So you believe … ? 7.00am Thursday

Today … Licona.  The “gamekeeper stayed gamekeeper” and his Detailed Response.

“Thus, whatever criteria apply to biographical and historical literature of the period in which the Gospels were written likewise apply to the Gospels when attempting to assess whether they are historically reliable.”

There is a vested interest in the bible being historically accurate (and a vested interest in proving it is not).  The “vested interest” is proving / disproving God.  And where one finds a vested interest, one finds “comfort zones” and/or “agendas”.  And when people pursue an agenda / comfort zone – they can get righteous right quick – on both sides.

(ever noticed that ex-smokers can be most unforgiving of “smokers”?)

“As I offered in my Major Statement, it depends what we mean by “historically reliable.” If we require every detail to be an accurate reflection of how an event actually unfolded, then compression cannot be allowed. But if we require the account to be an accurate gist of how an event actually unfolded, compression can be allowed.”

Except bible study is “study” – of a specific word – a specific event – a piece of this happened like this “documentary”.  Because (Christians are taught that) the Word of God is really God – and “an accurate gist” is (in my experience) language Christians use to prove to Christians that the bible is true and reliable and fact.

“Moreover, as I discussed in my Major Statement, we have very good historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, which adds plausibility to the miracle accounts in the Gospels, including Jesus’s virgin birth. After all, if Jesus rose from the dead, a virgin birth would be child’s play (pun intended). And most scholars hold that Jesus performed deeds that astonished crowds and that both he and his followers regarded as miracles and exorcisms. Although historical investigation may not be able to determine whether these were genuine miracles and exorcisms, that Jesus rose from the dead adds significant plausibility to the conclusion that they were genuine.“

Have I missed the “missing link” of evidence and historical reliability?

The evidence, as I recall (presented by Licona), was of “writing style” (back then) … of “writing” tools (back then) … of others “back then” (who did not write bibles but wrote stuff).  The evidence was of “anything” (back then) other than “evidence” (from back then) as we know evidence today.

“If Matthew did not intend for his readers to understand the raised saints in a literal sense, should this “stop us from thinking that other parts are not reliable either?” I’ll rephrase the question: If Matthew did not intend for his readers to understand the raised saints in a literal sense, why should we think he meant for those same readers to understand Jesus’s resurrection in a literal sense?”

So is Jesus’ resurrection now confirmed as “figurative” rather than literal?  And I double-checked I had read (and copied) this paragraph correctly.

““Historical reliability” means that a large majority of what is being reported is true to the extent that readers get an accurate gist of what occurred. The account is “true enough.” The Gospels meet this standard. At minimum, they are historically reliable accounts of Jesus … Accordingly, when we think of what we mean by the term “historically reliable,” we must be careful not to define it so tightly that all ancient literature is deemed unreliable. To do so would be to deprive the term of any useful meaning.”

We are not talking about “all ancient literature”.  We are talking about one “book of not-literature” which is taught as reliable in fact and in word.

I would not use “the evidence” (presented here by Licona) in a court of law.  I have been to court. The repeated insistence that because “other companies” act and behave in a certain way is all the evidence we need to prove “that the defendant here in this very court must be guilty of all charges as stated, m’lord” would only go one way …

M’lord would ask us if that was all the evidence we were bringing to his attention.
We would say yes.
M’lord would thank us.
And find in favour of the “other party”.


(tomorrow is the beginning of “final submissions”)


20 thoughts on “So you believe … ? 7.00am Thursday

  1. Amazing is it not? Licona was forced out of his job for daring to suggest (in his 2010 book) that the Raising of the Saints should not be viewed as a literal event, yet the Resurrection of good ol’ JC is historically reliable and really happened, sort of, probably … honest, cross my heart an’ hope to die.
    Seriously, you have to love Christian Apologists sometimes.

    Can’t wait for your final submissions.
    Metthinks you are going to seriously piss-off Mel … if he is still reading!


    • Something both Erhman and Licona say – as you have – is that they commenced a personal journey of exploration. It is also true for me. The intention is not to “piss-off” anyone. And I do hope you can wait for the final submissions – because I have no idea what they will be.

      These posts are real time reading responses.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Because (Christians are taught that) the Word of God is really God…”

    I think that people who believe that the Bible is inerrant teach this, but nobody else. The Bible doesn’t teach this. The Bible is not God. It testifies of God from an anthropological sense. More specifically, man’s relationship (and perception) of God. Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1), not the Bible text. The Bible is not a history or science book either, and was never intended to be one. So, I don’t have a lot of interest in the “historical accuracy” argument.

    And, no, I am not “pissed-off.” My relationship with God, or you, is not that frail. 🙂


    • Hi Mel – PHEW!! 🙂

      Here is where I am so far. Cultural Christianity (the exposure to church – and acceptance of that and “Christianity” from a young age) no matter the denomination of pedigree (my experience) presents the bible as “the bible says” and “the bible is the word of God” and “the bible is holy” and “the bible is sacred”. To the point where lobbing a bible across a carpark is “taboo” (kind of superstitious holy). No fundamental required – it just is.

      As I “got into the bible” (as a young adult – and then an “old chap”) no one presented an alternative view. The bible remained “just is” (and still no lobbing across a carpark).

      I have played with the bible for a long time. But that was what came out of it – not what it was. The book you gave Susan and which she gave me was like a breath of fresh air. And has led me down this track of exploration.

      Where are my footsteps right now? Walking towards a view that “cultural Christianity” and the acceptance of church from an early age is killing the church. Unless “cultural wallpaper Christianity” is offered “grown up God” – wherein the bible is “just is” (with an unhealthy dose of superstition attached) – the bible is not evidence “because the bible says so” – and to doubt the historical reliability of the bible is not the same as walking away from Christianity – but is deemed the maturing of faith.

      I don’t see “fundamentals” doing that “cultural stuff”. I see the whole Christian tradition actively maintaining that cultural stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that we need to faithfully question the “cultural stuff” we’ve been taught. This is vastly different than trying to disprove God or Jesus.

        What most Christians don’t seem to understand is that “inerrancy of Scripture” is a fairly modern invention, after Reformation, partially to counteract the authority of the Pope (also probably inspired by Islamic beliefs), but it’s such a deeply embedded indoctrination in the Christian culture today that when it’s challenged, people feel God is being challenged. It shakes their faith because the foundation of what they’ve been taught is based on a false premise (as opposed to having a real relationship with Jesus based on faith). But the Bible was never written with this in mind.

        Conversely, there is a lot of criticism against the historicity of the Bible and Jesus by modern skeptics. As Susan said, these arguments are debatable and biased on both sides. No one looks at “historical evidence” with disinterest or without a bias. And again, it’s an argument based on a false premise that the Bible is meant to be historically accurate by 21st century standards.
        Also, people like Bart Ehrman embrace the Christ Myth Theory. But most modern scholarship considers this a fringe theory, and it’s accepted by only a small number of academics.


        • “What most Christians don’t seem to understand … ” You have my full curiosity 🙂

          When I was training (trainee preacher) I was taught that the “Christian Tradition” was a bedrock. It was to be incorporated. It was on a par with the creeds. What I never understood was the language of academic theology, the dismissal of “love” as a core sermon message. My own application to my own living and relationship with GSHJ was classed as “testimony” – and to be occasional. The “teaching of the bible” – the “explaining the bible” – the “good theology” – the “Christian tradition” – were all deemed far more useful.

          That was last year in a mainstream denomination that believes it is more forward thinking and free-er than other denominations.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Tradition isn’t bad, per se, as long as we understand why it is believed.
            But if love is not the “core message” then we aren’t really talking about God! Without love as the core, we have nothing worthwhile to talk about.
            Based on what you are saying about your training, you’re describing the dualistic nature of denominationalism, which is why we have so many of them! You’re taught what to think more than how to think. There’s nothing wrong with diversity (denominations), just divisiveness (denominationalism).


            • Thanks Mel, this one is uncovering not “what is bad and what is not”, but more … “why?”

              Mainstream denomination is “mainstream”. It is where most receive their cultural Christianity upbringing. It is where the “mainstream” clergy continue to exit their training and preach what they have been taught. And the “tradition” is perpetuated.

              My question, I think, is this. Why does “the church” (in all its different “diversity”) continue to hold the repetition of a creed (and other statements of belief) that by default maintain the myth of a factually and historically accurate bible?

              Reason for asking:
              a) It creates a “turn a blind eye” mentality
              b) it fosters denominational divisions that encourage loyalty to a brand rather than a God
              c) it allows “cultural Christianity” to be the norm rather than the exception
              d) it stunts spiritual growth in a massive chunk of the population!
              d) it imposes an inter-faith chasm that fosters hatred and fundamentalism
              e) it results in a sacred text having to be propped up to defend the “very being” of the divine within
              f) it allows a complacency of living for those of “cultural faith” (which is not “of this word” – obviously)

              In others words it achieves the very opposite of the the content within the sacred text. And, I think, is why love gets so little shelf-space. It is set in a dishonest context.


    • BTW – you added this as new comment, so unless Ark is coming back to read fresh comments he will miss your “reply”. Do you want me to copy/paste it into a reply?


      • No. I was responding to your post, not directly to Ark. Nothing personal against him, but I don’t really care what Ark thinks about what I said. And I certainly don’t want to get dragged into another long and pointless discussion with him.


  3. The thing about evidence is that both sides (when there are two who only see black and white and never the gray) present solid evidence which supports their side. And it is always left up to the “jury” to listen to this evidence and decide which “side” they are on. What never seems to be presented is the “gray,” the invitation to see and think in between the lines, to apply critical thinking to both sides of the evidence, and to allow the heart and spirit to engage with the mind. This is the gray that renders truth.

    If anyone doubts this, they should watch Rashomon, a brilliant 1950 movie about evidence, perception and truth.


    • Yay!

      What I found odd was the initial google search. Stuffed full of religious organisations. And the term “atheist” is the opposite of “theist”. And one side proves the historical inaccuracy and supposes they have proved there is no God. And the other side poo-poos the “evidence” as selective and insists the bible is historically accurate and they have proved God does exist.

      At every level it becomes dualistic: “You don’t believe the bible is historically accurate? Then you cannot believe in God.” Just as “You believe in (some form of) God? Then you must believe the bible is historically accurate!”

      Check out Fr Casper

      “We psychologists find the myths of Genesis useful when we council certain Christians that come to us – who are ready to let go of the Teddy bears in the Ark. Both Science and Religion share the search for truth in but it is a different truth. Faith not Fact” (extract)

      Liked by 1 person

      • “At every level it becomes dualistic: “You don’t believe the bible is historically accurate? Then you cannot believe in God.” Just as “You believe in (some form of) God? Then you must believe the bible is historically accurate!””

        I couldn’t agree more, Paul. Not only is it dualistic, it’s a fallacious argument based on a false premise (“the Bible is supposed to be historically accurate”).


            • I replied at length in another comment. But I get a sense of why Ark gets so frustrated. Because “the church” does not stand up and preach the bible as “fiction in a historical setting”. And by its silence allows the myth to continue. My question is this: when the church teaches life, living and eternal living in the here and now – why this oversight? And because human beings are driven by personal motivators called beliefs – and that is the bread and butter of the church.

              Liked by 1 person

            • I’m not sure what you’re asking. When you say that “the Bible is fiction in a historical setting” most believers, preachers, teachers, even scholars would disagree with you. And I would disagree with that general of a statement. And just because some stories uses some artistic license doesn’t mean that the people or event is total fiction. For instance, it is a very different thing to say that the stories about Jesus are not historically accurate and Jesus never existed or did a lot of the things they said He did. Ark believes the latter, choosing to believe the “Jesus Myth” people, which is a fringe segment of scholarship, at best. These arguments are debatable and most scholarship does not agree with their conclusions.

              The stories that are fiction are written that way for a purpose, more like USA’s founding stories. For instance, “George Washington never telling a lie.” This is probably not true, but George Washington did exist and was our first president. In the Old Testament, there is internal debate over these kinds of stories, which is pretty unique in ancient literature.

              If you’re asking why people are silent on the Bible not being inerrant, only Fundamentalists and a lot of evangelicals actually believe this. The rest either don’t or give it lip service so not to cause controversy. This does need to be clarified so Jesus followers understand how the Bible is written. That way, they won’t get blindsided by skeptics or continue to live in cognitive dissonance about their theology. But none of this means that the Bible is a work of fiction in the sense that Ark wants to believe. It’s just not written with a 21st century mindset.


            • Mel, oddly this may be our first disagreement!” Wahoo!

              I think what I mean is this: that the bible I have been taught since a child has not been taught as a document with choices to be made about what is fact and what is not. It has been taught as “the bible says so it happened like this”. Take away all the academic rigor, remove all the “weird theological science” that leaves me dazed each time – and you have to trust the bible and the teachers. And you know my thoughts on that.

              My point is that at no time in the churches I attended was there ever the choice to doubt the bible as fact. So the difficult verses were left as the mystery of God, and the genocide was presented as “The Chosen People” being the chosen people – isn’t God great – he keeps his promises.

              It begins to address for me something that has puzzled me for years. Why is so much of the church of Christ sleeping in the pews? And I am talking “big picture” rather than specifics (if I may). It addresses why a lot of clergy feel overworked and under-appreciated. It addresses why so many “believers” never graduate from kindergarten. And why “eating meat” as opposed to “drinking milk” (as it is referred to) us such a dilemma.

              I have heard that “why?” from a cross-section in and out of church. Why is leading Christians such hard work?

              And I think this might tap into a lot of that.

              Liked by 2 people

            • Sorry Paul, I totally agree with what you said here. 🙂 Like I said in the previous comment, I wasn’t sure what you were asking.

              I agree that we have not been taught to think critically. In other words, taught how to think instead of taught what to think. That, I believe, would help believers mature in a healthy way.

              What I believe we should do is teach people how to “faithfully question” what we read, not to disprove so we don’t have to believe it, but to understand why it was written the way it was. When we do this, we can move out of our cognitive dissonance and convoluted explanations. I hope that makes sense.


            • Yes it does. And I also think that building in a “margin for error” for latitude in what is “proven” as fact and what is “not proven” as fact would be liberating.

              Because if I choose to believe it is all fiction (as defined not proven in any language I can even understand!) but also choose to believe in “a God” not dissimilar (but not as strictly defined in the bible and “tradition” and creed) … am I a misfit?

              And if I am – do I by default become a false teacher? Because the term “good theology” gets used a lot.

              By those who believe themselves qualified to judge what is good and what is not.

              And then we are straight back to the bible. And what is theologically accepted and what is not. And that is not too far away form “fact” in my experience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.