bookmark_borderMatthew Ferguson: Ten Reasons to Reject the Apologetic 10/42 Source Slogan (2012)

The “10/42 source slogan” refers to the claim that “42 ancient sources record Jesus 150 years within his lifetime, whereas only 10 mention the contemporary Roman emperor Tiberius.” Matthew Ferguson, a Ph.D. student at the University of California at Irvine, has written a detailed critique of the 10/42 source slogan.
Here is an excerpt from the article’s conclusion:

Upon investigation of the “10/42” statistic, it is clear that Habermas and Licona exaggerated the number of authors who allegedly wrote about Jesus, including authors such as Mara Bar-Serapion and the Younger Pliny who make no direct reference to Jesus. Habermas and Licona missed at least 34 narrative accounts that mention Tiberius within 150 years of his life. When you re-crunch the numbers, the count for Tiberius versus Jesus comes out to 44/42. Furthermore, the flawed statistic had to stretch out the date range to an extreme 150 years in order to skew the numbers in favor of late Christian authors. When analyzing contemporary sources during Tiberius and Jesus’ own lifetime, 14 sources document Tiberius and a whopping 0 account for Jesus.
The total score card for contemporary written sources comes out to 14 literary, 100+ epigraphical, and ~100 papyrological for Tiberius in comparison to 0/0/0 for Jesus.

I haven’t yet read this article, but I’m passing this along because I think it will be of interest to many readers.
Note: as always, links do not necessarily constitute endorsement.
LINK

bookmark_borderThe Case for the Death of Jesus

I have written several posts about William Craig’s “case” for the death of Jesus in his book The Son Rises. In those posts I showed that Craig made about 81 historical claims, but failed to provide any historical evidence for 85% of those claims, and provided only weak and dubious historical evidence for the other 15% of claims. In short, Craig provided solid historical evidence for ZERO of the 81 historical claims he makes in his “case” for the death of Jesus. He completely failed to show that Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday, and thus his case for the resurrection is also a complete failure.
However, I can imagine a response to my objection to Craig’s case for the resurrection of Jesus:
You are right. William Craig has generally ignored the issue of whether Jesus died on the cross, and his case for the death of Jesus in The Son Rises is pathetic. But the problem here is that Craig does not take this issue seriously, and so he does not make a serious effort to prove that Jesus died on the cross. In his view, the question of whether Jesus actually died on the cross was settled long ago, and there is no need to re-hash the issue.
However, other Christian apologists take this question more seriously, and they make a more serious effort to build an historical case for the death of Jesus on the cross. So, defeating Craig’s half-hearted effort in The Son Rises is something bordering on a Straw Man fallacy. You need to consider the cases made by other apologists. There are other Christian apologists who do a better job on this issue, such as Norman Geisler, Michael Licona, and Gary Habermas. Until you consider the cases made by these apologists, you have only refuted one of the weakest cases available.
I think this is a reasonable response to my objection to Craig’s case for the resurrection. So, I plan to move on to examine cases for the death of Jesus by Geisler, Licona, and Habermas. I believe they in fact do a better job building a case for the death of Jesus than Craig has, so their cases deserve serious examination and consideration.

bookmark_borderCavin and Colombetti on the Resurrection of Jesus Part 3: The Projection and Unknown Removal Theories

What I want to do in this post is to summarize (and offer my own interpretation of) Cavin’s third main contention in his debate with Michael Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus:

CC3. There is an alternative theory to the Resurrection that is a far superior explanation.

1. Explanatory Power Revisited
Although repetitive, for the convenience of the reader, I’m going to repeat what I wrote at the beginning of Part 2 since it bears directly upon Part 3. In order to properly assess CC3,

… it’s crucial that we first clarify what “explanation” means. In order to do that, let us begin by reviewing some basic concepts from Part 1 of this series. Let us divide the evidence relevant to the Resurrection into two categories. First, certain items of evidence function as “odd” facts that need to be explained.  Let us call these items the “evidence to be explained.” Second, other items of evidence are “background evidence,” which determine the prior probability of rival theories and partially determine how well those theories explain the evidence to be explained.
These two types of evidence have two probabilistic counterparts: (1) the prior probability of a hypothesis H and (2) the explanatory power of H. (1) is a measure of how likely H is to occur based on background information B alone, whether or not E is true. As for (2), this measures the ability of a hypothesis (combined with background evidence B) to predict (i.e., make probable) an item of evidence.

In Part 2, we saw that H (combined with B) does not predict E more than not-H (~H), and so H does not explain E. In this post, I will discuss C&C’s argument that one version of ~H, the combination of the “Projection” and “Unknown Removal” Theories, when combined with B, does predict E more than H, and so ~H does explain E.
2. Why Even Outlandish Naturalistic Hypotheses Are Better Explanations than the Resurrection
Here is C&C on slides 250-251:

What this means is that, their protestations to the contrary not withstanding, resurrectionists do not take the (alleged) historical facts seriously—they have no explanation for the empty tomb or the postmortem appearances of Jesus. Even the most outlandish “naturalistic” hypothesis—e.g., Deceptive Space Aliens—is a better explanation of the (alleged) historical facts than the indeterminate unknown postulated by the “X-Man” theory!

Let R be the Resurrection hypothesis and let X be any naturalistic hypothesis which predicts (i.e., makes probable) the evidence to be explained. In its logical form, then, C&C’s argument seems to be this.

(1) Given two or more rival explanations for the evidence to be explained, the best explanation is the explanation which has the overall greatest balance of prior probability and explanatory power.
(2) The evidence to be explained–Jesus’s empty tomb and his postmortem appearances–is known to be true. [assumption]
(3) R has an extremely low prior probability, i.e., Pr(R|B) is virtually zero. [From the Anti-resurrection Prior Probability Argument]
(4) R, by itself, has no explanatory power, i.e., Pr(E|R&B) = 0.
(5) X explains the evidence to be explained and has explanatory power B, i.e., Pr(E|X&B) > 1/2. [by definition]
(6) X has a non-zero prior probability, i.e., Pr(X|B) > 0.
(7) X has a greater overall balance of prior probability and explanatory power than R, i.e., Pr(X|B) x Pr(E|X&B) > Pr(R|B) x Pr(E|R&B).

If correct, this argument shows that even outlandish naturalistic theories–i.e., those with very low but not negligible prior probabilities–are better than the Resurrection theory as an explanation. But, C&C argue, there is a non-outlandish naturalistic theory which explains the data even better.
3. The Projection and Unknown Removal Theories
As I read them, C&C defend what I call a “Combination Theory” to explain the postmortem appearances of Jesus and the empty tomb. They defend what I call the “Projection Theory” as an explanation for the postmortem appearances of Jesus and what I call the “Unknown Removal Theory” to explain the empty tomb. In their words:

This theory of the unknown removal of the corpse of Jesus from the tomb and group hallucinations based on strong expectations has a higher overall balance of prior probability and explanatory power than the Resurrection! [slide 263]

Regarding this Combination Theory, they write:

Such hallucinations might be nocturnal and hypnopomic—coming out of dreams “replaying” the suggestions of the premortem Jesus—and thus seem utterly real! Being in the form of visions, the idiosyncratic nature of the group hallucinations would be of no concern. The tomb in Jerusalem would be too far away to aversely affect the disciples’ expectations. Moreover, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the body of Jesus would have been moved from the tomb without his family and followers knowing.  [slides (259-262)]

I reconstruct C&C’s argument for this Combination Theory as follows.
B: The Relevant Background Evidence
1. Jesus saw himself as some kind of messianic figure.  [defended on slides 254-257]
2. Jesus believed he must die in that capacity.  [defended on slides 254-257]
3. Jesus told his disciples to go to Galilee, after his death, where they would see him in heavenly glory.  [defended on slides 254-257]
4. The disciples were eagerly expecting Jesus to rise from the dead and appear to them from “heaven” in Galilee. [defended on slides 254-257]
5. “On Friday, April 7, 30 C.E.: Jesus was brutally scourged and crucified by Roman soldiers as a political criminal; he died on the cross at about 3:00 P.M.”[1]
6. “By sunset Friday, April 7. 30 C.E.: Jesus was removed from the cross, placed in graveclothes, and laid in a tomb; and a very heavy stone was set in front of the entrance.”[2]
7. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the body of Jesus would have been moved from the tomb without his family and followers knowing. [slide 262]
E: The Evidence to be Explained
1.  “Mary Magdalene and other women found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb and that the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb, at about sunrise on Sunday, April 9, 30 C.E. The graveclothes in which Jesus had been buried were found lying neatly on the bench of the tomb somewhat later that morning.”[3]
2. “Certain individuals and groups, at various times and places, had what they took to be encounters (visual and auditory) with Jesus risen from the dead. These witnesses were:
a. Mary Magdalene and another woman near the tomb on the morning of Sunday, April 9,30 C.E.
b. Simon Peter in Jerusalem in the late morning or early afternoon of Sunday, April 9, 30 C.E.
c. The eleven disciples in Jerusalem on the evening of Sunday, April 9, 30 C.E.
d. The disciples in Galilee sometime in late April or early May 30 C.B.
e. A group of over five hundred individuals in Galilee (7) sometime in late April or early May 30 C.B.
f. James (the presumed brother of Jesus) sometime in later.
g. All of the apostles (including James) sometime later.”[4]
H: Rival Explanatory Hypotheses
R’: A supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, involving Jesus as a bodily raised corpse, took place. [see slides 188-189]
P: The disciplines projected their expectations in the form of group hallucinations and false memories. [see slide 258]
U: Unknown to the disciples, someone removed the corpse of Jesus from the tomb.
The Argument Formulated

(1) E is known to be true.
(2) Pr(E | P & U & B) > Pr(E | R’ & B).
(3) Pr(P & U | B) !> Pr(R’ | B).
(4) Therefore, Pr(P & U | E & B) > Pr(R’ | E & B). [From (2) and (3)]

4. Conclusion
C&C conclude that the combination of P&U is a vastly superior explanation of the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus to the Resurrection hypothesis.
Notes
[1] Robert Greg Cavin, “Miracles, Probability, and the Resurrection of Jesus: A Philosophical, Mathematical, and Historical Study,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California at Irvine, 1993, p. 313.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid, pp. 313-314.

bookmark_borderCavin and Colombetti on the Resurrection of Jesus Part 1: The Anti-Resurrection Prior Probability Argument

As I reported earlier, Greg Cavin has graciously allowed us to publish the slides for his debate with Michael Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus. While only Cavin debated Licona, both Cavin and Carlos Colombetti  (C&C) co-authored the slides used in the debate, so I’ve mentioned both C&C in the title.

What I want to do in this post is to summarize (and offer my own interpretation of) Cavin’s first main contention in his debate with Michael Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus:

CC1. The prior probability of a specifically supernatural Resurrection of Jesus by God is so astronomically low that the Resurrection Theory has virtually zero (0) plausibility.

1. Prior Probability, Explanatory Power, and Final Probability

In order to properly assess CC1, it’s crucial that we first clarify what “prior probability” means. In order to do that, let us begin by dividing the evidence relevant to the Resurrection into two categories. First, certain items of evidence function as “odd” facts that need to be explained.  Let us call these items the “evidence to be explained.” Second, other items of evidence are “background evidence,” which determine the prior probability of rival theories and partially determine how well those theories explain the evidence to be explained.

These two types of evidence have two probabilistic counterparts: (1) the prior probability of a hypothesis H and (2) the explanatory power of H. (1) is a measure of how likely H is to occur based on background information B alone, whether or not E is true. As for (2), this measures the ability of a hypothesis (combined with background evidence B) to predict (i.e., make probable) an item of evidence.

Bayes’s Theorem states that the final probability of a hypothesis is a function of both its prior probability and its explanatory power. So the final probability of a hypothesis is the probability that a hypothesis is true, conditional upon both our background evidence and the evidence to be explained.

A common mistake made by many people is to confuse prior and final probabilities. For example, suppose someone, call him Thomas, says that a hypothesis H has a prior probability of 1 in 100 billion. Does it follow that Thomas thinks H is false? No! All that follows is just that Thomas thinks the prior probability of H is 1 in 100 billion. In order to figure out whether Thomas thinks H is true, we need to know what Thomas thinks about H’s explanatory power. Thomas might think that H’s explanatory power is so high that it completely outweighs its prior probability, in which case Thomas will (if he is rational) think that H is probably true.

Let us now turn to C&C’s defense of CC1.

2. The Anti-Resurrection Prior Probability Argument

The statistical syllogism is an inductively correct argument that moves from general to particular: “what is generally, but not universally, true (or false) is also true (or false) for a particular case.”[1] It has the following form.

1. X% of Fs are Gs.
2. a is F.
3. Therefore, [it is X% probable] a is G.

Because the statistical syllogism explicitly refers to probability, the interpretation of a statistical syllogism is dependent upon the probability interpretation used in the argument. For example, if one adopts a frequency interpretation of the probability value X, then one will have a corresponding frequency interpretation of the statistical syllogism. According to the frequency interpretation of the statistical syllogism, F is called the reference class, the class of individuals or properties that a belongs to or is referred to. G is called the attribute class, the class that has the property attributed to a.[2]

In a statistical syllogism, regardless of how one interprets probability, X can refer to either a single value (i.e., 65%) or a range of values (i.e., 90-95%). We often use fuzzy probabilities for X to represent a range of values without providing actual numbers for the limits of the range.[3] Fuzzy probabilities are expressed with phrases like most of, usually, probably, often, frequently, almost all, vast majority, high percentage, and the like.

Also regardless of the probability interpretation used, inductively correct statistical syllogisms must obey two rules. First, X must be greater than 50%; the closer X is to 100%, the stronger the argument.[4] Second, the statistical syllogism, like all inductive arguments, must obey the Rule of Total Evidence, which is the requirement that the premises of an inductively correct argument must represent all of the available relevant evidence. “Relevant” here means something that can affect the probability (X) of the conclusion. In the context of the statistical syllogism, when selecting the reference class F, we must consider the class that is most relevant to the probability that a is a G. In practical terms, this translates into two requirements. First, the defining properties of F are relevant to a’s being G, and, second, F is the most narrowly specified of such classes.[5]

In support of CC1, C&C present the following statistical syllogism, which they label, accordingly, the “anti-resurrection prior probability statistical syllogism” (slide 108).

1. 99.999…999% of the dead are not supernaturally interfered with by God, and, thus, not raised by Him.
2. Jesus was dead.
3. Therefore, [it is 99.999…999% probable that] Jesus was not supernaturally interfered with by God, and, thus, not raised by Him.

Here we see the importance of the earlier distinction between prior probability and final probability. While the argument’s name refers to prior probability, the actual conclusion of the statistical syllogism does not. This might give one the incorrect impression that C&C are claiming that the final probability of Jesus’s being dead is 99.999…999%.

3. The Justification for the Probability Estimate in the Anti-Resurrection Prior Probability Argument

One incorrect way to interpret the statistical syllogism would be to think it refers refers to the percentage of the dead who are not supernaturally interfered with by God. In that case, one might get the impression that C&C’s basis for that prior probability value just is an appeal to observational-relative frequencies. Such an interpretation would be incorrect, however.

In the context of refuting Licona’s assumption that C&C’s argument presupposes atheistic naturalism, their anti-resurrection prior probability argument is based on negative natural theology, i.e., the Via Negativa, specifically on the tendency of God not to interfere with the decomposition of dead bodies – to not supernaturally raise the dead. Thus, according to C&C, the correct way to interpret the anti-resurrection prior probability argument is to interpret it using the epistemic interpretation of probability.

While observational-relative frequencies are often used for calculating prior probabilities, C&C make it clear that they believe observational-relative frequencies are “particularly ill-suited for the purposes of calculating the prior probability of the Resurrection” (274). This is because “for all or almost all of us the observational frequency of resurrections is strictly zero, yet inferential statistics does not permit us to calculate a strictly zero prior probability from (finite) observational frequencies of zero” (275-276).

So how
, precisely, do C&C justify their astronomically low prior probability value for the Resurrection? Statistical Mechanics. Appealing to the “Postulate of Equal A Priori Probabilities,” C&C point out that all microstates having the same energy have the same prior probability. In the case of Jesus’ corpse, the equally epistemically probable microstates in which the corpse of Jesus is dead vastly outnumber those in which his body is alive (316). Because that is so, “the prior [epistemic] probability that the body will die and undergo complete decomposition”—in other words, the prior [epistemic] probability that the corpse will not resurrect—is “virtually 100%” (320-21).

It seems, then, that C&C want to make an inference from natural revelation, namely:

(NR) 99.999…999% of the dead decompose, viz., 99.999…999% of the potential microstates of a post-mortem body are microstates in which the body is dead.

to a generalization about supernatural resurrection:

(SR) 99.999…999% of the dead are not supernaturally interfered with by God, and, thus, not raised by Him.

This inference appears to rely upon the following principle (the “Via Negativa”):

(VN) Necessarily, if God causes it to be the case that P, then P.

Notice that VN entails that necessarily, if ~P, then God does not cause it to be the case that P.

In order to see an example of how C&C justify the inference from (NR) to (SR) using (VN), let us now turn to an objection. Their response to this objection illustrates how they believe the inference from (NR) to (SR) can be justified.

4. The Divine Interference Objection

One obvious objection to the anti-resurrection prior probability argument is that it ignores the possibility of divine interference: “the one hundred billion people who’ve died and stayed dead prove only that apart from God’s supernatural intervention the dead don’t rise” (61). Since God has the power to supernaturally raise the dead, the anti-resurrectionist must show that God would not supernaturally raise Jesus from the dead. C&C call this the “divine interference objection.”

In response, however, C&C argue that “it’s a blatant straw man” to saddle them “with the view that the antecedent probability of what God wills must be determined a priori” (95). The divine interference objection is fallacious, they argue, because it ignores “the evidence of God’s self-revelation in Nature—seen a posteriori in everyday experience and science” (96). That evidence shows that God “has an exceptionally strong tendency not to supernaturally intervene in natural affairs” and, indeed, “not to supernaturally raise the dead” (103-04). Thus, using the Via Negativa, we don’t need to speculate a priori about what God would do; rather, we can empirically discover what God does and, more important, does not do. “Since whatever God wills to happen must happen, it follows that the antecedent [epistemic] probability that God would will Jesus to rise from the dead is astronomically low” (105).  Accordingly, C&C conclude that the anti-resurrection prior probability argument stands.

Notes

[1] Merrilee H. Salmon, Introduction to Logic and Critical Thinking (third ed., Harcourt Brace: New York, 1995), 99.

[2] I owe these definitions to Salmon 1995, 100.

[3] Cf. L.A. Zadeh, Fuzzy Sets, Fuzzy Logic, and Fuzzy Systems: Selected Papers (River’s Edge, NJ: World Scientific, 1996).

[4] If Z were to equal 100%, then the generalization would be categorized as a universal generalization, not a statistical generalization. The argument would then become a deductive argument.

[5] William Gustafson, Reasoning from Evidence: Inductive Logic (Macmillan: New York, 1994), 50.

bookmark_borderVideo of Licona-Cavin Debate on the Resurrection of Jesus

Here is the video of Licona-Cavin debate on the resurrection of Jesus. (HT: Wes)
[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/58321564[/vimeo]
I hope to blog about this debate in detail in the future.

bookmark_borderMUST READ: Greg Cavin’s Case Against the Resurrection of Jesus

Greg Cavin has graciously allowed me to publish a PDF version of his slides from his debate with Michael Licona on the resurrection of Jesus. For anyone interested in arguments for or against the resurrection of Jesus, these slides are an absolute must read. In my opinion, they constitute a major contribution to the ongoing debate about the Resurrection and are the best case against the Resurrection yet presented. Cavin decisively refutes arguments for the resurrection made by all of its prominent defenders, such as the McGrews, Swinburne, Craig, Davis, Habermas, Licona, Geisler, McDowell, and Strobel.

In his slides, Cavin defends three main contentions.
1. The prior probability of a specifically supernatural Resurrection of Jesus by God is so astronomically low that the Resurrection Theory has virtually zero (0) plausibility.
2. The Resurrection Theory is a dismal failure as an explanation of the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus—being ad hoc and almost completely devoid of explanatory power and scope.
3. There is an alternative theory to the Resurrection that is a far superior explanation.
In defense of these three contentions, Cavin identifies and refutes sixteen (16) myths perpetuated by Christians who defend the Resurrection. (The numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers in the PDF file.) Cavin’s refutation of these objections constitutes a tour-de-force against Resurrection apologetics.

  1. The Burden’s on the Skeptic Objection: The skeptic is required to explain the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus. (37-45)
  2. The Skeptic Assumes Atheism Objection: The skeptic falsely assumes that God does not exist, so his skepticism about the Resurrection is unjustified. (46-49)
  3. The Natural–Not-Supernatural–Resurrection-is-Impossible Objection: Resurrection cannot be caused by purely natural means. (50-56)
  4. The Divine Interference Objection: The skeptic wrongly ignores God’s supernatural intervention saying that the Resurrection has a low prior probability. (45-117)
  5. The Best Explanation Objection: The Resurrection theory is the best explanation of the Empty Tomb and Postmortem Appearances of Jesus. (118-226)
  6. The Frequencies Objection: It is a fallacy to appeal to frequencies as evidence for the low prior probability of the Resurrection since this ignores the action of external agents. (227-277)
  7. The Science Objection: Science cannot prove that the Resurrection is improbable. (278-324)
  8. The Total Evidence Objection: The prior probability of the Resurrection is inscrutable because the total relevant evidence isn’t available. (325-335)
  9. The Religio-Historical Context Objection: The skeptic ignores the religio-historical context of the Resurrection. (336-351)
  10. The Reference Class Objection: It is impossible to determine the correct reference class for the Resurrection. (352-354)
  11. The Naturalism Objection: The anti-resurrectionist assumes the truth of naturalism. (355-367)
  12. The Criteria of Adequacy Objection: The Resurrection Theory alone satisfies all the Criteria of Adequacy. (368-373)
  13. The Mathematics Objection: Mathematical probability cannot be applied to the Resurrection. (374-380)
  14. The Plausibility-Prior Probability Objection: Plausibility must be used as a criterion in place of prior probability. (381-387)
  15. The Anti-Bayes’ Theorem Objection: Bayes’ Theorem cannot be applied to the Resurrection. (388-425)
  16. The There-Are-No–Contradictions-in-the-Easter-Narratives Objection: The skeptic falsely holds that there are no contradictions in the Easter narratives. (426-430)

bookmark_borderChristian NT Scholar and Apologist Michael Licona Loses Job After Questioning Matthew 27

As reported by Christianity Today (see here), New Testament scholar Michael Licona has apparently lost both his job as research professor of New Testament at Southern Evangelical Seminary and been ousted as apologetics coordinator for the North America Mission Board (NAMB).

Why? In his 700-page book defending the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, Licona proposed that the story of the resurrection of the saints described in Matthew 27 might be metaphorical rather than literal history. Why is this a problem? As a result of Licona’s questioning of Matthew 27, apparently some evangelical scholars, most notably Norman Geisler, accused Licona of denying the full inerrancy of the Bible. Other evangelical scholars, including Paul Copan and Craig Blomberg, however, rallied to Licona’s defense.

Since this blog is primarily for and about metaphysical naturalism, why am I reporting on this incident here? Several reasons.

1. The incident casts doubt on the role of “history” vs. “inerrancy” in defenses of Jesus’ resurrection. As the co-editor of the leading skeptical anthology on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, I have read several apologetics for the resurrection of Jesus, including (so far) about half of Licona’s massive book. One common theme of such books is that one does not need to presuppose the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy in order to establish the historicity of the resurrection. And here we have a rather public case of one prominent evangelical NT scholar (Licona) losing his job because he allegedly questioned the full inerrancy of the Bible.

I can understand why, from an Evangelical perspective, doctrinal purity or consistency is important, but I have to admit this incident has me scratching my head. Not that any Evangelicals would ever come to me for strategic advice on how to handle an in-house issue like this, but if I had been consulted during this, I would have recommended they find a better way to handle this. For example, where was due process in all of this? Does Licona agree that he stopped affirming the “full inerrancy of the Bible”? Was he offered some finite probationary period to consider arguments by Geisler and others in favor of Matthew 27? If the Christianity Today story is accurate (and I have no reason to doubt it), the entire incident comes across as entirely hasty and reactionary.

2. The incident casts doubt on the ability of Evangelical scholars, qua Evangelicals, to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. To his credit, Licona apparently questioned the literal historicity of Matthew 27, without letting the perceived implications of his commitment to Biblical inerrancy get in the way. At the same time, however, I can’t help but be struck by the fact that apparently many Christian scholars were unwilling to publicly defend Licona, presumably because they were afraid they might lose their jobs, too. It is precisely because of this sort of mentality that I have previously questioned whether evangelical Christians can consistently affirm the ethics of belief required by freethought.