From February 19 through May 6, 2016, TheBestSchools.org hosted an in-depth dialogue on the historical reliability of the New Testament between biblical scholars Bart D. Ehrman and Michael R. Licona. The dialogue is now complete, and comments are still open on each portion of the dialogue.
Ehrman and Licona find themselves at the center of an ongoing controversy over whether the New Testament provides a reliable historical account of the life, work, and teachings of Jesus. Indeed, the two have clashed on this question on more than one occasion.
TheBestSchools.org therefore invited them to take part in what we call a Focused Civil Dialogue. The point of such a dialogue is for both parties to advance the best case for their position as well as to refute the case of their interlocutors. We are grateful that both Dr. Ehrman and Dr. Licona accepted this invitation.
In such a dialogue, each party to a controversy develops what he or she regards as the strongest points in favor of one’s own position while also defending against what the other party alleges are the weakest points in one’s position. We like to suggest that each interlocutor articulate five strong points and five weak points.
Briefly, in such a dialogue both Dr. Ehrman and Dr. Licona each contributed (1) an interview, (2) a statement, (3) a response, and (4) a reply — in that order.
The plan for such dialogues is that the interviews each typically take 6,000 words, giving each the opportunity to favorably discuss one’s own life and work. The statements typically take 10,000 words and constitute the portion of the dialogue where each most forcefully advances one’s own case. The response and reply together will typically take another 10,000 words, enabling each to refute the case of one’s interlocutor.
Drs. Ehrman and Licona argued the following theses:
Dr. Ehrman: The New Testament is not a reliable historical guide to the life, work, and teachings of Jesus. In particular, it provides no convincing evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Dr. Licona: The New Testament is a reliable historical guide to the life, work, and teachings of Jesus. In particular, it provides convincing evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Thus, Drs. Ehrman and Licona each provided four written contributions, all freely available and posted here at TheBestSchools.org. Our main task in overseeing this dialogue will be to ensure that it does indeed retain its focus —that the points of strength and weakness raised by both parties do indeed get squarely addressed in their statements, responses, and replies.
Dr. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests focus on New Testament Studies and History of Early Christianity. Ehrman received his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books, including Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why.
Dr. Licona is Associate Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University. His research interests focus on New Testament Studies, Historiography, and Apologetics. Licona received his Ph.D. from the University of Pretoria. He is the author of several books, including The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.