Lecture - Dr Peter Williams - New Evidences the Gospels were Based on Eyewitness Accounts | 03Fev2015 21:00:27

 

(PW) Well, it really is great to be here. What we gonna be looking at tonight is the question of whether the gospels are based on eyewitness testimony;
and I wanna be presenting some old and some new evidence that the gospels are inded based on eyewitness testimony.

But I want to begin with a fellow Brit, C.S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia, who made an argument about the person of Jesus;
And he said that when we look at the sort of claims that Jesus makes about who He is, we either need to say that He is the Lord, that He is liar, or that He is lunatic, because the sort of claims He makes are so big they can't just be written off as the words of a very great person.

(Screen) C.S. Lewis's 'Trilemma' today - Lord - Liar – Lunatic

(PW) Because a great person doesn't attribute so much to Himself;
but what we found is that in recent years people have added to those three possibilities another one, that Jesus is in fact legend. So we want to ask the question; do we have evidence that the gospels are reliable?

(PW) I want to go to a skeptical source, Bart Ehrman, one of the most famous, prominent skeptics within the US at the moment,

(Screen) Mind the gap! - 'What do you supposed happened to the stories [about Jesus] over the years, as they were told and retold, not as disinterested news stories reported by eyewitnesses but as propaganda meant to convert people to faith, told by people who had themselves heard them fifth - or sixth - or nineteenth - hand? Did you or your kids ever play the telephone game at a birthday party?' - (Bart Ehrman, Jesus Interrupted, pages 146-47)

a very accomplished Biblical scholar, says this, when he talks about the gospels.
Well, the telephone game in Britain, we call Chinese whispers. You probably not allowed to call that over here, but that's what we call it over there and no one minds.

Now, you know the way the telephone game works? It's a game specially setup in order to corrupt the message so you can laugh; so, there are various rules, for instance, you have to whisper; that ensures the message gets corrupted, you're only allowed to say it once; so that ensures the message gets corrupted; you're only allowed to hear it from one person. Why should I use that as an analogy for how Christianity spread early on?

I prefer the analogy of karate; now, have you ever heard anyone say that karate must be becoming corrupted, because has been taught from one person to another? No, because you know that karate is full of discipline and when people teach things they teach it carefully, there are checks and balances, to make sure it gets passed on; I think that's a far better analogy. But we're gonna come back to this question, of whether it is possible that Christianity could've began something like the telephone game; but, the first thing we're going to do is to look up where the gospels were written.

Now, the gospels according to earliest Christian traditions there are, about where they were written, generally weren't written in the land of origin, which is Israel, Palestine, I'm not making a political point when I use either of those words I'm just talking about them as a location, ok? Now, according to early Christian tradition,

(Screen) Where were the gospels written? - (traditional) - Matthew: Judaea (Jerome) – Mark: Rome – Luke: Antioch / Achaea / Rome – John: Ephesus (Asia Minor)

(PW) Mark was written in Rome, Luke in Antioch, or maybe Achaea, or maybe Rome, John was written in Ephesus, Turkey, Asia Minor
A late Christian tradition, three or four hundred years after Christianity began was that Matthew's gospel had been written in Judaea.
In other words, the general consensus is that most of the gospels weren't written in Israel.

We go to a modern scholar, a reasonably skeptical scholar, and he looks at the gospels and he says well, “I think that none of them were written in that land of Israel or Palestine.

(Screen) Where the gospels were written – (Gerd Theissen) – Matthew: Syria – Mark: Syria – Luke: Rome? - John: team effort: Palestine-Syria then Asia Minor

(PW) Maybe John's gospel began as a team effort with some group who were there in Palestine and then they, or Syria, and then they moved to Asia Minor,
but, other than that, basically, outside the land; or we can go to Bart Ehrman himself, he says;
(Screen) 'Where, then, did these anonymous Greek-speaking authors, live, living probably, outside of Palestine some thirty-five to sixty-five years after the events that they narrate get their information?'

The gospel writers, he thinks, were probably outside the land.
So we've got a consensus, whether it's a skeptical scholar or early church tradition, that most of the gospels were written outside the land of the events that they narrate.

Now, that's an interesting thing, because that raises the question as to how familiar they were with the land that they're talking about; so, we could ask, do they know the land? Do they know the agriculture? Do they know the architecture, the botany? Do they know about the burial practices we could look into? All sorts of things of culture.

(Screen) Testing for knowledge of time and space – Agriculture – Architecture – Botany – Culture – Economics – Geography – Language – Law – Personal names – Politics – Religion – Social stratification – Topography – Weather

(PW) If you've never visited a place, how could you write about it intelligently?

So we gonna look at a number of tests tonight, to see whether these people knew about the land, because that will tell us whether they are potentially close to the events; if they're thousands of miles away in another country, simply making things up, well, they're not gonna have any of that right sort of information.

I've never been to your beautiful state before, about 3 years ago, and I just didn't know much about it; I'd heard about Texas, but I didn't know it could rain here, like, really seriously rain, and that was completely new to me, so, in other words, when you haven't been to a place, even in the information age, often you are quite surprised by something when you go there.

Well, think about it back then when you don't have the internet; you know, back then it was even before wikipedia, can you believe that? And so, how would someone making up a story about a country they never visited and they had never met anyone who had visited there, know to write the right things?
Well, I think we gonna find tonight that the gospels are remarkably accurate, given that they're written such a long way away.

On a particular test I'm gonna spend most of our time tonight, simply what people are called in the gospels, then we gonna look a couple more tests after that.

(Screen) 1. The test of what people are called

(PW) The test; Do they call people the right thing?
Well, do we have anyone here called Michael tonight, any Mikes? Put you hands up, we got a Mike here yeah, another Mike,
now, I expected there would be some Michaels here. Do you know why? Because we can say that back in the nineteen seventies, one in 25 males born in the US was a Mike, a Michael, that was very common name.

(Screen) Percentage of names by decades – 2000s – Jacob – 1,356% - Emily – 1,1794% - 1990s – Michael – 2,2506% - Jessica – 1,5436% - 1980s – Michael – 3,4515 – Jessica – 2,5449% - 1970s – Michael – 4,1373% - Jennifer – 3,5347%

(PW) Back then, Jacob wasn't such a common name, but then you change and you look how over from 1967 to 1997,

(Screen) The popularity of Jacob - (chart)

Jacob multiplied by a factor of about one hundred, so, what we can say is, names change in frequency over time, and it's not just now, back then they did, although probably not quite as quickly as they do now.

So we could ask the question; Did the gospel writers give the people the right names? Imagine you had to write a story about people in France, 100 years ago; would you be able to give people the right sort of name? Well, you know, Jacques is a french name, you might know some other french names; would you be able to get them in the right proportion and frequency? Or for any other country, for that matter; would you even be able to do it about your own state? The sort of names that people had 100 years ago? Well, people have been able to study personal names recently, using archeology, and there's been a study of about 3000 names that people were called back then,

(Screen) Jewish personal names – Based on study of 3000 names – Jewish names in Palestine show different frequency from names elsewhere – Gospels/Acts probably written outside Palestine – But reflect naming patterns in Palestine

(PW) and we can say that Jewish names in the land of Palestine were different from Jewish names elsewhere, and yet the Gospels and Acts were probably written elsewhere, and yet they got the right sort of names; that's the remarkable thing we're gonna find; they got the right pattern of names; let's put some more flesh on that.

The argument began with a researcher, in Germany, but is a list simply of all the names people were called at the time, and so you can go through and get the information.

(Screen) Pioneers – Tal llan, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity, Part I (Mohr Siebeck, 2002) – Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2006)

Then along comes the British researcher and he says; well, let's look at that and correlate that with the gospels, and see if there's any tie up between what people were called outside the New Testament or what they were called inside the New Testament, and what we find is something rather remarkable; is a very small chart here, not everyone will be able to see,

(Screen) Most Popular Jewish Names among Palestinian Jews (330 BC-AD 200) – Rank – Name – Total – NT – Josephus – Ossuaries – Dead Sea Scrolls – [Chart] – Source: Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, page...

but basically the most common name inside the New Testament, for males, Palestinian Jewish males, is Simon, it's the top name for the New Testament, top name for Josephus, who's a historian of the first century, a Jewish historian, top name in the bone boxes, they had the ossuaries, and it's the second top name in the Dead Sea scrolls.

We take the second name in the New Testament, it's Joseph, the second most common name, a second most common name also in Josephus and in the bone boxes; it's the most common one in the Dead Sea scrolls, we see a significant correlation. Looking at it in another way, take the two top Palestinian Jewish male names together and you find nearly 16% of men were called one of those two names,

(Screen) Top Jewish names – Israel – Gospels/Acts – Top 2 men's names: - (#) - (#) - Top 9 men's names - (#) - (#) - Top 2 women's names: - Mary and Salome - (#) - (#) - Top 9 women's names - (#) - (#)

(PW) inside the New Testament it's 18%. We go and take the top 9 men's names together and we find outside the New Testament 41%, inside the New Testament 40%. That is incredibly close, and that is statistically significant because we're using a bigger data sample; as the data sample gets bigger, the numbers get closer; now let's remember, this is a pattern that's showing up over 4 different writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John writing 5 different books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts.

And what we could say also is those gospels, those writings, reflect that sort of name pattern individually as well, although obviously the statistics are not quite so great, you don't have such a big sample. With women's names there's not such a big data sample but we can say that's a rude correlation, the top woman's name outside the New Testament, Mary; top woman's name inside the New Testament, Mary; you can say, they have less imagination about what to call women? But, nearly 29% of women were called one of those top two names, 50% one of the top 9 names, and that correlates pretty well with the 40% and the 61% you get for those same things inside the New Testament; bit more variation, because the data samples are smaller.

(Screen) Ranks of male names in Palestine – Rank in Palestine – NT Individuals – 1 Simon/Simeon – 8 – 2 Joseph/Joses – 6 – 3 Lazarus/Eleazar – 1 – 4 Judas/Judah – 5 – 5 John/Yohanan – 5 – 6 Jesus/Joshua - 2

(PW) So we can look then at the ranks of names, and we can say, look at Jewish males in Palestine, and we could say,
these are the ranks of the names we've got in the new Testament, and then we could say, let's go to another country where there are lots of Jews,
lots of Jews in Egypt, and we find a different pattern of names.

(Screen) Jewish male names in Egypt – Rank in Egypt – Rank in Palestine – 1 Eleazar – 3 – 2 Sabbataius – 68= - 3 Joseph – 2 – 4= Dositheus – 16 – 4= Pappus – 39= - 6= Ptolomaius – 50= - 6= Samuel - 23
(PW) Now, that's a remarkable thing; now I've got a question here tonight, and it won't work in the overflow, but at least I can find from people here,
in the Chapel, does anyone here knows anyone called  Sabbataius? No? No? No one?

Anyone Pappus? Ptolomaius? No? Dog? Not even a pet? No? Ok; why not? Because the gospels weren't written about Jewish men in Egypt.
Had they been written about Jewish men in Egypt, sure those names would have become quite common for us, but they haven't.

So, in other words, if someone is in a different land, you get a different set of names; now, think about that again, if you had to make up that story about, you know, people in France a hundred years ago would you've got the right sort of names? If you had to write a story about people in Egypt, a hundred years ago, would you get the right sort of names?

You might have some vague idea of Arab names but, would you know how the names in Egypt differ from the names in Jordan, differ from the names in Syria? Unless you've been in those countries you'd have no idea, and even if you have lived in those countries, I'm not sure your intuitions, as to what the most common names, would be a very reliable guide.

Now, can we go to another survey, we got some surveys tonight, and one of the surveys we've got is this; has anyone had the experience of naming a child, giving that child what they thought was an unusual name, only to find out as soon as they named the child, lots of other children got the same name, ok? So, we got at least one here, got another one here, another one there, another one there, yeah, ok, that's right.

Why is that? Because our intuitions as to what the most common names are, aren't always completely reliable, so, that's something that's quite common, because our intuitions are just based on a smaller data sample; so, even if people were making up stories in the land, they wouldn't be able to get the names in the right proportion.

Back then they didn't have any of those magazines that told you what the most common names were, you know, so, what we find is this is a remarkable thing; but the story goes on, you see, it's not just that they have the right proportion of names, they have the right features of names. You see, what happens if you call out Simon?! Well, there are lots of Simons, aren't there?

Then we got to do what Wikipedia calls disambiguation; you got to distinguish one Simon from another Simon, and you find that's what they do in the New Testament; Jesus had two of His twelve disciples called Simon, one was Simon with an extra bit, Peter or Cephas, one was Simon with an extra bit, the Zealot or the Canaanite; so, you got to a disambiguation; and then you read other disambiguations, Jesus went and had a meal with Simon the Leper, but he wasn't a leper at the time, but because people were sitting around having a meal with him, maybe Jesus had healed him.

Simon of Cyrene carried the cross; there were lots of Simons around so, you better distinguish this one; Simon Peter in the Book of Acts states there was someone called Simon the Tanner, or the leather worker, so you find they distinguish them; Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joses, so you find that they make sure that these most common names are distinguish, and not the less common names; it could be adding a father's name, a job, a home town, it doesn't matter, but you gotta do something to set them apart.

Now, how could someone, making up stories outside the land, do that? Now, I've got another survey; anyone here find it difficult to remember names?

(Screen) Do you sometimes struggle to remember names?

(PW) We got two honest people, three honest people, four, anyone else? Come on, come on, don't be shy; anymore people, honest, raise hand please; you find it difficult to remember names, ok, yeah, now, I've forgotten so many names since I arrived here yesterday, and I have been witness to five name forgetting events, from other people, where they've said, I cannot remember this person ('s name) but I could tell you all sorts of things about, you could say what car he drives, you can say how many family members they've got, you could say what state they used to live in, everything you could say about them except that vital piece of information you need in the social setting to introduce them;

I bet you tonight you gonna have, some of you gonna have that situation, yeah? It may already be happening, you looking around and you're thinking, that person over there I really know their name, it's on the tip of my tongue but it just slipped me for a moment, I know, yeah, we had a daughter stay in our house for, you know, a month but, you know, what is it? You know, names just are so forgettable; why is it? Because usually there is no logical connection between a name and the person; there's no logical reason for that person to have that name, and there's lots of logical reasons why that person shouldn't have that name sometimes.

So, that's why we forget names; we remember things about people but names are amongst the hardest things to remember, stories are easy to remember, names are hard to remember, which means you can watch a film, you watch a film and you remember what everyone does, you remember what the minor characters do; do you remember minor character's names? No! Do you even remember the major characters names? Not always.

You go on holiday and you meet some people who are really interesting, and you come back and you tell your friends about them, but you might even just drop out the names of these interesting people because the really interesting thing is to tell the story; so what we find is that names are one of those forgettable things that can just drop out very easily; so think about this, if the gospels have correctly got the detail that's the hardest sort of thing to remember, isn't there every reason to think that they could get the other things right?

The story bits, the who is with whom, where they went, what they did, that's easy compared with getting names right, but we're finding that they get the names right; and that to me suggests that we're not getting these stories fifth, or sixth, or nineteenth hand, because if it had happened nineteenth hand, or even fifth hand, you wouldn't get the names right, it wouldn't be happening regularly; so, that just won't explain it.

The only way we can get this pattern is if we have, not just eyewitness testimony but high quality eyewitness testimony, that's what we've got going on; but I want to take this idea a little bit further; now, you've all heard, I'm sure, about apocryphal gospels, and the people that said, hey, what about having some other gospels in the Bible?

(Screen) Names in second century apocryphal gospels – Gospel of Thomas: - Didymos Judas Thomas / James the Just / Simon Peter – Jesus / Matthew / Thomas / Mary / Salome – Gospel of Mary: - The Saviour, Peter, Mary, Andrew, Levi – Gospel of Judas: - Judas (Iscariot) / Jesus – Lots of heavenly figures: Barbelo, Sophia, Nebro, Yaldabaoth, Saklas, Seth, Harmathoth, Galila, Yobel, Adonaios, Adam, Eve = Zoe, Michael, Gabriel

(PW) Well, let's just look at how they do on other names; so the gospel of  Thomas, one of the most popular ones that people talk about, and you look at how does it do with Palestinian Jewish names, you know, not very well, the main character is called Didymos Judas Thomas, which means Twin Judas Twin, which is just not the sort of name people were called back then; you could look at another gospel, the gospel of Mary, it doesn't even call Jesus, Jesus, it just calls Him the Saviour, and it's, which Mary? We have no idea!

And then we have the gospel of Judas which was published recently, and it's got two Palestinian Jewish names, you know, Jesus and Judas, and then it's got a whole load of people from outer space; so, that to me is not very impressive, I go look at it and think, wow, didn't they know the time and place really well? We could take it a bit further, let's look at the names in Matthew, take the list of the twelve disciples in Matthew,

(Screen) Applying name test to Matthew
(Screen) The disciples – Matthew 10:2-4 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, - Simon (1), called Peter, and Andrew his brother, and – James (11) the son of Zebede, and John (5) his brother; - Philip (61=) and Bartholomew (50=); - Thomas and Matthew (9) the tax collector; - James (11) the son of Alphaeus, - and Thaddaeus (39=); - Simon (1) the Canaanite - and Judas (4) Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

(PW) we find a remarkable correlation between the list of names here and statistics that've just been found in the last 10 years; I have put in brackets, next to a name, the rank of that name for Palestinian Jewish males, if it is in the top ninety nine names, and what we find is, if it's one of the more common names, you have the qualifier, if it's not one of the more common names it does not have a qualifier, let's go through the list; so, Simon, rank number one, qualifier, called Peter, and Andrew, not ranked, his brother so Andrew is just given with reference to Simon; James, high ranking, eleven, the son of Zebede and John, rank five, his brother;

Philip, low ranking, 61st equal, no qualifier; Bartholomew, 50th equal, low ranking, no qualifier; Thomas, not even in the top ninety nine, low ranking, no qualifier; and Matthew, high up, rank number 9, qualifier, the tax collector; James, high ranking, 11, the son of Alphaeus; and Thaddaeus, 39th equal, low ranking, no qualifier; Simon, rank number 1, the Cananaean; Judas, rank number 4, Iscariot who also betrayed Him; now, I know there are other things going on with that list as well, but the point is this; these statistics have only been known since 2003!

You see? And what we're finding is a correlation between that list of ancient names and statistics that have only been known recently, that's a remarkable thing cause it says to me that what we got in this list, is a list from Palestine, is a list that is formed in the land; if it were made up outside the land, they would have different names; very soon, the gospel, the apostles were known by those original names; Peter just simply became known as Peter, not Simon with the extra bit Peter, the names actually developed a little bit, because they become more distinctive when they get outside the land, but back, when we see this list, has got exactly the right pattern for the time and place; but it doesn't just work with lists, it also works with dialogue;

(Screen) John the Baptist (rank 5) – Herod said to his servants: 'This is John the Baptist' (Matthew 14:1-2) – Herod seized 'John' (14:3) – 'John' said (14:4) – Herodias' daughter: 'Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist' (14:8) – He sent and beheaded 'John' (14:9)

(PW) now, one of the things about the name John is it's actually quite common name, right? Rank number 5, so when Herod wants to say about Jesus, that he thinks He's John the Baptist, come back from the dead, he cannot simply say to his servants this is John; because his servants would've said, “which John? We got several Johns who work in the palace, that it doesn't really help us;” so he says, “this is John the Baptist;” then the narrator continues, “so Herod seized John;”

now the narrator doesn't need to give a further qualification because the narrative makes it quite clear which John we're talking about; the narrator goes on and so “John said,” but when Herodias' daughter wants the head of John the Baptist she can't just say, “give me John's head,” she might've gotten the head of the wrong John; so she says, “give me the head of John the Baptist,” yeah; and then the narrator immediately continues and so, “he sent and beheaded John;” now, you see the way it's distinguishing, the way the narrator speaks from the way the characters in the narrative speak;

now that of course could be just a very clever literary device to make the narrative look authentic, but the cleverer you make the gospel writers, the harder it is to say they got it wrong through incompetence, ok?

So, just bear that trade off in mind; and what I can say is this is exactly the way people would've had to have spoken back then; so, this could be part of evidence that what we've got is a report of how people spoke;

(Screen) Applying the test to the principal character

(PW) now, let's consider the principal character in the gospels, you know, the main person in the gospels, I'm not gonna say his name for a moment, you know who I mean, ok?

Now, we gonna look at what that character is called, is He called the right thing? What's He called in the narrative, what's He called by other characters,

(Screen) Is the principal character called the right thing? - What is the principal character called in the narrative? - What is the principal character called by other characters? - What does the principal character call himself?

(PW) and what does He call Himself, those are our questions; let's start with what He's called in the narrative.

(Screen) What is the principal character called in the narrative?

(PW) And we begin with looking at a number of different gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and we got Thomas and Judas in there,

(Screen) Names for the main character – Gospel – Main name – Avoids 'Jesus' – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Thomas, Judas – 'Jesus' – No – Philip – Christ – No – Peter – 'Lord' – Yes – Mary – 'The Saviour' – Yes

all with the main name for the main character being Jesus; the gospel of Philip which has become popular, it's quite a late thing, you know, maybe hundred fifty years, two hundred years after the events, which has something about a relationship, although the text is quite broken, which people get really interested about broken texts, cause they can make up the bits in between, and it's got something about a relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, so that actually got quoted in the Da Vinci Code, and that just calls the main character Christ, that's the main title; the gospel of Peter calls Him Lord, the gospel of Mary, the Saviour,

(Screen) Occurrences of the name Jesus in the gospels – Mt – Mk – Lk – Jn – Phil – Tom – Jud – Pet - Mary

(PW) and the gospel of Peter and the gospel of Mary don't even call the main character Jesus at all; now, to me that looks like it's sort of a later development where the name Jesus is basically dropped out, that's the way I look at it; we can then look at the occurrences of name Jesus in the four gospels, and we see, there on the left hand, four columns, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with John having by far the most occurrences of name Jesus, but we can see that some other gospels, like Thomas, also has the name Jesus, but Peter and Mary don't at all.
What was the founder of Christianity called in non-Christian accounts? Well, Tacitus, writing about the fire in Rome in the year 64,

(Screen) Non-Christian accounts – Tacitus, Annals 15:44: 'Christians,' 'Christus' – Pliny, Letters 10:96: 'Christians,' 'Christus' – Josephus, Antiquities, 20.200: 'Jesus, who was called Christ'

(PW) he said that the founder of Christianity was called Christ, Christus in Latin; Pliny, writing to the Emperor, about the year 112, about Christians, by the way they're called Christians, Christ, that name really took off, calls the founder of Christianity Christus, ok? Christ; Josephus, a Jewish writer, shows a bit more knowledge and says He's Jesus, with the extra bit Christ, to distinguish Him;

so, in other words the name that predominates through the non-Christian accounts of early Christianity is, Christ, that's why it's called Christianity, ok? Contrast that with what we find in the gospels; look at the family of Jesus in Matthew and Mark, and we find a very common family there; the mother is called Mary, rank number 1 for women, the father is called Joseph, rank number 2,

(Screen) Christian accounts – Parents: Mary (1); Joseph (2) – Children: Jesus (6); James (11); Joseph (2); Simon (1); Judas (4)

(PW) we got children, Jesus, James, Joseph and Simon, and Judas, with ranks... 6, 11, 2, 1 and 4, and if you gonna choose one to be the Saviour of the world the best name with the best meaning would be Jesus, cause it's got a bit of salvation in, the other names don't have that but, maybe that was just coincidence, ok?

We'll allow that, for the time being; we use irony over in Britain sometimes but, there we are, ok; there are lots of ironic things about British history as well, but we won't go into that. When we look at Paul, Paul, for Paul the name Christ predominates over the name Jesus,

(Screen) Jesus vs Christ in Paul – Jesus – Christ – Rom – 1 Cor – 2 Cor – Gal – Eph – Phil – Col – 1 Thes – 2 Thes – 1 Tim – 2 Tim – Tit - Phlm

(PW) I give you in green, for each of the letters, I've given you the name Jesus, in blue the name Christ, and of course sometimes you get Christ, Jesus and Jesus, Christ,
but the point is, for Paul the name Christ is more common; for the non-Christian writers the name Christ is more common and so I would conclude that very quickly, though Jesus was the earliest name, very quickly the name Christ came to predominate;

(Screen) Conclusion – 'Jesus' was the earliest common designation – 'Christ' became rapidly more common in many contexts no later than AD 50 – Groups very removed from the origin of Christianity might entirely replace the name 'Jesus'

(PW) so, if the gospels were written a lot later they might well have forgotten the name Jesus, but they correctly get the name Jesus; groups very far removed from the origins of Christianity might forget the name Jesus altogether, like the gospel of Peter, the gospel of Mary.

Let's then look at the question of what the principal character is called by other characters; now, we've already seen how many words there are in the gospels,

(Screen) What is the principal character called by other characters?

(PW) this is, Luke is the longest gospel and Mark is the shortest; compare that with the occurrences of Jesus in the four gospels and you find that

(Screen) Number of words per gospel – Matthew – Mark – Luke – John
(Screen) Occurrences of the name Jesus in the gospels – Matthew – Mark – Luke – John

(PW) John has the most occurrences of Jesus, Mark has the fewest but, hey, Mark is the shortest gospel, so, let's look at that, names of Jesus as a proportion of length and you find that Luke has the fewest occurrences of the name Jesus, and John has the most; but that's simply because Luke tends to say He, a lot, rather than Jesus; now, all I'm trying to show at that point, this is gonna be important for later on, is that the four gospels use the name Jesus differently, why do I want to show that? I want to show that so that we can know that it's not being some conspiracy to make the way Jesus is mentioned in all four gospels look the same way, because they got a very different pattern of naming Jesus.

But what we gonna see is they also name Jesus in the same way;
look at this, Jesus was a common name, rank number 6 at the time; Jesus is simply the name Joshua; there were other Jesus in the New Testament,

(Screen) Jesus (rank 6) in quoted speech – They did just as Jesus had told them (Matthew 21:6) – The crowds say: 'This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee' (21:11) – And Jesus went into the temple. (21:12)

Jesus called Justice, Bar-jesus, some manuscripts for Matthew's gospel give Barabbas his name as Jesus Barabbas; so, is a common name; and what we find is in the narrative he simply generally calls Jesus, Jesus so, here we got Matthew 21, they did just as Jesus had told them, but of course, Jesus, in speech would be ambiguous, so we find in speech the crowds don't just say, hey, Jesus is coming down the road, they say, this is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth, in Galilee, they disambiguate; but then, next verse, narrator says, and Jesus went into the temple; now, the narrator doesn't need to say anything more than Jesus because if you've got up to chapter 20 of the gospel and you don't know who you reading about there's a bit of a problem, yeah?

So, it's obvious, you know, which Jesus we're talking about, but, for the crowds back then, there were lots of Jesus, and so we find the way the crowd speak is an authentic way that people would've had to have spoken; look at another example, Matthew 26, narrator says, Jesus said to him, but next thing along comes a servant girl to Peter,

(Screen) Jesus in quoted speech – Jesus said to him... (Matthew 26:64) – And a servant girl came up to him [Peter], saying, 'You also were with Jesus the Galilean.' (26:69) - … another girl saw him, and she started to those there, 'This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.' (26:71) – And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, 'Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.' (26:75)

(PW) who was about to deny Jesus and said, you were with Jesus, the Galilean; you know, not every Jesus came from Galilee, so she could distinguish this person, she says, well I know he came from another place, Jesus the Galilean; a slightly more clued up servant girl comes along and says, this man was with Jesus of Nazareth, but then, the narrator simply continues, Peter remembered the saying of Jesus; so, the way the characters speak is one way, the way the narrator speaks is another way; we go on, Pilate says to the crowds, who do you want me to release for you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?

(Screen) Jesus in quoted speech – 'Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ?' (Matthew 27:17) – 'What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' (27:22) – 'This is Jesus the king of the Jews' (27:37) – 'I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified' (28:5)

(PW) What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ? In others words, not every Jesus has the name Christ or Messiah after him, this one is distinguished; on the cross, Jesus the King of the Jews, and even an angel needs to disambiguate,
you're looking for Jesus who was crucified; now there, we've gone through Matthew's gospel, more quickly we can go through the other gospels; same thing applies to Mark, what do we have to do with you Jesus of Nazareth?

(Screen) Jesus in quoted speech – 'What do we have to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth?' (Mark 1:24) – And hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth he began to call out 'Son of David, Jesus' (Mark 10:47) – 'You too were with the Nazarene Jesus' (Mark 14:67) – 'You seek Jesus of Nazareth' (Mark 16:6)

(PW) Hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to call out, Son of David, Jesus; now, in this case it's interesting, that the narrator says Jesus of Nazareth, but of course he's saying that, in reporting what someone heard, in other words, implied speech there; the point is not that he heard that Jesus was coming down the road, he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was coming down the road and so he got excited and he called out Son of David, Jesus, cause not every Jesus had that genealogy traced back to David, or as someone said, you were the Nazarene Jesus, or the angel, you seek Jesus of Nazareth.

(Screen) Jesus in quoted speech – 'What do we have to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth?' (Luke 4:34) – 'What do I have to do with you, Jesus son of the Most High God?' (Luke 8:28) - 'Jesus teacher, have mercy on us' (Luke 17:13) – They told him Jesus the Nazarene was passing by and he called out saying, 'Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me.' (Luke 18:37-38)

(PW) Going through Luke's gospel, what we have to do with you Jesus of Nazareth? Jesus, son of the Most High God, Jesus teacher, not every Jesus is a rabbi; they told Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, he called out Jesus son of David; now, you might think is an exception when the dying thief in Luke chapter 23 turns to Jesus and says, Jesus, remember me,

(Screen) Jesus in quoted speech – 'Jesus, remember me' (Luke 23:42) – 'The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth' (Luke 24:19)

(PW) but there we are not talking about a crowd situation, where you try and pick someone out from a crowd, you're talking one to one; so, that disambiguation simply doesn't apply, in any way people on crosses don't waste words.

And then we have Jesus on the road to Emmaus, meets two disciples and He acts as if He doesn't know what's been going on, and they said, don't you know the things that have gone on concerning Jesus of Nazareth? So that's Luke's gospel, we find the same pattern in John; we found the one that Moses, in law, and the prophets wrote about, Jesus the son of Joseph from Nazareth;

(Screen) Jesus in quoted speech – 'We have found the one that Moses in the law and the prophets wrote about: Jesus the son of Joseph from Nazareth' (John 1:45) – 'Isn't this Jesus the son of Joseph, whom we know?' (John 6:42) – 'The man called Jesus made clay' (John 9:11) – 'Whom are you seeking?' They replied/said 'Jesus of Nazareth' (John 18:5,7) – 'Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews' (John 19:19)

(PW) isn't this Jesus, son of Joseph, whom we know? You might think it's an exception in John chapter 9, where the man who's born blind and is healed, is asked who healed him and he said, well, the man called Jesus made clay; why does he just simply say, the man called Jesus?

The point that's going on here in the narrative is precisely, if you read it carefully, this man has been given physical sight but he is not yet been given full spiritual sight; gradually, through the narrative, he comes to realize more and more, and so, what the narrative is doing is, in order to show that he's still, to some degree ignorant, you know, yeah?
He only knows that the guy is called Jesus, he doesn't know anything more, you know, he's an Australian called Bruce, it doesn't really tell you very much, yeah? And so, he had to show the ignorance, there's nothing, there's no more detail, and then, in the garden, whom are you seeking? They replied, we're looking for Jesus of Nazareth, that happens twice on the cross, Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews; so, this is a pattern across all four gospels, when it occurs in speech, Jesus, in a crowd situation, Jesus is disambiguated, and that would've been necessary at the time, and completely unnecessary 100 years later, or in a completely different setting;

so, here we got the sort of thing that fits with the time and place, now, of course you can say well, they were just really clever narrators, you know, narrative art, all four of them? Really clever? You know, it starts becoming a little bit implausible for me to appeal to that, and the more clever you make the narrators the harder it is to say they got it wrong through incompetence.

(Screen) What does the principal character call himself?

(PW) Ok! What does the principal character call himself? One of the things about the principal character, is that the way He speaks is different from the early church, for instance, He does not spend time teaching about what to do with the gentiles,

(Screen) Jesus' own quoted speech – His speech is different from later Christians - - No teaching on gentile inclusion or church order - - Parables – Favourite self-designation 'Son of Man' - - In gospels always on Jesus' lips except John 12:34 quoting Jesus - - Acts 7:56, Hebrews 2:6, Revelation 1:13, 14:14

(PW) you know, a lot of the early church were gentiles but, there's just no direct teaching on that, He does not teach on how to run a church service, just as well isn't it? But what He does, … (garble) … He teaches in parables, but, how many parables did Paul tell? What about the early church? Well, there's one called the shepherd of Hermes, you know, there's a bit of a parable but, on the whole the early churches didn't take to parables; so, the idea that the early church made up the parables later, just doesn't really make sense, when they're not using parables later on;

so it's not just that His teaching is different, it's also the way He talks about Himself that's different, because His favorite self-designation is to call Himself the Son of Man, and you know about the title the Son of Man, it is very rarely used not on Jesus’s lips, so is not a title that became really common in the early church it's actually different; so we got three fold list, the narrator speaks a plausible way, the characters in the narrative speak a plausible way, and the main character speaks in a different way, from the way people spoke later; to me, that comes together to say, yes! What we've got is a reliable account;

(Screen) Distribution of 'Son of Man' – Matt – Mark – Luke – John – Q – Phillip – Thom – Judas – Peter - Mary

(PW) looking at the distribution with the way the phrase the Son of Man is used we find is very common in Matthew, Mark and Luke, the four left hand columns; when we look at the apocrypha gospels on the right, it can be pretty uncommon,

(Screen) Conclusion: names – The Gospels have the pattern of names we would expect them to have if they are reporting what real people said and did – The pattern would be too complex for an ancient forger to produce

(PW) so my conclusion is not that I can prove the gospels are true on this basis, my conclusion is rather that the names have the sort of pattern in the gospels that would happen if they were reporting what people actually said and did, and it would be very hard for any person, to wanna make that story look plausible, to put that pattern in, it just simply is too complex; the complexity you'd need, for an ancient forger, would be quite incredible; now, more briefly, I wanna us to look at some more tests,

(Screen) 2. The test of geography

(PW) the next test is gonna be the test of geography, do they simply know the place? Well, you know, one of the things you find out is how ropy people's knowledge of geography can be, away from the place where they live, so, I just,... my knowledge of the geography of Texas really is pretty bad, I've gotta say there're all sorts of places, probably huge, that I have never heard of, and so, one of the things that we would expect to be the case is, if people were writing stories a long way away they're not gonna know the names of places;

(Screen) Contemporary towns in the four gospels – Refs. - Name – 66 Jerusalem – 21 Nazareth – 16 Capernaum – 5-12 Bethany, Bethlehem, Bethsaida, Jericho, Sidon, Tyre – 1-4 Aenon, Arimathea, Bethphage, Caesarea, Philippi, Cana, Chorazin, Dalmanutha, Emmaus, Ephraim, Magadan, Nain, Salim, Sychar

(PW) well, look at the names of places we get in the four gospels, the most common town name is Jerusalem, the capital city, the second most common is Nazareth, the town associated with Jesus, but it's not just that you have those two known, you also have some quite obscure villages known, places like Bethphage, a little village near Jerusalem, you get Chorazin known, up in Galilee; well, the question is this, how would someone in Syria, in Turkey, in Greece, in Italy, in Egypt know about the names of those villages? I mean, I just can't think how they would know, in Rome probably the best place, just go to a book shop, well, if you went and bought a book about geography it would tell you about the great places on earth to go and see before you die, which didn't include Bethphage, which didn't include Chorazin, you see?

So, what you find is how would people, well away from the place, know these things? And it's not just that they know the names of places, they know things about them, they know that Capernaum is next to the sea, they know the way where the land goes up and down, they know traveling times, all those sorts of things, how did they get that right? We can pair that with what's mentioned in the Apocrypha gospels; the four canonical gospels, 12 to 14 towns each, total of 23, gospel of Philip, 2 towns, Jerusalem and Nazareth,

(Screen) Contemporary town names mentioned in gospels – 4 gospels: - 12-14 towns each - - Total > 23 – Gospel of Philip - - 2 (Jerusalem and Nazareth) – Gospels of Peter and The Saviour: - 1 town each - - Total = 1 (Jerusalem) – Others 2nd-3rd century gospels: - None

(PW) but he thinks that Nazareth is Jesus’ middle name, so that's not very good, so, we only really got one place correctly mentioned and that's Jerusalem, which is the capital; what about the gospels of Peter and The Saviour, they got one down and it's Jerusalem, the capital, and what about 13 other earliest Apocrypha gospels, how many town names have they got? Zero;

so, all of the correctly placed town names in the 16 earliest Apocrypha gospels and fragments, one, Jerusalem, the capital of the whole area, that, to me, is not very impressive geographical knowledge, but it also means that, rather being evidence against the 4 gospels, the Apocrypha gospels are in fact evidence for the 4 gospels, because they show what would happen if people did make up stories, they are the controlled experiment if you like, that shows what could go on another way;

(Screen) Number of words per gospel – Mt – Mk – Lk – Jn – Phil – Thom – Judas – Peter - Mary

(PW) now, I want us to look at the number of words there are in the four gospels, at the four left hand columns, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and I've given you five non Biblical gospels on the right hand columns, ok? I want you to fix your eyes on those lefthand columns, very carefully, and look at their shape,

(Screen) Place name uses per gospel – Mt – Mk – Lk – Jn – Phil – Thom – Judas – Peter – Mary

(PW) I've just changed slide to the number of place names; this is not just town names, this is places like Golgotha, river names and so on; did you notice the change of shape? This is the number of words per gospel, this is the number of place names per gospel. You notice this sort of big drop off effect here? They just not very good on place names, but there's another thing, what if we do place names as a proportion of length? What happens?

(Screen) Place names per 1000 words – Mt – Mk – Lk – Jn – Phil – Thom – Judas – Peter - Mary

(PW) Woooo! We find that all four gospels have an amazing evenness of place name mentioned fate????. I began looking at this in an English version, had someone do a bit of research for me and I said to her, you know, I have a suspicion that the place names occur more in the four canonical gospels than in the other ones, could you go and look at it?

So, she worked on an English translation, English standard version, and she found that at the 4 canonical gospels, between 4.6 and 4.9 place names per 1000 words, that was what you wanted to know tonight, wasn't it? Now, the great thing about this is you can actually do this experiment at home, just get the electronic texts of the 4 gospels, you know, get all the capitalized words at the front, strip all the other ones that aren's place names, and just work it out, it's not hard, this is the sort of thing you can replicate, and what's the amazing thing is, that the four gospels have the same evenness; how are we to explain it? I've got a great explanation, ok?

This is it; Luke talks to Mark, Mark, how many words you have in your gospel? Mark goes through really carefully counting, the number of words he has in his gospel; now, by the way, the words were not separated in Greek manuscripts, so that made it a bit harder for Mark to count, but he went through very dutifully, and he counted, and he worked out the number of place names, and then Luke said, hey, I want you to find out the number of words, and I want the number of place names, and I want a proportion; and, when Luke had worked this out he actually created a narrative with the same proportion of place names in it;

Matthew and John heard about this, they thought it's a great idea, that they would replicate this same feature; you know, just before computing, this sort of thing, people didn't have much to do, before TV, and so that's what they did! Well, is that really plausible? Is it, would they get that sort of pattern if they simply put in place names to make the narrative look authentic?

One would put in too many, one would put in too few, it just wouldn't work out, but! What if they simply told things as they happened? They've all the same sort of narrative, they're telling you gospel, naturally putting in place names as they're relevant, is it plausible that if their narratives are long enough they would have roughly the same proportion?

That to me seems a more plausible explanation; it's not that they have the same proportion in every passage; Matthew 5 to 7, Sermon on the Mount, no place names, but over the narrative as a whole, we find the same concern for geography, not in a way that sort of is intrusive, that is trying to give you details you don't know, it's just trying to give you some relevant details, it's about real time and space; that to me explains what's going on.

I've got another test, it's the test of botany; now, does anyone know the story of Zachaeus, yeah? A little man, yeah?

(Screen) 3. The test of botany

(PW) Do you know what sort of tree he climbed up? Sycamore tree. Can anyone sing that for us, no? Anyone? Can we do this together, Zacchaeus,... ok, we won't, right, ok, more difficult question, this is the next level, what town was he in when he climbed the sycamore tree?

Jericho! We got an answer from a few places, this is great, you're a good audience tonight, fantastic! He was in Jericho, and that's in Luke's gospel; so, the question is, what's the question? What's the question we're gonna ask?

(Screen) Are there sycamores in Jericho? - Luke 19:4 – So he [Zacchaeus] ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

(PW) Are there sycamore trees in Jericho? The answer is, you bet! You see, look here, there are some guys in this sycamore tree, in Jericho; you see that? They are standing in Jericho, now, how could Luke know that? I have two possibilities, three possibilities but, let's start with the first two, one possibility is he went to Jericho and he saw there are sycamores, the other is he spoke to someone who went to Jericho and saw there are sycamores, the third possibility is aliens from outer space told him, but, I'm gonna discount that third explanation, there may be others but, let's just focus on those two; those first two seem to me the most worthy of consideration;

what we got is, this is the sort of thing that people, who've been to the place, know, now, if the gospels are getting this right, they're not just getting it right on place names and names and plants, they're getting the shape of house right, they're getting the shape of the temple right, they're getting the coinage right, they're getting the social stratification right, they're getting the religious setting right; after a while you think, there are so many opportunities for them to go wrong if they are making it up, so many opportunities, and, they don't seem to go wrong like that; the other thing we can say is that sort of sycamore tree, ficus sycamorus, where did it occur? Well, I went to the most authoritative source of all,

(Screen) Ficus sycomorus distribution

(PW) Wikipedia, and, but, this is the modern distribution but I checked, it's also the same as the ancient distribution, there are no ficus sycamorus in Turkey, Greece, Italy, you know, it's there, Syria, Palestine, Egypt; you know, in certain countries the narrator couldn't even have heard of those things, unless he'd actually talked to somebody who'd been in the land, so, this is the sort of thing that fits very well if the narrative is true; I want to bring some passages, some tests together for a look at one narrative,

(Screen) 4. Bringing tests together in one passage: The feeding of the 5,000

(PW) there are very few things that occur in all four gospels, the passion narrative of course, the triumphal entry, but the miracle that occurs in all four gospels, is the feeding of the 5.000; now, I can't prove that the miracle occurred, ok? No one can prove that the miracle occurred, but we can ask this, the narrative about the feeding of the 5.000, does that come from close to the alleged event, or from far away? That's the basic question we gonna look at, and see what's the case; let's start with the numbers,

(Screen) How do you count 5000 men? - Mark 6:39-40 – Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. - 40 – So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. (ESV) – Luke 9:14-15 – For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” - 15 – And they did so, and had them all sit down. (ESV) - œ <100 groups – 100 ÷ 12 = 8.33 - œ probably less than 8 groups per disciple

(PW) well, how do you count 5.000 people? Well, you know, have you ever been to one of those church or christian events, where they sort of wildly overestimate the number of people in attendance, that can sometimes happen, so the question is, could that five thousand just be some disciple guesstimate, well, there were a huge number there and so on, but what you find is that both Mark and Luke tell us about the counting of the people;

Mark tells us that Jesus commanded them to sit down in groups on the grass, and the groups were by hundreds and fifties, Luke says, there were 5.000, that He said to the disciples, have them sit in groups of fifty each; now, if you got 12 disciples and 5.000 men, that's less than 100 groups, that's about 8 groups each, do you think that the disciples couldn't, you know, couldn't count up to eight? Tax collector, fisherman, you know, this is the sort of thing, you know, they probably could, you know, one, two, three, many, is the way some students work but, no, I think they could've done that, that would've been a task they would, they'd been up to but, then we look at the narrative in a bit more detail; what we find is that Mark and John both comment on the grass,

(Screen) Feeding the 5,000 – Mark 6:39: green grass; John 6:10: much grass – Mark 6:31: there were many coming and going – John 6:4: it was passover time – John 6:5: Jesus asks Philip where to buy bread from – John 6:7-8 Philip and Andrew reply – Luke 9:10: Feeding was near Bethsaida – John 1:44: Philip and Andrew were from Bethsaida – John 6:9: barley loaves

(PW) Mark tells you there was green grass, John tells you there was much grass; now, the question is, is that just a detail that's made up to make the story look authentic, or is it real eyewitness detail? But Mark tells you there were many coming and going, but he doesn't explain you why there were many coming and going, but then, John tells you it was Passover time; now, if I put those things together, one explains the other, cause at Passover time people of course travel to, passover, ok?

So, what happens is, the one explains the other, lots of people would be traveling at that time, and so Jesus calls His disciples aside; but then in John's gospel Jesus turns to Philip, He says, Philip, where should we buy bread? Why does He turn to Philip, of all the disciples He could've chosen?

The gospel doesn't say, but then in John's gospel we find that Philip replies, and then Andrew replies, why? The gospel doesn't say; but Luke's gospel tells us that the feeding took place near Bethsaida, and John's gospel tells us that Philip and Andrew were from Bethsaida; now, think about that, if I read through John's gospel on his own I see no significance whatsoever to that; they are just simply isolated bits of information, they don't fit together; if I plug in that information from Luke, suddenly the thing makes sense, Jesus turns to a man with local knowledge and asks him where to buy bread from; that man and another man get involved in the reply; that makes complete sense.

Even the little detail in John, that they were barley loaves, fits exactly with the time of year when you've had passover, because you just had the barley harvest; but we want to ask the question, would the grass really have been green? Well, let's go to a precipitation chart from a nearby town;

(Screen) Precipitation in Tiberias (mm) – Jan – Feb – Mar – Apr – May – Jun – Jul – Aug – Sep – Oct – Nov – Dec

(PW) and we find, from Tiberias, we can say when would the passover had been, would've been roughly around those years, we've just had six of the greatest months of precipitation, would the grass been green? You bet! So, in other words, all of these things come together, and they build, for me, a narrative which looks believable, it looks credible; this is not something that has been made up well away from the place, just as stories were related, now, some people will have this idea that, the way miracles about Jesus were attributed to Him, was a gradual process whereby people just exaggerated, and through exaggeration, through many different steps they gradually got to this idea of a guy who performed many many miracles.

One of the things that's so striking about the miracles of Jesus is that, so many miracles were attributed to Him, that they are so undramatized, and the fact that, even the opponents of Christianity, whether later Jewish opponents of Christianity, or later pagan opponents of Christianity, did not deny that Jesus performed miracles, they simply debated the source of the power of Jesus’ miracles; so, there's a whole load of miracles attributed to Jesus; so, how could that take place?

Well, some person might say, gradually over time people exaggerated the accounts, and so... miracles got attributed to Jesus; the problem is, there are so many miracles you'd have to do that for, and the other problem is,  the sort of process, a telephone game process that would corrupt things like that, doesn't corrupt information selectively; there's no way you can have lack of attention to detail, on the question whether a miracle occurred, and huge attention to the detail on all these sort of minor issues, incidental details surrounding them, it just doesn't work;

is far more likely that you gonna get the main bit preserved correctly and the minor details correct, so get this, if the gospels have correctly got the minor details, isn't it reasonable to think they could correctly get the major ones? So, for me this forms an argument that, yeah, we're really dealing with something real.

(Screen) Conclusions – Can't prove everything to be historical – But if the gospels result from conspiracy or incompetence this is not what you would expect – If gospels were produced on basis of stories several steps removed from eyewitnesses this is not what you would expect

(PW) Can I prove it? No I can't! There's an answer to all of this; someone can push back and say, there's a weak point in your argument here, here, here; I'm not gonna deny that, that's always an answer to everything, it doesn't mean the answer is right;

ok, but if the gospels come from a conspiracy or through the incompetence of story tellers that simply got details wrong, this isn't the pattern you'd expect; if the gospels were the product of something very removed from the events, it's not what you'd expect; so I can think of the gospels as like, and the way they act is like a hurdle race, there are many many hurdles they can fall down at, anyone of those local details they could've got seriously wrong, and yet, they're consistently getting over those hurdles; when we see other literature fall down. In the Bible there are two talking animals, there is the proverbially stupid donkey, that gets it right, that's Balaam's ass, and the proverbially clever serpent, who gets it wrong, ok?

Now, I'm sure that there's a sermon in there, maybe it’ll inspire by Davis for tomorrow, he's looking for that inspiration, but, I think this is also the way there are two explanations people tend to use for Christianity, one is to say that the early Christians got things wrong through bungling incompetence; they just weren't interested about the details, they were so air headed like religious people often are, and so they just got the details wrong, because they, you know, they weren't paying attention;

the other explanation is the conspiracy theory one, that says, hey, they were really clever and they made it all up and it's really all authentic looking way but it's not really authentic; you know, what I wanna say is those two explanations are fundamentally in tension with each other; it's not that I can't ever combine one bit of one with one bit of another, yeah you could do a bit of that, but basically they are two different ways and, what we can say is, why not just take the middle route?

That Christians are neither particularly stupid nor particularly clever, they're just ordinary guys, regular Texans who are saying what they think really happened. Thank you very much for listening.






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