Clarification needed for my reply to McGrath’s criticism of the use of Bayesian reasoning

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by Neil Godfrey

McGrath does not tell his readers in the post we are addressing what he has in mind as the “clear-cut” evidence for the historicity of Jesus but from previous posts and comments I am convinced that it is the “brother of the Lord” passage in Galatians 1:19 that he has in mind. If I am wrong then someone will no doubt inform me.

I ought to have made that point clearer in my original post.

If someone can direct me to where McGrath recently made the point about that Galatians passage (was it in response to the reddit discussion about Vridar?) I would much appreciate it.



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9 thoughts on “Clarification needed for my reply to McGrath’s criticism of the use of Bayesian reasoning”

          1. Oh, sorry to hear that. Dickson just outlines what he thinks even skeptical scholars have to admit about Jesus. Here are the comments I left on Dr. McGrath’s site regarding the video:

            “I watched the John Dickson video Dr. McGrath provided above. I liked the part about Jesus radicalizing the Jewish concept of love to include the outcast and the sinner. On the other hand, Dickson seems to want to sneak in the plausibility of the historicity of the healing miracles of Jesus (in no small part because of their early and multiple attestation), and poke a little fun at Paula Fredriksen’s skeptical interpretation of the healing miracles (video time index 28:51 ff). Where Dickson’s argument here sort of falls apart here is when he points out Q’s Jesus interprets the healing miracles as previews of the coming Kingdom where there will be justice and wholeness (video time index 29:43; cf Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20). The general hermeneutic rule of thumb is that if something in the text (in this case the healing miracles) shows theological motivation (similar to Matthew presenting Jesus as the New and Greater Moses), we bracket its historicity (it may or may not have happened) because the author would have had reason to invent it. Since the healing miracles serve the function of previewing the Kingdom in the text, they may or may not go back to the historical Jesus. I’m also a bit hesitant to agree with Dickson that we can be sure that there are as many sources underlying the gospels that he thinks there are. For instance, there may be a separate ‘M’ source underlying Matthew, but it could also be that Matthew simply invented the material unique to him. We know in some instances Matthew was simply inventing stuff, like the “Jesus is the New and Greater Moses” business, so he could have been inventing the other stuff unique to him as well.”

          1. This sounds like a frequent MO of McGrath: a sweep of a hand in the direction of “many posts” or “an hour long video” that he “encourages” you to consult and see how “true” his comments are.

      1. Oh good god. You’re joking, surely. I missed a link to John Dickson. I have most of his books here and consider him a fundamentalist evangelist, not a scholar, despite his job at a university. His books on the historicity of Jesus are the lowest level of credibility, nothing more advanced than you’d expect on a street corner preacher’s flyer. He even makes blatantly false statements at times, presumably because he does not want to bother his readership with anything technical or complex that might be necessary to make an honest statement about the evidence.

        I have thought of posting on Dickson’s rubbish a few times but have never gathered a strong enough interest to do so. How can anyone with serious pretensions to scholarship appeal to anything by Dickson? How the hell can Dickson even be an academic in a public university? Oh toads and snails and warts and all.

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