Tag Archives: Richard Bauckham

William Lane Craig debates radical skeptics on the resurrection of Jesus

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.

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.

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.

Crossley is an atheist, but he is a serious, well-informed scholar.

Richard Bauckham defends the divinity of Jesus against James Crossley

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?”.


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?

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

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

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

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

– 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?

– 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

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

– 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

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

– 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

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

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

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

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

– 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

– 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

– 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?

– 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

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

– 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

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

– 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”

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

– 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

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

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

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

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

– 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

– 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

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

– 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

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

– 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

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

– 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

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

– 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

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

Richard Bauckham defends the reliability of the gospels against James Crossley

I just finished listening to all the new William Lane Craig and Saddleback Apologetics Conference lectures, and now I’ve found something a little more difficult. A debate between the brilliant Cambridge New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham, and another solid atheistic New Testament Scholar, James Crossley.

The debate links are here at Operation 513.

The 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 in on the discussion was also 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.

Richard Bauckham

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


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 here, (part 1, part 2).