Are the Sources for the Life of Jesus Really Unreliable? Answering Richard Dawkins

File:Richard dawkins.jpg

Well, hopefully we all know that Richard Dawkins is not an expert in New Testament studies. His speciality is biology. So he stepped way out of his arena when he made these comments about sources for the life of Jesus:

“[T]he gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life.” “Nobody knows who the four evangelists were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally.”-Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006)

At this point, I am not going to spend a ton of time going over the dating of the four Gospels again. There are enough posts/article on this site that cover the topic. See here and here for a couple of places to look at some sources that deal with that issue. Or, more are here:

External Evidences for the Truth of the Gospels by Dr. Timothy McGrew

Recent   Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels: Gary Habermas

From Jesus to Us: A Look at P.O.W.E.R.

The Gospels as Historical Biography (Richard Bauckham)

Jesus and the Reliability of the Bible (Craig Blomberg)

Dr. Tim McGrew Lectures on Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels of Luke & John

Who wrote the Gospels? Dr. Timothy McGrew

Did Jesus Even Exist?-The Problematic Argument from Silence

84 Confirmed Facts in the Last 16 Chapters of the Book of Acts

59 Confirmed or Historically Probable Facts in the Gospel of John

Archeology   and the Historical Reliability of the New Testament: Peter S. Williams

James M. Arlandson: Historical Reliability of the   Gospels

Craig Blomberg: Jesus of   Nazareth: How Historians Can Know Him And Why It Matters

Mark   Roberts: The Game of Telephone and Oral Tradition

Norman Geisler: A Note on the Percent of the Accuracy of the   New Testament Text

Ben   Witherington’s Review of Earl Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle

But Dawkin’s comments about Paul are just plain wrong. Paul mentions no facts of the life of Jesus? Oh really? First, a couple of quotes:

“Paul has left us an extremely precious document for Jewish students, the spiritual autobiography of a first-century Jew…Moreover, if we take Paul at his word—and I see no a priori reason not to—he was a member of the Pharisaic wing of first century Judaism.”–Daniel Boyarian, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 2.

“Paul was a scholar, an attendant of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, well-versed in the laws of Torah.”-Rabbi Jacob Emeden (1679-1776)–cited by Harvey Falk, Jesus the Pharisee (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2003), 18.

Some of the historical details about the life of Jesus that Paul mentions are the following:

1. Jesus’ Jewish ancestry (Gal 3:16) 2. Jesus’ Davidic descent (Rom 1:3) 3. Jesus being born of a woman (Gal 4:4) 4. Jesus’ life under the Jewish law (Gal 4:4) 5. Jesus’ Brothers (1 Cor 9:5) 6. Jesus’ 12 Disciples (1 Cor 15: 7) 7. One of whom was named James (1 Cor 15: 7) 8. That some had wives (1 Cor 9: 5) 9. Paul knew Peter and James (Gal 1:18-2:16) 10. Jesus’ poverty ( 2 Cor 8:9) 11. Jesus’ humility ( Phil. 1:5-7) 12. Jesus Meekness and Gentleness (2 Cor. 10:1) 13. Abuse by Others (Rom 15:3) 14. Jesus’ teachings on divorce and remarriage (1 Cor. 7:10-11) 15. On paying wages of ministers (1 Cor 9:14) 16. On paying taxes ( Rom 13: 6-7) 17. On the duty to love one’s neighbors (Rom 13: 9) 18. On Jewish ceremonial uncleanliness ( Rom 14: 14) 19. Jesus’ titles to deity ( Rom 1: 3-4; 10:9) 20. On vigilance in view of Jesus’ second coming ( 1 Thess: 4: 15) 21. On the Lord’s Supper ( 1 Cor. 11: 23-25) 22. Jesus’ Sinless Life ( 2 Cor. 5:21) 23. Jesus’ death on a cross ( Rom 4:24; 5:8; Gal. 3:13; 1 Cor 15: 3) 24. Specifically by crucifixion ( Rom 6: 6; Gal 2:20) 25. By Jewish instigation ( 1Thess. 2:14-15) 26. Jesus’ burial (1 Cor. 15: 4) 27. Jesus’ resurrection on the “third day” (1 Cor.15:4) 28. Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the apostles ( 1 Cor.15:5-8) 29. And to other eyewitnesses (1 Cor 15:6); and 30. Jesus’ position at God’s right hand ( Rom 8:34)

As far as parallels between Jesus and Paul (as respresented by the Jesus tradition in the Gospels, Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy’s The Jesus Legend: A Case For The Historical Reliability of the Gospel Tradition) pgs 226-227 list 20 items. I will list nine of them:

1. God can be referred to as Abba (Rom 8:15;Gal 4:6//Mark 14:36) 2. We are to give what belongs to God (Rom 12:12-1-2//Mark 12:17) 3. We are to bless those who persecute those who do us wrong and love our enemies (Rom 12:14;19-21//Luke 6:27-28;Matt 5:44) 4. We are to live peacefully with all people (Rom.12:18//Mark 9:50 5. We must remind alert for the second coming (Rom 13:11-14//Luke 21:28, 31,34) 6. Salvation is offered to the Gentiles (Rom 15:8-9; Matt.8:11) 7. Remaining single requires a special gift from God (1 Cor.7:7//Matt.19:12) 8. Kingdom work is accompanied by sings and wonders (2 Cor. 12:12//Mark 6:7) 9. No food is unclean in of itself (Rom 14:14,20//Mark 7:15)

I could say much more here. To see our post called What Can Paul Tell Us About Jesus? see here.  But in the end, I really hope that  people would go elsewhere to find out about the historical evidence for Jesus.


One thought on “Are the Sources for the Life of Jesus Really Unreliable? Answering Richard Dawkins

  1. Cory Tucholski August 6, 2012 / 1:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Josiah Concept Ministries and commented:
    I love when people make sweeping generalizations like, “… the epistles of Paul … mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life.” Richard Dawkins should stick to biology, as my good buddy Eric Chabot points out in this fine post.

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