Lydia rightly smells a rat, but is patronizingly dismissed by Dr Mike Licona

Did Jesus go around Galilee and Judaea saying things like “before Abraham was born, I AM?” Did he say “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”? And what about all the other exulted I AM claims made by Jesus yet found only in the last gospel to be written, the gospel of John.

Evangelical apologist and New Testament scholar Mike Licona has just published an article on his blog addressing this question and patronisingly dismissing recent objections to his views:

ARE WE READING AN ADAPTED FORM OF JESUS’ TEACHINGS IN JOHN’S GOSPEL?
By Mike Licona Posted September 29, 2017 In Blog 2

At one point in the essay Licona gives us his view of John vis-à-vis the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke):

John is often communicating Jesus’ teachings in a manner closer to a modern paraphrase than a literal translation. Stated differently, John will often recast Jesus saying something explicitly the Synoptics have Him saying implicitly. For example, one does not observe Jesus making his “I am” statements in the Synoptics that are so prominent in John, such as “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). That’s a pretty clear claim to deity. Mark presents Jesus as deity through His deeds and even some of the things He says about Himself. But nothing is nearly as overt as we find in John. Granted, the Synoptics do not preserve everything Jesus said. However, if Jesus is cryptic in public even pertaining to His claim to be Messiah as He is in Mark–hence the “Messianic Secret,” we would not expect for Jesus to be claiming to be God publicly and in such a clear manner as we find John reporting. Those are just some of the reasons why scholars see John adapting Jesus’ teachings. Jesus’ precise words (ipsissima verba) may not be preserved in John but His voice (ipsissima vox) certainly is.

So to summarize one vital point: according to Licona Jesus did not actually say the famous ‘I am’ statements attributed to him by John. But it doesn’t really matter as he supposedly claimed to be God in the synoptics anyway.

So John, we can fairly conclude, is giving us a false unhistorical picture of Jesus in at least two important respects:

i) the historical Jesus that we see in Mark was very guarded in public even about claims to be the Messiah (a human figure in the Jewish Bible). By contrast John invents an historical narrative where Jesus went around Galilee and Judaea publicly telling the world who he was from the rooftops.

ii) the historical Jesus of the synoptics never uttered the I am statements found in John. John made these words up that Jesus never actually spoke.

Licona states ‘this is the position of the majority of New Testament scholars, and that probably includes the majority of evangelical New Testament scholars as well.’

Lydia, indignantly replies:

This is, pace Licona, still a very low view of John’s accuracy, even after the backtrack. And if John made up the “I am” statements, the doubts of his accuracy are cast far wider than even those statements. As far as what we have to “be comfortable with,” foot-stomping and saying, “We have to be comfortable with that” is pointless. It does not take the place of a good argument for what God, and John, actually did. What it comes to is, “If God gave us factually crappy gospels, we have to live with that, and I’m going to deem anybody impious who is bothered by the possibility.” This is faux piety.

I had the exact same feelings when as a Christian I first became aware of New Testament scholar’s views of John’s gospel, views shared by virtually all serious historians outside of fundamentalist seminaries in the US. Lydia correctly smells a rat here. Licona wants to have his cake and eat it: to continue to believe the gospels are the reliable Word of God yet simultaneously be a good NT scholar and admit that Jesus did not actually say things that have always been central to evangelical preaching and apologetics. In other words John is not historically reliable at these points. Yet Licona wants to have it both ways.

There is one important question that Licona does not address (dare not?) but is surely pressing:

If John can ‘adapt’ the sayings of Jesus in the manner described then is it not also probable that the synoptic gospels also adapted their stories too? Maybe they put words into the mouth of Jesus that historically he didn’t actually say?

The implications here are enormous.

In fact such a conclusion is supported by Professor Christopher Tuckett of the University of Oxford:

 

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Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship, Christianity, Jesus, Literature

33 replies

  1. “before Abraham was born, I AM?” Did he say “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”?

    compare to this

    1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must be careful to do everything they tell you.

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  2. I just read Licona’s blog. I have not read McGrew’s initial criticism but Mike Licona was playing the card of authority and expertise.

    Which I found a bit rich considering he was talking about Islam and Science whilst using a Hadith to attack Islam. A Hadith which was considered to be faulty by EXPERTS. Licona may want to take his own advice and stop thinking he can transfer expertise from his field over to Islamic studies – especiqally considering the suspicion he just got that from unqualified missionary polemicists.

    But Licona imo just comes across as a guy who wants to hold on to the Bible because he’s convinced himself of the minimal facts arguments. Everything he does revolves around that. I really don;t see anything special in those arguments, something geared for the already convinced or those who want to be convinced.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brother is the debate between you and that arrogant Christian potato scam shamoun still a thing?

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    • Sister, I hope sewage accepts my acceptance to debate your vile wicked immoral profit’s view of the OT wars since I promise you that I will expose both this sewage and his profit as the biggest scams Satan has ever foisted on the world. Now be my guest in joining him on zoom so I can also expose you as cowardly jihadi who can only talk tough on the comments section of your fellow black stone worshippers.

      Like

    • Hey fatty wazza?
      You have been asked to debate. So when is it gonna happen. It’s been some time now since I listened to some Shakespearean BS.

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    • O and fatty when you say vile and wicked, do you mean the christian Jesus who send two bears to shred 42 boys to pieces?

      Liked by 2 people

  3. You cannot single out the “i am” statements of Jesus from these professional academics. Read their books they say the whole story of Jesus is made up. This includes his virgin birth, healing the sick, raising the dead, etc. Ehrman believes that Jesus was made the Messiah by later Christians. The Qur’an has these aspects of Jesus’ life in it.

    Paul, why do you accept these professional academics when it comes to the “I am” statements but not when it comes to the virgin birth?

    The whole approach of these academics is that the gospels can be confidently deconstructed. This is sheer conjecture.

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    • “This is sheer conjecture”
      Can you trace one word about Jesus in the NT back to Jesus himself?
      No.
      Your book is not historical AT all Samuel. You just believe by faith.

      Liked by 1 person

    • This is a good question.

      The Muslim response is simple: we use the Qur’an as a guide; if the Qur’an affirms something happened, we accept it; if it affirms something didn’t happen, we accept it; if it silent about a topic, this provides an opening to reason, deduce, and look at secular evidences.

      The virgin birth is affirmed in the Qur’an so we agree with the Christians that a purely secular reading in this case is conjecture and wrong. However, if the “I am” statements are used to justify the divinity of Christ, we know the Qur’an affirms ‘there is no deity but ALLAH’ (Qur’an 47:19) so this is wrong, and we use the conjecture of historians to demonstrate in secular terms howso.

      We agree with you that there is conjecture at play, given the tenuous nature of the Biblical historiography. Therein is your problem.

      The issue here is to do with this fundamental question: *Is the Qur’an a genuine revelation from ALLAH (God)?* This is the crux of the debate it seems to me. See https://modwestmuse.wordpress.com/2017/08/26/the-challenge-of-the-quran/

      Muslims agree that the Biblical tradition in origin was revelatory, but that via the works of Man over time (whether with good or bad intentions, whether consciously or not) the pristine message it once contained is to all intents and purposes, mixed-up, corrupted, confused, lost – except for what is still intact in the Last revelation (Al-Qur’an) that can be used as al-furqan (The Criterion) to ascertain the truths within the older dispensations.

      “Surely We have sent down to you [O Muhammad] The Book in truth that you may judge between mankind with that which Allah has shown you.” (Qur’an, 4:105)

      Liked by 3 people

    • Actually ehrman makes the case AGAINST islam because he proved in his book how Jesus became God that the belief if him being God came from the beginning and all New testament writers believed he was God.

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    • NT you have obviously not read Ehrman’s book where he makes clear that the historical Jesus did not believe he was God, thus refuting Christianity.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Actually Paul ur the ONE that CLEARLY hasn’t read it because on his on website where u can go and ask him yourself he answered a Muslim ignorant like u and told him word for word :
      1) the curcifixtion of Jesus is a historical FACT
      2) that all the writers of the NT believed in his divinity. And he claimed it as well.

      You can continue spewing your lies and propaganda but be careful because ehrman is powerful and he hates being misrepresented.

      You don’t even know the Bible not Christianity as was evident by your failing debates so how would you know anything about islam. Come to my country in the middle East and see the Muslims leaving islam in droves thanks to the internet and the truth thats now easy to expose.

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    • Bart Ehrman defends Apostle Paul as an early reliable source of information for the life of Jesus. Ehrman contends that, based on the evidence, the Apostle Paul knew the original disciples of Jesus and became one of them.

      In a radio interview the Infidel Guy challenged the notion that Jesus even existed and claimed that there is no real evidence for him existing. Ehrman, confused at the assertion because virtually no scholars hold this view, corrects the deceived radio host. They then debate and Ehrman states the following:

      We have one author who actually knew Jesus’ relatives and knew his disciples… Paul…. It’s not an embellishment that Paul met with James in Jerusalem.3

      So what we have is Islam’s hero Bart Ehrman destroying modern Muslim belief about Apostle Paul. Ehrman, along with the majority of serious scholarship holds the view that Paul was a true disciple of Jesus Christ who met with the leaders of the early church shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, not a usurper.

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    • I just love it when Christians claim they have historical facts about Jesus when in fact they don’t!
      We know absolutely nothing about the oral tradition.
      Only conjecture. Luke claims to have eyewitness accounts but says nothing about who they are.
      Can you prove that Jesus was crucified? Can you trace it all the way back to Jesus?
      No!
      In fact like I told Samuel, you can’t even trace back ONE word in you NT that Jesus uttered back to Jesus.
      What historical evidence do you have? Non!
      Sad panda.

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    • > I just love it when Christians claim they have historical facts about Jesus when in fact they don’t!
      We know absolutely nothing about the oral tradition.

      Of course we do. Luke explains this in his introduction and John in his conclusion.

      > Only conjecture. Luke claims to have eyewitness accounts but says nothing about who they are.

      Have you read Luke and Acts? Luke 1:1-4 speaks about the witnesses and servants of the Word. Then the books of Luke and Acts he explicitly says that the Apostles are these witnesses and servants of the word. Luke identities them as the Jerusalem church in Acts.

      > Can you prove that Jesus was crucified? Can you trace it all the way back to Jesus? No!

      Of course I can. The New Testament contains multiple witnesses all with the same story and so does general history.

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    • Luke says that the stories are coming from eyewitness which does NOT mean that he talked with eyewitnesses. It means the stories they told were from eyewitnesses who past them on to others down the line and eventually came to him, an author whom we do not know.
      This is an unreliable/unknown oral tradition.
      ‘Luke’ is imagining a chain of transmission which the first ones are eyewitnesses who pass on their sayings down to others which are UNKNOWN and he himself is the end of that chain.
      This is what we call in Islamic/Arabic terms extremely Da’if = VERY weak narration, completely unreliable.
      And btw even if he did talk to eyewitnesses, why is most of his gospel a copy Mark who was not an eyewitness? Same goes for Matthew.

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    • “The New Testament contains multiple witnesses all with the same story”
      Yes based on unknown oral tradition.
      Matthew and John didn’t write those gospels.

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    • ‘Luke’ is imagining a chain of transmission which the first ones are eyewitnesses who pass on their sayings down to others which are UNKNOWN and he himself is the end of that chain.
      This is what we call in Islamic/Arabic terms extremely Da’if = VERY weak narration, completely unreliable.”

      here is the problem. luke is just making a claim like the gospel of thomas and peter is making a claim.
      luke says he INTERVIEWED people and does not REVEAL what METHODS he used to check authenticity.

      in hadeeth sciences (I THINK) lukes invisible chain would not be called da’if, it would be called majhool/UNKNOWN. he has no silsila/chain

      lukes narrations cannot be termed da’if because even in the da’if you have visible chain, but one narrator could be a liar or unknown etc.

      why has luke mentioned about investigations when he himself was an eyewitness? the reason why is that he wasn’t there.

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    • That Luke wasn’t an eyewitness is pretty obvious.
      Further more he can’t be inspired cus if he was he wouldn’t say he investigated everything.
      His gospel is based on investigation, not inspiration

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    • “> Can you prove that Jesus was crucified? Can you trace it all the way back to Jesus? No!”

      from a historical perspective no christian can. just look at the earliest material. there is no mention of WHERE and by whom jesus was crucified. there is no mention of WHERE and by whom jesus was BURIED.
      how can one infer from the EARLIEST written evidence that they ALL knew?

      look at the gospel of mark. he has ALL the pals of jesus FLEE for safety and only when ONE of them is safe, do they re-convert

      note that in the gospel of mark and matthew, PETER NEVER runs BACK to the tomb to check it was empTY. just by reading matthews account the impression is given is that the women tell the pals of jesus and then they DEPART from where they are told. absolutely no INDICATION that peter came to the tomb and checked it was empty.

      based on the EARLIEST accounts there is ABSOLUTELY no trace. the laters accounts need a trace because as richard carrier says :

      Although, again, this is the same trick of pretending Mark said these women were his source, when in fact he never says that. To the contrary, he denies the women were his source (“they told no one any of it,” Mark 16:8; the rest of Mark is a well-known forgery: Chapter 16 of Hitler Homer Bible Christ). Mark places women there to illustrate the gospel, that “the least shall be first.” That men weren’t there is intended to shame the reader into being a better Christian and embracing the gospel of social reversal. Of course, Luke and John say fuck it to that, and add men as witnesses to the empty tomb (Luke 23:11-12; John 20:3-8), demonstrating how the story gets fabricated over time to fall more in line with mainstream culture and away from the radical egalitarianism of Mark and Paul.

      that’s not looking good at all

      marks OWN admission that the women REMAINED silent.
      no trace. nothing .

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    • LMAO I love how desperate ignorant Muslims who’s Quran is one giant hadith and who their own hadith states that while trying to put together the Quran aftwr Muhammad died who oddly never thought of having it out together (hilariously ironic) says he couldn’t find all the revelations from ONE single source.

      Give us a break. You use ehrman when it’s convenient but leave out where HE DECIMATES your entire religion.

      The curcifixtion is HISTORICALLY PROVEN BY NON CHROSTIAN SOURCES . Every respected scholar acknowledges that.

      If you bothered reading the WHOLE bible and see that all those books written by different people over thousands of years are amazingly complimentary and it is a miraculous book and the word of God.
      Now if you want us to debate uthman burning thousands of copies or goats eating revelations that are now missing or a god who doesn’t know all since he has to come up with “better verses” over time and abrogate others, we can do that.

      Paul Williams and yahya snow are the biggest jokes and have been anhilited in debates. Yahya makes debate announcements and doesn’t even tell the other party LMAO

      We can also discuss Allah’s claim in the Quran that it doesn’t have MUCH contradiction or errors LMAO

      Aside from.this ridiculous statement from a supposed all knowing god we can easily have fun and show the historical mathematical scientific theological errors in the Quran.
      We can also show how Allah didn’t know that the Talmud is not inspired but only rabbinic twisted interpretations that Muslims can’t believe in because it contradicts their Quran when it denies Jesus being the messiah or a true prophet. Yet allah quotes it word for word!!!! And says HE told them this !! LMAO
      For those of you with half a brain and not under the spell of Satan this is the verse “whoever kills an innocent soul it’s as if he killed all humanity etc” the favorite out of context verse Muslims love to quote to foreign non arabic speaking ignorants to show islam is peace but forget to quote 2 verses later where Allah says TO MUSLIMS to crucify and cut off limbs of those that wage war against him (could be anyone who opposes islam aka atheists buddhists) and spreads “mischief” in the land.

      Stupid Muslims. MAY THE TRUE GOD SAVE YOU AND HAVE MERCY ON YOU.

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    • NT
      I have listened to Ehrman (read most of his books as well) since I stumbled upon “Jesus Intereupted” about three years ago. Although, I do not hold him in high regard concerning theological matters, his views on New Testament history have been interesting and thoroughly educative.

      It is quite a shame that you do not seem to know that Ehrman
      1. distinguishes between the historical Jesus and the gospel accounts of him
      2. said in clear words that ‘none of the writers of the gospel (not even John) considers him to be Yahweh’. Zakir Hussain in his recent debate with Dr James White corrected him (ie White) when he went along the same tangent. Ehrman in ‘How Jesus Became God’ stated that John considered Jesus (at best) as being ‘a god’.
      3. has always insisted that the current New Testament contains dubious words attributed to Jesus which were never and could never have been uttered by him
      4. is a key proponent on low christology in the early church. Michael Bird (who wrote ‘How God Became Jesus’) had to challenge his views on this point.

      Ehrman is indeed (as you said) a big Scholar who does not like to be misrepresented. I am shocked that you just did that without batting an eyelid.

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  4. #Samuel, he referred to Licona, an evangelist who believes in the virgin birth, and Jesus miracles.

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  5. Samuel said: Paul, why do you accept these professional academics when it comes to the “I am” statements but not when it comes to the virgin birth?

    Samuel you’re comparing apples and oranges. They dismiss the I am statements on the basis of solid scholarly textual criticism. When it comes to the virgin birth they dismiss it because it falls outside the confines of secular historical research.

    Liked by 1 person

    • > Your book is not historical AT all Samuel. You just believe by faith.

      What are you talking about? No one uses the Qur’an for the history of Jesus. Basically everyone uses the NT for their history. They may pick and choose or deconstruct or take it as it is. But they all begin their history here. But I do have faith too.

      > #Samuel, he referred to Licona, an evangelist who believes in the virgin birth, and Jesus miracles.

      Indeed. And he says that John is a paraphrase. Where does he say Jesus never said the I am statements?

      > Samuel you’re comparing apples and oranges. They dismiss the I am statements on the basis of solid scholarly textual criticism. When it comes to the virgin birth they dismiss it because it falls outside the confines of secular historical research.

      It is not textual criticism but the current literal theory. Whether or not this is a correct assessment we do not know.

      > The Muslim response is simple: we use the Qur’an as a guide; if the Qur’an affirms something happened, we accept it; if it affirms something didn’t happen, we accept it; if it silent about a topic, this provides an opening to reason, deduce, and look at secular evidences.

      This is a perfect example of what I am talking about.

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    • Samuel you miss the point again.
      We don’t say our scripture has historically reliability when it comes to Jesus. You do!
      I am just putting that to the test.
      We can hold up our Quran and every single word of it we can trace it back to Muhammad (saw).
      Can you hold up your bible and do the same for ONE word in the gospels about Jesus?
      No!

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    • Atlas Partridge

      > We can hold up our Quran and every single word of it we can trace it back to Muhammad (saw).

      What is your proof?

      > Can you hold up your bible and do the same for ONE word in the gospels about Jesus? No!

      This is misdirection. We are claiming that it is the God inspired testimony of the Apostles and prophets of Jesus.

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    • “This is misdirection. We are claiming that it is the God inspired testimony of the Apostles and prophets of Jesus.”

      Except that it’s not. Case closed.

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    • “What is your proof?”
      We have a KNOWN oral tradition (multiple lines of transmission).
      “This is misdirection. We are claiming that it is the God inspired testimony of the Apostles and prophets of Jesus.”
      You claim that your gospels have historically evidence about Jesus. That has nothing to do with historical accuracy.
      That’s why you have scholars who try to find out what is historical about Jesus.
      If the gospels were historically reliable then all we would have to do is just read them.
      But almost no scholar thinks they are reliable.
      Your gospels are based on an oral tradition which is NOT known.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Atlas Partridge

      It would be great to have a discussion about the transmission of the Bible and Qur’an in a dedicated post on that topic.

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    • Samuel would you like to write an article on Blogging theology?

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    • “It would be great to have a discussion about the transmission of the Bible and Qur’an in a dedicated post on that topic.”

      you are already having one with ijaz ahmed on facebook

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    • Thank you Paul. I would appreciate that. I cannot do anything immediately but will email you.

      Like

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