Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ehrman vs. Evans in Kansas City, MO

In this debate (video, audio) Bart Ehrman and Craig Evans debated the question "Does the New Testament Misquote Jesus" using a somewhat unusual format by which the interlocutors on both sides are asked to reply to a series of seven distinct and focused questions:

Q1. Are the gospels reliable?
Q2. Do the gospels accurately preserve the teaching of Jesus?
Q3. Do the gospels accurately preserve the activities of Jesus?
Q4. Do the gospels contain eyewitness tradition?
Q5. Do arch├Žologists and historians use the gospels as sources?
Q6. Have the gospels been accurately preserved down through the centuries?
Q7. Do manuscript variants of the gospels effect significant Christian doctrines?

Ehrman repeatedly encourages the audience to go back and reread the gospels, carefully and in parallel, comparing the passages describing a particular story (e.g. the empty tomb narrative) across all of the available sources. He also poses a number of interesting questions for personal study, such as: If Jesus went around openly claiming to be God incarnate (as in the gospel of John) then why did the authors of the synoptics miss this important theological detail, and why was he never stoned for blasphemy? Ehrman points our various other significant discrepancies in the gospel narratives, e.g. Jesus was silent throughout the passion narrative in gMark (up until the outburst on the cross) but he behaved very differently throughout the same events as depicted in gLuke and gJohn.

Evans, for his part, essentially maintains that the gospels are essentially accurate histories, citing various Christian biblical scholars for support. He also makes a couple interesting arguments from the internal evidence of the gospels relative to the live issues in the church around the close of the first century.

I would have preferred a bit more direct cross-examination between the speakers, but the question by question format has its virtues, for example, it was refeshing that the speakers stayed closely on topic. This was overall a scholarly and polite debate, and both men fairly effectively made the strongest points available to their side. I heartily commend this one for your viewing/listening pleasure.

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