Below is my ongoing email correspondence with Dr. Adam Francisco, author of “Making the Case for Christianity”. He states that he had trouble commenting on this blog, so he has chosen to respond to my review of his book by email. Below is his latest email (in which he responds to some of my previous statements) and my response:
(Gary): I am disappointed, Adam, in your unwillingness to admit that you and your colleagues did not fully disclose your own biases in your book. You should have at least stated that in your opinion, the majority of “qualified” New Testament scholars agree that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, and then clarified your definition of “qualified”. You left the impression with your lay readership (this book is not written for scholars but for the lay person) that it is a near unanimous consensus of (all) NT scholarship that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels.
Again, I think you’re reading into the text. Also, I don’t have the book in front of me but I seem to recall that Pierson’s chapter is pretty clear that Ehrman’s higher criticism masquerading as text criticism has been quite influential and my chapter has a bit on the tremendous influence of higher criticism on studies of the historical Jesus. Isn’t that admitting there is scholarship which advocates very different views of the NT text and historical Jesus? Doesn’t the whole book advertise the fact that there are other views out there?
(Gary): Imagine your reaction if a liberal scholar wrote the following in his book: “It is the near unanimous consensus of NT scholarship that the Empty Tomb is a myth.” This is a blatantly false statement. I would be just as critical of this liberal scholar. The only way a liberal scholar could make such a statement would be to dismiss as irrelevant the position of all conservative NT scholars and only consider the views of scholars who agree with him on this issue. It is a biased and deceptive statement.
Welcome to the world of scholarship Gary. Much of what I read on the resurrection assumes the empty tomb or bodily resurrection of Jesus is a myth. And much of it equally assumes that there is scholarly consensus on this issue.
(Gary): The laity and general public deserve clear, honest teaching from theologians and scholars. Publishing scholarship that is vague, or as some would say, deceptive, is only going to cause doubt in the teachings of Christianity and distrust of the clergy among the laity, and send a good number of us headed for the exits of the Church. One only has to look at the plunging membership and baptism statistics of almost every Christian denomination in the United States to see that this phenomenon is taking place as we speak.
If it was somehow proven, factually, that Jesus didn’t rise from he dead I would be out the exit too. I happen to believe there is good factual evidence to believe he did rise. (That I trust he did this for me and you is an entirely different matter.)
Here are some of the quotes from your book that I contest for their veracity: Dr. Pierson made these quotes in his chapter:
“Since Paul died in c. 65 AD, Acts would be dated before then.” —Mark Pierson, page 58
The Book of Acts written prior to 65 AD?? Where did he get that? How many conservative NT scholars believe this? Not many, I suspect. That is fringe scholarship.
“The earliest reference to Gospel authorship comes from Papias, a bishop following good historical methods. Around AD 80, while eyewitnesses of Jesus were still alive and teaching, Papias, after making careful inquiries and relying on oral testimony, noted that Peter’s oral teaching was recorded by Mark, and that Matthew himself also composed a work about Jesus. This is not mere rumor, nor is it likely that Papias gullibly accepted a tradition that “had been made up” as (Bart) Erhman suggests. Rather it comes from an early date and from someone who deliberately collected data from any who qualified as a ‘living and surviving voice.’ This means that the first and second Gospels can be tied to two of Jesus’ closest disciples.” Page 55
My goodness, Adam! Historians say that Papias was born in circa 70 AD. Dr. Pierson wants us to believe that at the tender age of TEN, Papias was “making careful inquiries and relying on oral testimony”! This is just preposterous. The true date of Papias’ writings was circa 120-130 AD, not 80 AD, according to most historians. So how many eyewitnesses to the death and alleged resurrection of Jesus would still be alive in 120-130 AD? Answer: Not many, if any. In addition, Papais never claims to have met even ONE eyewitness.
Dr. Pierson then makes the argument that eyewitnesses (to the alleged Resurrection of Jesus) were alive at the time the Gospels were written. How does he know this? Does he provide any evidence for this claim? No. Give us a list of names, Dr. Pierson! We have pretty good evidence that both Paul and Peter were dead by the late 60’s. If the first Gospel, Mark, was written in circa 65-75 AD, as the majority of scholars believe, what evidence do you have that ANY person who had witnessed the crucifixion and the alleged post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in circa 30 AD was still alive in 65-75 AD? And even if some of these eyewitnesses were still alive, how do we know that these eyewitnesses who lived in Palestine had access to Gospels which most scholars believe were written in Rome, Antioch, or other distant locations? How long did it take these gospels to reach Palestine? Isn’t it entirely possible that copies of the first gospel Mark did not reach Palestine until the end of the first century, seventy years after Jesus’ death? How many ninety and one hundred year old eyewitnesses were alive at that time? Answer: We don’t know!
Mr Parton made this comment in the opening pages of chapter 3, on page 78:
“The assertion of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is, of course, presented in the New Testament materials. Elsewhere in this volume the case for the total reliability of those primary source documents has been made and so need not be repeated here. Trial lawyers also have made the case for the reliability of the canonical Gospels as primary source documents,26 and the solidity of those materials (i.e., what we have is what the writers wrote and that they had every means, motive, and opportunity to get the facts right) is simply beyond serious dispute. As Montgomery, himself a lawyer, notes: “To express skepticism concerning the resultant text of the New Testament books…is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as is the New Testament.”27″ ” (bolding, Gary’s)
“simply beyond dispute”
This is a blatantly false statement, Adam.
Dr. Bombaro, in his chapter, goes on to repeat this claim, again using John Warwick Montgomery’s above quote from 1964.
At best, your book represents a minority view of NT scholarship, at worst it is biased, deceptive, outdated scholarship. But you and your colleagues presented your claims as if it is accepted fact “beyond dispute”. It is not, Adam. Your very conservative claims are very much disputed in modern New Testament scholarship. Your readers deserve honest, clear, accurate scholarship.