Let’s learn about the radical fringe of skeptical New Testament scholars by listening to a lecture about them, and then by listening to them debate against William Lane Craig.
A lecture on the historical Jesus
Brian Auten at Apologetics 315 recently posted a lecture by William Lane Craig on the historical Jesus.
In his post, Brian doesn’t really say much about where or when the lecture was recorded. But I can tell you! This lecture has a special meaning for me because when I was just learning about apologetics, this was one of the first lectures I ordered. The lecture was delivered in 1996 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as part of the distinguished Carver-Barnes Lecture Series. The title was “Re-Discovering the Historical Jesus”. Hearing this again (I lent mine away and never got it back) was a real treat for me.
And here is a summary I made so you can follow along as you listen.
Lecture 1: the pre-suppositions of the Jesus Seminar
- the origins of the radically skeptical “Jesus Seminar” group
- what does the Jesus Seminar believe about Jesus?
- what is a pre-supposition?
- how do pre-suppositions affect the study of history?
- the Jesus Seminar’s pre-supposition of naturalism (atheism)
- the Jesus Seminar’s pre-supposition that the NT gospels are late
- the Jesus Seminar’s pre-supposition of political correctness
- does the Jesus Seminar represent the consensus of NT scholars?
Lecture 2A: are the NT gospels historically reliable?
- should the gospels be assumed to be reliable or unreliable
- argument #1: insufficient time from events to written record
- argument #2: gospels contain very little legendary material
- argument #3: Jewish culture was good at oral transmission
- argument #4: eyewitness correction and apostolic supervision
- argument #5: the gospels are reliable where they can be tested
- #1: legendary elements only appear 1-2 generations after events
- but gospels were written within the lifetimes of the eyewitnesses
- sources for the gospels are even earlier, e.g. – 1 Cor 15:3-8
- on the other hand, the apocryphal gospels do contain legends
- #5: gospels are confirmed by history and archaeology were possible
- Luke includes details showing that he traveled with eyewitness Paul
Lecture 2B: the self-understanding of Jesus
- how early and reliable is believe in Jesus’ divinity
- it would be hard to get monotheistic Jews to think Jesus was divine
- the only way this belief could have emerged is if Jesus taught it
- parable of the wicked tennants and vineyard – Jesus’ self-understanding
- passage about no one knowing the father except the son, etc.
- passage about not knowing the date of his second coming
- the healings and exorcisms are well-attested and skeptics grant them
Lecture 2C: the trial and crucifixion of Jesus
- crucifixion is well-attested inside and outside the New Testament
- even the Jesus Seminar considers this an indisputable fact about Jesus
- Jesus was crucified for blasphemy – i.e. claiming to be divine
Lecture 2D: the minimal facts case for the resurrection
- minimal fact #1: the burial in a known location
- minimal fact #2: the empty tomb
- minimal fact #3: the appearances to individuals and groups
- minimal fact #4: the early belief that Jesus was resurrected
- the majority of scholars, including skeptics, accept the minimal facts
- naturalistic explanations are not able to account for these facts
There is a very noisy weird person in the audience who keeps shouting his approval. This lecture is almost identical to a lecture that Craig gave for Stand to Reason’s Masters Series, on the pre-suppositions of the Jesus Seminar. There is no Q&A in this lecture, but there is Q&A in the STR version.
William Lane Craig debates crazy people
Now let’s hear some debates between Bill Craig and radical skeptics. I listed the skeptics in order of increasing craziness, then made fun of them in the parentheses.
- Vs. John Dominic Crossan (denies all four minimal facts because a bodily resurrection makes his Hindu friends feel sad)
- Vs. John Shelby Spong (pro-gay-rights apostate Anglican bishop wants to stick it to those nasty conservatives)
- Vs. Robert G. Cavin (argues that Jesus had an identical, unknown twin brother who stole Jesus’ body and kept up the charade until he was crucified – as a prank – then he appeared to Paul somehow out of thin air)
- Vs. Robert M. Price (Internet Infidels / History of religions – seems to think that ad hominem attacks are arguments)
- Vs Richard Carrier (seems to think that Jesus never existed, and that the New Testament is entirely mythical)
It’s good that Craig has done so much preparation because he makes defeating these guys look easy, but it really isn’t easy at all. You would need to prepare a lot to beat them – and that would include having a PhD or two, and a few dozen peer-reviewed publications. Even though they are radical, you would have to know just what to say to expose them in the short time allowed for your speeches. Craig is excellent at all of this.
Or we can listen to some serious debates
Anyway, if you want to hear a good debate on the historical Jesus, then check out the James Crossley debates with Richard Bauckham, Michael Bird and William Lane Craig.
- Richard Bauckham defends the divinity of Jesus against Crossley
- Richard Bauckham defends the reliability of the gospels against Crossley
- Crossley debated against William Lane Craig before on the resurrection
- Crossley against Michael Bird on the origins of Christianity, (part 1, part 2)
Crossley is an atheist, but he is a serious, well-informed scholar.