Bart Ehrman vs William Lane Craig

Here is a debate of Bart Ehrman and William Lane Craig (a popular Christian apologist) on whether there is historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus:

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  • Proto

    I was unaware there was evidence of Jesus’ existence to begin with. I’ll have to watch this later though, too long to watch before uni.

    • Dave Kline

      I believe this debate clearly illustrates that no human being really knows if there is a God, a Jesus, a Holy Spirit, or whatever. We may or may not find out in the end.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I like the way Ehrman hammers Lane Craig on the statement of faith required for employment at his Bible college.

    • Antlers68

      The willingness of Christ’s Disciples to die for their new religion certainly raises the question of what they witnessed that gave them such faith. Let’s be clear, no one witnessed the resurrection, but hundreds of people witnessed the resurrected Christ and THAT is what produced their faith and refusal to deny Christ to save their own skin.
      Throwing in a red herring about what Muslim’s extremists might believe proves nothing, Nazis and Marxists threw their lives away for a lot less.

      • Siberia

        So… you pretty much agree that people will kill themselves for virtually nothing.
        Thus invalidating the claim that the Apostles’ suicidal tendencies are somehow proof of truth (since people will kill themselves for anything, really; why should this one case be special?).
        Glad we agree on that.

        • Garrett

          Wait, does that mean Marshall Applewhite’s followers might not have known the one true truth?!?

      • carlos

        I do not see how the fact of islamic suicides or other religiously motivated suicides diminishes the worth of lanes argument here. the disciples were the founders of christianity they were the ones who claimed that they had behold Jesus alive, the difference between the disciples suicidal behavior and islamic suicidal behavior is that muslims commit suicide on the believe that their faith is true, they are convinced that the faith they apply to is the way the truth and the light, the disciples suicidal behavior would really seem outlandish if they knew that they had never seen Jesus alive, why would they die for an idea that they knew was nothing more than their own concoction. you see muslims die for what they believed is true whereas the disciples would be dying for something they knew was a lie.

    • brent

      Antlers68, et al, what evidence is there that the Apostles died without recanting or denying their beliefs? I’m a little tired of the lies, guys. No one can bring one shred of evidence of ANY of the Apostles dying as a martyr, except maybe James – which is a Biblical reference (a biased source). The Church continues the lies of 2000 years that the Apostles were martyrs. Heck, the church can’t even prove the Apostles existed. Even the existence of Paul and Jesus are questionable – certainly as depicted in the Bible. Religionists should realize they should only try to sell their Crazy to other wackos – the rest of us aren’t buying.

  • Bill

    The Book and external Biblical Books are not Verified Historical Documents and so should not be used as evidence for the events that happen in the Bible. Only verified external evidence can be used.

    Believers willing to die for there faith is well recorded everyday by Muslim suicide bombers. So the willingness of the 12 disciples and lots of other Christian followers through history is not all that powerful as proof of the event.

  • Conor Anderson

    Bill–
    You must be careful to distinguish between suicide bombers and the disciples of Christ. Suicide bombers cannot be certain whether or not Islam is false; the disciples would have been certain if Christianity was false. The argument is that nobody dies for what they know to be a lie–which would be the case with the disciples who were there at the cross, knew where Jesus was buried, etc., much unlike modern Muslims who were not around to confirm or disconfirm their beliefs. BIG DIFFERENCE.

    And I am surprised that your posted this video, Mr. Florien–after reading the transcript and talking to people who were there, I thought Ehrman was soundly defeated (see especially that part with the probability calculus).

    • http://arnesenstudio.blogspot.com/ brent

      Conor,
      Your position is the traditional defense and would be convincing if you had the evidence to back it up. The Bible, as scholarship has overwhelmingly revealed, is not an eyewitness account for the events it claims to describe. It may have a grain of truth, it may have a lot of truth – or none.
      The important thing for your point is to show how all those disciples you claim would have died willingly for something they must have known to be true.
      1. All of the gospels, even if written by the gospel writer the later church fathers applied to them, would have been written by them before they died and so they are not any evidence that they died.
      2. Most of the apostles didn’t write any account of Jesus’ death and resurrection (only 4 did) – as far as we know, they say Jesus die and never saw him rise again and simply disappeared into history, no longer willing to support the obvious error that Jesus was not who he said he was.
      3. The deaths of the apostles are legendary and not historical. There is little evidence to support the events surrounding their death.
      4. We have no idea if they didn’t recount before they were executed, or what they were executed for. They could have been told they would be killed quickly if they recount that Jesus was God, but if they kept claiming Jesus was God, they would be tortured until dead, but killed none-the-less.
      5. We really don’t have 4/5 accounts of Jesus’ resurrection as WLC claims. 1. Paul is not clear about whether he means a “spiritual” resurrection as opposed to a bodily. 2. Matthew and Luke copy from Mark and other sources and cannot be claimed to be true eyewitness accounts (especially since Luke never saw Jesus, alive, dead, or undead). 3. John copies and embellishes what would, by 90 CE, a fairly well known story among Xians – if John wrote it at all and not the early church fathers.

      So, we only have one possible account that would be Mark or what Mark copied from. And then we have extreme differences after the resurrection during the “Appearances” – which is really what would convince someone.

      http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/charts/resurrection_accounts.htm

      Note the wild variation in the appearance accounts – especially the heavily laden religious connotations (appeared to them over 40 days; 40 days being an important number in the OT).

      6. The appearances are written by only the 4 gospels and one in Paul – none of the other apostles, the other disciples, or ONE of the “500″ wrote ANYTHING to say they saw Jesus. So, there is no evidence whatsoever anyone died professing Jesus was God.

      7. Even Paul, though we can be fairly certain he was to be executed, was the only one who wrote any account of why he was being persecuted. We don’t know if the charge against him was sedition, murder, or anything else – let alone that he was being adamant that Jesus rose from the dead (which, remember, he doesn’t claim to have seen him physically).

      I could go on and on….

  • Ty

    “The argument is that nobody dies for what they know to be a lie–which would be the case with the disciples who were there at the cross, knew where Jesus was buried, etc.”

    This is one of the worst arguments apologists trot out.

    Even if all of the astonishing assumptions in this argument were true: that these people died for a religious belief that they themselves were personal witnesses to, that still wouldn’t be evidence that the beliefs had any validity.

    Everyone in the Koreshite compound died believing that David Koresh was god. Is that compelling evidence to you?

    But, see, you’re making a leap unsupported by your evidence. You are saying that since people LATER wrote that Jesus healed the sick and rose from the dead, that this means that the martyrs died because of personally witnessing those things. There is simply no evidence that this is the case.

    It is the equivalent of someone who knew someone who lived in the Koresh compound writing a memoir fifty years later in which they claim that David Koresh could raise the dead and heal blindness, and you pointing to it and saying, “Those people in the compound would never have died for David if these things weren’t true. No one dies for a lie.”

    And there are endless numbers of examples: Joseph Smith and many of his followers died for his fledgling church, does that mean his revelations were true? Heck, some of them went to their graves swearing they’d seen those mysterious golden tablets. Followers of Muhammad who’d known him personally died for his fledgling religion. People drank poisoned cool aid for Jim Jones.

    People die for stupid reasons ALL THE TIME. People are quite capable of acting as if a lie were the truth until they themselves believe it. And stories change radically with time. The earliest of those written accounts about miracles and martyrdoms were written over fifty years after the fact.

    Nope, sorry, the ‘no one dies for a lie’ argument is a total failure.

  • http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com James McGrath

    You are certainly right that there are people who would die for a lie. But even if one makes the argument more concrete, that the behavior attributed to the apostles in the legends of their martyrdom, one still can only get to, at best, the conclusion that the disciples strongly believed they were proclaiming something that was true. But plenty of Christians have a similar conviction today, without ever finding an empty tomb or encountering a physically risen Jesus.

    When we add to this the fact that we don’t have early reliable records about the martyrdoms of the apostles, and in a number of cases many of the Twelve simply vanish from the public eye, and obviously it becomes clear that one cannot claim even the strongest sort of historical confidence, much less the sort of absolute confidence that fundamentalists tend to claim.

  • John C

    More Phd guys…when are we gonna learn? It was the prostitutes, the poor, the outcasts who Jesus revealed Himself too mostly, not the rich, and so it is today. Why is that do you suppose?? Because most of us are “rich” meaning content in and of ourselves to know what WE know. Self-satisfied, high-minded.

    Now I am not saying that is a pre-requisite but humilty certainly is. An emptying of one’s Self, one’s own external identities, etc. But there is “no room at the inn” of our contented western hearts and mindsets.

    Jesus said “if you seek to save your own (psuche/soul) life you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sakes you will find it”. Let go of what you think you know so that you might really…know.

    Does anyone really want to know??

    Phd…piled high & deep.

    • Phillip

      John C – your comment only makes the Jesus of the gospels look worse. So, basically, you are saying that Jesus has chosen to not reveal himself to the “educated” (or as you put it, the high-minded), which I can only assume means that they are then destined to be cast into hell because they are/were non-believers. So, essentially, Jesus didn’t reveal himself to these people to begin with and then held it against them as an infinite offense and cast them eternally into hell. There’s a nice, loving god for you. I was a christian for ten years (of course, I am sure you will imply that I never was to begin with) and left the faith once I, low and behold, studied it objectively. No offense, but its about as real as leperchauns. Either that, or it is completely real and verifable, and Jesus just decided to not reveal it to me and intends to cast me into hell forever and ever because of what he decided to withhold from me in the first place. Nice.

      • John C

        Philip my friend, I think that is quite a stretch from what I said. We see Him (physically) hanging out with the lowly, the meek, the outcasts because they made room for Him in their lives, were not self satisfied, content in and of themselves, saw themselves as lacking, needful and open to His presence, were humble. He loves all of us, but will not force Himself on those who have no interest, no sense of longing or lacking in and of themselves. Ahh…but if we really knew Him, His true nature, heart for us.

        It just so happens that many of the elite in society, the educated, the “respected” tend to be self satisfied, self sufficient, have little or no desire for Him, that’s all. I didnt say anything about hell, those are your words my friend.

        All the best…

      • http://www.google.com/ Oh Oh

        Studied Christianity for ten years, and yet you don’t know how to spell? Your story sounds as real as one about leprechauns.

  • marcion

    “I’m not going to say it didn’t happen, but if it did, it’s a miracle.”

    Duh.

    “We can’t establish that a miracle probably happened; by very definition, it probably didn’t.”

    “There cannot be historical probability for an event that is historically improbable. You have to take it on faith.”

    Whatever happened to faith, then, eh?

  • nal

    WLC seems to claim (at 01:07:10) that 1st Corinthians 15 talks about the burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea. My limited research shows that this is false, Joseph of Arimathea is not mentioned in 1st Corinthians 15.

    WLC’s probability argument would have carried more weight if he had assigned some numbers to his probabilities. Without the numbers, his argument is non-substantive.

  • John Charles

    Within *one* year of His death, numerous objective witnesses came forward and swore that they saw him alive and in person. This should be sufficient evidence to His death and resurrection to satisfy all skepticism.

    Of course I am referring to Elvis, the Once and Future King.

  • griggs1947

    Yeshua was just a man of his times, another savior-god , miraclemonger- just as unique as the others,it being special pleading to find differences that matter,- aand cult leader, jerk!

  • Conor Anderson

    Wow, lots of responses.
    The primary contentions to my argument seems to be that the historical accounts of Jesus and his disciples are without sufficient evidence.
    Barry did an excellent job in such brevity with pointing out some basic evidences and I could certainly add more, but suffice it to say that there is plenty of factual evidence out there if you are looking for it.

    For example, Craig Blomberg’s Historical Reliability of the Gospels is a thorough adjudication of the evidence for the reliability of the facts in question; Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is also excellent. Bauckham makes a compelling case that the gospel literature was based on eyewitness accounts, and in combination with the work of K.E. Bailey in his article on oral tradition in the middle east (Bailey, K.E. “Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels.” Asia Journal of Theology 5 (1995): 4-11; reprinted in Themelios 20 (1995): 4-11.) provide significant historical evidence.

    And as Barry said, be careful with the level of evidence that you demand. Just because the gospels contain theological themes and miracle accounts does not mean that they are inadmissible as historical records. Furthermore, the temporal disparity between the events and records is just about the best you will get in ancient history (of that period and culture).

    • vorjack

      “Bauckham makes a compelling case that the gospel literature was based on eyewitness accounts, ”

      No, he doesn’t. He makes a largely wishful argument about what MIGHT have been without providing evidence or a criteria.

      Neil Godfrey has an extensive review of this work over at his blogVridar.

  • Conor Anderson

    Vorjack–
    Have you read the book in its entirety with careful consideration of his arguments and the data he presents?

  • vorjack

    Conor -

    Have you read Godfrey’s analysis – all 60+ posts – and considered the counter-arguments and data he presents?

    Failing that, have you considered this snippet from one of Bauckham’s favorite ‘historians,’ Papias:

    “Judas walked about in this world a sad example of impiety; for his body having swollen to such an extent that he could not pass where a chariot could pass easily, he was crushed by the chariot, so that his bowels gushed out. “

    [via Ealiest Christian Writings]

    Can we assume that Papias received this nugget of lore through his use of the best historical practices of the time? Did he collect it from the eye witness that we don’t know if he was alive to meet? How about the other traditions that he collected but were to unorthodox for later historians like Eusebius to quote:

    The same writer [Papias] gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten tradition, certain strange parables and teachings of the Saviour, and some other more mythical things.

    (Eccl.Hist.3.39.11)

    It’s a shame that Eusebius didn’t show proper trust in his sources. It’s amazing that we find a devotee of the hermeneutics of suspicion in the 4th century.

  • RobotzAreAwesome

    This is a great debate, I’m surprised I’ve never heard of Bart. He knows exactly how to defeat the Christian claim, you go straight to the jugular, which is the contradictory resurrection claims in the gospels. If there is no resurrection, there is no Christianity.

    If the accounts are not corroborative, you can easily prove they are not divinely written. And if they are not divinely written, the chances of their miraculous claims are equivalent to the chances of a magical pink pony waiting on your doorstep tomorrow to take you to work.

  • Ty

    “And as Barry said, be careful with the level of evidence that you demand. Just because the gospels contain theological themes and miracle accounts does not mean that they are inadmissible as historical records.”

    I demand the same level of evidence that I would demand for any extraordinary historical claim.

    They found Troy, after centuries of looking for it. Do you believe that this is enough evidence to support the claim that Mars himself strode the battlefield fighting on the side of the Greeks?

    Because that’s the equivalent of your position. You are claiming that because some elements of the story can be historically supported, that is sufficient evidence to accept the entire story as true, including the most extraordinary claims in it.

    That is a total failure as an argument.

    Also, Barry? Seriously, dude, your analogies are truly terrible.

    If someone claimed that Hitler was using demonic power kill the Jews, and that the Jews who survived did so using magic, then you might have a point. As it it, not so much.

  • Conor Anderson

    Vorjack–
    It sounds as though you have not read Bauckham’s work–instead you have settled for a blog about it written by somebody who is entirely outside his field, for whom biblical studies is a “serious” hobby. I am not sure of his academic credentials or why his criticism is not in any reputable, peer reviewed journal, but the information I do have (along with that I don’t) is enough to convince me that I shouldn’t waste my time.
    I am not arguing ad verecundium, dismissing his work out of hand, but as of now I am too preoccupied to indulge in more blog debate.

    Your respectful replies have been much appreciated, and I hope this does not come across as terribly disrespectful.

    Conor

    PS-to RobotzAreAwesome–look into what NT Wright has to say about the lack of corroboration in the resurrection accounts. The point he makes is that if the gospels are so far after the events, and so heavily edited by the church, how could they possibly miss all those mistakes? The disparities, which can be reconciled to a reasonable extent, are evidence for their originality and truthfulness, not against it.

  • Dan L.

    I didn’t see Ehrman getting trounced. I saw Craig doing the usual Creationist thing and simply repeat the same claims disregarding all refutations and counterarguments from his opponent.

    He also tried to muddy the water using a probability argument. I wish Ehrman had known enough to demand he specify a definition for “probability.” I would argue that the existence of the Christian God would be incompatible with any reasonable definition.

    I do think that Ehrman didn’t do a great job of enunciating what he was trying to make his main point: that however unlikely any individual explanation for the events in question, the total of those probabilities (the term in the probability equation that Craig was saying was so tiny) would actually be pretty big.

    He half-heartedly fell back on the argument he was better qualified to make; namely that the gospels don’t make a very good historical document. He started off and ended talking about the actual historical context in which Christianity started, but Craig simply poo pooed any reference to sourcesoutside the Bible. I feel Ehrman should have spent less time talking about alternative explanations for the gospel account and more time on the history of the texts.

    @Conor Anderson:

    You’re arguing that the fact that the gospels are based on eyewitness accounts makes them valid historical evidence. Do you mean the eyewitness wrote it or directly told a scribe, and that we have one of these exact copies? From what I understand, the earliest of the extant New Testament works is from the 2nd century, and so must have been at least one copy removed from a firsthand account (and likely many more). Any such retelling opens an opportunity for embellishment, and considering the political incentives early Christian priests had for doing so, I think we have to admit there is a high likelihood that the Biblical account is at the least embellished.

    Even assuming we did have a reliable first-hand account, surely the witnesses would have a great incentive to lie or exaggerate. Some of my friends exaggerate trivial events with no incentive save for the sake of narrative. Think of how much more widespread this propensity would be among a superstitious bronze age culture. But in this case, the eyewitnesses were presented the opportunity (presumably) to be the center of a growing cult. What were the apostles going to do, go back to fishing?

  • Jeff Eyges

    Right after the debate, I happened upon Craig’s blog, in which he and his acolytes were gloating over how he had, supposedly, bested Ehrman, how Ehrman couldn’t counter his arguments, etc. It was unattractive and inappropriate.

    Any such retelling opens an opportunity for embellishment, and considering the political incentives early Christian priests had for doing so, I think we have to admit there is a high likelihood that the Biblical account is at the least embellished

    Oh, no – they would never have done that. They were transformed.

  • http://donttakemyword.blogspot.com Scott Ferguson

    Alright, Craig beat another guy in a debate. How many articles in peer reviewed journals has WLC had published.

    Determining the evidence for the Resurrection in a high school-style debate would be like choosing the next leader of the free world that way…

    Oops!

  • David Dean

    Destroyed.

  • carlos

    The key question is: did the disciples see Jesus alive after his execution? if not than they placed their lives and safety on the balance for something they knew wasnt true, either the disciples imagining that they had witnessed a live Jesus or they really did see Jesus. i tend to go with the latter.

    • Nox

      The key question is: did anyone else see him?

      • carlos

        Thats a question for another day: bottomline is the disciples maintained Jesus was alive to the death, this kind of conviction can only arise if the disciples had trully seen Jesus, whether they imagined him or saw him they still were convinced that they had seen him, more amazing is the fact they had been such cowards early on, most if not all ran for his dear life, Peter went so far as to deny ever being one of the 12, for them to make such an aboutface in such short a spell is nothing short of intriguing.

        • Yoav

          You forget that we don’t really know what the disciples saw, or claimed they saw (or even if they actually existed). All we have is the story as presented by the writers of the gospels decades after the fact, and with an agenda of promoting the jesus cult in mind.

          • carlos

            The argument lane presents takes for granted that the disciples existed, it follows from the assumption that the disciples realy existed and is independented of the question of whether the disciples existed. that said the gospels, the primary sources for the disciples are in agreement that they the disciples witnessed Jesus alive after he rose from the dead.

            • eheffa

              Yes Carlos but which Disciple saw him first?

              The Gospels do not agree on many key details and are a completely unverifiable source of information about this Jesus.

              Who wrote these Gospels? When were they written? When does anyone actually look to them as an authority or reference re: this Jesus Christ (I’ll give you a hint – try late Second Century).

              The Gospels are not history. They are not a reliable source of anything. There is no evidence that the 12 disciples were real people and there is no evidence that their leader ever really lived either. Fine points around whether this possibly fictitious person actually rose from the dead are like trying to determine the color of the Emperor’s non-existent clothes.

              Yes the case is that weak.

              -evan

            • carlos

              eheffa, why are the gospels neither reliable nor history? is it necessary to know an authors identity before passing his or her work off as reliable. if you today discovered an anynomous account of the september 11 tragedy, will you go ahead and condemn the account offhand simply because it lacks an author? regarding the apparant disagreements in the narratives of the gospels, disagreements in a story does not necessarily mean that the events it describes never happened. consider a collision involving two cars on a busy intersection if each driver were to give an account of what happened, each one would probably say that it was the other driver that bumped his car, this disagreement over details doesnt discredit the fact that the cars collided, so having disagreements does not discredit a narrative or an account.

            • Yoav

              Carlos, If all I had is an anonymous source written in 2100 and claiming Osama bin-laden has took the towers down by a magic spell then yes I would consider it to be an unreliable source. If I had a description of 9/11 as it happen I will consider it more reliable since it doesn’t require a violation of the laws of nature. However if I only had a single anonymous source written long after the fact I will not accept it as definitive without corroborative sources. Lane’s case lay completely on an acceptance of the gospels as, well, gospel. Just ask yourself, if you had the same kind of evidence for another story, such as Mohammad flying to heaven on a winged donkey, will you accept it as reliable.

            • eheffa

              Carlos,

              “Why are the Gospels not history?”

              They have no corroborative support. They were written by anonymous authors in unstated places at an unknown time & subjected to unknown editing and redaction before they were ever referenced by any extant sources (~180 CE for the first time by Ireneus I understand).

              The Early Church & various hostile factions of Christianity, had no scruples in terms of fabricating and forging their documentation of “their” version of the Jesus story or “their” version of the pastoral epistles … (examples of these are legion. Take the Gnostic Gospels, or the forged epistles of Paul actually in the NT Canon as sufficient but there are many, many more examples of Christians manufacturing their evidence & modifying their sacred scriptures to suit their needs.)

              To assume that the Canonical Gospels are anything more than pure fiction is nothing more than a leap of unwarranted faith.

              Your confidence in the 12 disciples’ convictions being well founded is no more valid than my confidence that Snow White was well-loved by the 7 Dwarves. You are relying on another legendary fiction, to corroborate your primary fiction.

              Don’t you find it curious that the all-perfect, all-loving god of creation would do such a lousy job of documenting his most important redemptive act of creation? If he exists, he clearly wants those who would search for truth instead of comforting delusions to be misled into thinking that the Gospels & their main characters are nothing more than a man-made pious fiction. All the evidence points to fiction. Were it not for the crowds of contemporary literalist believers out there, these stories wouldn’t have any more traction or significance than those of Hercules or Zeus.

              Pious bullshit is still bullshit.

              -evan

        • Sunny Day

          “Thats a question for another day: bottomline is the disciples maintained Jesus was alive to the death, this kind of conviction can only arise if the disciples had trully seen Jesus,”

          Are you also willing to accept as evidence the same kind of conviction that terrorists demonstrate?

  • misa

    If you have read the entire bible, you are better able to talk about Ehrman’s arguments. If you are intellectual and you want to refute a book, you have to read it yourself first. Don’t let Ehrman refute it for you. Read the entire bible first and then hold it up to what Ehrman is talking about. I have done that and I find Ehrman’s arguments to be lacking. For instance, I have heard Ehrman laud the book of Ecclesiastes and try to paraphrase it, saying “This is not a dress rehearsal.” Bart implies that in the book of Ecclesiastes, there is no Judgment from God. Yet if you read the book of Ecclesiastes, you will see that he either has not read the last sentences in that book, he doesn’t remember them, or he does not want to talk about them. Clearly the book of Ecclesiastes speaks about God’s Judgment. How did Bart Ehrman miss the last sentences in the one book of the bible he seems to think is worthwhile.

    • Sunny Day

      Yeah that MUST be it, they missed the last sentence in whichever version of the bible you are using. Congratz win 2000 energon cubes and level up +1 Internets!

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  • M.L.

    I think there were flaws in both presentations but Ehrman made far more sense than Craig. Craig is a polished debater who is skilled at rhetorical swashbuckling but at the end of the day nothing he says is persuasive to anyone not pre committed to belief. One of the most (unintentionally) hilarious ironies about Craig is that he is. Christian apologist who likes to boast of the allegedly unique philosophical tradition of Christianity as distinguishing it as superior to other faiths, yet he’s best known for his use of the Kalamazoo Cosmological Argument fir God’s existence, which is an Islamic argument. Oh, the Irony!

    As for Ehrman’s flaws, like many agnostic and atheist scholars, he shoots himself in the foot by being too accomodating to believers. His intentions may be good (i.e. he wants to respect other’s POV etc.) but it comes across as disingenuous and undermines his position. Theology is a valid “mode of acquiring knowledge”? If he really believed that he’d be a believer. Theology could only be construed as a valid “mode of acquiring knowledge” to a non-believer in the limited sense of the purely academic study of belief systems, not in the sense Craig had in mind (I.e. theology of the believer of a particular faith). And while I understood his point about “God being inaccessible to historians”, I ultimately disagree with him. This reminds me of the accomodstionist scientists who avoid or deny the real conflicts between science and religious belief by claiming they bate ” separate magesteria” and that “science can say nothing about the existence of God”. Boulder dash. Both scientists and historians can draw conclusions from the available evidence (and lack thereof) as to whether or not it is reasonable to believe a God exists; certainly whether a God purported to act in history exists. There is absolutely no compelling evidence for the existence of Craig’s God.

  • Ty

    No evidence?

    What about that 170 foot cross, huh wise guy!!!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Bah, a 170 foot cross is not evidence. Now if it had been 210 feet tall…

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    Conor,

    Yes, but what evidence do we have that the people who witnessed Jesus were really there? Doesn’t that premise depend on the same accounts which the basic story of Jesus depends on?

    I believe that there was some sort of Jesus, but I believe that the accounts of his life were probably distorted, as were the accounts of the lives of those who are supposed to have witnessed him.

    What evidence do we have that the accounts of these “martyrs” are valid, especially for the ones who were labeled as the early disciples? How do we know that any of these things actually happened?

  • vorjack

    “I thought Ehrman was soundly defeated”

    I think the consensus is that Craig is just a better debater than most of his opponents. Some people are able to get in a few good shots here and there, but Craig usually outperforms them in the end. Still, it’s informative to watch.

    That said, tonight (March 9th) he’s up against Richard Carrier. I don’t know that Carrier is any better trained in debate, but he’s a solid historian who seems to know about Bayesian probability equations. It’ll be interesting to see how he does.

  • claidheamh mor

    @Conor Anderson
    You must be careful to distinguish between suicide bombers and the disciples of Christ. Suicide bombers cannot be certain whether or not Islam is false; the disciples would have been certain if Christianity was false.

    ???WTF???

    Supply factual evidence that this is any more than mere blather.

  • http://www.noctua.org.uk/paul/ Paul Wright

    Craig failed to make his case with the stuff about Bayes’ Theorem, because he didn’t put any numbers in (see my objections here and here. The whole thing was an exercise in blinding a liberal arts graduate with science. Speaking of probabilities, it seems likely that Craig won’t be trying that when he’s arguing with Richard Carrier.

    Where did Ehrman go wrong? Well, he probably shouldn’t have gone near Hume, and rather stuck to his initial idea that almost any other explanation will do when faced with something as unlikely as the Resurrection. Craig almost seems to agree with him that the Resurrection is unlikely: “The probability of the resurrection could still be very high even though the Pr(R/B) alone is terribly low” but later Craig changes his mind: “Dr. Ehrman just assumes that the probability of the resurrection on our background knowledge [Pr(R/B)] is very low. But here, I think, he’s confused. What, after all, is the resurrection hypothesis? It’s the hypothesis that Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead. It is not the hypothesis that Jesus rose naturally from the dead. That Jesus rose naturally from the dead is fantastically improbable. But I see no reason whatsoever to think that it is improbable that God raised Jesus from the dead.” What can this mean? If Craig doesn’t think the Resurrection is unlikely a priori, why is he pretending he cares about the evidence? See also Barefoot Bum’s thoughts on his.

  • LRA

    Conor,

    I saw WL Craig debate an atheist at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas about 10 years ago. The audience consisted of fundies and it was generally agreed that Craig defeated the athiest (however, the atheist was never even considered an equal opponent to him). These people don’t want to think, they want confirmation of their biases, plain and simple.

  • trj

    It’s in the Bible, silly. And we know the Bible is true, otherwise the 12 disciples wouldn’t have followed Jesus.

  • Question-I-thority

    Human nature is such that the person we most usually deceive is our self and desperate times call for desperate deception.

  • Barry

    To have high standards of proof for a historical event is fine, but do you hold the same standard for other events that we have even less evidence for but still accept as a matter of historical record? What evidence besides what we have would you expect to have from a 1st century Jew about their testimony to what happened? Be careful the level of evidence you demand. I don’t have DVD’s of the Nazi’s gassing the Jews, but that doesn’t mean there is no evidence. There are many historians, believer and non-believer alike, that date most of the New Testament from around 50 a.d. to no later than 95 a.d. so that is historically speaking a rather short time period. We also have the writings of the early church fathers such as Polycarp that at least back up what is written in the N.T., which you would expect from a follower, but it means there is more historical evidence that these people in fact did exist, than just the N.T. alone.

    As for you comparisons about people that die for a cause:

    1. Koresh and clan would be more relevant if all of the apostles died with Jesus, but that’s not what happened, they all freaked out and scooted out. That’s what we would expect, what we have to wonder is why would people who saw their leader die, become bold after his death and preach their message to their known world and endure not only death but torture as well.

    2. Muhhummad’s followers died fighting for him and his cause, one of dominance and power. Even if their motivations were pure I think they risked more by not following him than by following him.

    3. Jim Jones people committed suicide and murder, none of which happened to the apostles. Plus I didn’t see anyone picking up where Mr. Jones left off and having an Emmaus road conversion like Paul did.

  • Patrick

    Ty, I’m with you. The cult dynamic is an excellent illustration people wil die, willingly, for a lie. They may even suffer through torture for their belief. Once the mind latches onto something, and convinces itself something is completely true (even though it’s completely false, or evidence is fabricated), there is no limit to what they will do on behalf of that belief. You brought up a few examples …there are so many more.

    1984 (although fiction) is a classic demonstration how beliefs can be manipulated and historical events rewritten. Within a generation or two, people believe the made up or edited version of history.

    Last night I happend upon The History Channel and watched “Ancient Aliens” (These, as opposed to modern ones). The they interviewed some serious looking men in suits who had authored books about the pyramids and other ancient ruins. Marvels, to be sure, or in any age. Enter the fuzzy logic …these men are convinced, beyond all doubt, aliens helped build them. Aliens! One went so far as to say if they didn’t build them, “they certainly helped plan them.”

    I couldn’t help but wonder about credulous and gullible people watching who will pass this stuff on and before long it becomes a meme, or virus which spreads. After a generation or two, it grows larger still …all because they saw it on The History Channel.

  • vorjack

    “That said, tonight (March 9th) he’s up against Richard Carrier.”

    Whoops, got the date wrong. Actually it’s March 18th, next Wednesday, at Northwest Missouri State University. My bad.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    but he’s a solid historian who seems to know about Bayesian probability equations.

    Much of what Lane Craig says about math and science is absolute bafflegab. He counts on his audience not knowing that.

    Lane Craig has an interesting chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, in which he summarises the current state of arguments for theism. Apparently there is no attempted proof of God’s existence which he does not find convincing.

  • vorjack

    “Be careful the level of evidence you demand. I don’t have DVD’s of the Nazi’s gassing the Jews, but that doesn’t mean there is no evidence.”

    I’m sorry, but this is almost the worst analogy imaginable. There is an enormous amount of documentary evidence for the Holocaust. We also have physical evidence, oral histories, first person testimonies, pictures, the works.

    What do we have from the first century? A handful of documents that were produced a generation after the crucifixion. (BTW, I think most scholars date Mark to around the first Jewish War, so no gospel is considered earlier than 65AD.)

    Each document has passed through dozens of scribal hands, each possibly making accidental – or intentional – modifications. We have evidence of numerous oral traditions which are frequently contradictory. It’s not simply that we have a paucity of evidence, it’s also that all of our evidence is muddled and can be called into question.

  • vorjack

    Well, hello James. It’s good to see that we’re getting visitors from the biblio-blogosphere.

    But I guess this means I have to stop plagiarizing you and NT Wrong. Oh well.

  • vorjack

    “More Phd guys…when are we gonna learn? It was the prostitutes, the poor, the outcasts who Jesus revealed Himself too mostly,”

    Having been in academia for a while, I have to say that “poor and outcast” describes a lot of the PhD’s that I know. As for prostitute … well, I’ll just leave that one alone.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    More Phd guys…

    Appeal to anti-intellectualism. Big Yawn.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    There is an enormous amount of documentary evidence for the Holocaust. We also have physical evidence, oral histories, first person testimonies, pictures, the works.

    Not to mention, there is nothing miraculous or supernatural about the Holocaust. It was another example of a human atrocity. Whereas the miraculous events allegedly surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus H. Christ would require a higher level of evidence. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • Barry

    I’m not denying there is evidence for the Holocaust, but take away the technology that we had in the 40′s (photography) and add two thousand years can you deny the situation might not be a little more similar than what you let on?

    The very fact that we have Holocaust deniers shows the limits of what historical evidence can prove if someone has a priori reasons for not believing. That may not be the case with a large number of atheists in relation to the accounts of the gospels, but I suspect it may be for some. It’s interesting to me though that even existence of these writers is called into question and the corroralary texts within a generation that back them up are often dismissed or even ignored.

  • Barry

    @ Reg

    I wasn’t trying give evidence for the resurrection but just defending the premise that the apostles died for a belief and show how that differed from the examples that were given to show similiarity. I don’t put that in the extraordinary realm.

  • vorjack

    “I wasn’t trying give evidence for the resurrection but just defending the premise that the apostles died for a belief ”

    It would be best if you presented evidence that the apostles were martyred. As James McGrath point out below, the evidence we have about the fate of the apostles is ambiguous.

    The usual document that is cited, 1 Clement is very vague. I would hazard a guess that the author really didn’t know when and how Peter and Paul met their deaths.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    even existence of these writers is called into question and the corrolary texts within a generation that back them up are often dismissed or even ignored.

    Dating the Good News

    That’s a full generation in a society with a low literacy rate and a tradition of miracle stories. Any skepticism you may have about Appolonia of Tyre, Honi the Circle Drawer, Mithra, etc. need to be uniformly applied to the NT writers as well, or else you get called out on special pleading.

    I have found that many Christians make claims for the NT documents that even go beyond that claimed in the texts. The Gospel manuscripts do not claim to be written by original apostles, and do not claim to be eyewitness accounts, for example, and yet may Christians claim just exactly that.

  • vorjack

    I’m trying to get what you’re saying. Are you actually suggesting that we lower our evidential standards because people at the time didn’t share our historical rigor?

    To me, that’s like saying that you’ll believe John Doe actually saw bigfoot despite the lack of evidence, just because he didn’t have a camera along.

    It’s brutally obvious that there has to be a different methodology between ancient and modern history. But the lower amount of reliable evidence that we get from the ancient world doesn’t mean we should be more credulous. It means we have to be more cautious, look for broader pictures rather than details, and make sure every statements is provisional.

    But now, be honest, how many Christians would be content saying “Jesus might have been resurrected”? or “Based on the available evidence, the resurrection of Jesus is one of many available hypotheses. However, it fails to pass the principle of analogy.”

    Honestly, were I a believer I think I’d just accept Karl Barth’s statement that the resurrection was a supra-historical event that cannot be reached by the tools and methods of history.

  • Barry

    I don’t think we should adjust our evidential standards for history that happens to be about a religious movement. We’ve gone from we need evidence for the supernatural events of the N.T. to we need evidence that these apostles and their deaths are true and weren’t made up by later writers. That’s fine but my simple point is that what could count for evidence for you guys doesn’t exist for other facts that we all seem to accept.

    Maybe I should doubt that some guy named Plato existed, or the stories that he wrote about Socrates being killed for questioning his critics. How far does our skepticism go and who decides what is fact or fiction.

  • Ty

    No, you keep missing the point:

    Plato is not recorded to have healed anyone or raised the dead. Accepting his existence does not require extraordinary evidence.

    I accept that a teacher with the very common name of Yeshua existed and preached at around the time the bible claims he did. That requires no extraordinary evidence. I accept that probably some of his followers were martyred.

    I do not accept the massive leap that because some of them were martyred, that means the fantastical elements of the Jesus story are true. No more than the existence of Troy is sufficient evidence that Greek gods fought in the battle.

  • vorjack

    “Maybe I should doubt that some guy named Plato existed, or the stories that he wrote about Socrates being killed for questioning his critics.”

    I think there’s pretty solid grounds for believing that Socrates existed, since we have multiple contemporary or near-contemporary independent reports of his existence, from Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle and some mentions in Aristophanes. Note that the Gospels are not contemporary, nor independent since they are all a part of a single tradition.

    That said, I think it’s fair to say that we don’t know much about Socrates. Most classical historians I’ve spoken to are quite frank about the fact that what we get through Plato is largely literary and full of Plato’s own philosophy. The problem even has a name, “The Socratic Problem.” I guess it’s quite possible that his death was a literary creation as well, though I can’t recall the evidence.

    And this is the problem. Paul doesn’t seem very interested in the historical Jesus. He only quotes him twice, and both may be through revelation. We have the Gospels, but are they history, theology, myth, literature, liturgy or some mixture of all the above? Most of the later christian traditions only seem to appear late in the game, as well as being fanciful and chock full of mythical elements.

    Wouldn’t it be more honest to behave like the classical scholars and talk about “The Jesus Problem?”

  • Jeff Eyges

    The very fact that we have Holocaust deniers shows the limits of what historical evidence can prove if someone has a priori reasons for not believing.

    Oh, for God’s sake man – you’ve just argued against yourself.

  • Ty

    “The point he makes is that if the gospels are so far after the events, and so heavily edited by the church, how could they possibly miss all those mistakes? The disparities, which can be reconciled to a reasonable extent, are evidence for their originality and truthfulness, not against it.”

    You don’t see the enormous flaw in this argument? Really?

    “but as of now I am too preoccupied to indulge in more blog debate. ”

    You started it.

  • vorjack

    “It sounds as though you have not read Bauckham’s work”

    Ah, it sound like you recognize the value of applying proper skepticism to your sources. Now if only you could extend that principle.

  • Barry

    Why is the analogy so terrible? I wasn’t defending supernatural events, only the stories that the apostles were martyred.

    The Holocaust happens to be an event denied by some, who even say that the photographs and evidence were all fabricated. That’s basically what you are saying about the stories of the apostles death, that they were fabricated by later church leaders, that they actually died when and how nobody knows. I think the analogy is very applicable.

  • http://progressatallcost.blogspot.com/ markbey

    @ barry

    “The Holocaust happens to be an event denied by some, who even say that the photographs and evidence were all fabricated”

    mark: Please stop acting as if you dont know the difference between testimony of folks who were actually in the camps vs testimony from sources in the bible that is supposedly the inspired word of god.

    You have zero historical evidence verifying that the bible is accurate this is not the case with the holocaust.

  • Ty

    The holocaust happened fifty years ago. Survivors are still alive. Soldiers who took the camps are still alive. The photographs and film can be examined by experts. All of the current accounts being discussed are first hand accounts.

    The martyrs are at best second or third hand accounts passed through dozens of translations and rewrites, and with no corroboration from secular sources, no evidence that can be examined, and transmitted largely through organizations that have a strong interest in promoting the veracity of the stories.

    Really? The same?

  • LRA

    “As for prostitute … well, I’ll just leave that one alone.”

    Book deals anyone?

  • LRA

    Agreed!

  • John C

    Isn’t it a bit beneath your usual high standards to say that Paul only “quoted” Jesus twice when he referenced Him…like a G’zillion times across many well documented writings there Vorjack?

    Thats a bit misleading, doesnt hold water.

  • Alan S.

    Go to

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=scholarly_articles_main for

    “Articles exemplifying Dr. Craig’s work as a professional philosopher and theologian published in peer-reviewed journals. For articles accessible to a general audience, click on “Popular Articles.””

    and I suppose you could just count, though that’s probably only a sampling.


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