Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 7, Part B: Discrepancies in the Resurrection Accounts

“It is often suggested by critics that the Gospel writers themselves cannot seem to agree on some details surrounding the resurrection of Jesus.  …they assert these contradictions render the whole resurrection story as dubious.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 122

Gary:  Some Christians assert that these many “contradictions” or discrepancies can be harmonized.  Some Christians agree that there are discrepancies but that these “minor” discrepancies were perfectly acceptable within the genre of literature in which the Gospel authors were writing—Greco-Roman biographies, and therefore do not indicate that the resurrection story itself is a fabrication.  My reply is this:  Even if 99% of the discrepancies can be harmonized, there are a few that I believe cannot be harmonized.   One such example is whether or not the risen Jesus commanded the disciples to meet him in Galilee or to remain in Jerusalem until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost).  It can’t be both.  My other point is this:  The many discrepancies are strong evidence to me that the current consensus opinion of New Testament scholarship is correct:  Eyewitnesses did not write the four Gospels or the Book of Acts.

“There are several problems with this [skeptic] conclusion:  First, discrepancies in the Gospels concerning Jesus’ resurrection, at most call into question the issue of the complete accuracy of the Gospels, but not their general trustworthiness when recording historical events.”   —Habermas and Licona, p. 122

Gary:  Really?  So the Bible may not be inerrant…there may be mistakes in the Bible…but we can trust the general historical accuracy of the Bible.  Based on what?  Have the authors proven the general historical accuracy of the Bible?  How about the historical accuracy of the Creation Story?  The Great Flood?  The Exodus from Egypt?  The great empire of Solomon??  NONE of these alleged biblical events have been proven to be historically accurate.

“Second, historians do not conclude that an event did not occur because the accounts contain discrepancies.  Ancient accounts vary on the details pertaining to the burning of Rome.  How big was the fire, etc.? ”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 122

Gary:  Very true.  It is very common for eyewitnesses to the same event, when interviewed separately shortly after the event, without having the opportunity to discuss the event among themselves, to give differing accounts of the event.  However, such is not the case involving the four Gospels!  The Gospels were not eyewitness statements written independently shortly after the event.  The consensus of New Testament scholars is that these accounts were written many decades after the alleged events by persons who were most likely not eyewitnesses to the events they describe.

And we know as a fact that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke borrowed heavily from the first Gospel, Mark.  In addition, the last Gospel, John, was written decades after the first Gospel, and possibly a decade or more after the second and the third.  It is therefore very possible that the author of John was aware of the Resurrection stories found in the first three Gospels and incorporated details or general concepts from these Gospels into his Resurrection Story.  So we do not have four independent eyewitnesses reporting the same event from different viewpoints as we would see in a car accident or a fire.

“Third, the discrepancies in the Gospels may indicate that they were independent accounts, since copiers would have been more unified on the facts.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 123

Gary:  Good grief.  The evidence is overwhelming that Matthew and Luke borrowed heavily from Mark.

“Fourth, while a discussion of alleged discrepancies is not part of our task here, coherent and plausible explanations exist that account for many if not all of the discrepancies.”   —Habermas and Licona, p. 123

Gary:  How convenient that you are unable (unwilling?) to defend these logic-twisting Christian harmonizations.



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