Reading Time: 3 minutes TMDrew, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This comes from the New York Times, questions from Nicholas Kristof:

I question William Lane Craig of Talbot School of Theology and Houston Baptist University about Christianity.

This is the latest installment in my occasional series of conversations about Christianity. Previously, I’ve spoken with the Rev. Timothy Keller,Jimmy Carter and Cardinal Joseph Tobin. Here’s my interview of William Lane Craig, professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Houston Baptist University.

KristofMerry Christmas, Dr. Craig! I must confess that for all my admiration for Jesus, I’m skeptical about some of the narrative we’ve inherited. Are you actually confident that Jesus was born to a virgin?

Craig: Merry Christmas to you, too, Nick! I’m reasonably confident. When I was a non-Christian, I used to struggle with this, too. But then it occurred to me that for a God who could create the entire universe, making a woman pregnant wasn’t that big a deal! Given the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe (for which we have good evidence), an occasional miracle is child’s play. Historically speaking, the story of Jesus’ virginal conception is independently attested by Matthew and Luke and is utterly unlike anything in pagan mythology or Judaism. So what’s the problem? 

Of course, Matthew and Luke, as shown in my book The Nativity: A Critical Examination, are demonstrably historically inaccurate and contradictory. This is a complete handwave. It looks like these questions will simply not be dealt with in any meaningful way.

The problems with the virgin claim are voluminous (mistranslations, contemporaneous examples, reasons for the claims etc.).

Why can’t we accept that Jesus was an extraordinary moral teacher, without buying into miracles?

You can, but you do so at the expense of going against the evidence. That Jesus carried out a ministry of miracle-working and exorcisms is so widely attested in every stratum of the sources that the consensus among historical Jesus scholars is that Jesus was, indeed, a faith-healer and exorcist. That doesn’t prove these events were genuine miracles, but it does show that Jesus thought of himself as more than a mere moral teacher.

Wow. Again, we return to evidence, except, this time, we have four gospels instead of two. This doesn’t help since the gospel are inter-reliant, and the synoptic problem looks entirely like post hoc rationalisation of later theology.

And this requires emphasis:

“..,is so widely attested in every stratum of the sources that the consensus among historical Jesus scholars is that Jesus was, indeed, a faith-healer and exorcist.”

Holy crapola. Where are these attested to extra-biblically? This is simply horse manure.  And, as for the consensus of scholars, this is insane. The consensus of New Testament scholars who are…Christian? On that logic, we have even greater evidence for and cause to believe Islamic claims since the overwhelming majority of Islamic scholars are…Islamic.

This is Craig at his most disingenuous. At one stage, I used to respect him a fair bit. Not any more, really.

You don’t believe the Genesis account that the world was created in six days, or that Eve was made from Adam’s rib, do you? If the Hebrew Bible’s stories need not be taken literally, why not also accept that the New Testament writers took liberties?

Because the Gospels are a different type of literature than the primeval history of Genesis 1-11. The eminent Assyriologist Thorkild Jacobsen described Genesis 1-11 as history clothed in the figurative language of mythology, a genre he dubbed “mytho-history.” By contrast, the consensus among historians is that the Gospels belong to the genre of ancient biography, like the ‘Lives of Greeks and Romans’ written by Plutarch. As such, they aim to provide a historically reliable account.

Goodness, who are these “historians” and where is the evidence for the consensus? As for the history part of “mytho-history”, where is the evidence for this? I have shown, pretty comprehensively, that the Exodus accounts are bogus; the claims of Genesis are no more historical than any other creation myth in the world, unless he can show otherwise.

He is merely asserting nonsense. This is all wholly unimpressive.

 

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...