Decisions: A discussion between Bart Ehrman & Mike Licona


Prove It!

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“Then the Jews demanded of him, ‘What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” (John 2:18-21)

When you go around claiming to be divine, your critics are going to ask you a question or two and want some proof. Jesus’ critics were no different. When they asked for a sign, He responded that He would give them one – His resurrection from the dead!

Suppose you are on a High School football team and that you tell your teammates that you can benchpress 400 lbs. You can expect to be challenged to do just that as your skeptical friends watch. Go down into the heart of a city at night and begin proclaiming that you are the toughest guy around. It won’t be long before your claim will be put to the test. Go into major public places and proclaim that you are uniquely divine, that you can forgive sins resulting in a person’s salvation and that apart from you no salvation can occur and the bees’-hive will be stirred. People will resent you for challenging their own religious views and demand that you back up your claims with proof. Such is a reasonable request. When Jesus’ made His radical claims, He was asked to provide proof – a sign. He responded that if they would kill Him, He would raise Himself from the dead in three days.(1)

Jesus’ disciples likewise cited His resurrection from the dead as proof that Christianity is true:

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)(2)

Such is a uniqueness of Christianity: It provides a test by which it can be known to be true or false. Anyone can claim whatever he or she wants. Backing up that claim is another matter. Since Jesus made His resurrection from the dead the test by which we can know whether He was who He claimed, then it seems that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, He is a charlatan whom no rational person should follow. On the other hand, if He did rise from the dead, then He did so in confirmation of His radical claims.

What an interesting test too. Notice that Jesus did not make it easy or nebulous as some other religions have. For example, according to Islam, the evidence for its truthfulness is the Qur’an. In Surah 2:23 it is written: “And if ye are in doubt As [sic and as follows] to what We have revealed From time to time to Our servant, Then produce a Sura Like thereunto; And call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides God, If your (doubts) are true.”(3) In other words, we can know that Islam is true, because only God could have written it. Mormonism makes pretty much the same claim. In the Book of Mormon it is written: “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5). If you want to know if Mormonism is true, read the Book of Mormon and ask God to show you if it is true and He will.

While I am impressed with such voluminous literary works as well as the millions of lives which claim to have been positively impacted by them, I am skeptical of such a test. For one, Islam and Mormonism are mutually exclusive. In other words, they possess conflicting truth claims. Both claim to be the only true way to God. Yet it cannot be that both are the only way to God. This leaves us with the conclusion that either the exclusivity claims of one or both of these religions are wrong or their truth tests are.

Some truth tests are subjective(4) in nature. While many have read the Book of Mormon and are convinced that it is true, others have read it and remain unpersuaded.(5) Some literary critics may also find more beauty in the writings of Shakespeare than in the Qur’an. Jesus’ test, however, is different. It is not a matter of reading and believing. It is not a matter of an inward feeling or the number of impacted lives. It is a test that involves an objective fact which would be truly impossible for any mortal to accomplish.

You may say, “Yes, but can you demonstrate that Jesus rose from the dead?” I believe that we can with reasonable certainty and have written on the subject.(6)


1. John records Jesus claiming that He would raise Himself from the dead
(John 2:18-22). This is also somewhat of a claim to deity. Jesus’ disciples claimed that it was God who raised Jesus from the dead (e.g., Acts 3:15;
Romans 10:9; 1 Peter 1:21).
2. Also see Acts 17:2-3, 18; 2:22-32.
3. Cf. 10:38, 17:88.
4. Something that is subjective applies to an individual. It is his or her opinion. Whereas something that is objective is true or false regardless of who believes it, or even if no one does.
5. The author has read much of the Book of Mormon while sincerely asking God to reveal whether or not it was true and remains unpersuaded due to many problems. For a critique of Mormonism, see the author’s book, Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock. You may order this book through the “Books and Tapes” section of
6. See by this author, Cross Examined, which may be ordered through the “Books and Tapes” section of

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