2010 debate on the reliability of scripture between bart ehrman and craig evans

If you have an hour, you really ought to listen to the 2010 debate between Dr. Bart Ehrman and Dr. Craig Evans on the reliability of scripture. Below are the YouTube videos in 9 parts.

Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Craig A. Evans is the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College of Acadia University, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The audience is the First Family Church in Kansas City and Dr. Ehrman acknowledges at the beginning that most people there will not agree with him. However, throughout the debate you will notice a growing trend: Dr. Ehrman demonstrates the discrepancies and inconsistencies and errors of the biblical text, and dismantles any possibility of an “inerrant” or “infallible” text. In response, Dr. Evans does not dispute Dr. Ehrman’s arguments, but instead dismisses these errors as “insignificant” or attempts to argue that the text is still reliable despite the textual problems.

I’ll let you decide whose argument is more compelling. However, I agree with the moderator, Pastor Jerry Johnston, who states after one of Dr. Evans’ responses (Pt. 3, @ 3:37), “Sounds like an evangelist.”

The key questions are as follows:

  1. Are the gospels reliable? (Pt. 1 @ 3:50)
  2. Do the gospels accurately preserve the teachings of Jesus Christ? (Pt. 2 @ 3:42)
  3. Do the gospels accurately preserve the activities of Jesus Christ? (Pt. 3 @ 3:42)
  4. Do the gospels contain eyewitness tradition? (Pt. 4 @ 4:25)
  5. Do archaeologists and historians use the gospels as sources? (Pt. 5 @ 4:05)
  6. Have the gospels been accurately preserved down through the centuries? (Pt. 6 @ 6:22)
  7. Do scribal errors and textual variants significantly impact any teaching of Jesus or any important Christian teaching? (Pt. 7 @ 7:33)
  8. Final Remarks (Pt. 8 @ 7:01)

Here are the videos. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

Part 9:

16 Responses

  1. […] via 2010 debate on the reliability of scripture between bart ehrman and craig evans « XKV8R: The Offici…. […]

  2. The fallibility of man negates the inerrancy of the Bible.

  3. agreed, because men wrote it, and it has a bunch of errors in it.

  4. To find the Bible to be inerrant requires one to shut his critical mind so tightly as to completely ignore evidence, scientific discoveries, and plain simple contradictions present throughout the text. Is that what must be present for faith to grow? In my view, Dr. Ehrman does a magnificent job. If the bible is inerrant, then it must be perfect, and that is not what one finds upon reading it closely and critically. If there is a variation of one single “t” from one manuscript to another, then the whole premise of absolute perfection collapses. Compare the bible versions from the catholic, protestant and jehovah’s witness’ traditions and one sees that we can’t even agree on a translation, how many books are present, much less on doctrine. The Bible is a great literary source. Nothing more than that.

  5. I’m on part four, and Craig Evans still hasn’t answered any of the questions Bart Ehrman keeps asking each time his turn comes up. In fact, Evans seems to be implicitly affirming all Ehrman’s points and mostly talking about tangential matters that don’t require him to engage the text closely. He likes quoting opinion passages from other books, while Ehrman keeps quoting the Bible.

  6. As I understand it, Craig Evans wants to be and is taken seriously as a New Testament scholar. As a result, he cannot spout the same kind of apologetic claptrap when he is in the presence of a real New Testament scholar like Ehrman as he does when he is contributing to one Lee Strobel’s humbugs. He never stood a chance.

  7. […] – Robert Cargill has linked the entire 2010 debate between Bart D. Ehrman and Craig A. Evans on the reliability of Scripture. […]

  8. […] Cargill posted YouTube videos from a 2010 debate between Bart D. Ehrman and Craig A. Evans on the topic of the reliability of the […]

  9. This is a very thoughtful reply. Well said!

  10. @Vinny: I don’t think anyone doubts that Evans is a serious New Testament scholar. His long list of publications should be sufficient proof. He has done work on subjects ranging from the DSS to the gospel, Paul, and even gnostic (whatever that means these days) literature.

    Yes, he may have been a bit too apologetic, but let’s be fair, Ehrman is an evangelist in his own right and he was ready to pull out any tool he could to do the exact opposite of Evans.

    What should be noted is that the format sucked. It was a terrible choice to cover that much ground with one person at a time getting to answer the questions and with the order always being Ehrman to Evans.

    I have seen many complaints that Evans didn’t address Ehrman’s questions. As I watched I was frustrated because like in a court room where a question is asked only to be stricken by a judge it still sits in the mind of the jury. The format served as this sort of judge, but Ehrman was savvy enough to ask questions that he knew would stick in the mind of his audience. Well played.

    On the other hand, Evans wasn’t obligated to depart from his script simply because Ehrman baited him into it. As Derrida rightly noted about interviews so we can say about debates: It may seem like a natural conversation, but it is hardly so. To answer certain questions is to validate the premise upon which they are asked. Ehrman’s black and white “either it is a direct quotation of Jesus or forever corrupted” line put Evans on his turf. Evans was able to suggest alternatives (e.g recontextualization) that suggest he had a third option, but again, the format sucked.

    I’d like to see these two again, but with a shorter list and a format that is fair to both.

  11. Brian,

    In The Case for the Real Jesus, Craig Evans claimed that liberal scholars reached faulty conclusions because they misunderstood phrases like “Son of Man” and “kingdom of God” because they didn’t understand Semetic background of the New Testament. In the debate however, he couldn’t seem to find a single point upon which to criticize the man who has done the most to popularize modern scholarship. It seemed to me that he conceded that Ehrman knows his stuff really well. I took Evans argument to be, “Even if (or though) Ehrman is right about the facts, we can still find a way to rationalize our beliefs in inerrancy. (It has been awhile since I have listened to it though.)

    Of course Evans wasn’t obligated to depart from his script, but given the kind of comments he likes to make about liberal scholars when he is wearing his apologist’s hat, I have to think his fans found it hard to understand why he didn’t take on Ehrman more directly.

  12. @ Vinny,

    I would recommend reading Evan’s ‘Fabricating Jesus’.He explains the utter ‘irrelevancy’ of the inerrancy question. Evans does not hold to inerrancy, and is trying to help conservatives cast off the ‘brittle fundamentalism’ they were raised with before they reject christianity based on an error in Mark 2:26. Ehrman describes in MJ how he realized Mark 2:26 was an error and it was a ‘Paul on a damascus road’ experience, and he was freed from Christianity.

    What is a bit disconcerting to me that you seem to imply (correct me if I am wrong) is that Ehrman has no bias and trumped Evans in the debate. While I admit Evans lacked ‘the emotion and delivery’ in the debate that Ehrman had, the substance of Ehrman’s arguments were wildly tendentious (perfect for Conspiracy theory america), whereas Evans content was judicious, reasoned, and in line with international NT scholarship. I am sure Metzger would be turning over in His grave at these conclusions.

    What do you think of the responses on this site??

  13. Jesse,

    Actually, that’s not what Ehrman describes in Misquoting Jesus. What he says he was freed from was the literalistic approach to the scriptures he had acquired at Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College. He remained a Christian for many years after opening up to the possibility that the authors of the gospels might be capable of making mistakes.

    I haven’t read Fabricating Jesus and I haven’t spent any time on the Ehman Project site. I am aware of other evangelical scholars who have argued for a more nuanced view of inerrancy, specifically, Dan Wallace who also contributed to The Case for the Real Jesus. If Evans really wants conservatives to cast off “brittle fundamentalism,” I wonder why he contributes to popular apologetic works that seem to be dedicated to reinforcing it.

    It has been a year since I listened to the debate, but my recollection is that Ehrman trumped Evans pretty thoroughly. I don’t recall Ehrman invoking any conspiracy theories and I don’t think I implied anything about whether he has any bias. In his books, I have found that Ehrman does an excellent job in presenting the evidence fairly and explaining how he reached his conclusions, thereby giving his readers the tools they need to make their own evaluation. I think that this is what a good scholar does in order to minimize the adverse impact that his biases may have on his work.

  14. […] cargill, a new addition to the mighty big 10, has the 2010 debate on the reliability of scripture between bart ehrman and craig evans not to mention james mcgrath on our shifting view of literalism and reality in the bible (and a […]

  15. Have you guys read Darrel Bock’s critique of Bart Ehrman? Sorry it’s not a vid, so not as engaging as the debate here. However it’s a really interesting read because Bock analyses each chapter of ‘Forged’ and presents some fascinating perspectives that the debate doesn’t really bring to light.

    Of course, the environment of a debate isn’t conducive to literary assessment. Which means that one can’t really investigate the legitimacy of Ehrman’s arguments in detail.

    But Bock has that luxury and delves very deeply into the matter and brings his own scholarly expertise to the subject. If you want to understand the core of Ehrman’s arguments, you need to read Bock’s critique. You can find it here:


    This page links to Bock’s blog.


  16. Craig is a terrible debater and that is fairly clear. Leave it to post this video as it furthers his agenda. Here’s a more informed response in addition to Peter Rufus’ link:
    There are many more out there, but secularist will not show refer you to these, only to the those with weak debates and weak debaters like Craig.

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