Why Do Evangelical Apologists Fail to Mention That Top Evangelical Scholars Believe the Gospels Contain Fictional Material?

Sections of the library

My ongoing review of “Lord or Legend“ by evangelical apologists Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, part 10:

All other things being equal, the inclusion of non-ideologically motivated incidental [details] or casual information in a document tends to bolster an historian’s confidence in its general historical reliability.

…One particularly significant class of detail we find in the Gospels is the inclusion of personal names. …[Evangelical NT scholar] Richard Bauckham has provided a detailed assessment of this phenomenon and has made a rather compelling case that the presence of these names lends strong support to the historical veracity of these reports. …If Bauckham is on the right track, not only are we afforded a new appreciation of the way in which concrete details in the synoptic tradition constitute evidence of historical remembrance, but the details themselves may well identify eyewitness tradents [oral storytellers] who were known to testify to the circulating accounts attached to their names.

[More evidence of the historical reliability of the Gospels can be seen with the presence of] self-damaging details [which] suggest that the author was willing to damage his own cause for the sake of remaining faithful to history. …The fact that the Gospel traditions retain embarrassing material while failing to insert helpful material testifies to their significant historical and thus their general reliability.

—excerpts from chapter 8, pp. 101-110

Gary: Conjecture, conjecture, conjecture. If an author includes a lot of incidental details in a story, that proves the story is historically accurate? If the author uses a lot of personal names in the story, that proves the story is historically accurate? If the author includes embarrassing details about his principal character, that proves that all the other claims about the principal character are true?? These assertions are nothing more than conjecture based on generalizations.

How does Richard Bauckham know that the mention of personal names in the Gospels signals the identity of a tradent—the person responsible for maintaining the accuracy of that story until they were finally written down by the Evangelists? I’ve read his book (Jesus and the Eyewitnesses). He provides ZERO evidence for this claim. It is pure conjecture. But of course, every evangelical apologist on the planet has jumped on his baseless conjecture and promoted it as the Gospel truth.

But here is what evangelical apologists don’t discuss in their books: the fact that the two most beloved New Testament scholars in Evangelical Christianity, Richard Bauckham and Michael Licona, both believe that the Gospels include non-historical details. In other words: FICTION!

Bauckham, in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, gives compelling evidence for why he believes that the authors (yes, authors with an “s”. He does not believe that the Apostle Matthew wrote the Gospel According to Matthew) invented the story of the calling of Matthew. One of the most respected evangelical NT scholars on the planet believes that the story of the calling of Matthew is an invented, fictional tale!

And as we all know, evangelical darling Michael Licona lost his job for daring to express his opinion that “Matthew’s” tale of dead saints being shaken alive out of their tombs was most likely a theological allegory, not a real historical event. Let me translate: FICTION!

If these two stories are fiction, even in the eyes of evangelical Christianity’s top two New Testament scholars, then why should anyone have confidence that the other stories in the Gospels are historical? How do we know, for instance, that the Virgin Birth story is not a work of fiction? And much more consequential: how do we know that the detailed Appearance Stories of a resurrected corpse are not fictional?? If two of the stories in the Gospels are fictional even in the eyes of evangelical Bible scholars, then why couldn’t many more be fictional?

The Christian belief system is built upon massive quantities of assumptions and conjecture, with very little evidence.

Read part 11 here.

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End of post.

5 thoughts on “Why Do Evangelical Apologists Fail to Mention That Top Evangelical Scholars Believe the Gospels Contain Fictional Material?

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