Tag Archives: Robert M. Price

William Lane Craig lectures on radical skepticism and the historical Jesus

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

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.

William Lane Craig lectures on radical skepticism and the historical Jesus

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

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.

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.

MUST-HEAR: A great debate on whether the Bible condones slavery

From Justin Brierley and the Unbelievable radio show, also known as the “If You Like” radio show.

Topic: “Does the Bible Condone Slavery?”

The MP3 file is here.

Details:

The Bible is often criticised for either supporting or not condemning the institution of slavery.  So how should we treat portions of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments that relate to slavery?  Why does the Old Testament contain laws regarding the treatment of slaves? Does Paul condemn or affirm the institution?

Bob Price is a former US church minister whose doubts about the Bible led him to ultimately reject evangelical Christian faith.  He says that the Bible is a book that reflects the time it was written in.  Slavery was acceptable and the early Christians regrettably followed suit, and did not challenge the prevailing status quo.

David Instone-Brewer is a New Testament Scholar at Tyndale House, Cambridge.  He says that, in its cultural context, the Bible goes as far as it can towards an anti-slavery message and that Christians have been at the forefront of anti-slavery movements.

My previous post on this topic is here.

My thoughts

This debate is the greatest debate I have heard in months! This is that Robert M. Price guy who is an expert in the historical Jesus who hates evangelical Christianity and has 2 PhDs. He’s extremely radical. But in this debate he was totally awesome. He was so easy to listen to, and he made perfect sense. Everything he said was moderate and reasonable.

And the Christian guy that Justin lined up was solid and well-prepared. About two-thirds of the time, the Christian they get is some useless pastor with no training. But this time Justin got a great scholar – winsome and informed. He made our side look good.

Related goodness

I noticed that Brian Auten linked to this Tawapologetics review of Rodney Stark’s book on history and Christianity, and it includes a section on Christianity and the practice of slavery. In my home, we have all of Rodney Stark’s books on our bookshelf.

Here are the main points from the slavery part:

  • First, slavery has been an institution in human cultures since before the Egyptian pyramids, all around the world.
  • Second, while European nations did delve into widespread slavery, the Church was hardly complicit in the practice.
  • Third, how monotheism provided the moral framework to condemn and outlaw slavery.
  • Fourth, details on the formation of the anti-slavery movement and Christianity’s involvement in it.
  • Fifth, enlightened secularism had little impact on the abolitionist cause.

I knew some of that stuff already from reading about the history of slavery and the abolition movement in Thomas Sowell books. But if you don’t know about it, you should read the book review.

Did Christianity copy from Buddhism, Mithraism or the myth of Osiris?

Have you ever heard claims that Christianity borrowed the virgin birth from Buddhism, or the other elements from pagan religions? Well, Dr. Glenn Peoples has, and he’s prepared a few responses that I thought I would share.

Please note

IF YOU WANT TO REPLY TO THIS POST TO DISAGREE WITH A SPECIFIC CLAIM IN IT THEN PLEASE MAKE SURE THAT YOU CITE THE SAME KIND OF EVIDENCE THAT GLENN USES TO BACK UP YOUR CLAIMS. PLEASE DON’T SUBMIT OPINIONS AND ASSERTIONS AS COMMENTS TO THIS POST.

Mithraism

Glenn introduces the problem as presented by Dan Brown, a non-scholar who writes sensational fiction that is later made into popular movies for mass consumption by those seeking low-brow entertainment (and worse):

He writes:

According to Teabing in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, “Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras—called the Son of God and the Light of the World—was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days.”

Regarding the virgin birth, he has this to offer:

As we read in Mithraic Studies, Mithras, “wearing his Phrygian cap, issues forth from the rocky mass. As yet only his bare torso is visible. In each hand he raises aloft a lighted torch and, as an unusual detail, red flames shoot out all around him from the petra genetrix.” [Franz Cumon, “The Dura Mithraeum” in John R. Hinnells (ed.), Mithraic Studies: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Mithraic Studies (Manchester University Press, 1975), 173.

And about the resurrection, he writes this:

This is where things start getting really confusing. None of the Mithras mythology depicts him being killed for humanity. In fact, he is not depicted as being killed at all. On the contrary, it is Mithras himself who does the killing! As is seen in the most widely use image of Mithras, he was said to have slain a great bull. Actually the very earliest reference to this event is from the close of the first century (AD 98-99), so it is post Christian, but setting that aside, Mithras’ death is not depicted at all. For the earliest reference to the slaying of the bull, see R. L. Gordon, “The date and significance of CIMRM 593 (British Museum, Townley Collection),” Journal of Mithraic Studies 2:2. Read it online here. As there is no depiction of Mithras’ death in any ancient mythology, there is likewise no depiction of any resurrection.

Swedish scholar Tryggve N. D. Mettinger (I can only wonder how his first name is pronounced!) is professor of Hebrew Bible at Lund University in Sweden and a member of the Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, Stockholm. Although he claims that there were in pre-Christian antiquity a few cases of myths of dying and rising gods, he makes two important admissions in his monograph, The Riddle of Resurrection. Firstly, he affirms that he is going against a “near consensus,” and a consensus held not by Christian scholars, but by historians in general. Secondly, while he suggests that there existed myths of gods rising from death, he never suggests that the accounts are similar to that of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In fact he concludes the opposite:

There is, as far as I am aware, no prima facie evidence that the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mythological construct, drawing on the myths and rites of the dying and rising gods of the surrounding world.

Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wicksell, 2001), 221.

And so on for the other points.

I notice that Glenn cites a lot of peer-reviewed literature in his response. I like to be able to look at evidence when I am deciding what to believe about the world. I think that having solid evidence from scholarly research is a great way to ground a worldview. I definitely do not want to be parroting statements that I heard in a movie as though it were common knowledge, because people might ask me for evidence – and what would I do then if I didn’t have any?

Buddhism

The challenge here is that Christianity stole the virgin birth narrative from Buddhism.

Glenn goes back to the primary sources and looks:

Head over to the sacred texts website and read about the birth of Gautama Buddha (http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/sbe19/sbe1903.htm). Do you see any reference to a virgin birth?

Glenn doesn’t see any virgin birth, but intead finds this:

The reality is, they wrote that he was born to a woman who had been married for twenty years, without so much as a hint that she and her husband were abstaining from sex prior to the birth of the baby.

That doesn’t sound like a virgin birth!

And now I have some advice for skeptics. When you want to believe something, the wise person proportions his belief to the evidence. You don’t choose your beliefs based on non-rational criteria. If you don’t know, then just say “I don’t know”. It’s a mistake to run your life on beliefs that you hold uncritically, just because those beliefs make you feel good.

Osiris

Glenn has a podcast on Osiris here.

What to read to find out more

I recommend these two books. The first is more advanced than the second.

  • Ed Komoszewski, James Sawyer, and Daniel Wallace, Reinventing Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications: 2006).
  • Lee Strobel, The Case for the Real Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 2007).

Note that Lee Strobel interviews scholars in the second book, since he is a journalist, not a scholar.

Related debates with history of religions skeptics

You can see how well the history of religions theories do in formal academic debates. Listen to these two debates with the two best “mystery religions” people, squaring off against William Lane Craig.

Neither skeptic lands a glove on Craig – Carrier admitted defeat on his blog, and Price admits in the debate that he is on the radical fringe and virtually no one takes him seriously. This Christ-myth stuff isn’t cognitive, it’s an emotional outburst with a verbal smokescreen.

Related posts

Here are some posts about the historical Jesus:

Some debates on the historical Jesus with a reasonable atheist:

Check out this post for some historical debates with evangelicals and radical skeptics.