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J. P. Moreland endorses my critique of Michael Licona

I'm grateful to renowned evangelical scholar J. P. Moreland for his endorsement of my recent work on Mike Licona as well as for his endorsement of Hidden in Plain View. This post went up on his official blog today. See his post for all relevant links.

I have just read Lydia McGrew's stunning, refreshing, rigorous, and powerful 2017 book, Hidden in Plain View. Lydia, a deeply committed Christian and known for her work in analytic philosophy, resurrects and further develops an argument for the historicity of the Gospels and Acts that has long been neglected. It is must reading.

However, just as or, perhaps, more importantly is her work in providing a first-rate, rigorous, thorough and amiable presentation and critique of an approach to NT historicity--especially in the Gospels and Acts--that sees various literary devices in the text that, whether intentionally or not, tends to undermine the historicity of the Gospels and Acts and eschews sophisticated harmonization attempts based on certain historical and legal forms of reasoning.

McGrew is the only first-rate scholar who has argued these points, quite successfully in my view, and I happily endorse her presentation, "Six Bad Habits of New Testament Scholars (and how to avoid them)," for the Apologetics Academy's YouTube Channel and at her blog where she critiques Mike Licona's arguments. I urge you to read and view her arguments and pass all of this along to as many people as you can, including on social media.

A tweet linking to this blog post by Moreland also appears on his Twitter account as and can be retweeted. Or one could Tweet

J. P. Moreland endorses Lydia McGrew's critique of Mike Licona. bit.ly/2FmR8io

putting the endorsement of the critique front and center.

I think this is quite important. My strong sense is that too many evangelicals endorsed Mike's work without having read it in detail and that this is part of why it is not getting the scrutiny it should. Also, too many people still say, "Oh, that was all about the Matthew 27 raising of the saints passage, right?" Someone said to me recently, "That was the only passage I ever heard about." But we're way, way beyond that now, with many more passages, invisible fictionalizations galore, and even the invention of entire incidents. So I think it will be good if various people (Licona included) take note of the extensive problems with this approach. I'm hopeful that Moreland's endorsement will open up such a discussion. See here for a wrap-up post with synopses of all the posts in my 2017 series.

Comments (5)

This is very good news.

Yes, let's hope that people wake up to critical thinking about this instead of just accepting whatever some scholar says because somewhere, someone, called them "evangelical" or something. There is a lot of so-called scholarship that needs to be re-considered (and junked), but that won't happen when people are complacent about what "scholars are saying these days".

Yesterday I was reading the transcript of a round table discussion in 2016 among Licona and several other evangelical NT scholars. It was very interesting, socially and psychologically, because a couple of people in the discussion were clearly not willing to go as far as Licona does. And I also know this by knowing their other work. But everybody was being so genteel in the conversation that the audience would definitely have walked away with the impression that Licona was saying nothing all that controversial and that his interlocutors merely disagreed with him about this single incident or that around the edges.

One of the interlocutors, Craig Blomberg, was rather bugged about a place where Licona says that maybe Matthew made up a second blind man to compensate for not having told about a different blind man! Licona lays this theory out *along with* what is almost certainly correct--that there were two blind men at Jericho but Mark mentions only one of them. Licona treats this (and another silly view as well) as a kind of smorgasbord of options and just says, "Maybe this, or maybe this, or maybe this." Blomberg, who *in practice* is a fair bit more sensible than Licona, was asking why Licona brought up the theory about making up an extra blind man. And Licona tried to put *him* on the defensive by asking, "Why do you see it as a negative that I bring up multiple possibilities?"

Now, the obvious and correct answer to this is, "Because they are really *stupid* possibilities, historically, and you're treating them epistemically on a par with a far more sensible view." But Blomberg wasn't quite willing to play hardball to that extent.

In a paper given as part of the same conference meeting, a different scholar (Darrell Bock), who is also less radical than Licona, spent thirty-three out of his forty minutes simply quoting ancient historiographers on the importance of literal, historical truth! It was a great compendium of quotes, and I'm glad to have it. But at the end of all of that, in the remaining seven minutes of his talk, he managed vaguely to give the impression that Licona's theories about the Gospels are not really at odds with this ideal of historical truth that he had just laid out! He just disagreed with him (in what he read--he skipped part of his paper because he was running out of time) about harmonizing one incident.

In a sense I don't know what to make of these guys. It's like to at least some extent they know better but don't want to call Licona out. (I'm not saying they would entirely agree with me, either, but they don't appear ready to accept all that Licona is saying.) But in another sense I do understand it as a pretty well-known social phenomenon.

As I told you before Lydia(through a mail), your work is amazing, and worth every pound in gold. I hope more people can read it.

Thank you, Nicolas. Pass the word along. :-)

Hello Dr. McGrew,

This may interest you. A video having David Wood comment about his recent debate with Shabir Ali. Shabir apparently acknowledges that certain historical assertions in the koran are not literally true (such as Alexander the Great being a muslim, and various Jesus infancy stories), but are literary devices used to make theological points. Sounds eerily familiar.

Start at 8:00 in to get the context.


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