Who Do You Say That I Am? My Answer Was Late for Your Conference!
OK, I admit it. I was a little late for the “Who Do You Say That I Am?” conference. Thank you Watermark Dallas for putting this apologetics conference together! It turns out late is better than never. The event was challenging and enlightening. Ted and Anne Paul from Credo Courses were there. We fellowshipped some and they exercised their stellar expertise in photography (see all the images in this post).
In some ways, the conference began with the debate the previous night. Bart Ehrman debated Justin Bass. The resolution was, “Did the Historical Jesus Claim to be Divine?” Ehrman is perhaps North America’s most well known skeptic of Christianity. The debate was energetic and informative. Bass presented a well-researched and powerful defense of Jesus’ claims to divinity. Bart deflected:
- He joked about Hillary Clinton.
- His treatment of mistreatment of Thucydides was noted by this member of the audience.
- His confusion over Christian orthodoxy may go down as legendary.
A full review of the debate is coming soon. Best of all, Dr. Bass himself will be writing it.
Consistent or Contradictory? Thinking Through How History and Reliability Work by Dr. Darrell Bock
I walked in just after Dr. Bock had started. A young woman had come in just before me (see, other people are late too!) and I slipped into the seat next to her to listen and learn from the greats.
Dr. Bock’s lecture covered two main topics:
- The literary relationship between the synoptic gospels
- The question of contradictions
He explained in a lively way that differences do not equal discrepancies. The gospel writers had different purposes and audiences in mind. Like all authors, their writing reflected their unique style. We cannot approach the gospels demanding a precision that the authors didn’t intend. Gospel accounts may not be identical, but this doesn’t mean they’re not accurate. Accuracy and precision aren’t the same. The evangelists may not be equally precise, but this doesn’t mean they’re not accurate. He took us through a variety of examples. You should have been there.
Credo House has worked with Dr. Bock on a fantastic 28-part video course on the historical Jesus. Let me just say, if you’re not getting the Credo Courses monthly newsletter, you should be. Until that course is available you should check out the one by Dr. Dan Wallace (one of the other presenters) on Textual Criticism here.
Fact or Fable? Paul and the Earliest Sources About Jesus by Dr. Justin Bass
Dr. Justin Bass talked about Paul and the early historical sources for Jesus. It was marvelous. He shared some of the material that his opponent had ignored the night before.
He explained the presence of several creedal and hymnic fragments in places like 1 Cor. 8:6, Phil. 2:11, etc. which date much earlier than the writing of the actual biblical book. These fragments are clear; Jesus shares—with the Father—in the divine identity of Yahweh. He is even included in the basic Shema that stood at the core of Judaism (Duet. 6:4–5). Thus, we have historical evidence of the high Christology of the early Christians. So early that is predates the writing of the New Testament.
Dr. Bass explained that 1 Cor. 15:3–8 is perhaps the earliest of these creeds. 1 Cor. 15:3–8 is the oldest of these creeds. It dates to withing five years of the crucifixion. That is if we accept the historical reconstructions most popular among scholars today. This is a gold mine for historians. It’s an early source on the historical Jesus and the beliefs of the earliest Christians about him. He further explained the powerful nature of the conversion of Saul to Christianity. Saul was as opposed to the Christian gospel as one could be. The spread of the gospel soon after the crucifixion would have revolted a monotheistic Jew like Paul. Nothing can explain his conversion to Christianity short of, well, the resurrection of Jesus.
Mark’s Jesus: History or Fantasy by Dr. Dan Wallace
Dr. Wallace presented an exceptional lecture on the historical reliability of Mark’s gospel. Mark is almost universally believed to be the first gospel. Furthermore, he said that Mark served as a basic source for Matthew and Luke. Mark, says Dr. Wallace, is without doubt an early source. He also pointed out the universal recognition of Mark as the author and why that’s so important.
Points in Favor of Mark’s Historical Reliability
- The roughness of Mark’s writing style.
- The inclusion of sometimes embarrassing stories (which the others omit). These point to Mark as an early work. After all, who would want to repeat stories of Jesus spitting on people (Mark 7:33; 8:23)?
- In Mark’s day the testimony of women was almost worthless. Why would he then cite women as the first witnesses to the resurrection (Mark 16:1–8)?
The only reason Mark would write what he did they way he did, is because that’s what happened. No one makes up such embarrassing truths. Mark is as much bedrock history as anything written in the first century about Jesus. You can trust your Bible.
Aside: Wallace also dismantled some myths about the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.
The Ultimate Evidence: A Historical Case for Jesus’ Resurrection by Dr. Mike Licona
Dr. Mike Licona had the unenviable post-lunch slot. He did great! He made a strong case for the historicity of the resurrection using an analogy from cards. Some combinations of cards, or hands, are better than others. We have around eleven sources of information including the bible.
That’s a lot of cards and they make a stellar hand. Is it perfect? No. But it stacks up well against the hand for most any important event in history. It’s a hand worth betting on. In fact, I have bet on it. I’ve bet my eternity on the historical reliability of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. And you know what? I haven’t even broken a sweat.
It’s too bad I had to leave before the final lecture by Nathan C. Wagon on Christian discipleship. I hear it was a stirring call to follow Jesus and walk in “the way.” I’m told that the follow-up panel Q&A was informative and enlightening.
Thank you Watermark Dallas for a wonderful and enlightening conference. We were equipped in a powerful and memorable way, and I for one plan to attend more of the Watermark events. And thank you to every speaker for you labors for the faith!