Authenticity of Jesus’ claims? Thoughts on Evidence that Demands a Verdict?

Easy choice for me: Dale Allison: Resurrecting Jesus. I read the 2005 version.

He has an update of the book in 2021 that I have yet to read called : The Resurrection of Jesus: Apologetics, Polemics, History. The reviews are stellar and by heavyweight scholars:

“This is the best book on the historical and exegetical problems surrounding the resurrection that I know of. Nowhere else will one be informed by such comprehensive, discriminating, and fair-minded judgment regarding the exegetical and historical discussion of Jesus’ resurrection. I have learned much from this great book.” ―Gerd Theissen, Professor Emeritus of New Testament Studies, University of Heidelberg, Germany

“This book is the product of the deep and wide reflections of a preeminent scholar. Allison is refreshingly transparent and honest. Some will accuse him of being too pessimistic. Others will charge him with not being skeptical enough. If he is guilty of either, he cannot be faulted for accepting easy answers or of neglecting any arguments. Although I remain persuaded that historical inquiry can yield greater confidence pertaining to what happened to Jesus after his death than Allison allows, this volume is a fair-minded assessment of the data and is scholarship at the highest level.” ―Michael R. Licona, Associate Professor of Theology, Houston Baptist University, USA

“This is the most interesting and illuminating piece of writing on the resurrection of Jesus that I have ever read.” ―Joel Marcus, Professor Emeritus of New Testament & Christian Origins, Duke Divinity School, USA

Marcus and Theissen are first rate scholars and I’ve seen positive reviews by many scholars. So while I have t read the 2021 version I’ve never read anything by Allison that was not stellar and can testify to his 2005 version. He is extremely sober, critical and fair.


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I’m going to have to take that in pieces. My PTSD these days generally kills my viewing comprehension at somewhere around 25 minutes (resulting in something that just makes my roommate laugh: to watch a full-length movie takes meat least four different evenings).

That’s less excusable now than when he first wrote back when he was a fairly new ‘activist’ Christian and excited about everything. I know the syndrome; I remember reading Robinson’s redating of the New Testament and almost cheering for every super-early date he arrived at, though my path didn’t follow McDowell’s; I swung the other way into skepticism for a while until rescued by delving into the original languages because I was tired of hearing ten different preachers talking about the same verse saying “What the Greek means” and getting a dozen different ‘meanings’, at which point I sort of threw it all out and just worried about what the text said.

I got invited to attend a presentation by some YEC ‘evangelist’ and when I found out what it was about I told my acquaintance, “You don’t want me to go there”, and when asked why, I said because I wouldn’t be able to sit more than twenty minutes before I’d jump up and holler, “This is so bogus!”

We know that Paul’s letters circulated quickly, so there’s no reason to think the Gospels didn’t do the same. The window of vulnerability to alteration is brief at best.


“Plenty of people” aren’t likely to be reading it from a first-century rabbinical and Jewish perspective.

Ehrman was a victim of YEC insistence that if there’s even one error then the whole thing fails. He plainly never got taught that scripture itself is incarnational, fully human while God-breathed, so encountering the idea that there was something lacking at all led him to follow the YEC reasoning and decide the whole thing is bogus.
My experience was the opposite of his: whereas he encountered variant readings and took them as flaws, I encountered them with delight because their presence shows just how human the whole process is – which includes the conclusion that the presence of variant readings is itself a message from the One who inspired the church: don’t put your faith in a book, put it in Person!

Good apologetics would likely have not made a difference with Ehrman; he was too deeply caught up in the false YEC logic. Good doctrine would have, especially the point that revelation is incarnational not just in Jesus but in the inspired Word as well, so variant readings are part of the package – and in fact once Metzger, Ehrman’s mentor, noted that if there were no variants at all it would be mighty suspicious!

Ah, one more book priced so no one will read it. $75 for a paperback is astounding. It should be in epub format for $19.95.

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This is the type of fuzzy logic I dislike from apologists.

Granting it is true that a few copies of one author’s EPISTLES are known to have been circulated means all books circulated quickly? So quickly they could not be edited? Or all Christian gospels did? All Christian gospels inside the canon? Or those outside as well? These types of uncritical simplifications and non sequiturs abound in apologetical literature. The window is not brief because we have well over a century of no evidence either way. The didn’t circulate quick enough so that any copies survive from the first or even second century for say the Gospel of Mark.

And the very first recipient of any text could have it copied and altered at will. This would certainly distort every other copy in the record.

All the books don’t have as high a chrostology as GJohn.

$26 used on amazon…$35ish on abehbooks or use a local library. The new, updated one is $41.


Please do. The first 25 minutes is well worth it.

What a fascinating topic! I’d like to see the bibliography as well.

I also had a period of skepticism, and recovered by deciding to simply read the NT as if it was written by some early Christians and set aside authority and inspiration. For me the text just felt special, so I decided could believe it was from God. And I don’t get caught up in the specks that I come across every now and then. I believe that is called the rationality of giving the Bible the benefit of the doubt. And I am glad it is this way, otherwise we would be just one step away from bringing back another wicked form of legal moralism.

Sounds like a great book for scholars. What would you recommend for a 20 yo who may not attend college?

I would still recommend that one. Just read it slower. I always say anyone interested in any critical historical issues about the Bible should first acquire a solid NT Introduction (Raymond Brown would be my first choice but there are other solid ones). Then I would also recommend a really solid, critical commentary on the Bible (not the evangelical NIV study Bible) but something like the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. It’s not perfect but wow do you get a lot for the $$$. I think I might even like the last version more than the newest one that came out last year.

I think Allison can be read by scholars and non-scholars. But a good NT Intro will give you the lay of the land and introduce you to most of the critical issues and at least point out what the majority of trained professionals have come to believe and the types of argumentation driving them—whether correct or not. After that you move to full length commentaries. Single works over 500 pages on a single book of the Bible (Anchor, ICC, Baker, NIC etc)… problem is these are all expensive books.

I purchase a lot of books but I also snag a lot of online pdfs… especially of out of print books or rare ones that cost $250 :man_facepalming: I usually grab online copies of books I purchase because it makes writing and quoting easier.


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What if I’m not interested in getting into those issues, but would like to read scholars who write to my level, while understanding those issues for themself? Lately Keener and Walton have been two of my favorites. Michael Heiser too who recently passed away. Have you seen Walton’s brief survey of the OT? I love how he goes through the various books in OT and draws out significant sign posts about the work of redemption and the presence of God to his covenant people.

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There is always room for speculation and criticism, especially because people 2000 years ago did not have the same criteria as sceptics today and did not have the methodology of modern history research. Probably there were sceptics but the whole way of thinking was different.

For myself, there are two lines of thought that are the best evidence of resurrection.
The first one is that when the first writings started to circulate, there were still alive people who had experienced some of the events. Even if those persons would not be able to write and read, their objections would have undermined the credibility of the stories. Yet, those writings and the stories told in the writings were generally acknowledged as reliable and because of this, they were later accepted in the canon. Hoax stories would probably not have gained such a widespread credibility.

A stronger one is that if the resurrection would not be true, faith in Jesus would be without bottom - something that does not work in life. We may often put too much emphasis on Christ dying on the cross. If Jesus would not have been born as a human, lived a sinless life as a human and resurrected after the death, the death on the cross would be meaningless, at least for us. I have experienced that this works in practice, therefore I believe that Jesus resurrected.


I think you might have misunderstand me. I was probably not clear. In one sense, everything about the Bible is a “historical critical issue” (resurrection, dating of the gospels, reliability, interpretation, etc). It’s an umbrella term that covers everything. That or we can jump into pure systematic theology where the author will view the Bible as the word of God and offer a systematic treatment of all scripture as if it’s all correct and consistent with one another.

I have no objections to someone choosing either road. I do have issues when people mix up the two or masquerade one road as the other. With that being said it is okay to let the historical-critical method guide systematic theology.

I am not overly interested in simplified arguments that have many hidden assumptions on something like the resurrection or the person of Jesus. My whole life and worldview is oriented around Christ. I have no suggestions for you besides an Intro to the NT on that front. Note the title of it. “Introduction” to the NT. I think that is exactly what you are asking for. It’s meant to be an introduction to these issues. Besides that I don’t like simplifications or superficial treatments.

In science education I could give you different models and explanations at different levels based on age and prior knowledge when teaching. I will leave it at condensation in middle school. High school will get an introduction to the Bergeron process whereas college gets a full cloud micro physics. But how many teachers mistakenly err in their careers and teach something false when simplifying things (e.g. explaining lift and wings or Bernoulli’s principle, or why we have tides)? I had a student in physics tell me last week their middle school teacher told them astronauts float because there is no gravity in space.

This process is much more difficult in Biblical studies because there is so much judgment and probability (opinion?) involved unlike in science. You have to date and get every work and make judgments on hundreds of critical issues, many which do not have certain answers. The field is too polarized with too many background assumptions and for so many there is too much at stake for me to read simplified versions of arguments by scholars in one camp while many other scholars are in another. How many people on this forum have very nuanced views?

I personally have interest in opinion puff pieces given the diversity in NT studies. Historical Jesus research is a prime example. There are almost as many versions of the historical Jesus as there are exegetes reconstructing him. I just bought a new one. Crossleys new Marxist interpretation of the historical Jesus arrived yesterday.

Simplified treatments to me end up making comments like this:

“We know that Paul’s letters circulated quickly, so there’s no reason to think the Gospels didn’t do the same.”

As if the four gospels were not all written by different authors to different communities, possibly separated by hundreds or thousands of miles in a time before email or cars, each community with different numbers of adherents with different financial means, education, ethnicity and outlooks, at different times—possibly 30 years or more, in different historical situations (before temple, after templ, during peace, during persecution 1et ), and each has its own dissemination and popularity. How many scholars will tell you Matthew was the most popular Gospel in the second century? But because a few of Paul’s letters circulated to a few local churches early we get to claim there is no reason to believe the gospels (all four) didn’t circulate rapidly as these few Pauline letters. Not to mention no reason to believe they didn’t is not a reason to believe they did. If I have no reason to believe you didn’t go to the grocery store yesterday, does that mean you did? I am not interest in simplified NT stuff. If I wanted to learn about the production and discrimination of ancient Christian writings I would just read Gamble’s Books and Readers in the Early Church.

A better approach As we saw in a different thread is to focus on the best version of argument. How many times do Christian apologists misconstrue and star man critical scholarship? This only gets work without the nuances. Ehrman’s scholarly work (Forgery and Counter forgery) is of a vastly different caliber than his popular work as we saw. Some critiques his comments in the popular work but they all dissolve away when dealing with the scholarly one.

Reading popular works in my experiences means reading summaries of issues by people who agree with me or are going to tell me what I want to hear.

You want a summary on the resurrection? By who? A fundamentalist Christian? A fundamentalist Catholic? A liberal Christian? An evangelical from America? An evangelical from across the pond? An atheist? An agnostic? A historian? A lawyer trying to do history? An apologist? Someone from the Jesus seminar?

I’m not interested in wading through the muck of opinions. You want a good critical book on the resurrection, Allison is it. You want bad history that will tell you what you want to hear, McDowell or Craig is fine.

One doesn’t have to read the perfect book on the resurrection to know that people claimed to have seen Jesus rise from the dead.

At best that’s what any historical argument for the resurrection rests on, that’s until we get into an Acts 2:14-36 type of argument.

And yay! I recently saw in Keener’s commentary on Acts, that he agrees the argument is there.

I think your first line of evidence is built on fuzzy apologetics.

  • Which writings and when were they written?

  • Where were they written and who were they sent to?

  • When did they start to spread and how far and how fast?

  • How do people alive control a tradition or creativity?

  • Can no falsehoods arise for any witnessed events while people are still alive?

  • How do people alive in Galilee when Jesus was preaching or performed some miracles control traditions in strange lands, hundreds of miles away?

  • How do the people in Jerusalem who saw Jesus 20 years prior, undermine the credibility of Christian stories in Corinth in the 50s, 800 miles away?

  • How about in Rome 1400 miles from Jerusalem 40 years after Jesus died, possibly where and when Mark, our first Gospel was written? Personally I am not convinced it was written in Rome but its a popular position.

  • Why did most Jews simply not accept Jesus as Messiah? In fact, to the Jewish world at large, the Christian message of Jesus was baloney and it was disputed (Paul’s clashes in the synagogues, etc).

  • What widespread credibility did the gospels gain in the first or middle second century and how do you know this? How many Christians were there and how many used one or more gospels? How many other gospels were there? How many other Christians used them? How many Christians even were there from 30-60, 60-90, 90-120 etc? How big of a splash did Christianity actually make early on?

  • What do you mean accepted as reliable? reliable to who? The christians at the time that accepted them and not other versions of Christianity or other gospls? Do the stories even agree with one another? John rewrites synoptic tradition. Jesus scoffs at the notion of asking God that the cup be taken from him in John. .

  • What do all the stories about Jesus preaching, exorcising demons, getting into conflict and teaching have to do with the resurrection?

  • How do you explain the outright creativity in the Gospels? For example, even by the most conservative of scholars, NT Wrights waffling not withstanding, Matthew 27:52-53 is regarded as pure fiction:

The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Why does not one other author in all of antiquity mention this marvelous resurrection of many of the saints in Jerusalem? All these people rising from the dead and appearing to many. None of the gospels outside Matthew, none of the epistles, not Josephus or anyone else. Not a shred of evidence for this. Something so marvelous doesn’t spread wide and far in Christian circles? In 1 For 15 Paul doesn’t appeal to it when asking “how can yo say there is resurrection of the dead?” Why not appeal to the many saints who came out of the tombs when Jesus died? It didn’t happen. Its fiction. So clearly fiction or hoaxes can absolutely develop. In addition, Jesus didn’t need to actually rise from the grave for followers to faithfully and sincerely preach this. They only had to believe he did.


No book is perfect and that is not an argument for the historicity of the resurrection anymore than the fact of Jesus being crucified is evidence or an argument for his resurrection. The majority of scholars do believe some of Jesus’s first followers sincerely believe he appeared them after death. I would consider that a bedrock fact of Christian history and anything else is fringe. This isn’t even an issue. Why raise it? That some people think they saw their leader after death is not an argument he actually rose from the dead. Maybe in the fuzzy heads of apologists that counts as evidence. For critical thinkers it is not a good argument.

You seem to have selectively read my comment. I know that you have a high regard for Keener, so I am confused why you wouldn’t, what is it, steelmann what I wrote.

Keener is a good scholar and would nuance the argument more as NT Wright did and even as Allison claims to do in his new book. In the end, its nice to know nothing contradicts our faith but affirming a supernatural resurrection based on the gospels is akin to butter scraped over too much bread.

If there were a way to say this nicely I would, but you really don’t understand the argument I am referring to.

What do you mean? About Acts 2 and Peter? A speech by Peter in a book written 50-70 years after he allegedly gave it, when it is known that speeches are often made up or have no adequate lines of transmission or are based on ancient memory which just isn’t that good, is good evidence of the resurrection? Make the argument or quote it. Snap a screen shot of Keener’s work if you need to or reference it (I may have access to it).


That’s better :grin: this is what Keener wrote:

“Peter makes an argument from Scripture that the risen one is the Lord (2:25–31, 34–35), an argument from the testimony of eyewitnesses and the Spirit’s present confirmation that Jesus has risen (2:32–33), with the resulting conclusion that Jesus is the Lord (2:36).”

My version is the “therefore know for certain” is based on: the testimony of Scripture, eyewitness testimony, and the self-evident testimony of the Spirit.