What difference does it make if God exists or not? What would the implications be if God did not exist?
We begin with two questions: “What difference does it make if God exists or not? What would the implications be if God did not exist?” The answer to these questions lie at the very center of life’s meaning.
who was jesus until recently. Critical scholars argued that jesus of Nazareth never claimed to be Israel’s messiah and never thought of himself as the unique son of God, but today, no such skeptical consensus exists. Why is that further? How do we know the records about jesus life are historically accurate? How do we know Jesus followers didn’t just make up the sayings and stories about Jesus? My guest today, who will answer these questions is philosopher Dr William Lane Craig, who holds a PhD in philosophy from the University of Birmingham in England and also a doctor of Theology degree from the University of Munich, join us today for this special edition of the johnny Karberg show. Welcome to our program. I’m john anchor Berg, thanks for joining me today. My guest is Dr William Lane Craig, who is one of the finest philosophers of our time, He’s engaged in debates and dialogues with many of the most well known skeptics in our world at some of the most prestigious universities in our world and dr craig? I’m very glad that you’re here again today and our question that we want to get to is very important, who was jesus, How do we really know that he made any of the statements that we find in the four gospels, You said until recently, critical scholars argue that Jesus of Nazareth never claimed to be the son of God or the lord or any sort of divine figure, but today you say no such skeptical consensus exists, Tell us why the reason, john is that new testament, historians have come to appreciate the gospels as generally reliable accounts of the life and teachings of the historical person, Jesus of Nazareth. Sometimes this is called the jewish reclamation of jesus. Scholars have come to understand that the proper background for understanding Jesus of Nazareth is not Greco roman mythology, but rather first century Palestinian Judaism, Jesus was a jew and all of the disciples were jews. And it is against that background that Jesus of Nazareth is to be properly understood and interpreted and when you do so, the gospels begin to appear as accurate, generally reliable accounts for the life and teachings of this man, Jesus of Nazareth is referred to in a wide range of sources in the ancient world, jewish sources, christian sources, roman sources and the earliest of these sources were assembled into the new testament. It’s important that our viewers understand that originally there wasn’t any such thing called the new testament. There were just these separate documents in the greek language handed down out of the first century things like the Gospel of luke and the acts of the apostles. The first letter of paul to the church in Corinth Greece. And it wasn’t until hundreds of years later that the church assembled these documents under one cover and called it the new testament. So by the very nature of the case. The earliest primary sources for the life of jesus are those that were assembled and included in the new testament. The church left out the later secondary derivative sources like the so called apocryphal gospels which were forgeries that arose hundreds of years after jesus and which everyone knew were forgeries. And this is important because the radical revision ery views of Jesus are all based upon these extra biblical sources that are, as I say, derivative, secondary and less reliable than the primary sources. So it’s important to understand that when we look at these primary sources for jesus, we’re not reasoning in a circle. Scholars are not trying to prove the bible by quoting the bible. Rather, they are simply turning to these early documents that have been handed down out of the first century telling this remarkable story of jesus of Nazareth. And they’re asking the question, how reliable are these documents? Yeah, we gotta talk about that because now we get down to the burden of proof and explain that to the folks and why this is so crucial for everybody to understand the burden of proof is crucial because when you approach these documents, the question is, are they to be taken as reliable? Unless and until they’re proven to be unreliable on some point? Or do you begin with the assumption that they’re unreliable? Unless and until they’re proven to be reliable on some point, are they innocent until proven guilty or are they guilty until proven innocent. Now as incredible as it may seem. The typical approach by skeptical critics is to assume that the gospels are guilty until proven innocent. That is they start with the assumption that they’re unreliable. Unless and until you can prove they’re reliable on some point. And it seems to me that that is simply perverse as historical method, that there is no justification for beginning with the assumption that the gospels are unreliable. What are some reasons to believe that the gospels are reliable? I think there are a number of reasons to think that the gospels are generally reliable. Let me just mention to the first one, is that the amount of time between the date of the writings of the gospels and the events that they record is relatively short for sources in ancient history to provide a point of comparison, The earliest sources for the life of Alexander the great come from Aryan and Plutarch who wrote 400 years or more after Alexander’s death. And yet classical historians still considered them to be relatively reliable account. That’s right. By contrast, the gospels and the new testament letters of Paul date from within the first generation after the events that they record. While eyewitnesses were still alive, moreover, one of the most interesting developments of contemporary new testament scholarship is the discovery of sources behind the new testament on which these new testament authors rely. Sometimes people will ask, well, are there sources of information about jesus outside of the new testament. Now there are but the most interesting of those sources are not the later ones. They’re the earlier ones, the sources on which the new testament authors themselves rely. And these would include things like the passion story, the story of jesus final week of suffering and death in Jerusalem, which is used by Mark in writing his Gospel. This is an incredibly early source which probably goes back to within the 1st 10 years after jesus life to the eyewitnesses. Similarly, in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. In Greece, he quotes from an old tradition which had been given to him, in which he handed on to his converts. This tradition relates the death, burial, resurrection and appearances of jesus after his resurrection to various eyewitnesses and scholars have dated this old tradition to within the first five years after jesus crucifixion. So the window of opportunity for legend and myth to accumulate is so narrow that compared to other sources of ancient history, the gospels have a very good claim to be relatively reliable accounts of the life and teachings of jesus. A and Sherwin White was a Greco roman history. A historian of the era roughly contemporaneous with jesus and Sherwin White says that when you use the writings of an ancient greek historians like Herodotus to measure the rate at which legend accrues? He says the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core of historical facts. So when you turn to the gospels, the time span was simply too short to allow these legendary tendencies to wipe out the historical core of these stories. You say that another reason that we can trust the gospels is you’ve got a great example in luke who’s the author of the Gospel of luke and Acts. Yes, luke is the new testament writer who writes most self consciously as an historian. The Book of Acts is a history of the early christian church in Jerusalem as it spreads out throughout the mediterranean world. And luke’s accuracy in the Book of Acts has been demonstrated again and again, most recently, Colin hamer, who was a classicist historian who turned then to new testament studies has beautifully demonstrated this in his book, The Book of Acts, in the setting of hellenistic history, humor goes through the Book of Acts with a fine tooth comb, pulling out a wealth of historical detail, ranging all the way from what would have been generally known facts in the ancient world down to details so specific that only someone who was actually on the scene would have known these and again and again and again, luke’s accuracy is demonstrated from the sailing of the Alexandrian corn ships out of Egypt to the coastal terrain of the mediterranean islands visited by Paul to the shifting and peculiar local names of the officials on these islands, luke gets it right again and again, luke’s historical accuracy in the Book of Acts has been demonstrated in fact, Bill, let me read this for the people. This is the preface that luke gives to the gospel of luke. And he says, inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word. It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past to write an orderly account for you. Most excellent theophilus that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed. Yes, here, luke speaks of his careful study of the facts is interviewing eyewitnesses who knew about the information. And it’s interesting that this preface to luke Acts is written in classical greek. This is the greek of the classical greek historian like facilities and Herodotus and luke is showing I can write in this fancy style of the professional historian if I want to. And then he reverts to a more common greek, more colloquial greek and the rest of his narrative. But he’s put his reader on notice that he can do the work of the classical greek historian if he wants to. It’s also telling that in the 16th chapter of the Book of Acts, the author suddenly begins to use the first person plural. As we set sail from true as to Samothrace as we went to the Place of prayer etcetera. This shows that luke has joined himself to paul’s entourage on his tour of the mediterranean cities. And then he accompanies paul back to Jerusalem, where he was able to interview eyewitnesses, just as he said, according to the classicist historian A. N. Sherwin White for Acts, the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Any attempt to reject its basic historicity, even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Those are incredibly strong words. And this is the same author who has written the Life of jesus in the Gospel of luke, which is the first part of his double work, luke. Acts and his demonstrated historical reliability in the Book of Acts gives us confidence to trust this author when it comes to the events in the life of jesus as well. So, to wrap up this first consideration, I think it is utterly unjustified to approach the Gospels with an assumption of their unreliability. Even if we don’t assume that they are reliable, we should at least approach them with an attitude of neutrality and let the evidence then lead us to where it does, moreover, new testament historians have developed a number of criteria so called criteria of authenticity which can be applied to specific sayings or events in the life of jesus, which increase the historical probability that these were actually historical and by applying these criteria to specific events and things in the life of jesus. We can give ourselves additional confidence that these really happened. Yeah, these are the tools that historians used not just on new testament documents, but on other books as well. That’s right. These would be criteria that could be applied to any historical sources with a view toward determining their historical credibility. I really want people to understand what the historical criteria are that textual scholars used in determining the historical reliability of a saying or something that’s found in a document. Let’s go through them. There’s a multiplicity of them. John let me mention just six. Number one would be historical fit. That is to say the incident fits in with known facts about the time and place. The gospels are not anachronistic, but they are consistent with what we know of first century jewish society and culture secondly, would be independent early sources. If an event or saying is found in an early source and then also independently in another source, then that increases the probability that it goes back to a historical event, because it would be highly improbable that independent early sources would both make up the same event. The miracles of jesus would be an example of events that are multiple. E an independently attested in early sources. A third criterion is the criterion of embarrassment. If an incident is awkward or counterproductive for the early christian movement, then it’s unlikely to have been made up by those christians. An example would be the baptism of jesus by john, the baptist, john was baptizing people for the forgiveness of sins since early christians believe that jesus was sinless, they wouldn’t make up a story about jesus going to john to be baptized. And therefore, virtually all scholars recognize that this is a historical fact, that john did baptize jesus. 1\/4 criterion would be dissimilarity. If an incident is unlike earlier jewish ideas and also unlike later christian ideas, then it’s likely to be historical rather than the product of early jewish or christian ideas. An example here would be Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man. This is not a title that was used in the early christian church for jesus, it’s something that is relatively rare in aniseed in Judaism and yet it is Jesus favorite self designation in the gospels, which makes it highly probable that Jesus did think of himself as and called himself the Son of man. Yeah, he used that 82 times of himself and the four gospels. That’s a lot of times. That’s right. 1\/5 criterion would be the presence of Semitism that is to say traces of Hebrew or Aramaic in the gospels, the gospels are written in greek. So when you get these traces of Aramaic or or hebrew, you’re getting back to the actual words that were spoken by jesus and his compatriots. And finally 1\/6 criterion would be coherence. If the incident fits in with already established facts about jesus, then that will increase the historical probability of that incident as well. Yeah. And these criteria can be applied to specific incidents in the books. They’re picking out nuggets that you’re looking at, explain that that’s right. These criteria can be applied to specific sayings or events in the life of Jesus, regardless of where they’re found, you could apply these to the apocryphal gospels or even the Karen to try to find historical nuggets in these otherwise unreliable sources. This is important because it would mean, for example, that in order to prove, say that Jesus was baptized by john, You don’t also have to prove that the gospels are reliable in saying Jesus was born in Bethlehem or that Jesus Fed the 5000. Each of these events can be weighed for its historical credibility on its own merits. Using these criteria of historicity. Alright, bill, let’s assume that we have documents that are giving us reliable information and we have textual tools to investigate each of the sayings that we’re gonna talk about. Let’s start with some of these sayings that come off of the lips supposedly of Jesus himself. Did he ever claim to be Israel’s messiah? I think that Jesus of Nazareth did claim to be Israel’s messiah and this has demonstrated both in his words and in his actions, who was the messiah messiah was believed to be a coming descendant of King David, who would re establish the throne of David in Jerusalem, throw off the yoke of Israel’s enemies and establish God’s kingdom in the land, he would win the universal respect of jew and gentile alike. And it seems very probable that Jesus thought that he was in fact this promise Messianic figure. The word messiah in greek is christos or christ, and this was the title that was used by early christians to describe who they believed Jesus was. For example, Mark’s Gospel opens with the words the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus christ, the son of God and john’s Gospel closes with the explanation that was written, so that you may believe that jesus is the christ, the son of God. So the early christian movement believed that Jesus was the messiah, they called him the christ. In fact, this became so closely identified with Jesus that it became virtually his last name. Jesus christ, which means messiah. Jesus. Now the question is if Jesus of Nazareth never himself claimed to be the messiah. Where in the world did the early christian movement get that idea, messiah was supposed to throw off the yoke of Israel’s enemies and in this case that meant Rome not not to be shamefully executed by them as a common criminal, the fate of Jesus of Nazareth on the cross would make it impossible to believe that he was the messiah had he not made any such claims to this himself. So the belief of the early christian church, that Jesus was messiah most plausibly goes back to Jesus claims to be the messiah which they believed were then ratified by his resurrection from the dead which had reversed the catastrophe of the crucifixion. So right from the start, I think it is highly probable that these Messianic claims must go back to Jesus and when we examine specific sayings and events in the life of jesus, this is born out. Yeah, I think one of the examples that almost all the scholars agree on is the fact of john’s question to Jesus and Jesus answer back to john about whether or not he was the messiah. Yes, in the gospels we have the story of john the baptist thrown into prison and he sends a message to Jesus of Nazareth saying, are you the one who is to come or should we look for another? This is attested in a very early source which is shared by Matthew and luke. And the credibility of the story is also attested by the criterion of embarrassment because it shows that john, the baptist faith is wavering in, in jesus and the early church wouldn’t make up such a story about john unless it were true, Jesus responds to john by saying, go and tell john what you have seen and heard the blind received their sight, The lame walk lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear and the dead are raised up. The poor have the good news preached to them and blessed is the one who is not offended by me now, why does jesus not just say yes, I am the one who has to come. Why this circumlocution? Well john we find the answer in the dead sea scrolls from the scene community at Qumran. In the Dead Sea scrolls, they list as conditions for the messiah precisely the conditions that jesus gives. They say the heavens and the earth shall listen to his messiah. He will honor the pious upon the throne of the Eternal Kingdom, setting the prisoners free, opening the eyes of the blind, raising up those who are bowed down and the Lord shall do glorious things which have not been done just as he said for he will heal the injured, he will make alive the dead, he shall proclaim good news to the afflicted Jesus is recounting to john the baptist precisely the Messianic signs that jews at that time believed would accompany the messiah when he came. So in this story of john the baptist in prison, I think we have very compelling evidence that Jesus of Nazareth believed that he was in fact the long promised jewish messiah folks, We’re just starting with this, we’re talking about the words that came off of jesus lips. First of all we’re saying, are they credible? How do we know? And then we’re saying, did jesus ever claim to be the messiah next week? We’re gonna continue this? We’re gonna pick it up and we’re gonna talk about? Did jesus christ ever be the son of God? And what about the son of man statements and I hope that you won’t miss. This is very important. Stay tuned for scenes from next week’s program. Well, thank you for joining us today here on the john Achterberg show. If you’re interested in becoming a christian, please go to our website at J A show dot org and click on become a christian, which you’ll find at the top of our homepage. You’ll also be able to read information and how you may start a personal relationship with jesus christ as your savior. For more information concerning today’s program. Or if you’d like to watch some of our other programs and topics, go to our website at J A show dot org and click on watch. If you’d like to watch our television programs on your smartphone, go to your app store and download our free johnny Karberg show app. It will open to over 60 of our television programs that you can watch anytime anywhere for free. You’ll also see many other categories of information that are available to you join us next week for another episode of the john Achterberg show, I want to say thank you for watching May God richly bless you. Bill jesus radical self understanding himself as God’s son I think comes to expression here in Matthew chapter 11 verse 27. What what is that verse? Read that for us in Matthew 11 27 Jesus says all things have been delivered to me by my father and no one knows the son except the father and no one knows the father except the son and anyone to whom the son chooses to reveal him. Now there’s very good reason to think this is an authentic saying of the historical jesus. First of all, it’s drawn from a very old source which is shared by Matthew and luke in writing their gospels. Moreover, it’s very unlikely the early church invented this thing because it says that the sun is unknowable. It says no one knows the son except the father, but for the post easter church, we can know the sun. We know christ as our savior. So this is highly unlikely to be a later invention. This goes back to the historical jesus, but then what does it tell us? It tells us that Jesus thought of himself as the only son of God and the unique revelation of God the Father to mankind. This is truly a radical claim. Yeah, let’s go to the next one and that’s mark 13 32 jesus talking about the date of his Second Coming, he says. But of that day or that hour, no man knows not even the angels in heaven nor the son, but only the father alone talk about this again. This is likely to be an authentic saying of the historical jesus because the later christian church, which believed Jesus to be divine would never have invented a saying ascribing ignorance to jesus. But here, Jesus says he doesn’t know the date of his second coming. This makes it likely that this is a word from the historical ge itself, But what does Jesus say in this saying? He refers to himself as the Son of God, and it presents us with a sort of ascending scale, from men to the angels, to the Son to the Father, a scale on which Jesus transcends every human being in every angelic being.