Today a friend of mine, Dr. Dave Farnell, told me about a blog he posted, “The Danger from within the Church”, January 20, 2018, at the Defending Inerrancy website. In the article, which you can see here, Farnell shows that leading Evangelical New Testament scholar Dr. Craig Evans teaches that Jesus did not say any of the seven “I am” statements in John’s Gospel! Read that again. If that doesn’t get your heart rate up, you need to get your heart checked out immediately.
His blog has a link to a fascinating yet sad 2012 video (click here to go to youtube.com/watch) where Dr. Bart Ehrman, agnostic, and Dr. Craig Evans, Evangelical, discuss the historicity of John’s Gospel (and of the Synoptic Gospels). It is called a “debate,” but as far as I can tell they basically agree with other.
Evans teaches at Houston Baptist University. He does not teach at some liberal school.
Those seven “I am” statements are key evangelistic texts.
Here is one: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Evans and Ehrman see this as a creation of John’s followers (the Johannine community), not the words of Jesus.
Here is another famous “I am” statement by the Lord: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). Evans and Ehrman say that those are not really the words of Jesus.
According to Evans, a leading supposedly conservative Bible scholar today, Jesus said none—not one—of the “I am” sayings as reported in John’s Gospel.
I don’t know about you, but for me, if a Bible author says that Jesus said something, then it is clear that Jesus said that. The Biblical authors did not make stuff up. They accurately reported what was said and done.
Keep in mind that Evans formally affirms inerrancy. That is, he says that the Bible has no errors in it. How can he say that and say that John’s Gospel gives fictitious quotes? Read Farnell’s blog. He will show you why what Evans is saying really is a denial of inerrancy.
Evans’s point, like many who do not believe in inerrancy but who say that they do (“the emperor has no clothes!”), is that while there would be errors in the Bible if we judged the Bible on our modern view of historiography (the reporting of history), there actually are no errors because at the time they were written it was okay to make up stuff and falsely report it. It was supposedly not an error in the first century to say that the Lord Jesus Christ said something, when in fact He did not say that. The same with the reporting of what He did. Some of it He actually did. Some He did not.
The funny thing is, Ehrman (the guy on the left in the video, the one with less hair) at several points concludes what Farnell and I believe is true. (Go to the 1:23:30-1:23-57; 1:24:20-1:24:30; 1:39:00-1:40:22 marks). If the Gospels report things that Jesus did not do and did not say, then they are not historically accurate and they are not without error. They would be erroneous books if what Evans is saying is true. Ehrman is suggesting that Evans does not believe in inerrancy and this argument about ancient historiography has nothing to do with whether there are errors in the Gospels, and the entire Bible.
It is a bit hard to watch this for very long because neither Ehrman nor Evans has a high view of the Word of God. If what Evans is saying passes today for a high view of God’s Word, then we are, as Farnell says in his blog, in deep trouble.
When you share John 3:16 or John 11:25-27 or John 14:6 with someone, it is important that they grasp that these words are Jesus’ words. These are not your words. These are not some man-made words. While the listener need not believe in the doctrine of inerrancy to be born again, it is important that the evangelist believes these are in fact the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise he can no longer say with conviction, “Thus saith the Lord.”
How do I know with certainty that I have everlasting life? Because the Lord Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” The Lord of Glory really said that. He made that promise. That promise is one I can take to the spiritual bank.
Beware of the slippery slope. At first, Evangelicals begin to question the historicity of Adam and Eve, of Noah’s flood, of Jonah and the great fish, and Job’s travails. After a generation or two the same schools are now questioning the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Inerrancy is a wonderful apologetic for evangelism. The promise of everlasting life is true. 100% dependable. Totally reliable.
May we stand fast upon the Word of God!