Notes on the Verisimilitude of the New Testament

My post Craig Evans on the Reliability of the Bible.  It contains a link to a transcript of an interview with Evans titled “Is the Bible Reliable?”  (The article does not, however, contain the word “verisimilitude.”)

YouTube video Bart Ehrman & Craig Evans 2012 Debate P1 (start at 14:04).  Herein, Dr. Evans describes various aspects of verisimilitude in the New Testament.

Facebook post by Neil Shenvi on The frequency of first names in the biblical accounts matches the actual frequency of names in 1st century Palestine.  Neil told me that he derived this information from R. Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Eerdmans (2006), p. 85-88.  Neil also recommended this YouTube video lecture by Dr. Peter J. Williams (Warden of Tyndale House in the UK):  New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts (total time 53:45).

The Wikipedia article Language of Jesus identifies numerous Aramaic words found in the Greek New Testament (e.g. Abba, mammon, hosanna, Gethesemane).  Most Bible scholars believe that Aramaic was the language used by Jesus and His disciples because it was the common language of the cities and regions in which they lived and traveled.  Greek was the lingua franca of the broader world at that time.  Therefore, finding some Aramaic words sprinkled throughout documents written in Greek is just what you would expect of a first-century Mediterranean-wide social movement that originated in Palestine.

The Hallucination Hypothesis of the Resurrection of Christ

In his post WILLIAM LANE CRAIG AND JAMES CROSSLEY DEBATE THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS, (April 24, 2011), Wintery Knight wrote “This is my favorite debate on the resurrection.”  (The debate itself was held March 6, 2007 at Sheffield University in the United Kingdom and titled “Was Jesus Bodily Raised from the Dead?”  The debate was chaired by Hugh Pyper.)  In the post, WK wrote “…Crossley is a solid scholar…”

I also came across another WK post referencing Crossley titled GARY HABERMAS AND JAMES CROSSLEY DISCUSS THE MINIMAL FACTS CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION  (August 13, 2015).  In this post, WK wrote, “James Crossley is my favorite atheist ancient historian, such a straight shooter, ” and “He’s on the skeptical left, but he has a no-baloney way of talking that I really like.”

Therefore, in the comments section of this second post, I asked him, “WK, of all the debates about the resurrection of Jesus that you have watched/heard/read, who, in your opinion, has put forth the best argument against it? (When I reject an argument I want to know that I’m not just rejecting a weak version of it or a weak spokesman for it.)”  You can see my question and his response here.

By the way, here is Gary Habermas writing about the issue at hand in an article titled “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection:The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories.” (2001).

In one of WK’s responses to me, WK links to a 2007 post on William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith blog titled Dale Allison on the Resurrection of Jesus.  Craig is answering a question about Allison and begins by saying this:

I’ve never seen a better presentation of the case for scepticism about Jesus’ resurrection than in Allison’s Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters (New York: T. & T. Clark, 2005). He’s far more persuasive than Crossan, Lüdemann, Goulder, and the rest who actually deny the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. That Allison should, despite his sceptical arguments, finally affirm the facts of Jesus’ burial, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection and hold that the resurrection hypothesis is as viable an explanation as any other rival hypothesis, depending upon the worldview one brings to the investigation, is testimony to the strength of the case for Jesus’ historical resurrection.

Thus we have WK saying that the best argument against the resurrection of Christ that he has heard is Michael Goulder’s in Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment?: A Debate Between William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann, which Craig therein refutes.  And we have Craig himself saying that the best argument against the resurrection he has ever heard (he says specifically that it’s superior to Goulder’s) is Dale Allison in Resurrecting Jesus: The Earliest Christian Tradition and Its Interpreters which Craig then goes on to refute in the post itself.

In summary, two of the best known scholarly supporters of the resurrection of Christ (William Lane Craig and Gary Habermas) both see the “hallucination hypothesis” as the best argument skeptics have…but that it’s still decidedly inferior to the resurrection hypothesis as an historical explanation, even when articulated by the most effective spokesmen.

P.S. Since Eric Chabot had also posted on the Craig-Crossley debate (A Look at William Lane Craig and James Crossley Debating the Resurrection of Jesus), I posed to him the same question about “best challenge” to the resurrection of Christ that started the line of thinking that led to this post.  You can see my question and Eric’s response to me at the post.

Why the Ancient Christian Record About Jesus Is the Most Reliable | by J. Warner Wallace

In this substantive post, Wallace includes a three-column chart showing the major historical claims about the life of Jesus from the point of view of the biblical writers, hostile Jewish witnesses, and hostile Gentile witnesses.

(13-minute read; 3,103 words)

Source: Why the Ancient Christian Record About Jesus Is the Most Reliable | Cold Case Christianity

(HT: Greg West at The Poached Egg of Ratio Christi)

Is the Bible Reliable? (1 of 4): Introduction | Mark Ashton 

In the introductory video of this 2009 series, Pastor Mark Ashton of Christ Community Church in Omaha says that expecting someone to believe that the Bible is the word of God is too big a leap.  He suggests following a process that consists of these three steps:

  1. Believe the Bible is historically reliable.
  2. Believe what the Bible says about Jesus.
  3. Believe the Bible is the word of God

He says we can do this by focusing on these three tests:

  1. Internal
  2. External
  3. Manuscript

This constitues the outline of the videos that follow the first one.

 

 

A. N. Sherwin-White on Jesus as Historical Figure

(2-minute read; 350 words)

Source: Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: A. N. Sherwin-White on Jesus as Historical Figure

Craig Evans on the Reliability of the Bible

The link below is to the transcipt of an interview with New Testament scholar Craig A. Evans of Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Evans is a good source of information on the Bible for many reasons, but particularly because he is not given to hyperbole and because his assurance about the Bible’s historicity is based upon subtle but important facts – such as its verisimilitude wherein so many of its details are corroborated by other historical sources from its times.

For example, Evans says:

If you have an old document, one of the first tests is to ask, Does it really reflect life back then as we know it? If it does, the historian takes it seriously. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, the book of Acts—these are the basic narrative books of the New Testament. They talk about real people, real events, real places, and the archaeologist can show that; so a fictional, nonexistent Jesus makes no sense of the actual hard data we have.

Evans thus demonstrates how the biblical documents are historically valid as well as theologically informative.  This is indeed helpful scholarship and he is gentleman as well.

(12 min read; 2,986 words)

Source: Interviews: Is the Bible Reliable?

Scholars Agree: Luke and Acts are History 

In this short post, Lenny Esposito quotes respected scholar Craig Keener on the issue of the historicity of Luke’s writing.

(2 min read; 417 words)

Source: Scholars Agree: Luke and Acts are History | Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes

The Reliability of the Oral Tradition That Preceded the New Testament

This 14:49 video discusses the oral tradition about Jesus which preceded, and was the basis for, the written texts we have in the New Testament.

Excerpt (14:14 through 14:35):

Scholars estimate the reliability of an oral tradition can last for over a century before we could expect corruption to seep in.  Gilbert Garraghan says it cannot go past 150 years (A Guide to Historial Method, p. 259-262).  Marelene Ciklamini sets the limit at 200 years (Old Norse Epic and Historical Tradition, p. 21).  This is well within the time frame of when the New Testament was written down even if we take the latest dates for when the books were written.

The Reliability of the New Testament (Oral Tradition) – YouTube. (Source:  Inspiring Philosophy)

Belief Map – Did Jesus rise from the dead?

This resource (from beliefmap.org) provides the evidence and logic behind a resonable faith in Jesus Christ.

Belief Map – Did Jesus rise from the dead?.