This is a lecture I found from British historian Dr. Peter J. Williams.
Here’s the main lecture: (54 minutes)
And here’s the Q&A: (9 minutes)
About Peter Williams:
Peter J. Williams is the Warden (CEO) of Tyndale House and a member of the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Cambridge. He received his MA, MPhil and PhD, in the study of ancient languages related to the Bible from Cambridge University. After his PhD, he was on staff in the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University (1997–1998), and thereafter taught Hebrew and Old Testament there as Affiliated Lecturer in Hebrew and Aramaic and as Research Fellow in Old Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge (1998–2003). From 2003 to 2007 he was on the faculty of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he became a Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Deputy Head of the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy. In July 2007 he became the youngest Warden in the history of Tyndale House. He also retains his position as an honorary Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies at the University of Aberdeen.
Summary of the lecture:
- What if the stories about Jesus are legendary?
- were the gospels transmitted accurately?
- were the gospels written in the same place as where the events happened?
- do the gospel authors know the customs and locations where the events happened?
- do the gospels use the right names for the time and place where the events took place?
- do the gospels disambiguate people’s names depending on how common those names were?
- how do the New Testament gospels compare to the later gnostic gospels?
- how do the gospels refer to the main character? How non-Biblical sources refer to Jesus?
- how does Jesus refer to himself in the gospels? do the later Christians refer to him that way?
- how does Jesus teach? do later Christians teach the same way?
- why didn’t Jesus say anything about early conflicts in the church (the Gentiles, church services)?
- did the writers of the gospels know the places where the events took place?
- how many places are named in the gospels? how about in the later gnostic gospels?
- are the botanical details mentioned in the gospels accurate? how about the later gnostic gospels?
And here are the questions from the audience:
- how what about the discrepancies in the resurrection narratives that Bart Ehrman is obsessed with?
- what do you think of the new 2011 NIV translation (Peter is on the ESV translation committee)?
- how did untrained, ordinary men produce complex, sophisticated documents like the gospels?
- is oral tradition a strong enough bridge between the events and the writers who interviewed the eyewitnesses?
- what does the name John mean?
- why did the gospel writers wait so long before writing their gospels?
- do you think that Matthew and Luke used a hypothetical source which historians call “Q”?
- which gospel do critical historians trust the least and why?
I really enjoyed watching this lecture. He’s getting some of this material from Richard Bauckham’s awesome book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”, so if you aren’t familiar with it, you can get an idea of what’s in it. Peter Williams is a lot of fun to listen to – an excellent speaker.
And you can listen to the Peter Williams vs Bart Ehrman debate. That link contains a link to the audio of the debate as well as my snarky summary. It’s very snarky.
Mike Licona is one of my favorite Christian apologists, and here is an excellent lecture to show you why.
In the lecture, he explains why the four biographies in the New Testament should be accepted as historically accurate: (55 minutes)
- What a Baltimore Ravens helmet teaches us about the importance of truth
- What happens to Christians when they go off to university?
- The 2007 study on attitudes of American professors to evangelical Christians
- Authors: Who wrote the gospels?
- Bias: Did the bias of the authors cause them to distort history?
- Contradictions: What about the different descriptions of events in the gospels?
- Dating: When were the gospels written?
- Eyewitnesses: Do the gospel accounts go back to eyewitness testimony?
This is basic training for Christians. It would be nice if every Christian was equipped in church to be able to make a case like this.
Dr. Craig’s famous minimal facts case for the resurrection has been posted at the Christian Apologetics Alliance. He presents 4 facts admitted by the majority of New Testament historians, and then he supplies multiple pieces of evidence for each fact.
Here are the four facts:
- FACT #1: After his crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.
- FACT #2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.
- FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
- FACT #4: The original disciples believed that Jesus was risen from the dead despite their having every predisposition to the contrary.
Here’s the detail on fact #3, the post-mortem appearances.
FACT #3: On multiple occasions and under various circumstances, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive from the dead.
This is a fact which is almost universally acknowledged among New Testament scholars, for the following reasons:
1. The list of eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection appearances which is quoted by Paul in I Cor. 15. 5-7 guarantees that such appearances occurred. These included appearances to Peter (Cephas), the Twelve, the 500 brethren, and James.
2. The appearance traditions in the gospels provide multiple, independent attestation of these appearances. This is one of the most important marks of historicity. The appearance to Peter is independently attested by Luke, and the appearance to the Twelve by Luke and John. We also have independent witness to Galilean appearances in Mark, Matthew, and John, as well as to the women in Matthew and John.
3. Certain appearances have earmarks of historicity. For example, we have good evidence from the gospels that neither James nor any of Jesus’ younger brothers believed in him during his lifetime. There is no reason to think that the early church would generate fictitious stories concerning the unbelief of Jesus’ family had they been faithful followers all along. But it is indisputable that James and his brothers did become active Christian believers following Jesus’ death. James was considered an apostle and eventually rose to the position of leadership of the Jerusalem church. According to the first century Jewish historian Josephus, James was martyred for his faith in Christ in the late AD 60s. Now most of us have brothers. What would it take to convince you that your brother is the Lord, such that you would be ready to die for that belief? Can there be any doubt that this remarkable transformation in Jesus’ younger brother took place because, in Paul’s words, “then he appeared to James”?
Even Gert Ludemann, the leading German critic of the resurrection, himself admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”3
Yes, Gerd Ludemann is actually an atheist new Testament historian, and he has even debated Dr. Craig on the resurrection – not once, but twice. That’s the kind of evidence Dr. Craig uses in his case. Not just what your pastor will give you, but what atheists will give you. We need to learn to debate like that.