shot down, but merely called quaint, archaic, pre-critical, etc., as if assigning a label to something dictates the reality of that something.

If Dr Licona is indeed correct or in possession of a strong case, he does not commend himself by retreating to the credentials game. I can respect his decision to use his time as he sees fit, but the dig would get under my skin personally.

Thank God I don't have to publish in NT studies to put food on the table and pay the mortgage.

The chronological snobbery is starting to be used now as well. It came up fairly blatantly in a recent, quite contentless piece by a Licona follower. The most amusing part of that was that, after saying I "did myself a disservice" by so much as bringing up Leathes and Drummond in my debate with Evans, on the basis that scholarship has "moved on" since their time, he *literally* said, "This is not chronological snobbery." Er, yes, that pretty much *defines* chronological snobbery. Particularly since there was nothing specific that Leathes or Drummond were said to be wrong about, from the pages I had cited (which were pretty specific), on the basis of some later discovery. Indeed, it wasn't very unreasonable to guess that he hadn't even looked up those pages. It was *entirely* a statement that we shouldn't use material we had learned from those writers in a debate about the historicity of John because they wrote so long ago. Yet this is someone who previously (before becoming so devoted to Dr. Licona's "cause") had seemed to express support for undesigned coincidences and my argument in HIPV. Well, y'know, that came from those 19th-century guys, so I guess I "did myself a disservice" by learning that argument from Paley and Blunt. Paley is older than either Leathes or Drummond!

Of course, the material that I got from Leathes and Drummond wasn't something highly interpretive. In the case of Drummond it is just a chart showing the lengths of uninterrupted portions of speech by Jesus in John and the synoptics. This is sheer data. It's not something that changes from one century to another. So sneering at it is just silly. Did the amount of uninterrupted speech by Jesus in John and the synoptics change in the past hundred years? No? Then I guess the fact that Drummond happened to make his chart x years ago is totally irrelevant, right?

In the case of the pages in Leathes, as well, the parallels are laid out on many pages of parallel columns. They are the same kind of thing that Craig Blomberg (whom the Licona crowd will claim to respect but whose approach, in practice, Licona does not take) also cites, more scattered out and less systematically, in the commentary portion of his Reliability of John's Gospel. But heaven forfend I should cite a more systematic treatment of the same concept from an older writer. We've moved on.

It's very, very silly.

I think there have been quite a number of people who have wanted to think that they can "have" things like the "old guys" that Tim has revived, the argument from undesigned coincidences, and also welcome the literary device approach. In fact, I'm sure there are a *lot* of people in the apologetics community out there who think that. What is coming to light more now, and I'm glad that it is, is that the two approaches to the Gospels are actually not compatible. Indeed, if you "prioritize genre over harmonization," as Licona explicitly stated in a Bible Gateway interview, then you shouldn't expect to find the details fitting together as they do in undesigned coincidences. Because you're taking it as positively *probable* that these details were invented or changed for literary or theological reasons. They aren't the result of an attempt at straight, artless reportage. So why would they fit together as attestations to reality? The "old guys" treated that as *not* being the default setting. Rather, they took seriously the possibility that the Gospels are what they present themselves as being--historical reportage. Thus they were able to look for places where this might come out in the details and their coherence--aka undesigned coincidences. Or in their confirmation by external sources, of which there are many. Approaching them as prima facie highly factually massaged literary documents causes one to miss such things and to leap over more simple explanations, to be anti-harmonistic, and more.

I think the reason people have thought that they could "have" both approaches is because they have assumed that the places where Licona & co. allege literary changes are somehow circumscribed, specific, and supported by highly specific evidence concerning *those passages*. Hence, the idea vaguely was, you only went to the literary device view for a few highly specific passages where you "needed" it and where there was some kind of strong evidence for it, and you could easily tell the difference between those and the passages that should be taken as prima facie historical. But that is *not* the case. Licona's approach to the gospels and his expectation of factual changes is actually quite pervasive, as reading his book shows. And this follows from his concept of what the genre was like. He's being consistent in that. Similarly, Evans's dehistoricization of John (when one does not allow him to obscure it) is also quite pervasive. It applies *in general* to the "Jesus of John." He's said that "conservative Christians" shouldn't try to harmonize John's Jesus with that of the synoptics, should regard John as a different genre from the synoptics, and should regard it as a gospel that has only "some nuggets of history." That is about as far as possible from an approach to John's Gospel that would give one any expectation of finding undesigned coincidences.

In fact, there are several places that I've pointed out here and there when Licona's approach actually causes him to *miss* an undesigned coincidence in a passage, because he's approaching it as prima facie partially altered (factually) for literary or theological reasons.

The chronological snobbery is starting to be used now as well. It came up fairly blatantly in a recent, quite contentless piece by a Licona follower. The most amusing part of that was that, after saying I "did myself a disservice" by so much as bringing up Leathes and Drummond in my debate with Evans, on the basis that scholarship has "moved on" since their time, he *literally* said, "This is not chronological snobbery." Er, yes, that pretty much *defines* chronological snobbery. Particularly since there was nothing specific that Leathes or Drummond were said to be wrong about, from the pages I had cited (which were pretty specific), on the basis of some later discovery. Indeed, it wasn't very unreasonable to guess that he hadn't even looked up those pages. It was *entirely* a statement that we shouldn't use material we had learned from those writers in a debate about the historicity of John because they wrote so long ago. Yet this is someone who previously (before becoming so devoted to Dr. Licona's "cause") had seemed to express support for undesigned coincidences and my argument in HIPV. Well, y'know, that came from those 19th-century guys, so I guess I "did myself a disservice" by learning that argument from Paley and Blunt. Paley is older than either Leathes or Drummond!

I would understand if someone said "Hey X person from long ago is wrong, and we've known about this for some time due to Y's research", but not what you encountered. I've been seeing many people claim lately that they are pretty much the only ones who understand ancient writings, and cultures. Going back and actually looking at what they wrote doesn't seem to support the specifics with regards to the examples given. Licona on Plutarch and other ancient Greeks, John H. Walton on the ancient Israelites, etc.

Feels too much like many of the Gnostic arguments I've seen. Usually something involving chakras, or various other mystical experiences. Apparently some of us just don't have the "gnosis" to understand these "literary devices".

Yes, it's interesting: Licona has previously used a kind of "Greek magic" argument concerning the historicity of John's words of Jesus. He'll challenge people to go read John and 1 John through several times in Greek (so the only people who can take the Pepsi challenge, as it were, are people who fluently read Greek) and then just see how much Jesus "sounds like John," and this is supposed to change their whole outlook on John's historicity and make them more open to an Evans-esque view of the "Johannine Jesus" being very altered and massaged. (Though we're supposed to call it "paraphrase." Licona never explains how John's inventing the entire scene of Jesus breathing on the disciples is a paraphrase of anything else.)

Anyway, more recently (in the Stratton interviews) he suggests a kind of modified John-Pepsi challenge, where you're supposed to read them both some number of times (I think it's 5 times) in a good English translation and hopefully have the same type of epiphany. He adds that "Greek is better" but you can allegedly "see" it in English as well. Wow, thanks so much for the opportunity to gain the secret knowledge!

Anyway, of course I long ago, decades ago, lost count of the number of times I have read John's Gospel and 1st John in English, and at one time I used to have a fair bit of 1 John memorized and plenty of passages of John. It's not like the "Johannine idiom" is some kind of thing that I'm going to say, "Omigosh! I never noticed that before!"

So at this point I start to tell people, "Look, go and read John 3, two passages, and see that, yes, it's difficult to tell when Jesus stops talking in John 3 and the narrator takes over and when John the Baptist stops talking later in John 3 and the narrator takes over. Get that on the table. Whoop-de-doo. Now go and look at all the other places where the narrator is *scrupulous* about telling where he is inserting his own interpretations. Here, here, and here. And then let's talk about possible explanations for the 'Johannine idiom' in the reportage of Jesus' words."

It's not like it's the big deal that it is made out to be. And the conclusions that are drawn from it are just wildly out of proportion to the evidential force.

Yes, it's interesting: Licona has previously used a kind of "Greek magic" argument concerning the historicity of John's words of Jesus. He'll challenge people to go read John and 1 John through several times in Greek (so the only people who can take the Pepsi challenge, as it were, are people who fluently read Greek) and then just see how much Jesus "sounds like John," and this is supposed to change their whole outlook on John's historicity and make them more open to an Evans-esque view of the "Johannine Jesus" being very altered and massaged. (Though we're supposed to call it "paraphrase." Licona never explains how John's inventing the entire scene of Jesus breathing on the disciples is a paraphrase of anything else.)

O.o
I mean, seriously, that was his argument? If paraphrasing someone, either verbally or written, they will probably sound more like me than they would otherwise. In my eyes that is what a paraphrase often is.

Right. So the idea is that Jesus "sounds like John" because John is writing his own words and putting them in Jesus' mouth. Sometimes there could actually be a paraphrase, if it is applied to a recognizable, separate incident, and in that paraphrase the historical person might sound a bit more like the person doing the paraphrase.

But in this case Evans's claim is far more than that--he's eliminating entire sayings as ahistorical. And calling that paraphrase is just illicit.

OFF-TOPIC

Mrs. McGrew, are you aware of this review of your book https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R1OFEOV0NEQQ6R/ref=cm_cr_othr_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1936341905 ? If so I would be very keen to know what you make of it.

Yeah, it doesn't work. Next question. :-)

Right. So the idea is that Jesus "sounds like John" because John is writing his own words and putting them in Jesus' mouth. Sometimes there could actually be a paraphrase, if it is applied to a recognizable, separate incident, and in that paraphrase the historical person might sound a bit more like the person doing the paraphrase.

But in this case Evans's claim is far more than that--he's eliminating entire sayings as ahistorical. And calling that paraphrase is just illicit.

Agreed.

Was it Evans, or another scholar who was not willing to let your show their work in public? That left an impression that only certain very specific people could "handle the truth", and the "unwashed masses" needed to be protected from said information "for their own good". That's how I saw it anyway. That may not be the intention at all, but it is very hard for me to not see it that way.

Was it Evans, or another scholar who was not willing to let your show their work in public?

Dan B. Wallace. In a 2006 post at bible.org he defends a 1999 paper that had partially come to light (through some blog comments by someone who had a copy) by saying that he didn't release it because of "pastoral concerns." Wallace claims that the blog commentator who had partially quoted it had taken it out of context but provides no evidence.

https://bible.org/article/my-take-inerrancy

Here is the comment thread he is talking about.

http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2006/08/book-review-reinventing-jesus-by-three.html

Making it even worse, in the 2000 paper (which Steve Hays has now posted quotes from) he went even farther than in the 1999 paper. It's the 2000 paper that contains the suggestions about "I thirst" and "It is finished."

Wallace billed himself *in the papers* as trying to move his fellow evangelical scholars further along in that direction and criticized their unwillingness to go far enough.

Here are the posts by Hays:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2018/04/silly-putty-jesus.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2018/04/a-broad-view-of-ipsissima-vox.html

Yet in the 2006 post (link above) for public consumption, Wallace stated that he was just holding that we don't have the exact words of Jesus but rather the ipsissima vox, that virtually all evangelical scholars agree with him, that this isn't some new shift, etc. Completely different from the way he himself had billed the state of the scholarship in the papers in question!

People are upset at Wallace for what sounds like a sincere mistake about the fragment of Mark, based on his being too trusting. To my mind, that's nothing. I feel a little sorry for him about that. But this other stuff--that's where I have a problem.

As far as I can see, the only justifiable reason for paying attention to credentials in a debate like this (or any scholarly debate) is to be able to establish whether - without first having to study their work in detail - the person claiming a dispute with the "received wisdom" has done the ground-work behind the received wisdom to be capable of picking a real and worthy battle with it, and knows what real work it is to either produce or PROPERLY critique such a theory, or whether that person is just a crank. I don't have to spend time arguing with a person who stands up to claim "Catholicism is bunk" on the basis of a thesis that "Catholics worship Mary", I know already that this person has not even bothered to find out what Catholicism actually teaches so they are not worth my time to argue the issue with them. Their claimed dispute with Catholicism is not a worthy one because they don't have the necessary ground-work to present a worthy argument to begin with.

The point of a degree (or, better, a professorship at a bona fide institution) is that the degree means that the person has been forced to toe the line and listen to the basis behind the received wisdom, to grasp it, and to be able to wrestle with it on fair and honest terms. (That's what the Ph.D. is SUPPOSED to mean, though it no longer means what it used to.) If a debater has no such degree / credential, then, in theory (to the extent there is a justified theory for demanding credentials) they have the burden of proof to show that they HAVE done their homework on what stands behind the received wisdom, have understood that, and can wrestle with that body of work on fair and honest terms.

Lydia McGrew is no crank. If it were the case that she bore the burden of proof to establish that she is not a crank, then she has more than done what is necessary to meet that burden. But in reality she DOES NOT bear that burden because she already has the necessary details to furnish satisfaction that she is not a crank, that she has the education, background, study, and training to grasp the rationale provided for those NT scholars' arguments for the (now) standard theories, and to fair and worthily critique them. Anybody who doubts that has not even HALF done his homework, and as a result his resting on "credentials" here is actually perverse - it amounts to a positive failure to abide by the standards implicit in THEIR OWN scholarly credentials. It is like saying "I once did enough work to gain my credentials, so I am now free to demean others for not having the credentials to critique me without bothering to check whether they do or not", which would be quite contrary to the spirit of using such credentials anyway.

Dan B. Wallace. In a 2006 post at bible.org he defends a 1999 paper that had partially come to light (through some blog comments by someone who had a copy) by saying that he didn't release it because of "pastoral concerns." Wallace claims that the blog commentator who had partially quoted it had taken it out of context but provides no evidence.

Yeah, the guy seems to give a good summary given what is available.

His excuse for not publishing his work publicly is rather weak IMO. If he's worried people won't understand it without already having certain knowledge then he can just put a disclaimer on it. Something along the lines of "This paper assumes knowledge on X subjects on part of the reader. Without understanding of X, this paper will make little sense to the reader".

His excuse for not publishing his work publicly is rather weak IMO. If he's worried people won't understand it without already having certain knowledge then he can just put a disclaimer on it. Something along the lines of "This paper assumes knowledge on X subjects on part of the reader. Without understanding of X, this paper will make little sense to the reader".

His concern seems to fall more along the line of, "They might lose their faith if they start thinking in this direction and go too far." Or something like that. I have the article. There isn't some special, technical knowledge involved. I think what it really amounts to is that he believes that people in his own situation can handle the degree of questioning that his 1999 article (which is relatively mild in its examples) and his far more radical 2000 article show about the faithfulness of the evangelists' record of what Jesus said. Can "handle" it in the sense of still being Christians despite it. But that he's afraid laymen can't.

That's annoying enough--secret knowledge and all that.

But what's even more annoying are his express statements in 2006 that his view is mainstream *among evangelical scholars*, they are "all in the same boat" and "all have their life preservers on," when in fact he must *know* that that is not the case. He must know, because the *very paper in question* put itself forward as being somewhat avant garde among evangelicals. This type of prevarication (I really don't know what else to call it) is enabled only by the *deliberate* conflation between a narrow and a broad view of ipsissima vox, when the entire burden of the two papers he had written was to distinguish those two and to induce fellow evangelicals to accept the broader view (which turns out to be very broad indeed!) rather than being fuddy-duddies and sticking with the narrower view.

It is just not true that when discussing matters of reliability or trustworthiness that laymen who are willing to put in the effort cannot understand. This is all a matter of critical thinking, and, as Plantinga once said about philosophy (IIRC), it really is just thinking clearly and hard about matters. Westcott's commentary on John, as dense as it may be in places (because it is so full of good stuff), is not inaccessible to a studious layman. And Morris' volume of studies on John that I've mentioned multiple times does not require secret knowledge that is magically acquired when one gets a degree in NT.

Christianity is a public religion, and, stealing the words from Steve Hays, "It's the same message for everyone, believers and unbelievers alike. There is no disciplina arcana. Christianity isn't supposed to have a dichotomy between what is said from the pulpit, for popular consumption, and what the preacher really believes–which he only shares with fellow elites."

Interesting about Dr Wallace. As a side note, his bible.org discussion of authorship of the various NT writings is generally very fair, showing that (if one isn't blindly committed to tenets of liberal theology) there is a really good case to be made for the traditional authorship claims of the NT. He even makes a good case for II Peter. So to be fair, he does take a lot of "unpopular" non-chic/fashionable stances.

Interesting about Dr Wallace. As a side note, his bible.org discussion of authorship of the various NT writings is generally very fair, showing that (if one isn't blindly committed to tenets of liberal theology) there is a really good case to be made for the traditional authorship claims of the NT. He even makes a good case for II Peter. So to be fair, he does take a lot of "unpopular" non-chic/fashionable stances.

I know! Isn't it strange?? He even argues for an exceptionally early date for the writing of John, and I think there is some force to his arguments.

But I do have to put something in here: Authorship can come wildly apart from sound interpretation. Robert Gundry is Prime Example A here. He argued cogently for Matthean authorship by an actual disciple in one part of his (unimaginably awful) commentary on Matthew, and then he went off and did the craziest Tendenzkritik you ever did see in the actual interpretive portions.

Recently Mike Licona has literally said in an interview that it *does not matter* if someone is an eyewitness whether he's likely to use these "literary devices." I mean, that is obviously false. Recently J. Warner Wallace has astutely remarked that the sorts of apparent discrepancies that are used to argue for a special genre of biography are something he finds in eyewitness testimony as a normal feature. So now does every set of differing testimonies to a bank robbery count as evidence of a special literary genre with its own "allowable" alteration of fact? And that's absolutely true: The method is just discrepancy hunting. But Licona's comments in the interview are setting it up such that arguments for authorship are supposed to be irrelevant to claims of fictionalization.

Evans's reference to the "Johannine community" is a more straightforward denial of Johannine authorship. And Bauckham seems to no small extent to understand the connection between eyewitness authorship and normal reportage.

But the two can *definitely* come apart, and obviously *have* in Dan Wallace's case. I mean, he seems unambiguously to accept Johannine authorship. Yet there he is, saying that John changed "My God, why have you forsaken me" to "I thirst" and changed "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" into "It is finished." And many more such suggestions besides (Hays has more examples quoted). Including (this is maybe my favorite) the suggestion in the last paragraph that the "In my father's house are many mansions" passage in John 14 might be an "ipsissima vox paraphrase" of (wait for it)...the Olivet Discourse???!!!

Because, I guess, ominous prophecies of death, destruction, horror, and the fall of a nation are well-summarized by comforting promises of dwelling places in heaven with God. It's the gist, y'know./sarc

So he obviously considers Johannine authorship, and even *early* Johannine authorship, compatible with that kind of invention.

What does a NT student learn a layman cannot? The only thing I can think of is Greek. For the rest, everything can be easily learned from reading good books.

However, even famous NT scholars, like Bart Ehrman, use often flawed logic - especially when pointing out contradictions. Maybe, it would be a good idea to teach more logic, probability theory and epistemology to NT students. Maybe, an analytic philosopher could do that.

His concern seems to fall more along the line of, "They might lose their faith if they start thinking in this direction and go too far." Or something like that. I have the article. There isn't some special, technical knowledge involved. I think what it really amounts to is that he believes that people in his own situation can handle the degree of questioning that his 1999 article (which is relatively mild in its examples) and his far more radical 2000 article show about the faithfulness of the evangelists' record of what Jesus said. Can "handle" it in the sense of still being Christians despite it. But that he's afraid laymen can't.

Interesting. Does he realize that he assumes - no, he REQUIRES - that the ordinary laymen who constituted the early disciples (who lived long enough) DID explicitly see the difference between what Jesus was really doing and saying and what the gospel writer set down? They seemed to handle it. And, indeed, the gospel writer seems to have handled it. And (according to the fictionalizers) the whole early community reading the gospels knew the gospels were fiction, and handled it. So what this amounts to is that Christianity is a religion that is unable to produce / extend itself to new persons except via false impression of reality.

still being Christians despite it

Taking my last sentence above, it is not absolutely evident that THEY CAN handle it, that they DO remain Christian. I wouldn't be fully comfortable calling it Christianity that they think the gospels induce in the "ordinary" layman, if that presumed layman can only be Christian by MISunderstanding the gospels.

Taking my last sentence above, it is not absolutely evident that THEY CAN handle it, that they DO remain Christian. I wouldn't be fully comfortable calling it Christianity that they think the gospels induce in the "ordinary" layman, if that presumed layman can only be Christian by MISunderstanding the gospels.

I believe, I should say fear, very much, that the hope is gradually to bring along some ordinary laymen or *at least pastors* (who are sort of in a middle zone between scholars and laymen) by gradual steps so as to attain the degree of "objectivity" of those scholars who believe in the resurrection of Jesus and his deity despite this view of the gospels that I have been writing against.

What is the method to be for this gradual induction? Well, without getting too snarky in describing it, I must draw attention to the repeated downplayings of what is really being said. Psychologically one might think this would not work. After all, if one tries what amounts to a bait and switch, won't the "customer" (e.g., the conservative pastor) balk when the more radical conclusion is revealed? Not necessarily. Not necessarily at all. Indeed, I think not in many cases. Human psychology is funny, and people don't like to admit that they were naive, or that what they *thought* they were accepting wasn't really all that was meant. What if in the meanwhile the pastor or apologist has stuck his neck out, preached using phrases borrowed from the literary device theorists, or given talks or entered debates using those phrases? How likely will he be to say, "Wait, when you said 'paraphrase' you meant *that*? Well, I'm getting off the train here, and I'm going to stop promoting your ideas and using these phrases, and I'm going to go back and tell people that I was misunderstanding what was meant"? Sadly, I fear it will be more likely that the person, if he has become a big fan and be promoter of the ideas under the description he was given, may just get a larger glass of water so as to swallow a pill he didn't realize at first he was agreeing to swallow. At least, I'm sure there will be some who will do this. The "frog in the pot" phenomenon.

Indeed, I believe there already are those who have passed through this process. Which is why this fog of obfuscation is to my mind perhaps the worst, saddest, most distressing thing of all in the entire controversy. Worse even than the "mere" advocacy of badly incorrect ideas.

What does a NT student learn a layman cannot? The only thing I can think of is Greek. For the rest, everything can be easily learned from reading good books.

I contend that a layman of normal mental ability and good discipline can learn NT Greek as well as a seminary student. My basis for this is that I did so while working on my dissertation (in a scientific field). I never took to the inductive Greek approach of Mounce's intro book, but I found that JW Wenham's The Elements of New Testament Greek appealed to my sensibilities with the old-school brute force approach. Lots of paradigms to memorize, a lot of repetition, and really just the elements and nothing more. However, it worked for me. I'd spend an hour or two most nights over about a half-year period on it. At the time, it was interesting and different than what I was working on for school. It really is a matter of discipline. Can a person sit down for an hour or two and focus on something? If so, they can learn Greek. If their phone alerts them every 30 seconds that somebody has posted what they ate for dinner and had as a cocktail they probably won't be able to do so. Pro tip: be sure to do the English-to-Greek exercises in Wenham; I feel like those helped more than the Greek-to-English by large factor.

After that, I then used Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics and a few other works. By no means did I go through the entire book, but I used parts of it. I also used the Graded Reader of Biblical Greek (if I remember the name correctly). I think that, at my peak, I was on par with a seminary-trained minister. For Hebrew, I was self taught, but not really motivated, and as such my Hebrew really only was useful for narrative, with poetry and prophecy being above my pay grade. (I remember this one joke about learning Hebrew: when in doubt, it's a qal. Nerd humor.)

In the end, what did learning Greek accomplish? For what I wanted (apologetics) it really didn't help much in terms of adding to my conviction that Christianity was true. It did help in countercult apologetics, e.g. when the Mormons or Watchtower people came by my door and made claims that my bible was translated incorrectly (e.g. verses that uses theos to describe Jesus aren't really as they appear so Jesus is not really God), and it did help me see for myself that arguments that secular types glibly throw around (it's all in the translation, we can't be sure, yada yada yada) were not to be taken seriously. But it didn't add much if anything to evaluating the historical trustworthiness of the gospels (given where I was at the time). For example, you don't need Greek to know that the first witnesses of the empty tomb were women, and why would a made-up story about a resurrection go back to female testimony by choice in a world where female testimony was heavily discounted?

I'm not sure I changed one doctrine I held due to knowing Greek at some sort of working level. I had this naive idea that learning Greek would clear everything up, but it merely pushed the question back. For example, when we ask what "the world" means in John 3:16, i.e. absolutely everybody or (say) the elect, I find that going to the Greek kosmos doesn't really broker the issue. That has to be argued contextually or through other means. As another example, I've seen conservative Lutheran arguments that Peter is not the rock based (supposedly) on Greek, but I don't find those arguments convincing, and would argue quite differently. I'm not RC for other reasons, not because Petros is masculine and petra is feminine and thus they couldn't be the same thing. (IIRC).

In the end, it didn't help that much for apologetics, and I don't know how much it helped me doctrinally apart from a few passages where Jesus is called God. It did make some really good commentaries 100% accessible, such as Cranfield's ICC volumes on Romans, which to me is one of the greatest commentaries ever written, or Schreiner on Romans, or Westcott on John. But at the same time, you can still get a lot of the good stuff from those commentaries even without Greek. My metaphor is that without Greek you still have the cake, but with Greek you also get some of the frosting. (After all the hours I invested twenty or so years ago, I'm back to my old Concordia NIV in English. Full circle. Maybe in another few decades I'll be back to reading Great Bible Stories for Children or something.)

I could probably organize this post better and cut it in half, but am feeling very lazy.


I think credentials are useful heuristics – i.e., credentials provide some information about what a person is likely to know, the kinds of outside influences and pressures that person is likely to have (positive and negative), &c. Viewing credentials as signals that serve a heuristic function has several implications:

1. Credentials do have some weight in considering whether to engage with what someone says on a topic, particularly if they are all we have to go on.

2. Credentials are imperfect guides to a person’s trustworthiness and knowledge of particular topics, so we need to update our convictions about that person’s integrity and informedness based on what we learn. Other sources of information we need to consider include (a) projects that person has worked on and (b) that person’s peers, mentors, professional contexts, &c., including sources of pressure, opponents, &c.

(Some fields [e.g., computer science] tend to emphasise demonstrable experience gained through actual projects over credentials alone – credentials mainly serve as a signal that someone has invested time into, supposedly, mastering a field.)

3. Credentials are not necessary for someone to speak knowledgeably and with integrity about a topic, because they are merely signals that someone can do these things.

Tom Larsen: That's a perfect summary of what we teach our students to look for as they do their research for various projects.

Hi Lydia,

You wrote: "Recently J. Warner Wallace has astutely remarked that the sorts of apparent discrepancies that are used to argue for a special genre of biography are something he finds in eyewitness testimony as a normal feature."

I would agree, if we are talking about the discrepancies in the Passion narratives in the Gospels. But the Resurrection narratives are worse than discrepant: apart from the story of the visit of the women to Jesus' empty tomb, they are wildly divergent. Is there a single appearance by the risen Jesus that's recorded in even two Gospels, let alone all four? And it's very hard to square Jesus' appearing to His disciples in Jerusalem (Luke, John 20) with His telling them (Matthew, Mark) to meet Him in Galilee (why?)

I would suspect that the Gospels are deliberately divergent in their Resurrection narratives, but I have no idea why.

Who cares what Dr. Licona thinks are the requirements to critique his hypothesis (that is all it is, really, and it is most assuredly wrong. The proof is very easy, but I am sure he would not accept it).

To address the credentials issue, first, Dr. Licona, himself, has the wrong set of credentials. In order to do the work he is doing, properly, he really needs a Ph.D in comparative literature, specializing in Classical languages, since: “comparative literature places its emphasis on the interdisciplinary analysis of social and cultural production within the ‘economy, political dynamics, cultural movements, historical shifts, religious differences, the urban environment, international relations, public policy, and the sciences.’[2]”. Indeed, there is nothing special about his approach just because it deals with the New Testament. If his hypothesis is true, it should, in theory, apply to all biographical documents of the period, since he claims a near universal practice of personalizing the biographical narrative. Since he has not established a base-line of reproducibility, his research is unanchored. It, then, falls into Cargo Cult science, according to Dr. a Richard Feynman.

Indeed, what he proposes, really, needs to be done interdisciplinarily, not by a single person, unless they are willing to put in the requisite background study. Dr. Licona is not a classicist. He may have consulted some, but does he cite them in his research (I don’t know)? Has he consulted historians? Has he even thought to discuss the issue with a computational linguist?

How condescending what little I have heard of this discussion sounds on the side of those defending Dr. Licona’s refusal to consider Lydia’s counter-arguments . Since I have not kept up on the point-counterpoint I cannot speak to anything that Dr. Licona has directly said. I can only go by what I have read on this blog.

With that caveat, let me say that a Ph.D is a sufficient, but not necessary requirement to do meaningful research. There have been many amateur mathematicians, for example, who have made important discoveries. To name a few, Margorie Rice was a housewife with a high school education, but discovered four original pentagonal tessellations and sixty others, total, simply because she was interested in the topic and paid her dues to understand it; Pierre de Fermat was a lawyer and later a mayor, but he discovered many important theorems in number theory and developed early probability theory; Max Euwe, a chess grandmaster in the 1930’s, independently discovered the Thue-Morse sequence; Kurt Heegner was a radio engineer, but made important discoveries in number theory, including an early proof of the Class 1 Number Problem. In physics, Michael Faraday was a bookbinder’s apprentice before he became interested in electromagnetism. He was self-taught in physics and had no advanced degrees (although, eventually, an honorary doctorate).

Speaking from personal experience and as a recognized world-class expert in two fields, I ask what Ph.d one must have to, say, study reeds for musical instruments: A Ph.D in musical performance; physics; botany; chemistry; horticulture; mechanical engineering; material science? People with each of those specialization do area-specific studies, but in order to get a comprehensive picture, I had to get acquainted with all of these areas. At one point I was simultaneously working out of nine different laboratories on campus. The Discovery Channel wanted to do a special on my research, but said it would cost too much money to shadow me from lab to lab. I did not have nine Ph.Ds, but I took the time to really learn the necessary material in each discipline. It took years of work, but that particular dissertation was the reference in the field for years (it has been downloaded over 1000 times from OCLC).

Consider humor. I am, probably, one of the top five humor theorists in the world, at the moment. I publish articles in peer-reviewed journal; I am a journal reviewer; I have written articles in encyclopedias; I have been a consultant on articles published in national magazines; I have delivered at least twenty-five papers at international conferences, chaired sessions, etc. Do I have a Ph.D in humor studies? No. In fact, no one does. There are only three humor studies programs in the world and of the two I know about, they grant master’s degrees. Humor studies has been, in large part, an interdisciplinary field, where everybody contributes to the greater understanding. In recent years, neuroscientists and philosophers have gotten interested, so there has been a slight shift to newer fields, but it is still very interdisciplinary.

My point is that it is very condescending and very wrong to dismiss someone because they don’t have a Ph.D in a field. Indeed, one of the signs that a person is spouting pseudo-science is that they start talking more about their credentials than the actual work. One test is to ask the person what evidence they would accept to disprove their theory. If they can’t give any, then their work is unfalsifyable and not actual science. Has Dr. Licona given any idea of what sort of test would falsify his hypothesis?

Just how hard does he think NT studies are, after all? A Ph.D in musicology (of which I finished the coursework) is the longest of any degree program in academia. It takes longer to become a musicologist than to become a brain surgeon. The average is ten years of work. NT studies would be a comparative walk in the park. In musicology, depending upon the era one is focusing on, one needs to know Greek, Latin, Old English, Medieval and Renaissance Italian and Spanish, paleography, history, document studies, cultural studies, notation, etc. My point is that I do not dismiss the musical arguments of people without Ph.Ds in musicology out of hand. That smacks of a lack of charity. If a God can speak truth through even a donkey, then show much more is everyone worth at least a listen to? If they are right, I gain knowledge; if they are wrong, I gain merit and spiritual training from my patience. Either way, they are a benefit to me.

Dr. Licona is making a point about the Bible as biographical literature. A Ph.D in English is a perfectly good adjunct field to be making comments on his work. People learn what language skills they need for the research they do. Greek is an Indo-European language and is not that hard to learn, especially the relatively final form used in Scripture. Heck, computer translations are very good, today, so unless there are very fine distinctions to be made, koine Greek is accessible to almost anyone and given the large corpora of documents, one can even do computational linguistics on a laptop that would have made a NT scholar from only thirty years ago drool. Anyone who can do elementary Python programming has access to the excellent Natural Language Toolkit.

So, Lydia’s arguments should stand or fall on their merits, as should Dr. Licona’s. Each has strengths and weaknesses in their background, so, neither one of them is a perfect fit for this research, on their own areas of specialization. Each of them have to supplement their backgrounds -Dr. McGrew in languages, Dr. Licona in literary theory. That Dr. Licona or his followers think they can set the requirement to enter the discussion smacks of a superiority they do not, really, possess.

Look, I know how to do research. I was awarded the Graduate Student Research Competition prize three times in graduate school (they changed the rules so that I couldn’t enter a fourth time). I read graduate texts across multiple disciplines. To suggest that I can read and understand advanced quantum mechanics and treatises on ancient musical texts, but not NT studies is silly.

That is what I think of this brouhaha - it is silly. If Dr. Licona will not argue with Dr. McGrew, she should shake the dust off her feet and press onward. If her research has merit, it will, eventually, be recognized. Truth triumphs over degrees. People with Ph.D are likelier to have specific training than others, but even they have been known to be wrong. What distinguishes the true scholar from someone with a Ph.D is the commitment to truth, no matter where it leads, no matter how much it contradicts their own ideas. I commend both sides to the search for the impersonal truth. Certainly, we have had too much self-interest on display to this point.

The Chicken

Vincent, Actually, I couldn't disagree more about the resurrection narratives. The differences in the resurrection narratives are the same kinds of things. For example, Matthew probably didn't know that Mary Magdalene left the group with the other women (maybe he didn't talk to her personally and the woman he spoke to didn't mention it) but does record what happened to the other women. John, on the other hand, records the events from the perspective of Mary Magdalene and also of Peter and "the other disciple."

The whole "meeting in Galilee" vs. "meeting in Jerusalem" is somewhat of a chestnut and has been hashed out many times. There were obviously two different meetings (actually, more than two, total). Jesus had told them ahead of time that he would see them in Galilee. John Wenham and others have pointed out that a meeting of a larger group of disciples would take a longer time to arrange. The eleven were included in the meeting in Galilee, but we have to remember that there were concentric circles of Jesus' followers, sometimes also called "disciples." The eleven and the women had to be "on board" in order to get the larger group together, which would more conveniently meet outdoors in the hills of Galilee. Indeed, given the low status of women, it's unlikely that any group of men, even the eleven, would have traveled all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee on the word of the women alone.

Are such harmonizations conjectural? Of course. But that is normal historical reconstruction when we have multiple sources that we have reason to believe are truthful.

I can think (right now) of only two very small things that even *might* be considered properly "discrepancies" in the resurrection accounts, depending on how one interprets them. One of these is that Matthew may have erroneously believed that Mary Magdalene stayed with the rest of the women and written as he did in Matt. 28 partly for this reason. The other is that the word "eleven" in Luke 24 concerning Jesus' first meeting may reflect Luke's erroneously believing that Thomas was present on that occasion. (Though it might also be a kind of "group name.") That's pretty much it. Everything else is harmonizable in a way that is *rational to do* with multiple sources of the same event. I don't agree with all of Wenham's conjectures (e.g., that the other ten disciples had fled as far as Bethany on Thursday night), but his book Easter Enigma is an extremely useful "proof of concept."

Again, harmonization is not a religious enterprise. It is a normal, historical enterprise.

I have written about these issues at more length in other posts.

http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2017/11/licona_gospel_examples_iii_ove.html

http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2017/11/licona_gospel_examples_iv_more.html

The idea that the resurrection accounts are "wildly divergent" in some contradictory sense is a meme that needs to die a long overdue death.

He may have consulted some, but does he cite them in his research (I don’t know)?

Yes, he does, two or three of them. (He refers to a "handful" of classicists and in particular to retired Oxford classicist Christopher Pelling.)

I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are living classicists who are unconvinced, and dead ones who would never have been convinced. Probably many of the latter. Part of this is a kind of scientific imitation: The idea being that there has been a bombshell new discovery made, making the democracy of the dead irrelevant. Well, show me the arguments, then.

If Dr. Licona will not argue with Dr. McGrew, she should shake the dust off her feet and press onward. If her research has merit, it will, eventually, be recognized.

Yup, hence my John series, of which I hope a new installment will come out today. And hence my debate with Dr. Evans, my expressions of concern about apologetic minimalism, together with a positive description of how a "maximal data" approach can go instead, my posts on new undesigned coincidences, my partial recommendation (in a two-part review) of Richard Bauckham's work, and many other posts.

As my writing about NT continues, I will of course from time to time be naming and/or responding to particular scholars with incorrect theories. Every positive enterprise is going to be to some extent a negative enterprise as well, especially given the truly parlous state of NT studies as of now. Putting forward correct theories usually involves to some degree or other refuting incorrect theories. And the problems there are so endemic that the ground has been, in a sense, salted, making it hard for good positive arguments to take root. But I will continue to do the best that I can to put them forward nonetheless.

Chicken, that was a great set of comments about credentials.

If I can boil it down to a simple conclusion: either Dr. Licona doesn't have the credentials, or Dr. McGrew does.

I personally don't think it matters a whit whether Licona decides to let his hair down and engage with Lydia, or not, because it's all in the arguments, and Lydia's are good. Eventually the NT fads of the last 120 years will go away, and Licona's fictionalizing will be viewed as a particularly pointless detail on an already empty bunch of hypotheses that will be shunted aside for real solid work by real scholars. Evans' work, much the same. Ehrman will be rightly viewed as a dishonest spoiling pseudo-scholar, into whose hands people like Licona and Evans played by being dupes for the NT fads of the day.

Hi Lydia,

"The idea that the resurrection accounts are 'wildly divergent' in some contradictory sense is a meme that needs to die a long overdue death."

Well, I think you've put forward a plausible-sounding resolution of what I always regarded as the biggest single contradiction in the Resurrection narratives - namely, the location of Jesus's appearances to His disciples. I'm afraid I haven't read Wenham, whom you cite (generally, I order only two books a year from Amazon), and I had never previously encountered the harmonization of the Gospels that you propose, on this point. To me, the contradiction had always seemed like a slam-dunk until now: Matthew has Jesus saying, "Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me," while Luke has Him saying to His disciples, "[S]tay in the city [of Jerusalem] until you have been clothed with power from on high" (presumably a reference to Pentecost). But I'm prepared to acknowledge that I may have jumped to conclusions here.

Nevertheless, there is definitely something fishy about the Resurrection narratives, which suggests to me that the Gospel writers knew of each other's work. To illustrate my point, let's enumerate the appearances:

A = Jesus appears to women fleeing tomb, after angelic apparition
A* = Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, after angels ask her why she is crying
B = Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus
C = Jesus appears to Peter
D = Jesus appears to the Eleven, to others who were assembled together with them AND to the two disciples who saw Him on the road to Emmaus, on Sunday evening in Jerusalem
D* = Jesus appears to the disciples, but not Thomas, in a locked room on Sunday evening in Jerusalem
D** = Jesus appears to the Twelve
E = Jesus appears to the disciples (including Thomas) a week later, in Jerusalem
F = Jesus appears to his disciples by the Sea of Galilee, later
G = Jesus appears to the eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee
H = Jesus appears to 500 of the brothers and sisters who believed in His message
I = Jesus appears to James
J = Jesus appears to Paul

Possibly, A = A* and D* = D**, and probably D = D*.

Now, let's see what we have in the Gospels. Matthew has A and G. Mark has nothing. Luke has B, C and D. John (chapters 20 and 21) has A*, D*, E and F. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 has C, D**, H, I and J.

Now, let's think of the appearances in terms of random drawings of marbles in a jar. Let's suppose for argument's sake that none of the Evangelists had the manuscripts of the other Gospels in front of him. What are the odds that their selections from the ten or so appearances of Jesus would be so strikingly divergent, with so little overlap? A and D are the only ones that are reported in two or more Gospels - and that's being generous and assuming that A = A* and that D = D* = D**. The question I can't help asking is: why i there so little overlap? And the only satisfactory answer I can come up with is that it was intentional. That in turn presupposes that the Gospels were freely circulating around the Mediterranean, for several decades, which is not too hard to imagine. (And even if there were not enough papyrus available to make copies of the Gospels which could be transported by ship, one could easily overcome that difficulty by getting a small group of dedicated missionaries to each memorize, say, four or five chapters of a new Gospel, and then sail to their destination, where they could write it down. That's certainly doable.)

Indeed, perhaps part of the "selling appeal" of each Gospel was that it included apparitions which hadn't previously been written down. That would explain the almost complete absence of overlap in the Resurrection narratives: about the only thing they all positively agree on is: women who were present at Jesus' burial going to His tomb on Sunday morning, and conversing with angels, who tell them that Jesus is risen.

By contrast, the Passion narratives are striking for their close parallelism. Even John's is pretty close to those of the Synoptics, and the only striking divergences between the narratives are in the words of Jesus on the Cross. (Perhaps that, too, was part of the "selling appeal" of each Gospel: read all about it, folks! Never-before-revealed words of Jesus, uttered shortly before His death!)

Well, that's my theory, anyway. I hope you can see where I'm coming from now, Lydia.

I see where you're coming from. You're just wrong. I'm not really sure I want to go on and on about this in this particular thread. As you note, several of your instances are from Paul's obviously summarizing "creed" in I Cor. 15, rather than from the gospels. For example, Paul's statement that Jesus appeared to "the twelve" (where "twelve" is obviously a group name) could refer to more than one of the instances recorded in the gospels, including the ascension in Acts 1 (which you didn't list). Paul's appearance to the 500 could be the meeting on the mountain in Galilee recorded in Matthew. (Making your G and H the same meeting.) Since Paul goes into so little detail (on purpose, because he's summarizing), that has to be taken into account.

In any event, I'm afraid you've just gotten into a bit of a skeptic pattern of taking mere differences to be something nigh unto contradictions. There is plenty of reason, for example, to think that D is the same as D*. The two are complementary, not contradictory.

In general, you seem to regard the existence of complementary, additional appearances as some kind of problem, and that's extremely weird, evidentially speaking. Everyone knows that John was written later than the synoptics. So sure, he may have been self-consciously complementary of the synoptics, recording events they didn't record. In no way, shape, or form does this cast doubt upon his veracity.

Something similar may be true for Luke, who tells us right in his introduction that others have taken in hand to recount the events of Jesus' life. So perhaps he did have access to Mark and/or Matthew, and wanted to record (e.g.) the road to Emmaeus, which they didn't tell about, from his conversations with eyewitnesses. This is a problem how???

Since it is quite plausible that the original ending of Mark was lost, we simply don't know what was in it as far as appearances are concerned.

The existence of supplementary material is not a matter of Luke's or John's "not agreeing" with the other gospels "except" about some small area of overlap. That's just a misguided way of looking at it. They just have additional material, presumably coming from their own memories or those of the people they spoke with. Anything else is a confused argument from silence, so that only *positive overlap* is taken as epistemically helpful. That is not a good way to do history.

The "appearance" to Paul does not take place on earth and is an entirely different type of event. Jesus' feet, to put it bluntly, don't touch the ground. He has already ascended into heaven.

If Jesus really rose from the dead and walked around offering many evidences of his being alive for six weeks (!!) there are probably *still more* meetings of which we don't have a record. Indeed, it's a mark of the restraint of the gospels that we have no detailed account of the (private) appearance to Peter. If they were making stuff up, it's hard to believe they wouldn't have spelled that one out in more detail. And the same for the appearance to James. But apparently those two men didn't make those details available for publication.

For Luke and John to be (at points) self-consciously supplementary to Matthew is hardly for them to be dubiously truthful or for them to be "wildly divergent." The latter phrase suggests some kind of epistemic problem with accuracy, but there just isn't one. John seems to have known *more* than Luke did at the time of writing Luke (Luke seems to have found out more before writing Acts), but that makes a lot of sense if Luke was not an apostle and John was.

Btw, when Jesus tells the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit in Luke, that's probably toward the end of the 40 days, after they have gone to Galilee (which Luke may not have known about when he wrote Luke) and returned to Jerusalem. Acts 1 makes this clearer. Luke is not "putting" all of the events on one day. Indeed, the events wouldn't even all fit before dark, as reading Luke itself shows. See my discussion in one of the links I gave above.

Something similar is true of words from the cross. One must activate one's real-world imagination. Jesus didn't always speak with equal loudness. Some people stood closer and some farther away. The beloved disciple appears to be the only one of the twelve (if he was one of the twelve) who was personally present at the cross. It's therefore not surprising that he *would* know things Jesus said that hadn't been previously mentioned.

The whole "selling appeal" idea is extremely strange. I realize it may be just a manner of speaking, but there's no reason to believe anybody was cynically getting anything out of writing these books. When one investigates fairly one gets a view of authors who are very sincere, trying to write down what happened as best they remember or (in the case of Luke) can discover. Of course they may at times record new material that others don't have, and deliberately so. But this is hardly a matter of "selling appeal" in some cynical or dubious sense. If I believed that I was telling about the central events of history, about the life, death, and resurrection of the Savior of the world, and if I had new material from talking to people or from my own memories that hadn't previously been made known, I would very likely do the same!

Moreover, raising some vague problem from the absence of *more* explicit overlap among the gospel resurrection narratives is a crude historical method that misses more subtle mutual confirmation. Here's just a sample:

--There's a connection among the three synoptics about the "women who followed Jesus out of Galilee" and their presence both at the cross and on Easter morning. This fits in turn with the angel's words "remember he told you while he was in Galilee" (in Luke) and their *remembering* those words--namely, that these women really were with him in Galilee.

--There's a great instance of partial overlap with some variation among the names of the women--Mary Magdalene being overlap, the "other Mary" being overlap in some, Luke alone giving Joanna, and so forth. This is what we expect to find with truthful witnesses.

--There's an undesigned coincidence that I discuss in my book concerning the John 21 "do you love me more than these [do]" passage with Peter and Peter's previous boast (not recorded in John) that he would never fall away from Jesus even if all the rest did. That is a unique resurrection appearance in John.

--John mentions casually that even though there was a huge draught of fish in John 21, "the net did not break," which dovetails subtlely with the different instance in Luke early in Jesus' ministry, which John does not record.

--Mary says to Peter and the beloved disciple, in John 20, "We do not know where they have laid him," implying that there were other women with her who went to the tomb, even though John did not explicitly mention other women.

--There is a subtle point in the Greek in Matthew where he says "they" (with "the eleven" as the antecedent) worshiped Jesus in Galilee but "some doubted" that may indicate that there were more present than the eleven at that meeting.

--Again, as noted before, it is highly unlikely that a skeptical body of men would travel to Galilee to meet Jesus on the word of women alone to Jesus' resurrection, so the sequence in John explains the journey in Matthew.

--Matthew mentions a mountain that Jesus had told them of. When? Perhaps before he died but perhaps in an earlier meeting after his resurrection, not recorded in Matthew.

--Luke's careful notes of time and distance in Luke 24 make it clear that, at a certain point (probably beginning around vs. 44 or 45), the action must be encompassing a larger span of time than just that night, because otherwise all events would not fit.


And so forth. These kinds of marks of veracity, encouraging harmonization, are actually in some ways better indications of truth than explicit overlap.

Oh, just one more thing: J. Warner Wallace *also* notes that, if witnesses are aware of each other's testimony, they *do* tend to deliberately supplement. This isn't in itself a mark of untruthfulness at all. People just realize when someone else has told a story and want to add what has not been mentioned. So contra your original comment, Vincent, supplementation is indeed one of the things we find in eyewitness testimony. The variations in the crucifixion narratives manifest more of the characteristics of truthful reporting of an overlapping story with varying details. The variations in the resurrection are, some of them, of that type and, others, of the supplementation type. Both are known characteristics of witness testimony.

Internet Infidels are not the best sources to hang out with if one wants to figure out

a) whether gospel narratives have mistakes
b) whether gospel narratives contradict each other
c) whether gospel narratives bear the marks of witness testimony

Nevertheless, there is definitely something fishy about the Resurrection narratives, which suggests to me that the Gospel writers knew of each other's work.

This "fishy" is given to you by the modernist NT scholarship, I think, not by the actual reality. It is explicit that John knew about the other accounts, and that he wanted to add to them. So of course it is quite natural that he not cover the same details as others covered. There is nothing fishy about that.

And it is a pretty good bet that among the 3 Synoptics, two of them were borrowing off the third. But since they are not identical, one may reasonably assume that they had reasons for where they diverged. The most natural reason is that each of the three had (a) access to different details than the others (through personal involvement or through interviewing other witnesses); and (b) they were struck by different aspects of the observed events and wanted to elicit those other aspects through giving other details. This is exactly what you find in different witnesses talking about the same events - they relate some likeness and also relate details that others don't mention. The silence of Witness A as to detail b after recounting detail a, while Witness B mentions detail b but not detail a, is SIMPLY NOT a matter of discrepancy. It is a matter of difference, that's all. Silence is not divergence. It's only not explicit convergence. But when the two details a and b happen to actually fit together in the sense that together they better explain what happened than either one alone, when they support each other indirectly, then there is implicit convergence.

Now, let's think of the appearances in terms of random drawings of marbles in a jar. Let's suppose for argument's sake that none of the Evangelists had the manuscripts of the other Gospels in front of him. What are the odds that their selections from the ten or so appearances of Jesus would be so strikingly divergent, with so little overlap?

But why would this (random drawings) be an appropriate standard for considering the 4 works? We strongly believe that 2 of the Synoptics relied on the third, and we know that John was aware of (at least some) of the others. Random chance has nothing to do with it.

And it may reasonably be assumed that the early community in Jerusalem all TALKED about the events they had seen and heard, so that after a few years they would have all heard most of the story-worthy details other disciples saw and heard. There would naturally be a wide dispersion of hearing of a great many of these details. But at the same time, after years of such discussions, each disciple would also be well known for settling on certain ones as his favorites that he returned to more often. There is no reason at all that they would not tend to diverge somewhat in settling on different favorite stories.

And, who is to say that "the jar" wouldn't include 100 OTHER sightings / events during the 40 days that nobody happened to write down? If so, the modest overlap we have is actually rather happy and fortuitous (if based on "chance"), and not "fishy" for lack of it being even more. Heck, it might be "fishy" for having that much overlap.

The appropriate question to ask it this: could there be a legitimate, non-"fishy" reason for the writers to address the Resurrection with rather less overlap than the way they addressed the Crucifixion? And the obvious answer is yes, there could be many such reasons. For one thing, crucifixions were commonly observable and easily believable, resurrections quite the opposite. So they might come to the events with different mind-sets on how to tackle it. I am sure that with care and even a tenth of the amount of literary imagination the NT scholars apply to the gospels, it would be possible to come up with several more reasons.

Right, exactly. Why refer to "ten or so sightings"? Ex hypothesi, Jesus wasn't a ghost who was sighted occasionally. He was a resurrected man deliberately spending time with his followers to prepare them to found the Christian community after his ascension.

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