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October 30, 2009


Great to hear it!

Debates and more audio from Licona here.

watched the whole thing

pretty bad debate

but Licona got killed in my opinion.

I thought it was a good debate. I wish there had been a cross examination period, though, because there were issues each brought up that the other didn't address. I also wish Greg allowed people to call in and ask his guests questions because I had a question for Licona. Given his definition of an ad hoc explanation, isn't his resurrection hypothesis ad hoc since it invokes God without giving any independent evidence for God? My review of the debate is here.

"but Licona got killed in my opinion."

Just priceless. Got "killed" but you offer nothing to buttress your over-generalization.

Good work Tony!


"isn't his resurrection hypothesis ad hoc since it invokes God without giving any independent evidence for God?"

I don't see why this is a problem. Both Eherman's and Licona's position on the existence of God is clear. Your concern would only matter if the audience was ignorant to where each stood on the issue. It seems to me a non sequitur.

Sam wrote the following in his review of the debate linked above:

"Licona defined an ad hoc explanation as an explanation that requires positing entities for which there is no independent evidence. But then later, Licona posited God as a necessary condition for the resurrection without giving any independent evidence for God. I thought this was a severe blunder on Licona's part."

I don't think Licona "posited God as a necessary condition for the resurrection". He referred to the possibility of other beings with capabilities humans don't have, such as aliens. He considers God the most likely explanation, but not "a necessary condition" in any relevant sense that I'm aware of.

You also said:

"But the fact that the vast majority of scholars agree that Jesus appeared to his disciples does not mean they all agree Jesus appeared to them in groups."

That's true, but Licona made reference to the creed of 1 Corinthians 15, which is accepted as an early creed by the large majority of scholars. While it could be argued that there were no group experiences, despite the report of multiple such experiences in the creed, I don't think many scholars would argue for such a position. Licona could have spelled out his reasoning on that subject, and you're correct in making the distinction you make above, but I think Licona is correct in concluding that the group experiences of 1 Corinthians 15 would be accepted by the large majority of scholars. If I was participating in a debate, I wouldn't limit myself to conclusions accepted by the large majority. But Licona probably could include some group experiences even within that limit.

Regarding Jesus' death, Licona could have brought up some factors he didn't mention. Though the large majority of scholars acknowledge Jesus' death by crucifixion, many people outside of the scholarly world, particularly Muslims, don't. And a small minority of non-Muslim critics argue that Jesus survived the crucifixion. Jesus' death at the time of the crucifixion is significant, since His surviving the crucifixion and dying of natural causes twenty years later, for example, would open the door to a naturalistic explanation of the resurrection appearances. There's some truth to Ehrman's objections on this point, such as the fact that it wouldn't matter much whether Jesus died by crucifixion or stoning. But the timing of His death, namely at the time of His crucifixion under Pontius Pilate, is important.

I've reviewed the debate here.

Ehrman wasn't disputing that Jesus died, though, so I don't think Licona's time would've been well spent trying to prove that he did against Muslims views. I didn't really understand why Ehrman thought Licona's first point was irrelevant just because there are other ways he could've died. The relevant thing about the first point is that Jesus did die, which Ehrman agree with. You can't have a resurrection without a death coming first.

Thanks for looking at my review, Jason. I'll look at yours in a few minutes.

Jason, I left my comments on your blog.

Thanks, Sam. I saw your response and replied to you there.

Jason, there is some relevance to responding to Erhman's point about Jesus' death by crucifixion. It's because He predicted it and it was also detailed in the old testament/Tanakh and by dying by crucifixion, one more prophecy was fulfilled, which adds to the validity of His claim as the true Son of God. Add to that, a Roman death by crucifixion brought about by the Jewish leaders' accusation of a crime which Pilate did not think was a crime should have been addressed by a Jewish execution which should have been by stoning.

The only "killing" that took place was in the White vs. Ehrman debate (January 2009; on DVD at, the most technical and scholarly debate Erhman has ever attempted.

Alfonso wrote:

"Jason, there is some relevance to responding to Erhman's point about Jesus' death by crucifixion. It's because He predicted it and it was also detailed in the old testament/Tanakh and by dying by crucifixion, one more prophecy was fulfilled, which adds to the validity of His claim as the true Son of God."

Yes, the method of crucifixion has some relevance, particularly with regard to the initial probability that Jesus would be raised. A man who fulfilled some significantly detailed prophecies and made significantly detailed accurate predictions would be a more plausible candidate for resurrection than an ordinary farmer or housewife, for instance. Ehrman's emphasis on how often resurrections occur within the general population, neglecting other factors that differentiate Jesus from other individuals, is simplistic. But I don't think Licona was discussing crucifixion in that context.

I'm hoping they'll talk about this:

Part 2: Licona says: 'Ehrman contends that of the current 27 books and letters in the NT, all but eight are "forgeries."' No. Ehrman says: 'only eight almost certainly were written by the authors to whom they are traditionally attributed.' (p. 136) What would you call what Licona has done here?

(That's a comment I made here:



Bible is about as reliable as this TV show:

The main problem I have with Licona's case for the resurrection is that he excludes the empty tomb from the core facts needing explanation. Without the empty tomb, however, the case is severely weakened. As Ehrman said, appearances don't prove much. They could have just been apparitions. Licona's only recourse would be to cite the Gospel accounts that speak of Jesus' appearances as being physical in nature, but then he has to demonstrate that these reports are historical and trustworthy. It seems to me it is much easier to simply defend the historicity of the empty tomb by itself.

Jason Dulle,

I agree with your main point. The case for Jesus' physical resurrection is made significantly stronger by bringing in the empty tomb. I would include the empty tomb if I were to debate the subject, and I would include other evidence often not mentioned by people like Mike Licona and William Lane Craig in their debates.

But I think you're underestimating the strength of the argument without the empty tomb. It's not as though non-physical supernatural appearances of Jesus would be consistent with Bart Ehrman's view. You refer to "apparitions", but something like a supernatural vision could serve as evidence for Christianity. A non-physical appearance of Jesus could be inconsistent with naturalistic theories. The data Licona cited concerning the nature of hallucinations would be relevant even if every appearance of Jesus had been non-physical.

I agree with you that Licona would have to take on an added burden if he were to appeal to "the Gospel accounts that speak of Jesus' appearances as being physical in nature". But he could argue for the physical nature of the appearances without even doing that. The gospels and other early sources reflect an underlying theme in first-century Israel that would have to be addressed even if the gospels didn't exist. The reports of physical evidence for Jesus' resurrection are found in every gospel and in Acts (Matthew 28:9, Mark 16:4-6, Luke 24:42-43, John 21:9-13, Acts 10:41, etc.), as well as in a possibly independent passage in Ignatius of Antioch (Letter To The Smyrnaeans, 3; note the added detail in Ignatius as compared to the gospels). That widespread early concern for physical evidence is consistent with what we know of the mainstream view of resurrection in the Judaism of that time. How likely is it that so many people (hundreds referred to in 1 Corinthians 15 alone) would think they had seen the risen Christ without seeking physical evidence and without coming into contact with physical evidence regardless of whether they were seeking it?

What Matthew's gospel mentions in passing, the incident in which some women touch Jesus' feet (Matthew 28:9), is the sort of thing we would expect to happen at some point, probably multiple times. The idea that hundreds of people living in the context of first-century Israel would think they had seen a resurrected man, yet have sought no physical confirmation of it or sought it and never received it, is unlikely. Peter may have been present during three of more appearances (the appearances to Cephas, the Twelve, and all of the apostles in 1 Corinthians 15). Did he hallucinate three times, and did he never successfully seek physical confirmation? The more people and appearances there are, in a setting like first-century Israel, the more difficult it is to argue that there probably wouldn't have been any physical evidence involved. Documents like the gospels make the case stronger, but the case can be made to some extent even from a passage like 1 Corinthians 15.

I would add that defending the gospel accounts (and the accounts of Paul's experience in Acts, which also have physical elements) is less difficult than is often suggested. The earliest Christians were highly concerned about eyewitness testimony (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006]). The highest church office, that of apostle, was reserved for eyewitnesses. The most prominent churches of the second century were churches that had been in historical contact with the apostles (Rome, Smyrna, Ephesus, etc.), since the early Christians valued eyewitness testimony so much. Etc.

How likely is it that none of the eyewitnesses' accounts of seeing the risen Jesus would have been preserved? Or that some were preserved, but that every reference to physical evidence within those accounts is inauthentic? A skeptic could assert such a position, but on what convincing basis would he expect others to agree with him? And, of course, a Christian could argue for the traditional authorship attributions of the gospels and Acts. For example, there seems to have been widespread corroboration of those attributions among the early enemies of Christianity. The early Christians were honest about the doubts they had concerning other authorship attributions, and we have other reasons for trusting what they said about gospel authorship. There are so many reasons to trust what the gospels and other early sources report about physical evidence for the resurrection. It would place an added burden on somebody like Mike Licona to argue for such data in a debate, but I think people often underestimate how successfully it could be done.

I agree, you have to get the empty tomb in there. "where is the body?". Those words are so powerful!

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