Bart Ehrman vs William Lane Craig

Here is a debate of Bart Ehrman and William Lane Craig (a popular Christian apologist) on whether there is historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus:

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  • Proto

    I was unaware there was evidence of Jesus’ existence to begin with. I’ll have to watch this later though, too long to watch before uni.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I like the way Ehrman hammers Lane Craig on the statement of faith required for employment at his Bible college.

  • Bill

    The Book and external Biblical Books are not Verified Historical Documents and so should not be used as evidence for the events that happen in the Bible. Only verified external evidence can be used.

    Believers willing to die for there faith is well recorded everyday by Muslim suicide bombers. So the willingness of the 12 disciples and lots of other Christian followers through history is not all that powerful as proof of the event.

  • Conor Anderson

    You must be careful to distinguish between suicide bombers and the disciples of Christ. Suicide bombers cannot be certain whether or not Islam is false; the disciples would have been certain if Christianity was false. The argument is that nobody dies for what they know to be a lie–which would be the case with the disciples who were there at the cross, knew where Jesus was buried, etc., much unlike modern Muslims who were not around to confirm or disconfirm their beliefs. BIG DIFFERENCE.

    And I am surprised that your posted this video, Mr. Florien–after reading the transcript and talking to people who were there, I thought Ehrman was soundly defeated (see especially that part with the probability calculus).

  • Ty

    “The argument is that nobody dies for what they know to be a lie–which would be the case with the disciples who were there at the cross, knew where Jesus was buried, etc.”

    This is one of the worst arguments apologists trot out.

    Even if all of the astonishing assumptions in this argument were true: that these people died for a religious belief that they themselves were personal witnesses to, that still wouldn’t be evidence that the beliefs had any validity.

    Everyone in the Koreshite compound died believing that David Koresh was god. Is that compelling evidence to you?

    But, see, you’re making a leap unsupported by your evidence. You are saying that since people LATER wrote that Jesus healed the sick and rose from the dead, that this means that the martyrs died because of personally witnessing those things. There is simply no evidence that this is the case.

    It is the equivalent of someone who knew someone who lived in the Koresh compound writing a memoir fifty years later in which they claim that David Koresh could raise the dead and heal blindness, and you pointing to it and saying, “Those people in the compound would never have died for David if these things weren’t true. No one dies for a lie.”

    And there are endless numbers of examples: Joseph Smith and many of his followers died for his fledgling church, does that mean his revelations were true? Heck, some of them went to their graves swearing they’d seen those mysterious golden tablets. Followers of Muhammad who’d known him personally died for his fledgling religion. People drank poisoned cool aid for Jim Jones.

    People die for stupid reasons ALL THE TIME. People are quite capable of acting as if a lie were the truth until they themselves believe it. And stories change radically with time. The earliest of those written accounts about miracles and martyrdoms were written over fifty years after the fact.

    Nope, sorry, the ‘no one dies for a lie’ argument is a total failure.

  • You are certainly right that there are people who would die for a lie. But even if one makes the argument more concrete, that the behavior attributed to the apostles in the legends of their martyrdom, one still can only get to, at best, the conclusion that the disciples strongly believed they were proclaiming something that was true. But plenty of Christians have a similar conviction today, without ever finding an empty tomb or encountering a physically risen Jesus.

    When we add to this the fact that we don’t have early reliable records about the martyrdoms of the apostles, and in a number of cases many of the Twelve simply vanish from the public eye, and obviously it becomes clear that one cannot claim even the strongest sort of historical confidence, much less the sort of absolute confidence that fundamentalists tend to claim.

  • John C

    More Phd guys…when are we gonna learn? It was the prostitutes, the poor, the outcasts who Jesus revealed Himself too mostly, not the rich, and so it is today. Why is that do you suppose?? Because most of us are “rich” meaning content in and of ourselves to know what WE know. Self-satisfied, high-minded.

    Now I am not saying that is a pre-requisite but humilty certainly is. An emptying of one’s Self, one’s own external identities, etc. But there is “no room at the inn” of our contented western hearts and mindsets.

    Jesus said “if you seek to save your own (psuche/soul) life you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sakes you will find it”. Let go of what you think you know so that you might really…know.

    Does anyone really want to know??

    Phd…piled high & deep.

    • Phillip

      John C – your comment only makes the Jesus of the gospels look worse. So, basically, you are saying that Jesus has chosen to not reveal himself to the “educated” (or as you put it, the high-minded), which I can only assume means that they are then destined to be cast into hell because they are/were non-believers. So, essentially, Jesus didn’t reveal himself to these people to begin with and then held it against them as an infinite offense and cast them eternally into hell. There’s a nice, loving god for you. I was a christian for ten years (of course, I am sure you will imply that I never was to begin with) and left the faith once I, low and behold, studied it objectively. No offense, but its about as real as leperchauns. Either that, or it is completely real and verifable, and Jesus just decided to not reveal it to me and intends to cast me into hell forever and ever because of what he decided to withhold from me in the first place. Nice.

      • John C

        Philip my friend, I think that is quite a stretch from what I said. We see Him (physically) hanging out with the lowly, the meek, the outcasts because they made room for Him in their lives, were not self satisfied, content in and of themselves, saw themselves as lacking, needful and open to His presence, were humble. He loves all of us, but will not force Himself on those who have no interest, no sense of longing or lacking in and of themselves. Ahh…but if we really knew Him, His true nature, heart for us.

        It just so happens that many of the elite in society, the educated, the “respected” tend to be self satisfied, self sufficient, have little or no desire for Him, that’s all. I didnt say anything about hell, those are your words my friend.

        All the best…

  • marcion

    “I’m not going to say it didn’t happen, but if it did, it’s a miracle.”


    “We can’t establish that a miracle probably happened; by very definition, it probably didn’t.”

    “There cannot be historical probability for an event that is historically improbable. You have to take it on faith.”

    Whatever happened to faith, then, eh?

  • nal

    WLC seems to claim (at 01:07:10) that 1st Corinthians 15 talks about the burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea. My limited research shows that this is false, Joseph of Arimathea is not mentioned in 1st Corinthians 15.

    WLC’s probability argument would have carried more weight if he had assigned some numbers to his probabilities. Without the numbers, his argument is non-substantive.

  • John Charles

    Within *one* year of His death, numerous objective witnesses came forward and swore that they saw him alive and in person. This should be sufficient evidence to His death and resurrection to satisfy all skepticism.

    Of course I am referring to Elvis, the Once and Future King.

  • griggs1947

    Yeshua was just a man of his times, another savior-god , miraclemonger- just as unique as the others,it being special pleading to find differences that matter,- aand cult leader, jerk!

  • Conor Anderson

    Wow, lots of responses.
    The primary contentions to my argument seems to be that the historical accounts of Jesus and his disciples are without sufficient evidence.
    Barry did an excellent job in such brevity with pointing out some basic evidences and I could certainly add more, but suffice it to say that there is plenty of factual evidence out there if you are looking for it.

    For example, Craig Blomberg’s Historical Reliability of the Gospels is a thorough adjudication of the evidence for the reliability of the facts in question; Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is also excellent. Bauckham makes a compelling case that the gospel literature was based on eyewitness accounts, and in combination with the work of K.E. Bailey in his article on oral tradition in the middle east (Bailey, K.E. “Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels.” Asia Journal of Theology 5 (1995): 4-11; reprinted in Themelios 20 (1995): 4-11.) provide significant historical evidence.

    And as Barry said, be careful with the level of evidence that you demand. Just because the gospels contain theological themes and miracle accounts does not mean that they are inadmissible as historical records. Furthermore, the temporal disparity between the events and records is just about the best you will get in ancient history (of that period and culture).

    • vorjack

      “Bauckham makes a compelling case that the gospel literature was based on eyewitness accounts, ”

      No, he doesn’t. He makes a largely wishful argument about what MIGHT have been without providing evidence or a criteria.

      Neil Godfrey has an extensive review of this work over at his blogVridar.

  • Conor Anderson

    Have you read the book in its entirety with careful consideration of his arguments and the data he presents?

  • vorjack

    Conor –

    Have you read Godfrey’s analysis – all 60+ posts – and considered the counter-arguments and data he presents?

    Failing that, have you considered this snippet from one of Bauckham’s favorite ‘historians,’ Papias:

    “Judas walked about in this world a sad example of impiety; for his body having swollen to such an extent that he could not pass where a chariot could pass easily, he was crushed by the chariot, so that his bowels gushed out. “

    [via Ealiest Christian Writings]

    Can we assume that Papias received this nugget of lore through his use of the best historical practices of the time? Did he collect it from the eye witness that we don’t know if he was alive to meet? How about the other traditions that he collected but were to unorthodox for later historians like Eusebius to quote:

    The same writer [Papias] gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten tradition, certain strange parables and teachings of the Saviour, and some other more mythical things.


    It’s a shame that Eusebius didn’t show proper trust in his sources. It’s amazing that we find a devotee of the hermeneutics of suspicion in the 4th century.

  • RobotzAreAwesome

    This is a great debate, I’m surprised I’ve never heard of Bart. He knows exactly how to defeat the Christian claim, you go straight to the jugular, which is the contradictory resurrection claims in the gospels. If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity.

    If the accounts are not corroborative, you can easily prove they are not divinely written. And if they are not divinely written, the chances of their miraculous claims are equivalent to the chances of a magical pink pony waiting on your doorstep tomorrow to take you to work.

  • Ty

    “And as Barry said, be careful with the level of evidence that you demand. Just because the gospels contain theological themes and miracle accounts does not mean that they are inadmissible as historical records.”

    I demand the same level of evidence that I would demand for any extraordinary historical claim.

    They found Troy, after centuries of looking for it. Do you believe that this is enough evidence to support the claim that Mars himself strode the battlefield fighting on the side of the Greeks?

    Because that’s the equivalent of your position. You are claiming that because some elements of the story can be historically supported, that is sufficient evidence to accept the entire story as true, including the most extraordinary claims in it.

    That is a total failure as an argument.

    Also, Barry? Seriously, dude, your analogies are truly terrible.

    If someone claimed that Hitler was using demonic power kill the Jews, and that the Jews who survived did so using magic, then you might have a point. As it it, not so much.

  • Conor Anderson

    It sounds as though you have not read Bauckham’s work–instead you have settled for a blog about it written by somebody who is entirely outside his field, for whom biblical studies is a “serious” hobby. I am not sure of his academic credentials or why his criticism is not in any reputable, peer reviewed journal, but the information I do have (along with that I don’t) is enough to convince me that I shouldn’t waste my time.
    I am not arguing ad verecundium, dismissing his work out of hand, but as of now I am too preoccupied to indulge in more blog debate.

    Your respectful replies have been much appreciated, and I hope this does not come across as terribly disrespectful.


    PS-to RobotzAreAwesome–look into what NT Wright has to say about the lack of corroboration in the resurrection accounts. The point he makes is that if the gospels are so far after the events, and so heavily edited by the church, how could they possibly miss all those mistakes? The disparities, which can be reconciled to a reasonable extent, are evidence for their originality and truthfulness, not against it.

  • Dan L.

    I didn’t see Ehrman getting trounced. I saw Craig doing the usual Creationist thing and simply repeat the same claims disregarding all refutations and counterarguments from his opponent.

    He also tried to muddy the water using a probability argument. I wish Ehrman had known enough to demand he specify a definition for “probability.” I would argue that the existence of the Christian God would be incompatible with any reasonable definition.

    I do think that Ehrman didn’t do a great job of enunciating what he was trying to make his main point: that however unlikely any individual explanation for the events in question, the total of those probabilities (the term in the probability equation that Craig was saying was so tiny) would actually be pretty big.

    He half-heartedly fell back on the argument he was better qualified to make; namely that the gospels don’t make a very good historical document. He started off and ended talking about the actual historical context in which Christianity started, but Craig simply poo pooed any reference to sourcesoutside the Bible. I feel Ehrman should have spent less time talking about alternative explanations for the gospel account and more time on the history of the texts.

    @Conor Anderson:

    You’re arguing that the fact that the gospels are based on eyewitness accounts makes them valid historical evidence. Do you mean the eyewitness wrote it or directly told a scribe, and that we have one of these exact copies? From what I understand, the earliest of the extant New Testament works is from the 2nd century, and so must have been at least one copy removed from a firsthand account (and likely many more). Any such retelling opens an opportunity for embellishment, and considering the political incentives early Christian priests had for doing so, I think we have to admit there is a high likelihood that the Biblical account is at the least embellished.

    Even assuming we did have a reliable first-hand account, surely the witnesses would have a great incentive to lie or exaggerate. Some of my friends exaggerate trivial events with no incentive save for the sake of narrative. Think of how much more widespread this propensity would be among a superstitious bronze age culture. But in this case, the eyewitnesses were presented the opportunity (presumably) to be the center of a growing cult. What were the apostles going to do, go back to fishing?

  • Jeff Eyges

    Right after the debate, I happened upon Craig’s blog, in which he and his acolytes were gloating over how he had, supposedly, bested Ehrman, how Ehrman couldn’t counter his arguments, etc. It was unattractive and inappropriate.

    Any such retelling opens an opportunity for embellishment, and considering the political incentives early Christian priests had for doing so, I think we have to admit there is a high likelihood that the Biblical account is at the least embellished

    Oh, no – they would never have done that. They were transformed.

  • Alright, Craig beat another guy in a debate. How many articles in peer reviewed journals has WLC had published.

    Determining the evidence for the Resurrection in a high school-style debate would be like choosing the next leader of the free world that way…


  • David Dean