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Richard Bauckham defends the divinity of Jesus against James Crossley

Two horses fight it out, may the best horse win!
Two horses fight it out, may the best horse win!

Richard is very thorough and works only with minimal facts that skeptical scholars will agree with. James Crossley is an excellent atheist, knowledgeable and respectful.

The debate goes for 80 minutes. I wrote a summary so you can follow along as you listen. This summary is rated “N” for Not Snarky.

Summary

Main topic:
– was belief in Jesus’ divinity develop late, or was it there from the beginning?
– how did the early Jewish community reconcile the idea of Jesus’ divinity with monotheism?

Moderator:
– was the the worship of Jesus as God a late development in history
– was it accepted by converts from the Jewish community

Bauckham:
– high Christology was not a result of pagan influences
– Jews reconciled Jesus’ divinity with their Jewish monotheism

Moderator:
– is the degree of Christology a historian is willing to accept just the result of bias?

Crossley:
– bias is always a factor in what individual people think
– but in a public discussion, what matters is the evidence

Moderator:
– High-Christology is used by Christians as an argument for the resurrection
– Christians ask: what cause could account for the effect of early high Christology?

Crossley:
– we agree that the first Christians witnessed something after Jesus’ death
– what they witnessed had a role in their forming their high opinion of Jesus
– the high opinion was because they believed he had been resurrected (1 Cor 15)
– whether he was or not is a separate question

Moderator:
– is a high Christology a good argument for inferring the resurrection?

Bauckham:
– the resurrection makes people think Jesus is unique, but not necessarily divine
– it was really the belief in the exaltation of Jesus to God’s right hand that did it
– what God does in Judaism is to create the universe and rule over the universe
– if Jesus is seated at God’s right hand, then is participating in ruling creation
– so Jesus is being identified with God very early
– the exaltation might have been caused by post-mortem visions of Jesus, e.g. – Stephen

Moderator:
– how were early monotheistic Jews able to reconcile the divinity of Jesus with monotheism?

Crossley:
– the high Christology may not be early because disputes about it are going on in John
– there were other figures in Judaism like the Word of God and Wisdom that were very high
– maybe Paul’s Christology is not as high and he is thinking something high but not deity
– and in John the Christology is being pushed higher to deity, and then there are disputes

Moderator:
– Phillipians and 1 Corinthians are the first evidences of what people thought about Jesus
– John is actually much later

Crossley:
– it may be that Paul’s Christology is high and that he just never got into any disputes

Bauckham:
– in Phillipians, Paul incorporates Jesus into the shema, the core of Jewish monotheism
– in 1 Corinthians, he does the same thing

Moderator:
– is this evidence consistent with the idea that Jesus is more like Wisdom or the Word of God

Crossley:
– in Paul’s letters, there are no conflicts about Jesus’ divinity, they appear later in John
– if Paul’s letters taught a divine Jesus, there would be conflicts in the letters
– so there is possibly an evolving Christology from very high to divine

Bauckham:
– the Word and Wisdom of God are different from exalted figures – they are separate
– the Word and Wisdom of God are intrinsic to God’s own identity
– and so Word and Wisdom are divine in the sense that they below to God’s identity

Moderator:
– is Jesus an exalted human figure or someone identified with God?
– is the identification of Jesus with divinity compatible with Jewish monotheism?
– or was this concept developed later in a pagan context where one more God would not matter?

Bauckham:
– NT scholars typically separate functional Christology and ontic Christology
– but I say that there is no such disctinction
– if Jesus does the functions of God (like ruling), then it means he is identified with God
– there is a distinction between who God is (identity) and what God is (nature)
– Jews were not as concerned with the identification of a man with the God
– Jews were disturbed by the idea that THIS shamed and crucified man would be identified with God

Moderator:
– is this high Christology too much of a sharp break with Jewish monotheism to have been early?

Crossley:
– the Phillipians passage is a strong early passage for Richard’s view
– definitely the crucifixion is a major problem for the early Jewish monotheists
– but the deification of a human being is also a strong problem in spite of what Richard says
– both Jews and Muslims will have objections to identifying Jesus with the divine

Moderator:
– How can Paul write something like this when he was such a high-ranking Jew?

Bauckham:
– Jewish monotheism could accomodate something surprising like this without surrendering anything
– John starts his gospel at the creation of the universe to say Jesus was there as “the Word”

Moderator:
– was the early church thinking of Jesus the same way that the church today does?

Crossley:
– it’s hard to say because the language today reflects a lot of development
– in the early church people were still thinking about what to make of Jesus

Moderator:
– what about in the other gospels, do they indicate a strong notion of Jesus as divine?

Crossley:
– nothing as strong as Paul’s letters and John, especiall the disputes with the Jews

Moderator:
– so did the writers of the other gospels have different views of Jesus’ divinity than Paul and John?

Crossley:
– well the same claims are not there in the text, the claims are not as grand as in Paul and John

Bauckham:
– but in Mark, the earliest gospel, Jesus forgives sins and calms storm – acting as God acts
– Jesus also asks “why do call me good, only God is good”
– the “seated at the right hand of God” and “coming on the clouds” passages

Crossley:
– I don’t think those claims are as high as John, because Moses controls nature as well
– the other actions may be more that Jesus has authority to do these things

Moderator:
– but the author of Mark writes that the disciples are catching on that Jesus was more than a man

Bauckham:
– Jews were not as concerned with the unitary nature of God, but there is only one God (being)
– there can’t really be any evolution from Jesus as a created being to Jesus as divine
– in paganism, there are lower divinities, but that is not the case in Jewish monotheism

Moderator:
– the fact that Jesus was worshiped by Jews means he was already viewed as divine

Crossley:
– that point is debatable, but can be sustained with a careful exegesis like Richard does
– there is some room there for an evolving Christology – the gap may not be as big as Richard says

Moderator:
– do you think that the worship of Jesus was the result of increasing Christology over time?

Crossley:
– it may not have been conscious, but John is the clearest statement and it is the latest gospel
– it may be that a dispute with Jews was required to spell it out even if it was present before

Moderator:
– what about idea that the early church worshiped him because they just though it was a new revelation?

Bauckham:
– the early Christians worshiped as Jews and then met separately afterward to worship Jesus
– worship is about distinguishing God from the created world
– you wouldn’t worship Jesus without some idea of what you were doing

Crossley:
– other things that set Jesus apart were the exorcisms and the vision to Paul that converted him

Richard Bauckham and James Crossley debate the reliability of the gospels

A leading New Testament scholar from Cambridge, Dr. Richard Bauckham, was recently on the radio program ‘Unbelievable?’ which is on the Premier Christian Radio network.

Bauckham was arguing that the Gospels are based on eyewitness accounts and therefore should be regarded as fundamentally trustworthy.

Joining him was New Testament historian Dr. James Crossley, discussing the implications of Bauckham’s work and whether the Gospel of John was written by the disciple John himself, as Bauckham claims. Dr. Crossley is one of my favorite atheist debaters. He is a professor at the University of Sheffield.

It is well worth the listen.

Part 1 – (1 hr 20 mins)
Part 2 – (1 hr 20 mins)

Crossley debated against William Lane Craig before here and he debated against Michael Bird as well (part 1, part 2).

Richard Bauckham and James Crossley debate the divinity of Christ

Richard is very thorough and works only with minimal facts that skeptical scholars will agree with. James Crossley is an excellent atheist. I used to think he was mean, but now he seems so reasonable. I hope someone can befriend him and introduce him to some of the evidence for theism from the progress of science, so that he can perhaps becomes a Christian.

Here is the MP3 file.

I wrote a summary so you can follow along as you listen.

More stuff

In another recent discussion, Richard Bauckham defends the reliability of the gospels against James Crossley. Crossley debated against William Lane Craig before on the resurrection and he debated against Michael Bird here, (part 1, part 2). The topic was “How did Christianity Begin?”.

Summary

Main topic:
– was belief in Jesus’ divinity develop late, or was it there from the beginning?
– how did the early Jewish community reconcile the idea of Jesus’ divinity with monotheism?

Moderator:
– was the the worship of Jesus as God a late development in history
– was it accepted by converts from the Jewish community

Bauckham:
– high Christology was not a result of pagan influences
– Jews reconciled Jesus’ divinity with their Jewish monotheism

Moderator:
– is the degree of Christology a historian is willing to accept just the result of bias?

Crossley:
– bias is always a factor in what individual people think
– but in a public discussion, what matters is the evidence

Moderator:
– High-Christology is used by Christians as an argument for the resurrection
– Christians ask: what cause could account for the effect of early high Christology?

Crossley:
– we agree that the first Christians witnessed something after Jesus’ death
– what they witnessed had a role in their forming their high opinion of Jesus
– the high opinion was because they believed he had been resurrected (1 Cor 15)
– whether he was or not is a separate question

Moderator:
– is a high Christology a good argument for inferring the resurrection?

Bauckham:
– the resurrection makes people think Jesus is unique, but not necessarily divine
– it was really the belief in the exaltation of Jesus to God’s right hand that did it
– what God does in Judaism is to create the universe and rule over the universe
– if Jesus is seated at God’s right hand, then is participating in ruling creation
– so Jesus is being identified with God very early
– the exaltation might have been caused by post-mortem visions of Jesus, e.g. – Stephen

Moderator:
– how were early monotheistic Jews able to reconcile the divinity of Jesus with monotheism?

Crossley:
– the high Christology may not be early because disputes about it are going on in John
– there were other figures in Judaism like the Word of God and Wisdom that were very high
– maybe Paul’s Christology is not as high and he is thinking something high but not deity
– and in John the Christology is being pushed higher to deity, and then there are disputes

Moderator:
– Phillipians and 1 Corinthians are the first evidences of what people thought about Jesus
– John is actually much later

Crossley:
– it may be that Paul’s Christology is high and that he just never got into any disputes

Bauckham:
– in Phillipians, Paul incorporates Jesus into the shema, the core of Jewish monotheism
– in 1 Corinthians, he does the same thing

Moderator:
– is this evidence consistent with the idea that Jesus is more like Wisdom or the Word of God

Crossley:
– in Paul’s letters, there are no conflicts about Jesus’ divinity, they appear later in John
– if Paul’s letters taught a divine Jesus, there would be conflicts in the letters
– so there is possibly an evolving Christology from very high to divine

Bauckham:
– the Word and Wisdom of God are different from exalted figures – they are separate
– the Word and Wisdom of God are intrinsic to God’s own identity
– and so Word and Wisdom are divine in the sense that they below to God’s identity

Moderator:
– is Jesus an exalted human figure or someone identified with God?
– is the identification of Jesus with divinity compatible with Jewish monotheism?
– or was this concept developed later in a pagan context where one more God would not matter?

Bauckham:
– NT scholars typically separate functional Christology and ontic Christology
– but I say that there is no such disctinction
– if Jesus does the functions of God (like ruling), then it means he is identified with God
– there is a distinction between who God is (identity) and what God is (nature)
– Jews were not as concerned with the identification of a man with the God
– Jews were disturbed by the idea that THIS shamed and crucified man would be identified with God

Moderator:
– is this high Christology too much of a sharp break with Jewish monotheism to have been early?

Crossley:
– the Phillipians passage is a strong early passage for Richard’s view
– definitely the crucifixion is a major problem for the early Jewish monotheists
– but the deification of a human being is also a strong problem in spite of what Richard says
– both Jews and Muslims will have objections to identifying Jesus with the divine

Moderator:
– How can Paul write something like this when he was such a high-ranking Jew?

Bauckham:
– Jewish monotheism could accomodate something surprising like this without surrendering anything
– John starts his gospel at the creation of the universe to say Jesus was there as “the Word”

Moderator:
– was the early church thinking of Jesus the same way that the church today does?

Crossley:
– it’s hard to say because the language today reflects a lot of development
– in the early church people were still thinking about what to make of Jesus

Moderator:
– what about in the other gospels, do they indicate a strong notion of Jesus as divine?

Crossley:
– nothing as strong as Paul’s letters and John, especiall the disputes with the Jews

Moderator:
– so did the writers of the other gospels have different views of Jesus’ divinity than Paul and John?

Crossley:
– well the same claims are not there in the text, the claims are not as grand as in Paul and John

Bauckham:
– but in Mark, the earliest gospel, Jesus forgives sins and calms storm – acting as God acts
– Jesus also asks “why do call me good, only God is good”
– the “seated at the right hand of God” and “coming on the clouds” passages

Crossley:
– I don’t think those claims are as high as John, because Moses controls nature as well
– the other actions may be more that Jesus has authority to do these things

Moderator:
– but the author of Mark writes that the disciples are catching on that Jesus was more than a man

Bauckham:
– Jews were not as concerned with the unitary nature of God, but there is only one God (being)
– there can’t really be any evolution from Jesus as a created being to Jesus as divine
– in paganism, there are lower divinities, but that is not the case in Jewish monotheism

Moderator:
– the fact that Jesus was worshiped by Jews means he was already viewed as divine

Crossley:
– that point is debatable, but can be sustained with a careful exegesis like Richard does
– there is some room there for an evolving Christology – the gap may not be as big as Richard says

Moderator:
– do you think that the worship of Jesus was the result of increasing Christology over time?

Crossley:
– it may not have been conscious, but John is the clearest statement and it is the latest gospel
– it may be that a dispute with Jews was required to spell it out even if it was present before

Moderator:
– what about idea that the early church worshiped him because they just though it was a new revelation?

Bauckham:
– the early Christians worshiped as Jews and then met separately afterward to worship Jesus
– worship is about distinguishing God from the created world
– you wouldn’t worship Jesus without some idea of what you were doing

Crossley:
– other things that set Jesus apart were the exorcisms and the vision to Paul that converted him

Two debates on Christianity and history featuring Richard Bauckham

A leading New Testament scholar from Cambridge, Dr. Richard Bauckham, was recently on the radio program ‘Unbelievable?’ which is on the Premier Christian Radio network.

Debate 1: The reliability of the gospels

Bauckham was arguing that the Gospels are based on eyewitness accounts and therefore should be regarded as fundamentally trustworthy.

Joining him was New Testament historian Dr. James Crossley, discussing the implications of Bauckham’s work and whether the Gospel of John was written by the disciple John himself, as Bauckham claims.

It is well worth the listen.

Part 1 – (1 hr 20 mins)
Part 2 – (1 hr 20 mins)

This is a great debate between two great New Testament scholars.

Debate 2: The divinity of Jesus

The second debate concerns whether the belief in Jesus’ divinity was early and authentic, or whether it developed slowly over time. Richard is very thorough and works only with minimal facts that skeptical scholars will agree with. James Crossley is an excellent atheist and argues his side as well as any atheist I have ever heard in a debate on historical questions.

Here is the MP3 file. (Just over an hour)

Below there are speaker bios.

Richard Bauckham

You can find out more about Bauckham in this Christianity Today profile.

Summary:

The author of CT’s 2007 Book Award winner in biblical studies, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Richard Bauckham proposes a new (or, rather, an ancient) paradigm through which to view the Gospels: as the eyewitness testimony of trustworthy insiders. Wheaton professor Gary Burge asked the St. Andrews scholar how his approach diverges from mainstream New Testament scholarship—and what it means for our understanding of Jesus.

I’m really excited by the respect he is getting in the academy. This is a completely NEW perspective on the gospels that is getting a lot of attention.

James Crossley

Crossley specializes in Mark, the earliest and most reliable gospel. Mark’s source for the Passion narrative of Jesus is dated to the 40s, about 10-20 years after the death of Jesus. Mark’s gospel is based on the eyewitness testimony of his companion Peter. So it is fun to hear them debate Mark in the first show. And they get into 1 Corinthians 15 as well, which is dated to 1-3 years after Jesus died.

Crossley debated against William Lane Craig before here and he debated against Michael Bird as well (part 1, part 2).

What does Bart Ehrman really believe about New Testament reliability?

Here’s a post from Cross Examined that cites the appendix of Ehrman’s own book.

Excerpt:

Here’s what Ehrman says in an interview found in the appendix of Misquoting Jesus (p. 252):

Bruce Metzger is one of the great scholars of modern times, and I dedicated the book to him because he was both my inspiration for going into textual criticism and the person who trained me in the field. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him. And even though we may disagree on important religious questions – he is a firmly committed Christian and I am not – we are in complete agreement on a number of very important historical and textual questions. If he and I were put in a room and asked to hammer out a consensus statement on what we think the original text of the New Testament probably looked like, there would be very few points of disagreement – maybe one or two dozen places out of many thousands.  The position I argue for in ‘Misquoting Jesus’ does not actually stand at odds with Prof. Metzger’s position that the essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.

So why does Ehrman give one impression to the general public and the opposite to the academic world?  Could it be because he can get away with casting doubt on the New Testament to an uninformed public, but not to his academic peers? Does selling books have anything to do with it?  I don’t know.  I just find the contradiction here quite telling– the man who gets all the attention for casting doubt on the text of the Bible, upon further review, doesn’t really doubt it himself.

Wow. That’s funny. He doesn’t say that when he’s trying to sell books. He sounds more like Dan Brown when he’s trying to sell books. I always lump Bart Ehrman and Dan Brown together. Dan Brown. Bart Ehrman. Dan Brown. Bart Ehrman. Does Dan Brown fill in for Bart Erhman when Bart Ehrman is on sabbatical? Is Bart Ehrman secretly a ghost-writer for Dan Brown? Are they the same person?

Further study

The top 10 links to help you along with your learning on this issue and related issues.

  1. How every Christian can learn to explain the resurrection of Jesus to others
  2. The earliest source for the minimal facts about the resurrection
  3. The earliest sources for the empty tomb narrative
  4. Who were the first witnesses to the empty tomb?
  5. Did the divinity of Jesus emerge slowly after many years of embellishments?
  6. What about all those other books that the Church left out the Bible?
  7. Assessing Bart Ehrman’s case against the resurrection of Jesus
  8. William Lane Craig debates radical skeptics on the resurrection of Jesus
  9. Did Christianity copy from Buddhism, Mithraism or the myth of Osiris?
  10. Quick overview of N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection

Debates are a fun way to learn

Three debates where you can see this play out:

Or you can listen to my favorite debate on the resurrection.

Extra stuff

A lecture on Bart Ehrman by William Lane Craig.