Recently, Bart Ehrman and Tim McGrew debated over two hours on the Unbelievable Radio Program in London, moderated by Justin Brierley. (I've been asked to appear there for a third time, next month, by the way.) This is the second hour. Here are some observations:
* As usual, Justin does a wonderful job of summarizing, keeping focus, and keeping the conversation moving along.
* I do think Tim won the debate.
Tim seems to be operating under the erroneous impression that Bart Erhman is
referring to the canonical Acts of the Apostles when he says the early
Christian message was not preached on street corners. Tim appears to
have overlooked Thomas Jefferson's fine editing of Acts, which can fit
conveniently behind one's ear, with room left over for a pencil and and
big fat eraser. (I hope you all caught the sarcasm there.)
I like the vaudeville-like progression in Bart's argumentation at
times. "Who says biblical scholars have a screw loose?" "These
classicists, here. Quote quote quote." "Oh, you can always find someone
to say anything. Take mythicists, for example." "Uh . . . "
Ehrman is appeals in this debate, and also in a recent blog post, to forms of the Outsider Test for Faith. I
believe I destroyed the basis for such appeals, in my last book. Sometimes scholarship just takes time to catch up. :- )
In any case, what would be wrong with simply asking, "So if the
evidence, on your account, is so good for the good Medieval rabbi whom you say is also recorded as doing many miracles, why don't you
believe those accounts?" And take it from there. These claims about some other guy really have nothing at all to do with the gospels. Maybe they occurred, maybe they didn't: either way, they in no way affect our reasons for believing Jesus worked miracles.
* Bart anachronistically brings in "gospels" of Peter and, as I recall, Philip.
I think a transcript would show Bart's circumlocutions and red herrings
more clearly, since his soft, reasonable voice seems to cover a
multiple of intellectual sins. Also Tim's dialectical precision,
which may be harder to follow orally than it would be on a screen.
* Bart appeals to Dickens as a partial parallel to the gospels. As a Dickens fan, I find that absurd.
I'm getting a better feel for the undesigned coincidences argument, and
think I will include some reference in my next book. (Apparently Tim's wife Lydia is now writing a book on the subject, also.) More detailed
study of fictional parallels would be useful -- could such coincidences
be found, if you looked for them in fiction? I suspect Tim is right
that it would not be so easy, but I would also like to see the attempt
made before dismissing it.
any case, it will, I think, nicely complement a fuller "fingerprints"
argument for the gospels (under R & D), which I think demonstrates
the folly of most the parallels Ehrman and others cite thoroughly. I
think we've just touched the edge of the historical evidences for the
gospels, so far.