Auckland Event: The Authenticity of the Gospels with Dirk Jongkind

Next month, Laidlaw College will be hosting Biblical Scholar, Dr Dirk Jongkind (Research Fellow in New Testament Text and Language at Tyndale House, Cambridge) for two lectures on the accuracy of the New Testament manuscripts and the make-up of the New Testament canon. Dr Jongkind is an international expert on New Testament manuscripts and both events should be well worth your time.

‘Original’ Text of the New Testament: A Comedy of Errors?
Tuesday 20 March | 7.30 – 9.00 pm | Followed by a light supper

Before the time of printed books, the New Testament was copied by hand. Errors are easily made and may even undermine the reliability of a text. What sort of things did go wrong in the copying of the Bible? How much deliberate editing was going on? And are the conspiracy theories right this time? We will think about the earliest evidence, look at some of the arguments made by every side, and get an overview of what sort of discussions are currently going on regarding the Greek text of the New Testament. No need to know any Greek.

The Gospels: Which Ones?
Thursday 22 March | 7:30 – 9.00 pm | Followed by a light supper

We have not only the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we have also some other gospels, which are not part of the Christian New Testament. Among these are the Gospel of Thomas, of Mary, and even the Gospel of Judas. The last one was only re-discovered a few years back. What is there in these gospels, and why do they not form a part of the books the church uses?

Attendance is free but for catering purposes, please RSVP to Anne Segedin ( by Monday 19 March 2012.

For more info about about Dirk Jongkind, go here.

HT: Stuart


Part 3: In Defense of the Historicity of the Resurrection

This is the first reply in a formal written debate between Stuart McEwing and Malcolm Trevena. The question of the debate is “Is the resurrection of Jesus fact or fiction?”


I would first like to thank Malcolm Trevena for his opening statement responding to my defense of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. I am grateful for the importance he places on the truth of the matter and that he chose to attack my arguments without attacking me. I hope to replicate this gentlemanly manner.


To begin I would like to look back and recall my opening statement.

In support of my first contention that there are at least four facts which any adequate historical hypothesis must explain, I offered four facts, namely, the burial of Jesus after his crucifixion, the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances, and that the disciples radically came to believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, and also outlined the reasons why each of those facts are commended to us by the majority of experts in the relevant fields.

In support of my second contention, the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead  is the best explanation of the aforementioned facts, I assessed that hypothesis using the conventional criteria historians use for determining the best explanation.

I concluded that Trevena, in order to establish that the resurrection of Jesus did not occur, in the absence of some overwhelming proof of atheism, must propose an alternative naturalistic explanation of those facts which exceeds the resurrection hypothesis in fulfilling those criteria.

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A Brief Guide to Critical Thinking

Bridge 8 and animator James Hutson have created six two-minute animations on various aspects of critical thinking. The videos are designed for kids ages 8 to 10 but are also useful for grown-ups who might want an introduction to the basics of logic and the scientific method, as well as to psychological missteps like confirmation bias and the Gambler’s Fallacy.

Part 2: A Case for the Non-Historicity of the Resurrection

This is the second opening statement in a formal written debate between Stuart McEwing and Malcolm Trevena. The question of the debate is “Is the resurrection of Jesus fact or fiction?” Trevena makes his case for the resurrection being fictitious.

Thanks to Stuart McEwing for the chance to respond to the premise on the truth or lack thereof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Why would I state that I don’t think Jesus was resurrected?  Is this a question that should even be debated in the first place?  Am I the Devil himself for even entertaining the thought?

There is a truth out there in the universe.  Either Jesus was or was not resurrected.  Mr. McEwing is either 100% correct or 100% wrong.  There is no middle ground here.

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Why don’t skeptics apply their standards of evidence to themselves?

We had a spirited debate on miracles in a previous thread. And during that debate, I noted how even in cases where all the evidence is against naturalistic explanations, skeptics simply cannot entertain a supernatural explanation instead. They just have to hold that there is a naturalistic one, despite the evidence.

The very definition of blind faith.

In reply, “Tom Joad” said:

To that, I would just say that you would expect there to be a natural explanation for unexpected events, or ‘miracles.’ In the absence of an obvious explanation, it would be a fantastically interesting process to find out what the actual cause was.

Since the comments in the previous thread have now closed automatically, let me pick up the conversation here.

Why is Tom applying such a different standard to himself as he’d apply to religious people? And why does this seem to happen so frequently with skeptics?

For example, skeptics often take issue with phenomena like “speaking in tongues” and “faith healings” and the like—which you’ll find in many happy-clappy churches, particularly in America.

They point out that these phenomena can be reproduced in non-religious settings, as well as in competing religious settings (Hinduism for example). Moreover, they can be thoroughly explained by neurology, and therefore a supernatural explanation is at best superfluous.

So they criticize Christians who believe that these events are “works of the Spirit” on two grounds: firstly, all the evidence points to a naturalistic explanation; secondly, the Christian’s supernaturalistic explanation is too exclusive to account for all the instances of this phenomenon.

Thus skeptics hold that it is irrational to favor a supernatural explanation over a natural one here.

But now compare this to Tom’s comments about miracles, and notice the double standard.

When it comes to a situation where the roles are reversed and all the evidence points to a supernatural explanation, while a naturalistic one is untenable, he seems to think that it is not only rational, but entirely reasonable to believe there still is a naturalistic explanation.

And he goes on to make some comments about the supposedly unreasonable nature of faith, inasmuch as if some particular miracle is discredited, “for 99% of Christians, this disproof of a supposed miracle would do nothing to dissuade their faith.” The implication, of course, being that a discredited miracle ought to give Christians occasion to reevaluate their faith.

But why? Notice again the double standard. Imagine if some element of evolution were discredited—indeed, this happens all the time as part of the scientific process. Does Tom think these occasions should cause him to reevaluate his belief in evolution? Are they likely to dissuade him from from that belief?

Of course not.

So why expect that of Christians? Since the faith of 99% of Christians doesn’t rest on some random miracle, but on a wide variety of evidences, it would be quite unreasonable to think that discrediting a random miracle would have any effect whatsoever on their faith.

Why do skeptics have such a hard time applying the same standards of evidence to themselves as they think are reasonable for Christians? I don’t know. Perhaps some skeptics could enlighten me in the comments.