I tried to post this on your blog, but apparently I need a password:
Gary, I received your email and your letter. I apologize for the late response. I’ve been out of the country.
Blogs are interesting things. Anyone can write them, and issues take on a life of their own there. So I don’t really engage (or even read) them. I’m making this one exception.
In your letter you told me to do a simple google search to verify your claim about NT scholars not believing the four (canonical) gospels were written by eyewitness or based on eyewitness testimony.
Really? I could do a simple google search and back up any claim. I’m pretty sure I could find a consensus of “scholars” supporting the proposition that Bigfoot exists (and maybe there are such creatures).
If you want a list of a few NT scholars who believe the gospels are at least based on eyewitness testimony, written by eyewitnesses, or written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (as those who lived in the late first and early second century believed as opposed to people living 2000 years later) here you go: Richard Bauckham, Martin Hengel, James Dunn, Samuel Byrskog, Craig Keener, Craig Blomberg, Michael Grant, Birger Gerhardsson, Craig Evans, Ben Witherington, Peter Williams, Vincent Taylor, DA Carson.
I’ll let you do the reading.
While you’re at it, you refer to me a seminary-trained theologian and (in your letter) a reverend. I’m neither; I’m a simple laymen. I do have an Oxford DPhil though. That does not mean my doctorate is in philosophy. True, it is a doctorate of philosophy, but that’s a different thing than a doctorate in philosophy. I don’t want to be nasty, but when you accuse me of being ignorant of the facts and then point me to google to clear up my ignorance it’s rather odd since you are ignorant of even more basic, easily investigable (using google) facts.
Btw, it looks like we live close to each other. I’m just across the north San Diego county line. Perhaps we could meet up for a beer.
This is for Abdul: please email me. I’d like to talk (if only by email). And thanks for defending me from the ad hominem attack of being similar to a fundamentalist. Gary: Your response to Abdul in a different post about the source material for Islam being better than it is for Christianity is absolutely hilarious. The earliest stuff we have for the life of Muhammad, for example, dates to 200 years after his death, and it is filled with miraculous accounts that happened beyond the view of any other humans (e.g. Muhammad split the moon in half, rode a pegasus from Mecca to Jerusalem, et cetera).
Adam S. Francisco, DPhil
Professor of History
Gary’s Reply to Dr. Francisco:
Hi Dr. Francisco,
Thank you very much for contacting me.
First of all, I apologize for not properly identifying your degree. I will correct this on my blog.
I do not doubt that there are many conservative NT scholars who believe that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels. But that was not the claim made in your book. The claim made in your book was that it is the consensus of NT scholarship that eyewitnesses wrote the four Gospels, and even more, that it is the consensus of NT scholarship that the traditional authors wrote the four Gospels.
That is the issue. The only evidence given in the book for the current NT scholarly consensus on this issue was a quote from John Warwick Montgomery from 1964! That is not current, Dr. Francisco. Even if all conservative NT scholars still hold this position, does any current, respected conservative NT scholar claim that the consensus of ALL NT scholars (liberal, moderate, and conservative) is that the traditional authors wrote the Gospels or even that any eyewitness wrote the Gospels? If so, could you give me a link to such a statement? I would be shocked if you can. I can provide several sources which state that this is NOT the current scholarly consensus, including a statement by NT Wright!
The reason I read your book is that my former pastor, John Bombaro, told me that the reason I deconverted from Christianity is because I hadn’t read enough NT scholarship. He gave me a list of books to read. Your book was the first on the list. I was very surprised by the fact that the book assumes that Yahweh is the Creator of the universe without providing any supporting evidence. To write a book entitled “Making the Case for Christianity” without providing evidence that Yahweh is the Creator, and not Allah, or some other deity, seems very odd to me. Evidence for a generic Creator does not automatically translate to evidence for Yahweh.
The entire remainder of the book is based on the (unproven) assumption that Yahweh is the Creator, and, the very disputable claim that the overwhelming consensus of NT scholars is that Matthew, John Mark, Luke the physician, and John son of Zebedee wrote the four Gospels. The LCMS attorney author in your book builds an entire legal case for the Resurrection based on the “evidence” that the consensus of scholars hold to the Gospels being written by eyewitnesses. If I were the opposing attorney, I would call NT Wright to the stand and ask him to confirm his on record statement that, “I don’t know who the writers of the Gospels were, and, nor does anyone else.”This assumption regarding the scholarly consensus on this issue is at least contested, if not false. Your authors did not say this.
If LCMS pastors and LCMS theologians are giving us laypersons outdated scholarship can’t you see why that might create distrust and doubt about the entire Christian Faith?
I would very much enjoy meeting with you to discuss these issues. You are welcome to invite Dr. Bombaro to join us if he is interested. I seek the truth, whatever it is, but right now the truth to me appears to be that Christianity is based on ancient superstitions, not historical facts.
Gary Matson, Jr.
Update 11/25/2016: Response from Dr. Adam Francisco: