Michael Licona Responds to My Survey on the Authorship of the Gospels

Michael Licona | Houston Baptist University

More than a year ago I sent out a survey to approximately 30 conservative Christian New Testament scholars and apologists regarding their view of the current scholarly consensus on the authorship of the Gospels. I only received six responses. I’ve waited over a year to collect as many responses as possible, but I doubt any more will come in. Since a total of six responses is insufficient to claim that the results reflect any position or pattern within conservative Christian New Testament scholarship, I have decided to simply post each respondent’s response, and let my readers make their own assumptions.

The survey contained three questions:

  1. Do you agree with the following statement by conservative scholar Richard Bauckham that the current consensus of NT scholarship is that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses?

“The argument of this book [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses]–that the texts of our Gospels are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus–runs counter to almost all recent scholarship.  As we have indicated from time to time, the prevalent view is that a long period of oral transmission in the churches intervened between whatever the eyewitnesses said and the Jesus traditions as they reached the Evangelists [the authors of the Gospels].  No doubt the eyewitnesses started the process of oral tradition, but it passed through many retellings, reformulations, and expansions before the Evangelists themselves did their own editorial work on it.”  p. 240   

Circle one answer: Yes or No

2. If you agree with Bauckham’s statement that “almost all recent scholarship” believes that the texts of our Gospels are NOT close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus, do you believe that this scholarly consensus is due to an objective evaluation of the evidence or due to a bias against the supernatural as some conservative Christian online apologists allege?

Circle one answer: Evidence or Bias

3. If you believe that the scholarly consensus on the authorship of the Gospels is due to a bias against the supernatural, how would you explain the fact that most Roman Catholic scholars, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and many moderate Protestant scholars such as NT Wright, who very much believe in the supernatural and the bodily resurrection of Jesus, also reject or at least question the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels?

Please write your answer in the space below:

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Response by Michael Licona, evangelical NT scholar and apologist:

Question 1: No

Question 2: N/A

Question 3: N/A

Gary: Subsequent to receiving this response from Dr. Licona, I engaged in a discussion (to put it mildly) with him on Bart Ehrman’s blog where Dr. Licona posted as guest lecturer. In that discussion, Licona claimed that a seminary student he mentors is currently doing a study on this very issue and that the seminary student’s preliminary results are that most scholars do NOT reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels! I challenged/chastised Licona for doing a “Dan Wallace” (announcing a major event within NT scholarship without releasing the data to support it). He backed down somewhat but stood by his claim that most NT scholars believe that eyewitnesses (or their close associates) wrote the Gospels.

Show us the data, Dr. Licona.

.

.

.

.

.

End of post.

2 thoughts on “Michael Licona Responds to My Survey on the Authorship of the Gospels

  1. I’ve heard licona say he thinks the oral traditions were carefully and rigorously passed on – that is to say the stories were memorized with an eye to accuracy (he didn’t provide any evidence of this of course). I can’t remember if he was speaking hypothetically regarding non eyewitness gospels or not – saying even if they were not eyewitness accounts they could still be trusted to have been accurately passed on from the eyewitnesses – I’ll see if I can track the quote down.

    Like

    1. Even NT Wright believes that the Gospels contain reliable eyewitness accounts, but he never claims that most scholars believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses, which is what Licona is claiming.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s