Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

William Lane Craig lectures on radical skepticism and the historical Jesus


Brian Auten at Apologetics 315 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.

The MP3 file is here.

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.

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Mark Goodacre debates Richard Carrier: Did Jesus exist?

Once in a while, it’s fun to post a debate on a strange topic.


Richard Carrier is the world’s foremost proponent of the “mythicist” view of Jesus – that he never actually existed as a historical person. He explains his theory that St. Paul only ever spoke of Jesus in the spiritual realm and that the Gospels are “extended parables”. Mark Goodacre is NT professor at Duke University. He contends that Carrier’s mythicist view is extremely far fetched and the evidence for the historical Jesus is beyond reasonable doubt.

Here are the participants:

Mark Goodacre is an Associate Professor in New Testament at the Department of Religion, Duke University, North Carolina, USA. He earned his MA, M.Phil and DPhil at the University of Oxford and was Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham until 2005. His research interests include the Synoptic Gospels, the Historical Jesus and the Gospel of Thomas.

Richard Carrier holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in ancient history, specializing in the intellectual history of Greece and Rome, particularly ancient philosophy, religion, and science, with emphasis on the origins of Christianity and the use and progress of science under the Roman empire.

The MP3 file is here.

This debate took place on Justin Brierley’s “Unbelievable?” show based in the UK.

Carrier uses the letters of Paul as his sources, because they are the earliest. He doesn’t think that there is enough there to ground Jesus as a real person in history. Goodacre responds by looking at the letters of Paul to see what facts about a real, historical Jesus are there, and also which other eyewitnesses Paul talked to. In particular, Carrier has to respond to the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15 as well as his meeting with Peter and James, two other eyewitnesses, twice in Galatians. 1 Corinthians and Galatians are two early Pauline letters that are unanimously regarded as authentic. Carrier’s strategy is to try to introduce parallels between myths and the historical Jesus.

Goodacre also raises the crucifixion a historical fact about Jesus, which is a virtually undeniable fact about Jesus that is not even denied by people like the radical atheist John Dominic Crossan. Goodacre says that the crucifixion story would be embarrassing to the early Christians. They would not have invented a story of their Messiah-candidate being crucified – it was considered to shameful of a way to die. Carrier responded that other groups make up history that is embarrassing to them all the time. Goodacre says this practice was not common among the groups of Jews that we know about. Carrier says that there are other unknown groups of Jews that we have no evidence for who did do that. Then he calls arguing based on the practices of the Jews that we do know about an “argument from ignorance”.

Carrier talks about how Philippians has that embarrassing passage about Jesus abandoning his divine capabilities to humble himself by becoming an actual human being, and says that this is evidence that he was not an actual human being. (Unforced error!) Philippians is another one of the Pauline epistles that is not in doubt. Carrier then says that John invents historical reports in order to emphasize certain things about Jesus, and therefore that means that other non-John sources are therefore all falsified by John’s exaggerating on some details. He then cites the radical atheist John Dominic Crossan to say that historical narratives are actually extended parables.

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Triablogue e-book: The End of Infidelity

From Triablogue:

Last year, John Loftus and some colleagues published a book titled The End Of Christianity (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2011). The back cover and inside endorsements describe the book as “the sharpest set of intellectual criticisms [of Christianity] found under the cover of a single volume”, “tremendously useful”, “superb”, and “exceedingly well-researched”. One endorser claims, “This book should win the game: Christianity, it’s strike three and you are out!” Another tells us, “No collection better demonstrates how taking Christianity seriously reveals its all-too-human origin.” We’re told that “Loftus and his friends annihilate the Christian Goliath”.

Steve Hays and I have written an e-book in response, which you can read here, titled The End Of Infidelity. We’d like to thank Peter Pike for editing it. We wouldn’t have been able to release it so soon, and it wouldn’t be so readable, without Peter’s help.

Those of you who haven’t read Loftus’ book can find an overview of it here. You might want to read each chapter summary on the page I just linked before reading each of our chapter responses.

Steve and I most likely will have more to say about Loftus’ book, especially if we get a response from the authors.

I took a look at it and it was filled with footnotes, so that’s good.

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Triablogue guys write massive response to “The Christian Delusion”

Apparently a bunch of less-moderate atheists like Hector Avalos, Richard Carrier and Robert Price decided to write a book attacking Christianity. These guys are internet infidel types. Dan Barker gives the foreword, and I don’t think he is a very even-keeled person.

The Triablogue post is here. Their e-book is free to download.


The book contains chapters written by a wide range of modern atheists, including Hector Avalos, Richard Carrier, and Edward T. Babinski[*]. (If those names sound familiar it’s because we’ve engaged with each of them many times on Triablogue.) Of his contribution to the book, Carrier slapped both of his chapters with a “tour de force” label and confidently assured us, “I doubt I’ll ever have to write another [refutation of the resurrection].” He says: “My debunking of [Christian claims on science] is so decisive in this chapter, you won’t need to refer anyone anywhere else.”

But such hubris vastly overreaches reality, and Triablogue is here to demonstrate it with The Infidel Delusion.

The Infidel Delusion was written (in alphabetical order) by Patrick Chan, Jason Engwer, Steve Hays, and Paul Manata. This is a true tour de force. By the time I got to Manata’s debunking of Valerie Tarico’s naturalistic reductionism in chapter two, the perfect metaphor had formed in my head: Collectively, these Triabloggian authors were firing intellectual howitzer shells point-blank into a cardboard shanty town.

You can watch the Craig vs Avalos debate, or the Craig vs Carrier debate or the Craig vs Price debate if you want to see how well their ideas stand up in a real contest.

You can find the debates here.

Thanks to Jason Engwer for giving me the heads-up about Triablogue’s rebuttal. Triablogue is a serious apologetics blog.

In all fairness, there are much better non-Christians out there who are not crazy, like Austin Dacey and Paul Draper. Although Price sounded good in his recent debate on the Bible and slavery.

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Audio and video from the recent Licona vs Carrier debate

Mike Licona just e-mailed me about his re-match with internet infidel Richard Carrier, who takes an extremely skeptical view of the New Testament.

The audio and video are linked here on


On February 11, 2010, Michael Licona and Richard Carrier faced each other in debate for a second time. Topic: Did Jesus rise from the dead? The debate occurred at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas in front of an estimated audience of 750. There are two video segments. The first is the main part of the debate (opening statements and six inquiry periods lasting 10 minutes each). The second is the audience Q & A.


UPDATE: Brian Auten writes:

The full MP3 (debate and q/a) can be found here. The MP3 links at 4truth are not actual MP3s as of this moment.

This is a cross-examination debate, so it should be very fun to watch/hear.

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