Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Handicapping the debate

A commenter asks us to evaluate the Craig/Ehrman debate. Each T-blogger is free to offer his own opinion.

i) Regarding Craig’s performance, he delivered a crushing blow to Ehrman in his first rebuttal on the issue of secular historiography. Ehrman never regained his balance. All he did was to reiterate the same argument without ever addressing Craig’s counterargument.

ii) Craig also bested Ehrman for his failure to distinguish between the dates of the NT documents and the dates of the sources underlying the NT documents.

iii) Craig argued against Ehrman by using Ehrman’s own criteria of authenticity.

iv) Craig also argued that if God is inaccessible to historians, then so is the past. And if indirect evidence is sufficient for historical knowledge, then it’s also sufficient for theological knowledge.

I have some reservations about Craig’s own methodology:

i) I don’t care for his minimalism.

But in a live debate of 90 minutes or so, it’s necessary to limit the scope of the subject matter, so I think his minimalism is justified in this context.

I’d add that Ehrman never rebutted Craig’s evidence. Instead, he resorted to diversionary tactics.

ii) Moreover, I’m unclear about Craig’s statement that he is “perfectly open to [Ehrman] showing that there are errors and mistakes in the narratives.”

I myself don’t regard inerrancy as a provisional belief.

But for purposes of debate, there was nothing wrong with Craig chooses to avoid that detour.

iii) It’s misleading to treat the Resurrection as a hypothesis in relation to rival hypothesis.

It’s not as if the Resurrection is an extraneous explanation or extrinsic interpretation of the evidence. The only evidence we have is evidence of a Resurrection. The interpretation of the event is part of the original evidence.

It’s not something we bring to the record, in order to explain the evidence. The record is a record of the Resurrection. It’s given in the record itself. It figures in the original report.

In other words, that is stated as well as implied. It is not as if we merely have a set of facts that entail the Resurrection. We also have a direct witness to the character of the event as a resurrection from the dead.

The record describes the nature of the event as well as the occurrence of the event.

iv) Again, I can understand, for apologetic purposes, the Craig wishes to set this up as a contest between competing theories. And I don’t necessarily object to that.

But casting the Resurrection as a hypothesis creates the misleading impression that what we have in the NT is not a record of the Resurrection, but a record of certain effects or aftereffects—effects that are open to more than one possible interpretation—and a resurrection happens to be the most likely cause to account for these varied effects.

But the Resurrection is not just another hypothetical reconstruction of the events, even if it’s the best reconstruction of the events.

The only evidence we have is evidence of a resurrection. There is no alternative evidence for an alternative event or explanation thereof.

Even the Jewish alternative (Mt 28:15) is presented as a propagandistic cover story.

So there is no epistemic parity between the Resurrection and the alternative theories. What we have is evidence versus theory. All the evidence is for the Resurrection; the unbeliever has nothing to fall back on but raw conjecture—conjecture apart from any evidence and conjecture against the evidence.

v) Having said that, there is nothing wrong, from an apologetic standpoint, in reasoning from certain effects back to a probable cause. We just need to be clear on the fact that any alternative to the Resurrection begins at a severe disadvantage.

Moving onto to Ehrman’s case, I’ll comment on a few of his statements.

“To determine which things are the things that happened, you want contemporary accounts, things that are close to the time of the events themselves, and it helps if you have a lot of these accounts.”

I don’t agree with this. What you want are accounts by contemporaries, not accounts contemporaneous with the events.

To be accurate, an account needn’t be written near the time of the event. The main thing is that it needs to be written by someone who was a contemporaneous with the events, or else contemporaneous with other eyewitnesses.

In other words, an account either based on direct eyewitness observation or the testimony of other eyewitnesses. I’ll have more to say about this momentarily.

“Moreover, finally, you want sources that are not biased toward the subject matter. You want accounts that are disinterested.”

I don’t know what this is supposed to mean. There is a type of bias that gets in the way of accurate reportage. A bias which preempts the evidence.

But then there is another kind of bias which is driven by the evidence. A bias formed on the basis of compelling evidence.

Surely we would not believe in a reporter if he didn’t even believe in his own report.

The NT writings were written by believers. They believe in what they heard and what they saw.

That is not a disqualification, but a qualification, for being a reliable reporter.

Would Ehrman have us apply his yardstick to his own biography? He himself has spoken about his educational background. And he has done so to explain and justify his subsequent apostasy.

So Ehrman is not a disinterested reporter of his own life and intellectual development. Should we therefore dismiss his recollections about his educational experience as the work of one who is either a deceiver or self-deceived?

“The Gospels were written 35 to 65 years after Jesus’ death—35 or 65 years after his death, not by people who were eyewitnesses, but by people living later. The Gospels were written by highly literate, trained, Greek-speaking Christians of the second and third generation. They’re not written by Jesus’ Aramaic-speaking followers. They’re written by people living 30, 40, 50, 60 years later. Where did these people get their information from? I should point out that the Gospels say they’re written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But that’s just in your English Bible. That’s the title of these Gospels, but whoever wrote the Gospel of Matthew didn’t call it the Gospel of Matthew. Whoever wrote the Gospel of Matthew simply wrote his Gospel, and somebody later said it’s the Gospel according to Matthew. Somebody later is telling you who wrote it. The titles are later additions. These are not eyewitness accounts. So where did they get their stories from?”

There are a number of problems with this series of claims:

i) If something is written 30 or more years after the fact, how does this imply that it was written by someone other than an eyewitness?

Suppose that John-Mark was 15 or 20 at the time of Christ’s public ministry and death. Suppose he wrote a gospel 30 years later.

That would make him 45 or 50 at the time he wrote the gospel.

Bart Ehrman is 50. He writes about being a teenager. So he’s writing about events 30 or more years after the fact.

Does this mean that the autobiographical writings attributed to Ehrman are pseudonymous?

Bruce Metzger, Ehrman’s mentor, published a memoir in 1997. Metzger was born in 1914.

In writing about his childhood and youth, he was writing about events many decades after the fact.

Does this mean that Reminiscences of an Octogenarian is not an eyewitness account of Metzger’s life? It is a pseudonymous work?

ii) In addition, as long as something is written by a contemporary, I don’t see that the interval between the time of the event and the time of writing makes much difference.

Barring senility—which is not an inevitable result of aging—long-term memory is pretty stable. We generally misremember, not because our long-term memory fails us, but because our short-term memory fails us.

We misremember because we misperceive the event at the time we saw it or heard about it, or because it didn’t transfer from the short-term memory to the long-term memory.

Or is Ehrman’s long-term memory so unreliable that his recollections of his evangelical youth cannot be trusted?

After all, he’s telling us things about himself that happened decades ago. Does that render his self-reportage untrustworthy?

iii) Ehrman complete disregards the bilingual character of 1C Palestinian Jewry.

iv) He also disregards the work of scholars on the Aramaic substratum of the synoptic Gospels, viz. Maurice Casey, Aramaic Sources of Mark’s Gospel (Cambridge 1998); An Aramaic Approach to Q: Sources for the Gospels of Matthew & Luke (Cambridge 2002).

v) How does he know that the titles were editorial additions? Are our earliest MSS of the four gospels anonymous? To my knowledge, there’s a uniform textual tradition in assigning authorship to the gospels. The only difference is between a shorter title and a longer title.

Cf. M. Hengel, The Four Gospels & the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Trinity 2000), 48-56.

vi) Even if the Fourth Gospel were formally anonymous, internal evidence points to John of Zebedee.

vii) Does Ehrman apply the same yardstick to Tacitus or Josephus? Does he regard those works as originally pseudonymous? Does he regard their traditional authorship as an editorial gloss?

“The accounts that they narrate are based on oral traditions that have been in circulation for decades.”

How does he know the gospels are based on oral tradition? Is he saying that 1C Palestinian Jews were illiterate? This disregards extensive evidence of literacy in the Roman Empire, viz. M. Beard, et al. Literacy in the Roman World (JRA Supplement 3, 1991); A. Bowman, & G. Wolf, eds. Literacy & Power (Cambridge 1994); H. Gamble, Books & Readers in the Early Church (Yale 1995); A. Millard, Reading & Writing in the Time of Jesus (NYU 2000).

Even assuming an oral stage preceding their commitment to writing, how would that prove the oral traditions to be unreliable? As a recent book points out: “Their recollections were not individual memories but collective ones—confirmed by other eyewitnesses and burned into their minds by the constant retelling of the story. Thus, both the repetition of the stories about Jesus and the verification of such by other eyewitnesses served as checks and balances on the apostles’ accuracy. Memory in community is a deathblow to the view that the disciples simply forgot the real Jesus,” J. Komoszewski et al., Reinventing Jesus (Kregel 2006), 33-34.
Continuing with Ehrman,

“Stories are in circulation year after year after year, and as a result of that, the stories get changed. How do we know that the stories got changed in the process of transmission? We know the stories got changed because there are numerous differences in our accounts that cannot be reconciled with one another.”

i) This is a very sloppy inference. How would synoptic variants prove oral tradition? They could just as easily be evidence of the fact that, in addition to Mark, Matthew and Luke had recourse to independent sources of information which they used to supplement Mark.

ii) Moreover, redaction criticism would attribute many or most synoptic variants to the editing of written sources, not oral traditions.

iii) To say the synoptic variants are mutually irreconcilable simply disregards, without benefit of argument, conservative scholarship to the contrary.

“Many stories were invented, and most of the stories were changed.”

Aside from the fact that he gives no evidence for this assertion, why would someone change an old story if he could always invent a new story?

Moving along:


Let me illustrate by giving you an alternative scenario of what happened to explain the empty tomb. I don’t believe this. I don’t think it happened this way, but it’s more probable than a miracle happening because a miracle by definition is the least probable occurrence. So let me give you a theory, just one I dreamt up. I could dream up twenty of these that are implausible but are still more plausible than the resurrection.

I think I’m most struck by Bill’s refusal to deal with the historical alternative that I’ve given to his claim that God raised Jesus from the dead.

If Bill wants to flash up his mathematical possibilities again, then I suggest that he plug in other historical options—for example, the one that I’ve already laid out that he’s ignored, that possibly two of Jesus’ family members stole the body and that they were killed and thrown into a common tomb. It probably didn’t happen, but it’s more plausible than the explanation that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Let me give you another explanation, just off the top of my head from last night, sitting around thinking about it…That’s an alternative explanation. It’s highly unlikely. I don’t buy it for a second, but it’s more likely than the idea that God raised Jesus from the dead because it doesn’t appeal to the supernatural, which historians have no access to.


He says he’s struck by Craig’s refusal to deal with the “historical” alternative he offered.

Only one problem: these are not historical alternatives. There is no historical evidence to underwrite these alternatives.

What is more, Ehrman prefaces his “historical” alternatives by assuring us that he doesn’t believe in them himself.

Why is the onus on Craig to disprove an alternative theory which even his opponent doesn’t take seriously?

Why is the onus on Craig to disprove an alternative theory which has no factual basis?

Ehrman prides himself on being a historian, but he’s an apostate first, and a historian second. Ehrman substitutes something he “just dreamt up” in lieu of a serious historical reconstruction.

Moving along:

“What are miracles? Miracles are not impossible. I won’t say they’re impossible. You might think they are impossible and, if you do think so, then you’re going to agree with my argument even more than I’m going to agree with my argument. I’m just going to say that miracles are so highly improbable that they’re the least possible occurrence in any given instance. They violate the way nature naturally works. They are so highly improbable, their probability is infinitesimally remote, that we call them miracles. No one on the face of this Earth can walk on lukewarm water. What are the chances that one of us could do it? Well, none of us can, so let’s say the chances are one in ten billion. Well, suppose somebody can. Well, given the chances are one in ten billion, but, in fact, none of us can. What about the resurrection of Jesus? I’m not saying it didn’t happen; but if it did happen, it would be a miracle. The resurrection claims are claims that not only that Jesus’ body came back alive; it came back alive never to die again. That’s a violation of what naturally happens, every day, time after time, millions of times a year. What are the chances of that happening? Well, it’d be a miracle. In other words, it’d be so highly improbable that we can’t account for it by natural means. A theologian may claim that it’s true, and to argue with the theologian we’d have to argue on theological grounds because there are no historical grounds to argue on. Historians can only establish what probably happened in the past, and by definition a miracle is the least probable occurrence. And so, by the very nature of the canons of historical research, we can’t claim historically that a miracle probably happened. By definition, it probably didn’t. And history can only establish what probably did. I wish we could establish miracles, but we can’t. It’s no one’s fault. It’s simply that the cannons of historical research do not allow for the possibility of establishing as probable the least probable of all occurrences. For that reason, Bill’s four pieces of evidence are completely irrelevant. There cannot be historical probability for an event that defies probability, even if the event did happen. The resurrection has to be taken on faith, not on the basis of proof.”

Several problems here:

i) His objection either proves too much or too little. For if the occurrence of a miracle can never be identified, then the nonoccurrence of a miracle can never be identified. In that event, the efforts of James Randi to expose fraudulent faith-healers is ill-conceived. If a miracle can’t be verified, neither can it be falsified. It’s beyond either proof or disproof.

ii) It’s very odd to see apostates raise natural law objections to the miraculous. I could understand an unbeliever raising this objection had he never been a nominal Christian. But why would an apostate raise this objection?

Did it never occur to him, back in the days when he was a nominal believer, that a miracle was a supernatural event? Did Ehrman wake up one morning with the horrible realization that if the resurrection did happen, it would be a miracle?

Were the “chances” any better back when he was a nominal believer?

And you’d have to be pretty obtuse to suppose that a miracle was a matter of playing the odds.

Did Ehrman used to think that the resurrection was just a rare, but naturally occurring event—like Halley’s comet?

iii) In what respect do historians deal in historical probabilities? What does that mean, exactly?

Does it mean that a historian tries to retrodict the past the way a gambler or weather forecaster or investment banker tries to predict the future?

Isn’t probability something we more naturally apply to the future rather than the past? A gambler will lay odds become he doesn’t know the future. He doesn’t know if a roll of the dice will comes out sixes or snake eyes. So the best he can do is to probabilify the outcome.

But, according to Ehrman, a historian bases his historical reconstructions on testimony, on reports—preferable contemporary reports.

That is not at all the same thing as predicting the outcome of a future contingency.

Unlike, say, a paleontologist, a historian isn’t trying to reconstruct the past from the present. This isn’t a case of backward extrapolation. Of inferring an unknown past from our knowledge of the present.

Rather, it’s a question of psychology, not natural law. Ehrman is confounding personal probability or personalism with physical or frequentist probability. This is a category mistake.

Was the reporter motivated to deceive or be self-deceived? That’s the question.

iv)In addition, our only possible evidence for the uniformity of nature must come from testimonial evidence. The eyewitness evidence of natural observers, past and present.

But that’s our same source of evidence as evidence that miracles happen, past and present.

“Moreover, Jesus’ body after the resurrection does things that bodies can’t do. It walks into rooms that are behind locked doors. It ascends to heaven.”

Other issues aside, this assumes that the glorified body of Christ could do things his mortal body could not.

But before his death and Resurrection, Christ was able, on several occasions, to mysteriously evade a lynch-mob.

And why assume that this paranormal has anything to do with the composition of the body? Why treat it as something his body does, rather than something he does with his body? A nature miracle.

“I have three concluding questions for Bill. If Bill is claiming to be a historian, then I think its important to evaluate his whole relationship to the historical documents that he’s appealing to. Does Bill think that the Gospels he relies upon for all his information have any mistakes in them at all? If so, could he tell us two or three of those mistakes? If not, how does he expect us to believe he’s holding to a historical evaluation of these sources? Based on his own previous assumptions, these texts have to be accurate.”

For purposes of debate, Craig prefers to bracket the matter of inspiration or inerrancy, and simply treat that gospels like any primary source of history. Like Tacitus or Josephus. The NT writers are a 1C witness to 1C events.

Why does Ehrman find that strategy objectionable? Does he believe that we cannot make use of Tacitus or Josephus to reconstruct the past unless they are inerrant?

“Second question: Bill believes that Jesus can historically be shown to have been involved with miracles, especially his resurrection, but also his miracles of his life, no doubt. I’d like him to discuss the evidence of other miracle workers from Jesus’ day outside the Christian tradition. Is he willing to admit on the same historical grounds that these other people also did miracles? I’m referring to the tradition of miracles done by Apollonius of Tyana, Hanina ben Dosa, Honi the Circle-Drawer, Vespasian. Is Bill willing to acknowledge that Apollonius appeared to his followers after his death or that Octavian ascended to heaven? Or he can pick any other miracle worker form the pagan tradition he chooses.”

Why does Ehrman suddenly abandon his own criteria? What happened to multiple-attestation? Contemporeity? And unbiased sourcing?

“Bill claims that no first century Jew would doubt that the body was missing from the grave if Jesus appeared. My only suggestion is that he read more first century Jewish sources, because it simply isn’t true. I’ll give you one. Read the second apocalypse of the Greek Coptic Apocalypse of Peter, a book that is thoroughly infused with Jewish views of the world, in which there is no doubt at all that the author understands that the body of Jesus was not located in just one place, but could be three places at once, and that the physical body wasn’t the only body Jesus had, that he also had a phantasmal body.”

He says that Craig should read more 1C Jewish sources. He then refers Craig to the Coptic Apocalypse of Peter, which, if I’ve identified it correctly, is a Gnostic gospel which dates to the turn of the 3C!

Here’s what one scholar has to say:


Andreas Werner writes (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2, p. 702):

The manuscript of Codex VII probably derives from the 4th century (middle or end?); at this period a translation must therefore already have been available. Since it has evidently been transcribed before, we may assume an earlier time of origin, which is further confirmed by the assumption of translation from the Greek. If the text itself, with its mention of the name 'Hermas' at p. 78.18, engages in polemic against the possibility of repentance advocated in the Shepherd of Hermas, this would yield a terminus post quem on grounds of content in the middle of the 2nd century. Apoc. Pet. presupposes and criticizes the structures of a Great Church in process of consolidation, and the appropriation of Peter as the inaugurator of Gnosis is probably also directed against this; these points together with the controversy with other gnostics suggest placing the document at the end of the 2nd century or the beginning of the 3rd.



Moving along:

“He claims that Honi the Circle-Drawer, Hanina be Dosa, and Apollonius of Tyana, by the way, are third century people; they are not third century people, they were people who lived in the days of Jesus.”

i) This is devious. The point at issue is not when they lived, but the date of our sources. Once again, Ehrman abandons his own criteria. Are these contemporary sources? No. Unbiased? No. What about multiple-attestation?

ii) Incidentally, Christianity is not committed to the proposition that Jesus was the only person to perform miracles. It would in no way disprove the canon gospels or the Messiahship of Christ if other 1C Jews could heal the sick in answer to prayer or cast out the devil.

“Nobody could go to the tomb to check; the body had decomposed.”

This is another slipshod inference. People place flowers on the grave of their departed loved ones. No doubt the body has decomposed. Does this mean they have no reason to assume that what’s inside the coffin are the mortal remains of their loved one?

“Well, how does one demonstrate that the holocaust happened? Well, one gets together materials of eyewitness reports and photographs and movies, and you get information that historians agree is valid information, and you try to make a case.”

And are holocaust survivors unbiased eyewitnesses? Did Elie Wiesel write about his experience in a concentration camp because he was a disinterested party to the proceedings?

“Suppose from the 1850s, we have an account of a pastor of a church in Kansas who walked across this pond during the fourth of July on a celebration, and there were twelve people who saw him do it.”

This is cute, but the analogy overlooks several disanalogies:

i) Whether or not we believe in a reported miracle depends, in part, on the quality of the witnesses. What do we know about them?

ii) It also depends, in part, on the quality of the miracle. It is a purposeful event? Or just a freak show?

iii) And it also depends, in part, on the quality of the mirabilist. Jesus is no ordinary individual.


  1. Thanks for commenting on this debate! You answered some questions I had of Ehrman's claims. Do you think you could address what he actually believes about what happened? I perosnally thought it was a cheap tactic to wait until Craig couldn't speak anymore for Ehrman to state his real views instead of views he didn't beleive in.

  2. Craig ducked the question of other miracles.

    The 'evidence' of other miracles seems just as strong as the evidence for the miracles of Jesus :-

    Josephus's 'Wars of the Jews' was written with ten years of the events , by a direct participant , and he records eyewitness testimony - 'I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it' . He is referring to a heifer giving birth to a lamb in the middle of the Temple.

    Does Craig believe a cow gave birth to a lamb, in a work written within ten years of the event?

    Surely this is just as well attested as the raising of the widow of Nain's son.

    In the 'Histories' by Tacitus, he records that the Emperor Vespasian cured blindness with spittle and cured lameness. Tacitus writes ' Persons actually present attest both facts, even now when nothing is to be gained by falsehood.'

    Does Craig believe Tacitus's reports, based on eyewitness testimony, and attributed by him to the god Serapis?

    Does Craig believe Tacitus is just as reliable an historian when talking about Jesus, as when he was talking about Vespasian?

    In Mark 8:23-26, Jesus cures blindness, partly by spitting on someone's eyes. Does Craig believe him?

    In the Histories, Tacitus also records that a priest of the god Serapis, Basilides, was seen by Vespasian in the Temple, although Vespasian knew , and checked by sending horsemen to verify, that a moment earlier Basilides had been in a town some eighty miles distant.

    Does Craig believe Tacitus, reporting the eyewitness testimony of the hard-headed Emperor/Soldier Vespasian?

    In Acts 8:39-40, Philip was 'caught up' (same verb as in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul is 'caught up' into the third heaven) on the road to Gaza and reappears at Azotus.

    Does Craig believe Philip, like the pagan priest Basilides, transported from place to place like a character from Star Trek?

    And, of course, the evidence for these pagan miracles is much stronger than the evidence for the miracles of Jesus, which can be refuted using exactly the same methods of dealing with the evidence that Chriatians use when talking about the Koran or the Book of Mormon.

    See m article 'Miracles and the Book of Mormon' http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/mirc1.htm where I use Christian techniques to analyse the New Testament miracles.

  3. A quick note for Steve Hays:

    I'm with you on Craig's minimalism, but I'm glad you are willing to credit some of that to Craig's constraints in a 90-minute debate. The problem is that Craig is a theological minimalist in practice, which shows through in his advocation of "middle knowledge".

    For Steve Carr:

    One of the things I am always struck by in those who cite Josephus is the clear problem that they have not read Josephus (both Christians and non-Christians), and that seems to be in evidence in your reference (I hesitate to call it a citation) here. It is true that Josephus does in fact report a heifer bearing a lamb as it (the heifer) was being taken to the temple -- but that event was not the apparent "fable". That event was an omen of evil which the "men of learning" understood, but the "vulgar" took for a sign of good fortune. The "fable" was the apparent vision of warriors in chariots among the clouds.

    Josephus phrases it thus:

    So these publicly declared that the signal foreshowed the desolation that was coming upon them. Besides these, a few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius, [Jyar,] a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities. Moreover, at that feast which we call Pentecost, as the priests were going by night into the inner [court of the temple,] as their custom was, to perform their sacred ministrations, they said that, in the first place, they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a great multitude, saying, "Let us remove hence."

    You can read it for yourself here rather than buy the fat hardcover:


    Now if Mr. Carr would like to reiterate his complaint based on the actual text, he might find a way to do so -- but my suggestion is that he first get familiar with Josephus in more than a "I read it at infidels.org" kind of way before he assuses anybody else of "ducking" anything.

  4. See my comments on the debate here.

  5. Just a few lines before the quoted lines, Josephus had writtem

    ' Thus also before the Jews' rebellion, and before those commotions which preceded the war, when the people were come in great crowds to the feast of unleavened bread, on the eighth day of the month Xanthicus, and at the ninth hour of the night, so great a light shone round the altar and the holy house, that it appeared to be bright day time; which lasted for half an hour.

    This light seemed to be a good sign to the unskillful, but was so interpreted by the sacred scribes, as to portend those events that followed immediately upon it.

    At the same festival also, a heifer, as she was led by the high priest to be sacrificed, brought forth a lamb in the midst of the temple.'

    I repeat my comment, which is still totally relevant.

    Does Craig believe a cow gave birth to a lamb, in a work written within ten years of the event?

    Moreover it is written by somebody Christians point to as a credible historian, one whose works are evidence for he existence of Jesus.

    And Josephus points out the vast crowds at the Festival.

    Feel free to avoid answering the question again.

  6. Mr. Carr --

    Pointing out that you clearly did not know what Josephus actually wrote is not avoiding the question. It is pointing out that you have no idea what question you ought to be asking.

    I can answer you honestly: I have no idea how Dr. Craig would answer your question. My opinion is that he would not abandon Jospehus as a reliable historian because he reported the miraculous.

  7. I'm sure Craig would consider Josephus to be a reliable historian, even though he writes of the miraculous.

    So what rules does Criag use (and other historians, of course) when they read of miracles in works of ancinet historians like Tacitus and Josephus?

    Is one of the rules 'Did the Christian God carry out the miracle?'

  8. Steven Carr,

    The issue of primary importance is how all of us should evaluate miracle claims, not how William Craig would do it. Instead of looking up and typing out passages in Craig's writings, I'll answer your question from my own perspective.

    We evaluate miracle claims similarly to how we evaluate other historical claims. We look at the potential motives of the sources involved, the atmosphere in which the reports are given, etc. There are many and significant differences between the reported miracles of Vespasian, for example, and those of Jesus. Your original post and the posts following it left out a lot of relevant details. I don't see much reason for accepting the miracle accounts associated with Vespasian, for reasons Steve Hays and I have explained elsewhere at this blog. The evidence we have for something like Jesus' resurrection is much better. Even if Vespasian did have some miracles associated with him (ones he performed or ones performed by another being on his behalf), such events wouldn't contradict Christianity. Christians don't deny that there can be supernatural occurrences in the lives of non-Christians.

    The Craig/Ehrman debate was about Jesus' resurrection. How does anything you've posted give us significant reason to conclude that the resurrection didn't occur?