Identifying Jesus: Is He Man or Both Man and God?May 2010
William Lane Craig vs. Yusuf Ismail
[Dr. Craig has recorded some post-debate thoughts on this debate with Mr. Ismail; see http://www.reasonablefaith.org/muslim-debate-in-south-africa (accessed July 8, 2014).]
[Some logistics information and moderator introduction is presented at the start. Mr. Smyth, the moderator, then also presents some opening comments to the audience in attendance. We pick up Mr. Smyth's opening comments at the 3:25 mark.]
Introduction - John Smyth (Moderator)
Our two lead debaters will of course not be giving lectures, even less preaching sermons. Their task is to lay the foundation for all of us to debate and consider this vitally important topic by identifying the issues and providing evidence for facts which may be in issue. Of course, ladies and gentlemen, you are judge and jury. Remember that. As you listen to these two eminent men, as you debate the issue from the floor, your goal is to decide where the truth lies. In a postmodern age where relativism prevails, truth is a precious commodity. We are dealing with life changing issues tonight. We must put our prejudices aside and seek truth tonight.
The man, Jesus, who is the topic of our debate – we are seeking to identify him in this debate. He claimed, according to the New Testament records, to be “the way, the truth, and the life.” Did he say it? Did he mean it? Was he mad? Was he a con-man? Or was he actually speaking the truth? Those are some of the issues which we are going to debate tonight. My task as moderator is simply to ensure an informative, lively, fast-moving, succinct debate.
Here is the format. Dr. Craig will begin in a moment when I've introduced him with an opening statement – the maximum of 30 minutes. We will ask both main speakers to be less if they can. Mr. Ismail will follow with a maximum of 30 minutes his first statement. I remind you that during these statements don't applaud. There will be plenty of time for applause later. Then we shall have a first rebuttal from each speaker, and a second rebuttal from each speaker, and then a very short closing statement from each of our lead debaters. At that point we will have a short break. We will have been going for an hour and a half. Then in the second part of the debate we will have questions from the floor, and I'll tell you more about the format for that in due course.
May I introduce first of all Dr. William Lane Craig. He is our overseas guest from America. He is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He earned a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Birmingham, England before taking a doctorate in theology from the University of Munich in Germany. He is a popular international lecturer on university campuses. He has authored or edited over thirty books including his signature work Reasonable Faith as well as over a hundred articles in professional journals of philosophy and theology. Many of his articles and debates are available online – williamlanecraig.com [ed. www.ReasonableFaith.org].
Then let me introduce Yusuf Ismail at this point also, though he will be coming second. Dr. Craig begins simply because he is proposing the motion that Jesus is both man and God. Yusuf Ismail earned a B.Comm. law degree from the University of Durban in Westville and received his LL.B. degree at the University of Natal. He was an advocate for a short period, then went back to the sidebar and is now a practicing attorney. Mr. Ismail is also a part time lecturer in law at Unisa. He is heading the Interfaith Department of the Islamic Propagation Center International on a part time basis. Here he is primarily involved in discussions focusing on the relevancy of Christianity and Islam in the modern world, discussions on Christian-Muslim relations in postmodern society, and the challenges of secularism in the 21st century. Mr. Ismail has engaged in regular debates on theological issues with a number of leading Christian figures in South Africa such as Dr. David Seecombe, Pastor Glenn Schentke, Bob Benjamin, and Dr. Alan Prophet. Last year he was instrumental in setting up and coordinating a series of debates between Shabir Ally from Toronto and leading Christian apologist in South Africa, John Gilchrist.
Over then to Dr. Craig for his opening statement. Please welcome Dr. Craig.
Dr. Craig - Opening Speech
Dr. Craig:  Thank you and good evening. I want to begin by saying how excited my wife Jan and I are to be here in South Africa. We have so enjoyed the beauty of the Cape as well as your warmth and hospitality in receiving us. I am also very glad to have the opportunity to discuss this very important question this evening with Mr. Ismail.
Both Christianity and Islam have an exalted place for Jesus of Nazareth. Muslims are rightly offended by the secular attacks upon Jesus which one finds upon the websites of so-called Internet Infidels. That is their own self-description. These websites popularize the claim that Jesus was just a mythological figure who never really even existed, that he was not born of the virgin Mary (this idea being derived from pagan mythology), that he never performed miracles, and that he never claimed to be the Messiah. The Muslim, like the Christian, rightly finds these scurrilous claims to be simply offensive because the Qur'an as well as the New Testament explicitly teaches that Jesus was the greatest of all the prophets who ever lived, that he was miraculously conceived and born of the virgin Mary, that he himself performed miracles, that he healed the blind, cleansed lepers, and raised the dead, and that he was indeed the Messiah.
But it is not just that these claims are insulting to Jesus. The more important point is that they are based upon pseudo-scholarship which is more than 100 years out of date. Contemporary studies of the historical Jesus have come to recognize that pagan mythology is simply the wrong interpretive context for understanding Jesus. Jesus was born and lived in the religion of the Hebrew Bible. It is in that context that it is to be properly understood. This realization has led to what New Testament scholar Craig Evans has called the eclipse of mythology in life of Jesus research. He says that mythology is no longer seen as a relevant category in life of Jesus research today. What you will notice about these infidel websites is that they almost never cite the primary sources of pagan mythology to support their claims that the Gospels were drawn from pagan myths. It is no wonder, because when you do read the primary sources you find that they are not really parallel to the Gospels at all, and that all of the supposed parallels are concocted and spurious.
So the next time someone comes to you claiming that the story of Jesus is based upon pagan myths, you can be sure that that person is either a charlatan or else a pseudo-scholar who is hopelessly out of date.
But while Islam and Christianity both have an exalted place for Jesus, nevertheless there does remain this huge difference between them. Muslims regard Jesus as merely human, whereas Christians believe that Jesus was both human and divine.
It is important that the Christian claim here be properly understood or confusion will be inevitable. Christians believe that Jesus was truly human. But they do not believe that he was merely human. Christians believe that Jesus had two natures – a human nature and a divine nature. In his human nature, Jesus experienced all of the inherent limitations of humanity – being limited in time and space, being limited in physical strength and knowledge, feeling exhaustion, hunger, and pain, being mortal. I find that Muslims often don't understand this. They think that if you show passages from the Gospels which display Jesus' true humanity such as his limited knowledge or his physical limitations then you've thereby proved that he is not also divine, when in fact all you have proved is that he is truly human which Christians agree with! Thus, you cannot refute the Christian position by demonstrating the humanity of Jesus because Christians believe that Jesus was truly human. The question before us this evening is not “Jesus: Is He Man or God?” But rather the question is, “Jesus: Is He Man or Both God and Man?” To refute the Christian position, the Muslim theologian needs to show that Jesus had only one nature – a human nature. On the other hand, the Christian theologian, in order to establish his position, needs to give some good reason for thinking that Jesus had not only a human nature but also a divine nature.
The problem we face is how to settle this dispute? For the Gospels say one thing and the Qur'an says another. The Gospels portray Jesus as both human and divine. The Qur'an insists that he was merely human. So, who is right? Since both Christians and Muslims regard their sacred Scriptures as the Word of God and therefore true, we seem to have a standoff here. Is there some way that we can get past this standoff? Fortunately, there is.
Since Jesus was a real historical person, we can break the deadlock by examining the historical credibility of these contrasting pictures of Jesus. In other words, the search for the historical Jesus can help to resolve the disagreement between Christianity and Islam.
In order to determine who the historical Jesus really was we need to have some objective criteria for assessing our sources. Professor John Meier, an eminent New Testament historian, lists the following five criteria :
1. Multiple, independent sources. Events which are recorded in independent and especially early sources are likely to be historical.
2. Dissimilarity. If a saying or event is different from prior Judaism and also from later Christianity then it probably doesn't derive from either one and so belongs to the historical Jesus.
3. Embarrassment. Sayings or events that would have been embarrassing or difficult for the Christian church are unlikely to have been invented and so are likely historical.
4. Rejection and execution. Jesus' crucifixion is so indisputably established as an anchor point in history that words and deeds of Jesus must be assessed in terms of their likelihood of leading to his execution as King of the Jews. A bland Jesus who just preached monotheism which was already accepted by the Jews of his day would never have provoked such opposition.
5. Coherence. Once we've established a body of facts then other events can be assessed by how well they fit in with the established picture.
When we apply such criteria to the New Testament we are able to establish a good deal about the historical Jesus. In tonight's debate, I want to discuss just three of the facts that emerge about this remarkable person.
FACT #1: Jesus' Radical Self-Concept.
The Qur'an says that Jesus thought of himself as no more than a human prophet who told people to worship the one true God. However, on the basis of the criteria it can be shown that among the historically authentic words of Jesus are claims which reveal his divine self-understanding. Tonight I want to look at just two of these.
First of all, Jesus' claim to be the Son of Man. The criteria of multiple, independent sources and of dissimilarity shows that this claim belongs to the historical Jesus. Most laypeople probably think that this title refers to Jesus' humanity, just as the title Son of God refers to his deity. But that is a mistake. It fails to take into account the Old Testament background of the expression. In the book of Daniel, chapter 7, Daniel sees a vision of a divine-human figure – a Son of Man – coming on the clouds of heaven to whom God will give everlasting authority, glory, and dominion. No mere human being could be accorded such a status, for this would be to commit the sin which Muslims call shirk, which is giving something which properly belongs to God alone to somebody else. Yet, this is the status which Jesus claimed for himself. Probably the most famous Son of Man saying by Jesus comes at his trial before the Jewish high priest:
Then the high priest stood up . . . asked Jesus, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. . . . “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death (Mark 14:60-65, NIV).
Every Muslim would have to agree with the high priest and the council that Jesus is a blasphemer who is worthy of death because he has made himself equal to God.
Secondly, not only did Jesus claim to be the Son of Man, but he also thought of himself as the unique Son of God. This is a claim that Jesus often makes in the Gospels. We will look at just three examples.
First, Jesus' self-understanding as God's unique Son comes to expression in his Parable of the Wicked Tenants of the Vineyard. Even radical, skeptical critics like those in the so-called Jesus Seminar recognize the authenticity of this parable. In this parable the vineyard symbolizes Israel. The owner of the vineyard is God. The tenants are the Jewish religious leaders. The servants are the prophets sent by God. In Mark 12:1-9 Jesus says,
“A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him . . .”
Now, what does this parable tell us about Jesus' self-understanding? It tells us that Jesus thought of himself as God's only beloved Son, distinct from all the prophets, God's final messenger, and even the heir to Israel. Even the Muslim apologist Shabir Ally admits, “The Son obviously represents Jesus whom God sent last of all. So Jesus is shown to be different from the prophets. He is not one of the servants. He is a beloved Son.” Even this is an understatement. In the parable, Jesus describes himself as God's only beloved Son. Jesus did not think of himself as merely another human prophet.
Second, Jesus' self-concept as God's special Son comes to explicit expression in Matthew 11:27:
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
It is unlikely that the church invented this saying because it says that the Son is unknowable. “No one knows the Son except the Father.” But in the thinking of the early church, we can know the Son. So by the criterion of dissimilarity, this saying is authentic. But what does this saying tell us about Jesus' self-concept? It tells us that he thought of himself as the exclusive Son of God and the only revelation of God to mankind.
Finally, another fascinating saying revealing Jesus' sense of being God's unique Son is his saying concerning the date of his return. He said, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). It is highly improbable that this saying is the product of later Christian theology because it ascribes ignorance to Jesus. The criterion of embarrassment therefore requires the authenticity of this saying. But here, once more, we see Jesus' consciousness of being God's unique Son. Not only that, the saying also presents us with an ascending scale from men, to the angels, to the Son, to the Father – a scale on which Jesus transcends every human being and even every angelic being. This is really incredible stuff! Yet this is what the historical Jesus believed. C. S. Lewis was right when he said,
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said . . . would either be a lunatic--on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. . . . You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. 
FACT #2: Jesus’ Trial and Crucifixion.
According to the Gospels Jesus was condemned by the Jewish high court on the charge of blasphemy and then delivered to the Romans for execution for treason for claiming to be King of the Jews. Not only are these facts confirmed by independent biblical sources like Paul and the Acts of the Apostles, but they are also confirmed by extra-biblical sources. From the Jewish historian Josephus and the Syrian writer Mara bar Serapion we learn that the Jewish leaders made a formal accusation against Jesus and participated in events leading up to his crucifixion. From the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a, we learn that Jewish involvement in the trial was explained as a proper undertaking against a heretic. And from Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus, we learn that Jesus was crucified by Roman authority under the sentence of Pontius Pilate. According to L. T. Johnson, a New Testament historian at Emory University, “The support for the mode of his death, its agents, and perhaps its co-agents, is overwhelming: Jesus faced a trial before his death, was condemned and executed by crucifixion.” 
Perhaps the single most egregious historical error found in the Qur’an is its claim that Jesus of Nazareth was not in fact crucified. Not only is there not a single shred of historical evidence in favor of this remarkable hypothesis, but the evidence supporting Jesus’ crucifixion is, as Johnson says, “overwhelming.” Those of us here tonight who are Muslims need to understand that no one who is not already a Muslim believes that the historical Jesus was not crucified. The crucifixion of Jesus is recognized even by the skeptical critics in the Jesus Seminar as--to quote Robert Funk--“one indisputable fact.”  Indeed, Paula Frederickson, whose book From Jesus to Christ inspired the television series by the same name, declares roundly, “The crucifixion is the strongest single fact we have about Jesus.” 
FACT #3. Jesus’ Resurrection.
What happened to Jesus after his crucifixion? On the basis of the criteria of authenticity, the majority of scholars who have written on this subject agree that four things happened:
1. Jesus' corpse was interred in a tomb by a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin named Joseph of Arimathea. As John A. T. Robinson of Cambridge University states, the burial of Jesus in the tomb is “one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus.” 
2. Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers on the Sunday morning after the crucifixion. Even so hostile a critic as Bart Ehrman recognizes that we have, in his words, “solid traditions,” not only for Jesus’ burial, but also for the women’s discovery of the empty tomb, and therefore, he says, we can conclude with “some certainty” that Jesus was in fact buried by Joseph of Arimathea in a tomb and that three days later that tomb was found empty. 
3. Various individuals and groups of people on multiple occasions and under different circumstances saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. This fact is universally acknowledged by New Testament scholars. Even the skeptical German New Testament critic Gerd Lüdemann admits, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.”  These appearances were witnessed not only by believers, but also by unbelievers, skeptics, and even enemies.
4. The original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead despite having every predisposition to the contrary. Think of the situation the disciples faced following Jesus' crucifixion. (1) Their leader was dead, and Jewish messianic expectations included no idea of a Messiah who instead of triumphing over Israel's enemies would be humiliatingly executed by them as a criminal. (2) Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone's rising from the dead to glory and immortality before the resurrection at the end of the world. Nevertheless, the original disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe so strongly that God had raised Jesus from the dead that they were willing to go to torturous deaths for the truth of that belief. The eminent British scholar N. T. Wright observes, “If nothing happened after Jesus' death then any first century Jew would have said, 'He was another deluded fanatic.' That is why, as a historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.” 
As the world famous Islamicist Kenneth Cragg notes, this means
"Muslim writers face a deep historical problem since they are obliged to explain the impact of Jesus in terms of his teachings only. The place where the resurrection stands is for Islam a blank. Yet its sequel cannot be ignored even if on the Muslim view it has to be a sequel without a properly total source."
All of this has enormous theological significance. By raising him from the dead, God has dramatically and publicly vindicated those allegedly blasphemous claims for which Jesus was crucified. As the German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg explains,
"The resurrection of Jesus acquires such decisive meaning, not merely because someone or anyone has been raised from the dead, but because it is Jesus of Nazareth, whose execution was instigated . . . because he had blasphemed against God. If this man was raised from the dead, then that plainly means that the God whom he had supposedly blasphemed has committed Himself to him." 
But that means that Jesus must have been exactly who he claimed to be – the unique Son of God and the divine-human Son of Man. That is why Christians believe that Jesus was not merely human, but also divine.
In summary, on purely historical grounds, we have seen (1) that Jesus of Nazareth possessed a radical self-concept as the unique Son of God and the divine-human Son of Man, (2) that he was tried, condemned, and executed for his allegedly blasphemous claims, and (3) that God raised him from the dead in vindication of those claims.
All of this stands in contrast to the Qur’an’s claims that Jesus thought of himself as a mere prophet preaching a blasé monotheism, that he was not crucified, and that he did not in fact rise from the dead.
When you think about it, however, this situation isn’t really surprising. I mean, which would you trust: documents which were written down within the first generation after the events they record, while the eyewitnesses were still alive, or a book written over 600 years after the events by a person who had no independent historical source of information? Why, even to ask the question is to answer it!
In fact, the Qur’an contains demonstrably legendary stories about Jesus which evolved during the centuries after his death. I’m referring to stories about Jesus which are found in the so-called apocryphal gospels – these are forgeries which appeared in the second and third centuries after Christ – and which the Qur’an picks up and allegedly repeats as facts. For example, the Qur’an mentions the story – borrowed from the legendary forgery entitled The Infancy Gospel of Thomas – of how the boy Jesus made a bird out of clay and then made it come to life (III.70, V.100-110). Such stories are legendary fictions. Thus, the Qur’an offers us no independent historical source of information about Jesus. That is why no historical scholar turns to the Qur'an as a source of information about the historical Jesus.
So who is the real historical Jesus? The Jesus of the New Testament who claimed to be the unique Son of God and the divine-human Son of Man who was tried, condemned, and crucified for those radical claims, who rose from the dead in confirmation of those claims? Or is it the Jesus of the Qur'an, an anachronistic creature of a blasé monotheism, who thought of himself as no more than a human prophet, who did not die on the cross, and who never rose from the dead? Praise be to God that it is the Jesus of the New Testament which withstands the tests of historical investigation.
Mr. Ismail - Opening Speech
Mr. Ismail:  [Arabic] I begin in the name of God the most gracious and most merciful. Mr. Chairman, MC, John Smyth, my erstwhile competitor Dr. William Lane Craig, ladies and gentlemen, good evening. It is an immense privilege to be sharing this platform with so eminent an individual as Dr. Craig. It is my privilege to be back in Cape Town.
I must say that in half an hour, Dr. Craig has confirmed what I had initially predicted. And that is he has not produced a single passage or verse from the New Testament where Jesus proclaims divinity, where he says, “I am God,” or where he says, “Worship me.” In fact, what he seems to be engaged in is a process of what we would call decontextualization, and so I'm pretty surprised by the weakness of the arguments that I hear this evening. Coming to the topic, “Identifying Jesus: Is He Man or Both Man and God,” I think the theme for the program of this evening is a claim or cry by this particular individual called Job. He says in Job 25:4, “How then can man be justified with God? Or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not; yea the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less Man that is a maggot and the Son of Man who is a worm?” Man is described as a maggot according to the book of Job. The Son of Man, if we have to apply the same particular . . . you are assuming you want to apply 1,001 prophesies to Jesus, the Son of Man is described as a worm, a slightly higher degree. That is this theme for this particular evening. It is important that some of the statements I make are not meant to offend any particular individual tonight.
At the outset we need to basically come to this particular point: it is important in a debate of this nature that we look at our source. Without detracting from the debate, if the source is in doubt then reliance upon that particular source to prove a theological point doesn't prove anything. Many people aren't aware of the fact that what we have as a New Testament is nothing more than an eclectic edition. I am surprised that Dr. Craig as a noted scholar never pointed that out. What the textual critic does is that he selects, he re-writes, or he chooses from a collection of manuscripts to determine what might be the original. Sometimes a selection amounts to no more than an informed guess. Here we have a collection of different types of manuscripts like the papyri, uncials, cursives, minuscules. Out of a total of 5,847 manuscripts you can see that the existing editions of the Greek New Testament use a particular minority. Sometimes going down as low as 5%. Why? This is a committee of Bible Society such as Bruce Metzger sitting in the middle with a number of individuals. What are they doing? They are developing the New Testament based on the existing manuscripts. Of the 5,847 Greek manuscripts, no two apart from the very tiniest fragments are identical. In fact, up until the 8th century, there is not one Greek manuscript that contains the entire New Testament in its particular order, until of course the dated Uspenski Gospels of the 8th century.
One can go on further. What about the words of Jesus? Are we in possession of the words of Jesus today? What people and scholars tell us is that Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Greek. Further on, as you can see in Acts 26:14, Jesus spoke to Paul in the Hebrew dialect. Some translations have it as Aramaic. So the problem is that if the source is not reliable, if we are not sure we don't have the original words of Jesus, then how can we go about making these particular claims that he allegedly made?
An interesting point to also note is that when we look at the relationships between the synoptic Gospels, Dr. Craig subscribes to a theory called Markan priority which I accept. Many fundamentalists Christians will not accept it, which is that Mark was the first Gospel to be written and then Matthew, Luke, and John subsequently followed based upon the works of Mark. As you can see there is a triple tradition and there is a double tradition. We have passages in Matthew which are taken directly from Mark. Passages in Luke and Matthew which are identical. Passages which are only unique to Mark. And in accordance with that, Mark is seen to be the primary source. The four Gospels in the Christian Bible, if we are to concede that they are the primary available materials for Jesus, then it is important to note that when we compare one Gospel to another we can see how stories for example about Jesus were changed to reflect a higher view of Jesus. For example, scholars today – the vast majority – would state that the Gospels themselves were written not as historical works but as apologetic works to prove particular theological motifs. If you, for example, compare Mark to Matthew we can see how the later Gospel changed individual reports to raise a view of Jesus in the following ways. For example, passages where people call Jesus “Lord.” In one occasion where Jesus was transfigured, in Mark Peter calls him rabbi, but in Matthew Peter calls him Lord. To have Jesus refer to himself as Lord. When Jesus directed his disciples to wait and watch for his imminent return, in Mark he called himself the master of the house but in Matthew he calls himself “your Lord.” Same passage – improvement. Jesus being called the Son of God. As Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks Peter who he thought he was. In Mark, Peter says you are the Messiah. But in Matthew Peter says you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. So you see Matthew has added the titled “the Son of the Living God.” To have people pray to Jesus. When Jesus was asleep in the boat and the storm rocked the boat, in Mark the disciples awake and what do they say? They say “Teacher, do you not care if we drown?” But in Matthew they pray to Jesus and say, “Lord, save us. We are perishing.” So the rebuke in Mark on the same incident was changed to a particular prayer. So comparing Mark to Matthew in this particular way we have seen how Matthew has reworked the material to bring out later Christian teachings. In fact, the difference is far more pronounced when you go to John's Gospel. In John's Gospel, you'd find Jesus makes a most significant and far reaching claim – “I am the light of the world, I am the resurrection, I am the way, the truth, and the life.” If Jesus said these things then . . . the other Gospels would surely have recorded them. They are not there. But they did not because he did not say such things. The man in which Jesus approaches death has also been reworked. In Mark, Jesus begs God to save him from the cross though he submits to God's decision. But in John, Jesus declares that he will not [pray] to be saved – in John 12:27. So we can see that in this way when we multiply the examples of how one after another the Gospels went about modifying the image of Jesus for later readers. When we compare Mark with the later Gospels you notice the modifications in the later ones. If you could compare Mark with its predecessors then you would find that Mark has also modified his story. This is the actual relationship between the synoptic Gospels which I would submit that Dr. Craig would not take any objection to in principle because he would subscribe to the same view with his scholarship.
One last point. The death of Jesus after the Passover during the Passover in Mark 14:12 the disciples ask Jesus where they are to prepare the Passover meal for that evening. In other words, that is on the Day of Preparation for the Passover. But in John's Gospel we are told that Pilate pronounces that sentence on that particular Day of Preparation for the Passover. Now Dr. Craig would obviously have to explain that to us. Why? You know why? Because in John's Gospel, Jesus is that sacrificial lamb. He is that Passover lamb whose sacrifice brings salvation from sins. So in other words, John has changed a historical datum to make a particular theological point. Jesus is that sacrifice, and to convey that theological point, John has to now create a discrepancy between his account and the other particular Gospels. It is important that you need to look at this in context. Do not decontextualize Scripture. If you do that you will do violence to the particular text.
The article of faith in the first century according to the apostolic creed as articulated by Theodor Zahn was “I believe in God, the Almighty.” That was always the case. Between 180 and 210 the word “Father” was added before the “Almighty” meaning “I believe in God, the Father Almighty” which was obviously bitterly disputed by later churches. Then we have this council. It was church councils that had to declare the divinity of Christ. Incarnation was defined as a doctrine only long after the struggles by the particular church councils. It is interesting to note that in an email discussion with Ludar Carsten, Dr. Craig refused to discuss the topic “Is Jesus God?” He said, “Well, you have to go back to the actual belief as is found in the Council of Chalcedon which defined the two natures of Christ, both human and divine.” The vast majority of Christian scholars in the world today actually reject the idea not because it is difficult to understand but because it cannot be meaningfully expressed.
We have a problem here. If we are to believe that Jesus is both human and divine, which Dr. Craig hasn't spent much time elaborating on, then it stands to reason that everything Jesus has done is done both by the humanity and the divinity in him. So likewise everything that happened to him happened to both the man and God that he is. Mary gave birth to both, both died on the cross, etc. Huston Smith is a world-renowned writer on comparative religion. In his book The World's Religions he said that the orthodox doctrine is logically incompatible. Why? He says “We may begin with the doctrine of the incarnation which took several centuries to fix into place. Holding as it does that in Christ, God assumed a human body, it affirms that Christ was God-man; simultaneously both fully man and fully God. To say that such a contention is paradoxical seems a charitable way to put the matter.” Why? He says “It seems more like a blatant contradiction. If the doctrine held that Christ was half human and half divine or that he was divine in other respects our minds would not balk.”
It is interesting to note that on the TV show by Lee Strobel Faith on Fire Dr. Craig conceded in the debate with Rabbi Singer that the Trinity cannot be found in the Old Testament. You can't derive it. It is not there. The existence of the Trinity would be hard to find, to paraphrase what he actually said. I would submit that the same principle would apply in the New Testament; it is not there. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. Where about is it in the Bible? Maybe Dr. Craig could inform us. C. Randolph Ross, who is a particular writer, in his book Common Sense Christianity he debunks the orthodox view not because it can be difficult to understand but because it cannot be meaningfully said. He said,
"To be human is to be finite, limited in knowledge, fallible, and imperfect. To be human also means to be aware of one's finitude, and of one's separation from others and from god – sometimes painfully aware. If Jesus was human, then he was all of these – and indeed this is how the Gospels portray him, experiencing anger, fatigue, uncertainty, reluctance, pain and even death.
To be God means to be eternal and unlimited, to be perfect in love and understanding. Now, either Jesus of Nazareth was limited, fallible and imperfect, or else he was unlimited, infallible and perfect. These two sets of attributes are opposites of each other. You can't have it both ways; he was either one or the other. You can't say of one person that he was both."
Now we've got a challenge before us. Perhaps I'm hoping that Dr. Craig can give us in the rebuttal – unpack before us one model that would demonstrate the two natures of Christ in Christian theology. Show me one model. Some people have tried it – using the circle and the aspect or illustration of a square. Let's look at a circle representing divinity. That would fail because Jesus is said to be both human and divine. What about a square representing his humanity? That would fail because Jesus is said to be both human and divine. What about an object somewhat round and somewhat square? That would fail because Christ is said to be completely human and completely divine. What about a circle inside a square? That would fail because they say that God became man, not that God was inside the man. What about a square inside a circle? That would fail because man is not said to be inside God. So we come back to the question: Dr. Craig would have to, in his rebuttal, show us a particular model. He's written an article called “The Birth of God.” It is quite interesting in that article he suggests in order to prove the divinity of Christ that Christ's divinity was part of his subliminal subconscious. He gives the analogy akin to a person suffering from multiple personality disorder. So, are you saying that Jesus was God or divine but he was not aware of his divinity? It was part of his subliminal subconscious? Explain and unpack the model before us. That is what needs to be done in the reply.
Randolph Ross continues,
"'Ah!' some will say. 'That's the paradox!' No, it isn't a paradox. This is a very important point, so please take special note: a paradox is something which seems impossible but which is demonstrably true. Thus, it was a paradox when some scientist carefully analyzed bumblebees and concluded that according to the laws of physics they couldn't fly. There was contradiction and apparent impossibility, but bumblebees kept on flying.
However, for an individual to be perfect and imperfect is a reverse of this: it may seem true to some, but it is demonstrably impossible. And not just impossible according to our understanding of the laws of nature, which can be wrong (as with the bumblebee), but impossible according to the rules of logic upon which all our reasoning is based."
Unless we can conceded honestly, Dr. Craig can say, look this is not according to logic, this is according to belief. Be honest and suggest that.
For example, what we have here. If you were to for example . . . the orthodox would basically say that Jesus was imperfect with regard to his human nature but perfect with regard to his divine nature, but the problem with that is that it implies the existence of two persons occupying one body of Jesus. One perfect, the other imperfect. Two minds, two wills, two characters. But the creed doesn't allow it. It says that somehow or the other Jesus was not two persons but only one.
Let me elaborate the last point. New knowledge can often declare old knowledge to be false. But with the rules of logic things are different. What is true by definition will always remain true, unless of course you start redefining things. For example, 2+2=4. That equation will always remain true, unless of course you start deciding to change the definition of the component parts. By definition, a thing cannot be the opposite of itself. A thing cannot be perfect and imperfect at the same time. The presence of one of these qualities implies the absence of the other. Jesus was either one or the other but he cannot be logically be both. I have a question for Dr. Craig. Can you get a fat-thin man?
"To say someone is both perfect and imperfect is like saying that you saw a square circle (or a fat-thin man). This is an impossibility. Are you saying the circle was not round, in which case it was not a circle? Or are you saying the square was circular? This is not a paradox; this is meaningless nonsense, however imaginative it might be."
That is what C. Randolph Ross concludes.
I've got a question for Dr. Craig. When Jesus faced death on the cross, according to Christian belief, did he face it with a human belief that he would be raised on the third day or did he face it with the infallible knowledge that he would be so raised? If he believed with human faith in God's power to raise him then he himself was not God. But if on the other hand he faced death with an infallible divine knowledge that he would be resurrected then he was not taking any real risk in letting himself die. Because if the divine nature in him knew he would be raised but Jesus did not know that then it was not his divine nature. If the divine nature knew something he did not then we are back to two persons. So explain that to me.
"To say someone is both perfect and imperfect at the same time is to say that “X” and “not-X” can both be true. This is . . . to abandon logic."
Let's look at this. The story of the fig tree.
"Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went out to find if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again'" (Matthew 11:12-14).
The problem I've got with this is that it is easy to understand that the human Jesus felt hunger and that the human Jesus did not know it was not fig season and so mistakenly expected the tree to have fruit. A divine Jesus would have known all of this. Now his miracles or the cursing of the tree they say are performed by his divine nature. Let's assume that the divine Jesus cursed the tree. Why? Why ruin a tree which in Mark's view was a perfectly good tree? Come fig season the tree would have fruit and others would have eaten from it. The reason was that the human Jesus made a mistake. But why did the divine Jesus act upon the mistake of the human Jesus? Does the human mind in Jesus guide the divine nature in him? Actually there is no warrant for all this speculation for Scripture no where says that Jesus has two natures.
Some will say that everything is possible with God and that we are using words here with their meanings. That is true. Anything is possible But if you tell me God did such and such a thing is fine, but you cannot say that God did and God did not. He is and he is not. Jesus is all-knowing and he is not all-knowing. Jesus is all-seeing and he is not all-seeing. Therefore I would say impossible. C. Randolph Ross concludes on this particular point,
"If you wish to redefine some of these words, that's fine, as long as you can tell us the new meanings that you are using. The usual practice, however, seems to be to say that while one cannot say precisely what these new meanings are, one is nevertheless sure that they fit together in a way that makes sense. This, of course, is simply an effort to duck the requirements of logic. But if you do not know the meanings of the words which you are applying to Jesus, then you are merely saying
'Jesus is X' and
'Jesus is Y',
X and Y being unknowns. This, of course, is to say nothing at all."
This is an individual called William Ellery Channing, one of the many Christians that have moved to that scriptural position that Jesus is human. He says,
"Where do you meet in the New Testament the phraseology which abounds in Trinitarian books in which necessarily grows from the doctrine of the two natures of Jesus. Where does a divine teacher say, 'This I speak as God and this is as man. This is true of my human mind, and this of the divine.' Where do we find in the epistles a trace of this strange phraseology? Nowhere. It was not needed in that age, it was demanded by the errors of a late age."
This is an interesting figure. This is actually Dr. Craig's doctoral adviser John Hick. He authored a book with a number of theologians called The Myth of God Incarnate. In it, what John Hick has come to the conclusion that basically like many practicing theologians that Jesus himself was just simply a man – a prophet of God. Anyone who still has doubt on this particular matter should read that particular book. No he is not a modern day Hindu, Dr. Craig, as you seem to suggest with Dr. Badawi. He is someone of standing and his book has been co-authored by many other learned theologians. In fact, I am quite interesting to know which biblical scholar of note today within one of the major seminaries in fact subscribes to the view that Jesus is divine.
I'll put the open challenge. This is a beautiful church. If you can show me one verse in the New Testament where Jesus says “I am God” or where he says “Worship me” or in the context of tonight's debate “I am both man and God,” I am prepared to be baptized tonight. I don't speak for my Muslim brethren here. I don't speak for anyone. But I am saying show me one particular verse where he says that.
Is there any greater than God? Does anyone believe anyone is greater than God? Jesus says “My Father is greater than I.” In John, “My Father is greater than all.” In Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man that he should lie neither the son of man that he should repent.” Is God able to do everything? Yes. Jesus says, “Of myself, I can do nothing, as I hear I judge and my judgment is just because I seek not my own will but the will of the Father that sent me. If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that bear witness.” If you are saying that his divinity was purely incidental then why is it he goes out of his way to emphasize his humanity? God knows everything. Of course. Jesus says, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, not the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” I see in the lecture which I will be dealing with in the rebuttal section, Dr. Craig seemed to suggest, look, Jesus is now placing himself above the angels. But I think you are reading into Scripture. But besides that, in the Qur'an we are even told that man is placed on a higher level above the angels. Why? Because he basically has a choice of free will which angels don't have. So man is seen higher than angels. So in other words if you were to agree with that Dr. Craig then you'd simply be confirming the Islamic belief.
God speaks from himself. Jesus says, “Whatsoever I have heard these things do I speak.” “The words ye have heard are not mine but the father which sent me. He has given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak even as the Father himself said so I speak.” Does God pray? Jesus says, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” And he fell on his face just like a Muslim would do. In Matthew 26:39.
Give me another definition of the prophet in Acts 2:22. “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourself also know.”
A man approved of. Jesus identified as a prophet. It is not necessarily an Islamic belief. It is a biblical belief. That is what the New Testament says. “I must walk today and tomorrow for it cannot be that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem.” Jesus is saying that. What's a belief where Jesus was killed? Where was he killed? Outside of Jerusalem. He says here a prophet cannot perish outside of Jerusalem. “No one has seen God at any time.” “You cannot see his shape or hear his voice.” Or when he told Philip, “You have seen me, you have seen the Father” he must have been meaning something else.
The idea that Jesus is the Son of God is an idea which basically is a later development. James Dunn, who is a contemporary of Dr. Craig, in his book Evidence for the Messiah, he states that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke statistically one can determine that there is an evolution in terms of what Jesus said and how he is viewed. For example, in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God 47 times and hardly of himself. But in John's Gospel he speaks about the Kingdom of God only 5 times. In Mark, Jesus speaks about himself like “I am this” or “I am that” 9 times. But in John's Gospel he speaks about himself a whopping 118 times. When we realize that Mark was the first Gospel and John was the last, we can see then that the development in the way Jesus was represented over time. For example, in Mark's Gospel Jesus refers to God as “the Father” once. But in John's Gospel he refers to God as “the Father” 73 times. In Mark's Gospel Jesus refers to God as Father 3 times, but in John's Gospel a whopping 100 times. So whereas in Mark more about the Kingdom of God and less about himself, in John more about himself and less of the Kingdom of God. There is an evolution in terms of what we see in terms of how Jesus represents himself.
So it seems to me that the higher Christology where Jesus represented himself as a Son of God is thought to be a later insertion. Dr. Raymond Brown in his Anchor Bible Volume 29 and Dr. Paul B. Duff who is the Chair of Department of Religion at George Washington University states,
"the innovated concept of Jesus being the “only begotten son” of the Father was developed in the fourth century."
Dr. Craig believes that Raymond Brown is a scholar of note and Raymond Brown is certainly a recognized scholar in the world.
"It was injected by Jerome into the Latin Bible to refute the claims made by Bishop Arius (d. 336) and his associates that Father alone was really God and Jesus was made (created) and not begotten."
But it is interesting. This is a letter from Paul B. Duff and what he says is that in John 3:16 and John 1:18, the words which have been translated for “begotten”, the actual Greek word is monogenes. [audio skips] . . . monogenes does not mean “begotten.”
"The word ordinarily means 'of a single kind.' As a result, 'unique' is a good translation. The reason you sometimes find a translation that renders the word as 'only begotten' has to do with an ancient heresy within the church. In response to the Arian claim that Jesus was made but not begotten, Jerome (4th century) translated the Greek term monogenes, 'only begotten.'"
So there is absolutely nothing. In fact we will deal with the issue Son of God later on. But before we can come to that, look at this quotation in John 20:16-18 when Jesus appeared before Mary Magdalene after the so-called post-crucifixion appearances. She goes and wants to cling onto him. What does Jesus say? He says, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and conveyed that particular message to the [disciples].
So with all the discussions that Dr. Craig has given us, he has not been able to basically give us a single point which illustrates that Jesus claimed to be God or where he said that he is divine or commands people to worship him. Of course you'd find passages in the New Testament which purport to suggest that. But [that's not] the case. With respect to the issue pertaining to the Parable of the Wicked Tenants and the other so-called discussions, I will deal in the rebuttal section so it does not mean I concede that point. It is interesting to note that the New Testament that we have today is an eclectic edition. It is a development which is recognized by the vast majority of biblical scholars. You've got the oldest manuscript Codex Sinaiticus date to 400 years after Jesus. You find that when Constantin von Tischendorf discovered the Sinaiticus he discovered something like 14,800 editorial alterations when compared to the existing New Testament in the 19th century. So these are points of note. It is not scholarly to say or speak about multiple independent attestations when we don't even have the original words of Jesus among us. Jesus never spoke Greek, he spoke Aramaic. I'd like to end with one particular quotation from a particular scholar on this point. This is Charles Kammer in his book Ethics and Liberation. He says – this is the message I leave for all of you, Muslims as well as Christians,
"If we are truly to honor and respect the person of Jesus and live out the implications of his life, death, and teachings, we can no longer make claims about the absolute uniqueness of Jesus or the necessity of the encounter with the person of Jesus for human liberation and salvation. To be true to the person of Jesus, his life, love, and concern for others, his openness to persons of both sexes and all economic classes, all cultural backgrounds, we must repudiate a Christology that measures the worth of persons on the basis of their relationship with Christ alone."
I thank you for the time with all the discussions that Dr. Craig has had. Unfortunately he has not proven the point. I would be interested in hearing the rebuttal. I would like to end with a verse of the Qur'an which says, [Arabic] “When truth comes and throws itself against that which is incorrect, that which is incorrect is bound to fall away.”
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, and God bless you.
Moderator - Notes
Thank you Dr. Craig, and thank you Mr. Ismail. We come now to our first rebuttals, one from each lead debater. I just want to remind the debaters that the purpose of a rebuttal is primarily to deal with matters which have already been raised by the other side and not to introduce new material. Unfortunately we haven't got all night and therefore we need to be succinct and concise. Over to Dr. Craig for his first rebuttal.
Dr. Craig - First Rebuttal
Dr. Craig:  Thank you, Mr. Ismail for those very interesting comments. I very much enjoyed listening to that speech and am glad for the interaction.
Before I review the case that I presented in my opening speech, let me comment on a number of remarks that Mr. Ismail made. First he said that the deity of Christ was the result of the declaration of certain councils of the 4th and 5th centuries like the Council of Nicaea. This is a gross misimpression historically. What the councils merely did was codify what the church had already believed from the beginning. Indeed, in many cases there were heretics that were denying the humanity of Christ that needed to be countered. So the real issue is not what the Council said, it is what is in the New Testament and in particular what Jesus believed about himself.
Mr. Ismail then says that the classical orthodox doctrine of one person with two natures is illogical, paradoxical, incoherent, you can't have it both ways, give me a model, he says, of the incarnation. Well, those are excellent questions and in fact I have done just that in my book Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview in which I lay out a model of the incarnation according to which the second person of the Trinity takes on a human nature in addition to the divine nature he already had so that he has a full complement of human properties as well as a full compliment of divine properties and is therefore truly both God and man. He asks was Jesus aware of his divinity? On the model I suggest, you divide the consciousness of Christ into layers – both a subliminal and a conscious level of consciousness. I think as a baby certainly Jesus wasn't aware of everything that he knew in his divine nature. You don't have the monstrosity of the little baby lying in the manger thinking about the infinitesimal calculus or New Testament theology. Rather, he grew in wisdom and stature as he grew older. By the age of 12 we know that he already had a sense of his divine Sonship because in the temple visit when his parents lost him he said, “Didn't you know I must be about my Father's business.” By the time his ministry began, as we saw in my opening speech, he had a clear sense of his divine self-consciousness as the unique Son of God.
Mr. Ismail says, “Can you have a man who is both a fat man and a thin man?” Well, if that man has two natures, yes you can. Let me give an illustration. How many of you have seen the movie Avatar? OK, a few at least. An avatar is another name for incarnation. This movie tells the story of Jake Sully who is a disabled Marine who becomes an avatar among a race of extraterrestrials called the Navi. Jake Sully is physically disabled, yet he becomes physically incarnated among them as a Navi. At the same time, however, he doesn't cease to be human. So Jake has both a human nature and a Navi nature. These two natures have strikingly different properties. If you were to say, “Can Jake Sully run?” the answer would be yes and no. He cannot run as a human being in his human nature but certainly in his Navi nature he can run. If you can make sense of Avatar then you can make sense of Christ's incarnation because in exactly the same way Christ has both a divine nature and a human nature. These two natures have different powers. In his human nature, Christ experienced all of the limitations intrinsic to humanity, but in his divine nature he has supernatural powers. Just as Jake Sully in his Navi nature became the savior of the Navi people so Christ in his human nature becomes the savior of humankind. So I think this model makes perfect sense of the incarnation and there is nothing logical or incoherent about it.
He asks what theologians or New Testament scholars today think that Jesus was divine? Well, James D. G. Dunn, whom he quoted, N. T. Wright, John Meier, Martin Hengel, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Peter Stuhlmacher, Gerald O'Collins, I could go on and on. There are plenty who agree with the divinity of Jesus. In fact, he said, where does the Bible refer to Jesus as God? Well, I would refer him to Murray J. Harris' book Jesus as God where he points out nine times where Jesus is called God in the New Testament. Now what is significant about that is that Jesus didn't go around saying “I am God” as Mr. Ismail would demand because God in the Jewish context typically referred to the Father. Jesus doesn't want to say “I am the Father.” What he does do is he calls himself the unique Son of God who transcends all human persons. He is the divine human Son of Man prophesied by the prophet Daniel which are claims that, in a Muslim view, would be frankly blasphemous for claiming to be divine in that way. But sometimes the New Testament writers, as I say, lose all sense of inhibition and on at least nine occasions do overtly refer to Jesus as God – ho theos in the Greek.
The most important claim, however, is what Jesus believed about himself. I proposed several criteria of authenticity which significantly Mr. Ismail accepts. If you accept those criteria of authenticity the claims of Jesus that I gave all meet those criteria of authenticity. So you cannot deny that Jesus made them. That puts the Muslim in a very awkward position because Muslims believe Jesus is a great prophet and therefore spoke the truth. But if he spoke the truth you have got to believe what he said, and he said that he was the unique Son of God different from all the prophets, God's final messenger, the divine-human Son of Man prophesied by Daniel and God raised him from the dead in attestation of that fact.
Mr. Ismail responds at this point that the text of the New Testament is hopelessly corrupt. This frankly, my friends, is a desperate gambit by Mr. Ismail. The New Testament is the best attested book in ancient history, both in terms of the number of manuscripts and in terms of the nearness of those manuscripts to the time it was originally written. Out of the 138,000 words in the Greek New Testament, only about 1,400 – that is around 1% – are still somewhat in doubt. Even those are utterly trivial, like the difference between “your” and “our.” Bart Ehrman himself says textual criticism can get back pretty much to what the authors originally said. So the New Testament, as you read it today in Greek, you can can be confident with 99% accuracy that you are reading the very words that Paul or Luke or Matthew wrote. To suggest otherwise is simply ignorance.
Mr. Ismail makes a great deal of the fact that the synoptics change in their statements of Jesus, that John is different from the synoptics. But all that is irrelevant to tonight's debate because we are not debating the question of biblical inerrancy. I am staking my claim upon certain specific claims of Jesus that pass the criteria of authenticity. These are not drawn from John or the later synoptics. They are drawn from Mark and they are drawn from Q, the source used by Matthew and Luke prior to those Gospels. So I am appealing to some of the earliest sources behind the New Testament. Let's look quickly at some of those claims.
First, Jesus' radical self-concept as the divine Son of Man. He points out that in Job the Scripture says the Son of Man is a maggot. But the point is that when you look at Jesus' statement, “You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and glory” that is virtually a quotation out of Daniel 7. It is not a reference to Job. Jesus is claiming here to be the prophesied Son of Man to whom all dominion and authority will be given.
What about his claims to be the unique Son of God? I shared the Parable of the Vineyard. He says Jimmy Dunn says there is later developments in the synoptics. But so far as I know, Jimmy Dunn accepts the authenticity of the Parable of the Wicked Tenants of the Vineyard. If he thinks otherwise, I'd like to see him show me a statement of Dunn from his recent book Jesus Remembered that suggests that. Mr. Ismail also misrepresents Raymond Brown in saying that the later creedal statements about Jesus represented development. Certainly those do represent a development of theological reflection but that does nothing to suggest that this is not an authentic parable uttered by Jesus of Nazareth in which he distinguishes himself from all the prophets and says he is God's only beloved Son. We also saw in Matthew 11:27 Jesus claims to be the Son of God and the only revelation of God to mankind. Then on the saying on the day of his return, we saw again he claimed to be higher than men, than all the angels, he is in proximity to the Father. He says in the Qur'an it says man is higher than the angels because of free will. But that is not relevant. The question isn't what the Qur'an means; the question is what did Jesus of Nazareth mean? He is contrasting himself with men who already have free will, as well as with angels in saying that he is in proximity to the Father and is the absolute revelation of the Father.
The trial and crucifixion – we heard nothing from Mr. Ismail yet on that. I grant he doesn't mean he concedes the point but it has yet to be refuted.
Finally, the evidence for Jesus' resurrection. Most scholars today, on the basis of the criteria of authenticity, accept Jesus' burial, the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples' belief in his resurrection.
So I think we have very good grounds, solid grounds, historically for thinking that God raised Jesus from the dead and thereby vindicated and authenticated those allegedly blasphemous claims for which he was crucified.
All of this is in contrast to the Muslim view which is relying upon a document 600 years after the fact, written by a man living in Arabia who had no independent historical source of information about the historical Jesus. I think it is very clear where the historically reliable portrait of Jesus is to be found – it is in those primary source documents that are contained in the New Testament.
So, I would say that the pastor had better get the baptismal fount ready [laughter] because I think we have every good reason to affirm the radical self-concept of Jesus as evident in the authentic sayings of Jesus in the New Testament, and we have good reason to believe that those claims are true in light of his miraculous resurrection from the dead.
Mr. Ismail - First Rebuttal
Mr. Ismail:  Thank you for that, Dr. Craig, and thank you for that. I like the movie Avatar. It is quite interesting that in Avatar, Jake Sully basically has two bodies. Yet the belief in Christian theology is that you have three persons manifest in one divine being. In the case of Jake Sully, he had his avatar body and he had his personal body. In the end, his actual body [inaudible] when they ended up burying the real body of Jake Sully when he gave it up. So that is not the same in terms of Christian theology. It is interesting that Avatar, according to James Cameron, he said he found his inspiration from Hinduism. I find that quite remarkable.
Coming to the point about Jesus making the claim that he was a divine Son of . . . before I deal with that it is quite interesting to note that Dr. Craig has not given us a model yet in terms of which he can illustrate that basically Jesus has two particular [natures]. He hasn't even answered the question that when he died, if you believe in human faith and God's power to raise himself or on the other hand did he face death with an infallible and divine knowledge that he would be resurrected. Which was it? Because if the divine nature knew something that he did not then we are back to two persons.
Muslims would say that Jesus never committed blasphemy. I do not have to be proved to a skeptic that Jesus of the Qur'an is true. It is quite interesting that even though Dr. Craig has raised the issue of the six hundred years later, he says look its a bland type of Jesus that is presented. But he can find no particular exception. The Jesus of the Bible on the other hand, the apologetic of Dr. Craig and that offered by many apologists, is that the resurrection is presented as a solution to a particular problem. Following what Dr. Craig said, if Jesus made these particular radical claims that he was the Son of God in the divine sense such that C. S. Lewis would say that you would have to choose between declaring him as a Son of God or declaring him as a liar. If Jesus made this blasphemer's claims then following that Jesus was crucified as a blasphemer. And it stands to reason that without assuming the resurrection, all we have until we experience the resurrection or proofs of the resurrection is that Jesus died as a blasphemer. Because Dr. Craig admits it. He can't come now and say he never made these blasphemer claims because then he would be going against what Galatians 3:13 states – that Jesus died as a curse. So in other words, if he died as a blasphemer then there would be no reason for the disciples of Jesus to believe him at that particular point if he was crucified for blasphemy. The only reason they could turn around is that Jesus apparently reappeared from the dead. So from where I stand then it seems that I would be in the same position as a disciple of Jesus. Unless he reappears to me I would have every particular reason to think that he is a blasphemer. But I don't think so because the Qur'an of course testifies that . . .it's true, I believe in the Qur'an and I believe in Jesus. But if I put away the Qur'an and I turn to the Bible I would come to the crucifixion which would prove to me that Jesus was a false pretender. Now unless we have good reasons for thinking that God would want to resurrect Jesus from the dead, are their any good reasons for thinking that God would want to raise Jesus from the dead? Firstly, why would God want to raise a blasphemer from the dead? In order to maintain that God raised him from the dead, you can only assume it, you cannot prove it. Saying a circular bit of reasoning we can only know that Jesus was true if God were to raise him from the dead. God can only raise him from the dead if he were true. But you, Dr. Craig, would say that he died as a blasphemer saying in that case why would God want to raise him from the dead. In order to vindicate the claims of a blasphemer? That would be theologically impossible according to all kinds of Christian theology.
Regarding the Parable of the Wicked Tenants which Dr. Craig referred to, it is interesting to note that in this parable when you analyze a particular story you will notice how foolish was the behavior of the owner of the vineyard. He sent his servants one after another and knowing that they were beaten and killed nevertheless he sent his beloved son to the same danger. Although he had full power to act he did nothing until his son is definitely killed. He is also ignorant of the future because in this parable he nevertheless assumes that the wicked servants will respect his son. So can one now compare that foolish man to God? But that is what the entire story does. That is why it is admitted in the Pelican New Testament Commentaries of St. Mark page 309 that it is unlikely that Jesus told this particular parable. Secondly, if you look at Jesus mentioned clearly being the heir of the vineyard, that is the thoughts and the very words of the tenant not the owner, God. Therefore, Dr. Craig's beliefs are basically accurately matching their beliefs not God's word. Besides that a man can send his son expecting the tenants would respect him but not necessarily that he is his only son – exactly what the owner did not mention, he did not say “my only son.”
Regarding the issue that Dr. Craig raised about the facts pertaining to Jesus being close to God. It is interesting to note that in Islam a believer is higher than angels and a non-believer is lower than animals simply because angels have no desires pushing them to sin. It is in their nature to always be obedient. And so an obedient human is better than the angels. At the same time animals have no intellect to utilize like humans. So it is normal to be uncontrollable on their particular desires. I see no particular problem in respect to that.
Dr. Craig made mention quite significantly of the resurrection. It is interesting to note that you can point out no less than forty one contradictions in the resurrection accounts alone. It is also interesting to note that the earliest source to mention the appearance of Jesus is Paul. He says, for example, in the book of Corinthians, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and he was seen of Cephas, then of the Twelve, then he was seen by the 500 brethren at once of whom the greater part remain until this present.” Jesus appeared to the twelve? Which twelve did Jesus appear to, Dr. Craig? Because at that particular point in time Judas Iscariot was long dead. There were only eleven left. Matthias was chosen at a later point in time. Paul had no personal knowledge and he is delivering first of all what he received at Jerusalem from James and Peter. So the list of appearances seem to be in chronological order for the words up to that suggest it. It is noteworthy to mention that Paul does not mention any appearance to Mary Magdalene or any other woman nor does he mention the appearance to Ananias. Now the point is that Paul would not have admitted to mention this proof in support of the fact of resurrection if he had known of it. A bizarre twist to establish that fact. So he says that if Christ was not risen then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. So it follows as a matter of course that James and Peter must also have been ignorant of these particular facts. What does Dr. Craig say about the forty or so contradictions that exist in the resurrection account? I can point them all out. Does Dr. Craig deny that these contradictions do exist? Does he subscribe to the idea of the inerrancy of the New Testament? What does he have to say about the fact importantly enough that for example in Matthew and Mark the discrepancies regarding the instructions to the women are that there were directed to inform the disciples that Jesus had gone before them to Galilee but in Luke there is no such injunction at all and in John we find no words which could even seem to answer to the command in Matthew and Mark. The persons who came to the sepulcher on the morning of the resurrection when in Mark Mary Magdalene and some other woman, in Matthew only the two Mary's, in Luke the two Mary's and also some other woman. In John only Mary Magdalene to whom however Peter and the beloved disciple are added. In Luke, Peter alone when to the sepulcher. That particular passage seems to be spurious and seems to be interpolated to harmonize with Paul.
So I don't think it is a red herring to introduce the issue of the resurrection at this particular point in time when we are dealing solely with the divinity of Christ. If you are saying that the resurrection vindicates theoretical claims made by Jesus but then you are going back to the whole argument which we raised earlier on that in that case why would God want to raise him from the dead because you are conceding that Jesus died as a blasphemer. You cannot now say, look, he never made these blasphemer points. You are conceding that he died as a particular blasphemer. It is quite interesting to note that Dr. Craig admits that the weakest part of his hypothesis is that it is ad hoc that it assumes God exists. In other words, it is not a historical hypothesis, it is not a naturalistic hypothesis. It would be so impossible for Jesus to be raised by God. It is only on the hypothesis that God exists can you then submit to the hypothesis that God would want to raise Jesus from the dead. Then we would want to have a God who would want to raise Jesus from the dead. But again we go back to the issue: why would God want to raise him from the dead? Why would God want to raise a blasphemer.
It is interesting to note that Bart Ehrman in his discussion about the so-called blasphemers claims in his book The New Testament (I just have to paraphrase his comments), he says the claims were not particularly blasphemous. If you look at the context of the New Testament and indeed the Old Testament this word Son of God had no divine connotation to it. In Romans 8:14 you read the expression “for as many as are lead by the spirit of God they are the sons of God.” In other words, every Tom, Dick, and Harry who follows the will and plan of God is a godly person. In the language of the Jew he is a son of God. In Genesis 6:2 it says, “when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” David says, “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee” (Psalm 2:7). In fact, if you look at my particular slides here, Ephraim is described as a firstborn. Adam is described as a son of God. David described as a son of God. So if the son of God was a blasphemous claim we would find that . . . look, in ancient Jewish terminology this is in fact how Jewish prophets are basically addressed. There seems to be no problem with that. I simply asked a question, show me a particular passage where Jesus says, “I am God” or where he says “Worship me.” Dr. Craig says he doesn't have to say that. Well, why not? What was he trying to hide? Was he so afraid of his divinity? Why does he go out of his way to emphasize the opposite? Why does he go out of his way to say “my Father is greater than I,” “my Father is greater than all,” “I can of my own self do nothing; as I hear I judge and my judgment is just.” Why does he do the opposite all the time in every single particular passage.
In respect of the issue of pagan mythology, it is interesting to note that you find Sol Invictus for example. Dr. Craig said you cannot appeal to pagan mythology or try and find those particular parallels. But people like Sol Invictus, this ancient sun god, Mithraism, look at these individuals. When were they born? On the 25th of December. When did they die? What miracles did they perform? In fact, Bart Ehrman makes reference to an individual called Apollonius who predated Jesus who had similar characteristics to that exhibited by Jesus.
So I think that in the rebuttal Dr. Craig has not answered any of the points that I had initially raised. More did he deal with the most important question about what capacity did Jesus adopt when he died on the cross. Did he believe in human faith in God's part to raise himself or did he have the infallible divine knowledge that he would be resurrected?
Dr. Craig - Second Rebuttal
Dr. Craig:  Before I review my positive case, let me respond to those questions that Mr. Ismail posed against the deity of Christ.
First he says you haven't provided a model for the incarnation. But I did provide a model. And I used the example of the avatar as the model of someone who is one person that has two complete natures. Now he says but in that case Jake Sully wasn't three persons even though he had two bodies. Right! It is a model of the incarnation, Mr. Ismail, not a model of the Trinity. That is not the point. It shows that a person can be one person with two natures which have very radically different properties, and that removes all of the charges of incoherence. Now, I am not used to debating the moderator as opposed to my opponent but since he did ask about the Trinity in the New Testament let me say that the Trinity is a doctrine which codifies the teaching of the New Testament that says that Jesus is divine, the Father is divine, and the Holy Spirit is divine, but that these are not the same person. So they are three persons which are each divine and sharing the same nature. That is implicit in the teaching of the New Testament.
Did Jesus of Nazareth face death with a human consciousness? Yes, absolutely. That is why he sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane and needed to rely upon the strength of his Father to meet the terrible test of the crucifixion. Remember how I differentiated in a theologically significant way between the subliminal in Jesus and the waking consciousness in Jesus which is part of my model of the incarnation.
The criteria of authenticity have been undisputed in tonight's debate. So let's turn to those radical claims that Jesus made that are authentic on the basis of those criteria. Notice that Mr. Ismail never denied that the application of these criteria shows these claims to be authentic.
First, Jesus' radical self-concept as the divine Son of Man. Again, he reiterates the point why didn't Jesus go about saying “I am God?” Why not? I explained that. Because to Jewish mind that would be to say “I am the Father” and he is not the Father, even though he is divine. So he is Lord, he is Son of Man, he is the Son of God in a unique sense, but he is not the Father.
Bart Ehrman says that it is not blasphemous to say things like the Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven. The reason that Bart Ehrman doesn't think that Jesus blasphemed at the trial – it is really funny – it is because Ehrman thinks that although the Son of Man sayings are authentic Jesus was talking about somebody else. So Ehrman is absolutely baffled by the trial scene. He says what is the matter with saying you will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven if that is referring to somebody other than Jesus? That is not blasphemous. So Ehrman cannot understand why Jesus is condemned by the council of the high priests for blasphemy. He even says only if Jesus were applying this title to himself would this narrative make sense. Right! In fact, Ehrman elsewhere in his work admits that many of the Son of Man sayings by Jesus are self-designations. So Ehrman's view is just hopelessly self-contradictory.
What about the point that the word “Son of God” can often be used of non-divine beings? Absolutely true. That is absolutely correct. But that is why I labored the point of Jesus' uniqueness claims in being the “only” Son of God in a special and unique sense that set him apart from other Hebrew kings or prophets or anyone else. In particular, we saw that he claimed to be the Son of Man prophesied by the prophet Daniel and that has never been denied in tonight's debate. What about his claims to be the Son of God? First, there is the Parable of the Wicked Tenants of the Vineyard. Mr. Ismail says but in this parable the owner was foolish. Now all of us – Muslim and Christian alike – ought to agree that is insulting to God to say that. Because Muslims also agree that God sent prophet after prophet after prophet in the Old Testament, many of whom were beaten, rejected, and slain. So that is not a point of differentiation between us. He says, but this parable isn't authentic. I beg to disagree. Most scholars do think it is authentic. Just a couple of points in this regard. First, the absence of the resurrection of the slain son suggests that this is not a parable that was invented in the later church which believed in Jesus' resurrection. Also the concern over who would possess the vineyard after it was taken from the tenants was not an issue for the early church. Moreover the parable really reflects the Jewish context of absentee landlords and tenant farmers and therefore is very authentic to the Jewish milieu in which Jesus lived and spoke. That is why most scholars think that this is an authentic parable of Jesus, and it teaches that Jesus was the only begotten Son of God, unique, set apart from all the prophets, the final messenger, and that means before Mohammad that God had sent to the nation of Israel and to Earth as his revelation.
Mr. Ismail did not deny Matthew 11:27 about no one knows the Father except the Son. As for the time of his return he merely reiterated the point that in the Qur'an it says men are higher than the angels because they have free will, but that is irrelevant to what Jesus meant in his first century context where he places himself above men and angels and in proximity to the Father.
So we've got very good grounds, I think, for thinking that the historical Jesus had this radical divine-human consciousness.
The trial and crucifixion of Jesus – the only thing Mr. Ismail said here is that this makes Jesus a blasphemer. But, Mr. Ismail, he is only a blasphemer if his claims are false! Right? If they are true, then the Jews were wrong in crucifying him. God has vindicated those claims raising him from the dead showing that he is not a blasphemer after all.
Mr. Ismail then begins to recur to the mythological stuff on the internet like Jesus being born on the 25th of December. Friends, the New Testament doesn't say Jesus was born on the 25th of December! So that can't be a derivation in the New Testament from mythology. Apollonius of Tyana isn't attested until the 3rd century after Jesus. Philostratus who wrote the Life of Apollonius was trying to invent a counter-Christian figure so that pagans at that time could have a competitor to Jesus when Christianity was beginning to exert itself over the empire. So those aren't in any way refutations of Jesus' historical trial and crucifixion, which is, as I said, everybody who is not a Muslim accepts as historical.
Finally, what about the resurrection of Jesus? Mr. Ismail says why would God raise him? I've answered it. To vindicate his claims and reveal his identity. He says there are many contradictions in the resurrection narratives. We are not here to debate biblical inerrancy. The four facts as I stated them tonight represent the core of those narratives which are agreed upon by historical scholars and they are sufficient to support the inference to the resurrection.
He says your argument assumes that God exists. Of course! We both agree on that. Muslims and Christians agree that God exists. The question is: has God revealed himself specially in Jesus or is Mohammad the real messenger of God? I think we have good grounds for believing it is Jesus.
He said which twelve did Jesus refer to? It was the title of the group – The Twelve. In the United States we have an athletic core called The Big Ten, but there are more than ten universities in the Big Ten. It is because they originally had ten universities in it and the title has stuck with it. Similarly, The Twelve is the title of the group even though Judas had now apostatized.
Finally, he says that this again would prove that Jesus was a blasphemer who God had raised. I think not at all. What it shows is that Jesus was wrongly crucified, and that he was who he claimed to be, and therefore we can place our faith in him with confidence and assurance that he is God's unique Son and the ultimate revelation of God to mankind.
Mr. Ismail - Second Rebuttal
Mr. Ismail:  Thank you for that, Mr. Chairman. I wish I had another sixteen minutes to respond to those two questions because it could take me at least ten minutes. Or maybe even a minute depending on how it will go. It is interesting to note that our moderator asked Dr. Craig where is there evidence of the Trinity in the New Testament? I suggested a particular passage, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7, KJV). Did you not recognize that Dr. Craig? Is that in your particular Bible? Is that passage there? “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one” - it is in my authorized King James Version if I open it up here. But it has been thrown out as a fabrication in almost every single modern Bible translation that exists. The King James Version says “Yet the King James Version has great defects.” You find 32 scholars of the highest eminence backed by 50 different cooperating denominations who said this particular verse was a fabrication and as a fabrication they removed it. This is a foundation of Christiandom – the Trinity. It is not there. The first epistle of John chapter 5, verse 7. Yet many modern-day pastors and Christian scholars do not in fact inform their congregation. Why?
Regarding the actual issue about Jesus being made the Son of God and being regarded as a begotten Son of God, what do you actually understand? What do you mean when you say “God begets a Son?” In the Qur'an, the Qur'an condemns this notion about God literally begetting a son. Because “begetting” is an animal act. It belongs to the lower animal functions of sex. And so as a result of that, God cannot literally beget a son, so the Qur'an condemns that particular connotation. As I pointed out, Dr. Craig never disputed the point about the fact that the word in Greek is monogenes – not unigenitus in Latin. As a result of that, most of the major translations have also thrown out that word “begotten” as a fabrication. Therefore, that word “Jesus is the only begotten Son of God” or “For God so love the world he gave his only begotten Son” is no longer there. It has been thrown out as an interpolation. It is not in any major Bible translation. We have a problem here. You say that Jesus is the begotten Son of God. Well, I have a bit of a dilemma there because if you believe that Jesus is the begotten Son of God we've got here genealogies. I've got the genealogy of Jesus Christ according to Matthew. I've got another genealogy of Jesus Christ according to Luke. Look at this. Look at this, Dr. Craig. Contradictory accounts that no Bible scholar in the world today can in fact reconcile. So Jesus is the begotten Son of God then why invent a genealogy for him?
Regarding the request by my learned moderator about commenting on John 10:33, it is important to note that every time that there are allegations or accusations about Jesus being referred to as God, what does he do? He goes out of his way to rebut these particular allegations. In respect of John 10:33, “The Jews answered him, 'It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God.'” Imagine that? What does Jesus say to them? Does he say, “Well I have a right to make that claim because I am God?” He says, no, “Is it not written in your law? I said ye are gods.” He was quoting from chapter 82 of the book of Psalm. In other words, if he, God almighty, called them gods unto whom the word of God came then the Scripture cannot be broken. In other words if prophets of God were called gods in the Old Testament, men like you and me will call gods, then why do you take exception when the only claim I am making is that I am a son of God. As one particular scholar once said, God has got sons by the tens in the New Testament and the Old Testament. So I don't see a point in respect to that.
The other issue is this. If one has to look, for example, at the quotations of Galatians 3:13, it states clearly and categorically Jesus died as a curse. So in other words if you are saying he never died as a curse, he wasn't blaspheming, then you are going against your particular scripture. The other point is this. Again and again, Jesus is going and emphasizing his humanity. For example, the issue about the forgiveness of sins. And they question him, “How can you forgive sins? Are you God?” What does Jesus say to them? “Why do such thoughts arise in your mind? Which is better – to tell a man who is paralyzed, get up and walk away? Or to tell a man who is paralyzed your sins are forgiven?” What about John 1:1 – in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. So they say, look, on this particular basis Jesus was divine. The Word was divine. The Word was made flesh. It is interesting that if you go to the Greek, and Dr. Craig knows Greek better than any of us, in actual fact it is [Greek]. What does it say? If you for example were to look at the Journal of Public Literature, vol. 92, Philadelphia, such clauses as the one in John 1:1 “with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb are primarily qualitative in meaning.” They indicate that the Logos has some kind of divine nature. So in other words, basically was made God-like – similar to the passage where you'd find in the Old Testament where God tells Moses “I will make thee a God unto Pharaoh and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.”
The point I want to emphasize at the end is this – in respect of the issue of the Trinity – we all have a particular belief. When you say “in the name of the Father” or you basically say according to catechism that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God (they are not three Gods but one God); the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, and the Holy Spirit is almighty, but they are not three Almighties but one Almighty; the Father is a person, the Son is a person, and the Holy Spirit is a person, but they are not three persons but they are manifest in one divine Godhead. What are you saying? What are you basically speaking? When you say “in the name of the Father” you have a certain mental picture of that loving Father in heaven. Millions of times bigger than us but something like a man, a loving father in heaven. When you say in the name of the Son we have a certain mental picture of that individual drawn here – blue eyes, handsome features. When you are saying in the name of the Holy Spirit, something that came down to Jesus when John the Baptist was baptizing Jesus in the river Jordan. There are three distinct mental pictures in your mind. So hard as you may try, you will never be able to superimpose them and say that they are one. But when I ask how many do you see, you say you see one. That is not actually speaking literally, that is not actually being faithful to Scripture. In Acts 2:22, “Ye men of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs which God did by him or through him as you yourselves also know.” Again and again and again, Jesus is emphasizing his humanity. In fact, he goes out of his way to suggest that he is not God. When the Jews make their false allegations against him he goes to rebut those allegations at every single particular juncture. So without further ado, I would like to say that again we see weak arguments being presented which are unsubstantiated and which again go against the Scripture. It is interesting to note that Dr. Craig has only given us two quotations and those two quotations are decontextualized. You couldn't show me in more than 45 minutes or 1 hour a single passage where Jesus says that he is God or where he says worship me. Thank you.
Dr. Craig - Rebuttal
Dr. Craig:  I was disappointed that in Mr. Ismail's last speech, he decided to desert the issues that have been on the table this evening and instead begin throwing red meat to the Muslim partisans in the audience tonight. Those of you who are Muslims and who applauded the points he was making really ought to be very ashamed of yourselves because those are not the issues tonight. We are not here to debate biblical inerrancy, the genealogies of Jesus, or whether or not the King James Version represents the original autographs of the New Testament. Those are silly points. What we are talking about here is the self-understanding of this man Jesus of Nazareth that you yourself recognize to be a great prophet and therefore whom you must believe as to what he taught, and then whether or not God raised that man from the dead to vindicate those claims.
In his last speech, Mr. Ismail made a great deal of certain passages in the New Testament such as “God's only begotten Son” and so forth. Let me simply read to you some of the passages in the New Testament that refer to Jesus as ho theos, as God.
John 1:18 – the only God who is in the bosom of the Father has made him known
John 20:28 – my Lord and my God
Romans 9:5 – Christ who is God over all
Titus 2:13 – our great God and savior Jesus Christ
Hebrews 1:18 – of the Son he says, “Your throne o God is forever and ever”
2 Peter 1:1 – our God and savior Jesus Christ
1 John 5:20 – Jesus Christ who is the true God and eternal life
The testimony of the New Testament is that Jesus is divine. He is God.
What about these Trinitarian passages? The New Testament is replete with multitudes of trinitarian passages. They are not dependent upon the verse in 1 John that he quoted. For example, consider 2 Corinthians 13:14 - “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all.” There the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit are referred to in the same verse. Over and over again the New Testament affirms the deity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and yet their personal distinctness which is codified in the doctrine of the Trinity.
Mr. Ismail dropped all of his objections to the model I presented of the incarnation which is logically coherent and understandable. He has never disputed the criteria of authenticity. As for Jesus' radical self-concept, he is reduced to complaining about the number of passages I quoted. The reason I quoted four passages and staked my claim on that is so we can have an in-depth intelligent discussion of these passages and not just have a barrage of texts which would be easy to do but would not be profitable. He has never been able to refute the point that these passages reveal Jesus of Nazareth's divine-human self-understanding as Daniel's Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven and as the Son of God who is unique and set apart as the only revelation of the Father.
The trial and crucifixion of Jesus attested not only biblically but in extra-biblical sources has gone unrefuted.
Finally, the evidence for the burial, empty tomb, and appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith were dropped in that last speech.
I want to conclude just with a personal word. I myself wasn't raised in a Christian home but I began to ask the big questions in life when I became a teenager. The girl who sat in front of me in my German class who was a radiant Christian told me about the love of God through Jesus Christ. I picked up the New Testament and I began to read the Gospels for the first time in my life. As I did I was absolutely captivated by the person Jesus of Nazareth. There was a ring of truth about this man's teaching that I could not deny. There was an authenticity about his life that was just undeniable. Well, to make a long story short, after about six months of the most intense soul-searching I just came to the end of my rope and I gave my life to Christ. His love and presence flooded into my life. I experienced a spiritual rebirth inside. God became a living reality to me – a reality that I've walked with now day by day, year by year, for over 40 years. That is basically why I am here in South Africa tonight – because I love to share this good news of Jesus' love for you and the possibility of your knowing God through Jesus Christ. So if you are a Muslim tonight and you've been seeking for God but God seems distant and unapproachable to you and unreal, you sense your guilt and your unforgiven sin, I want to encourage you to do what I did. Get a New Testament, begin to read the Gospels, and ask yourself, “Could it really be true? Could this man be not only a prophet born of a virgin, one who did miracles as I already believe? Could it be more than that? Could it be the divine Son of God come to Earth for me, to die on the cross for my sin, that I might be reconciled to God the Father. I believe that he was and I think if you will look for it with an open mind and an open heart it can change your life just as it changed mine.
Mr. Ismail - Rebuttal
Mr. Ismail:  Thank you for that enlightening last experiential that you gave us, Dr. Craig. It is also good I met a Hindu friend of mine some time back that gave me a similar experience that he had.
We'd like to ask our Christian friends who Jesus was when he was supposed to be dying on the cross when he cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” Perhaps you will say it's the human part of Jesus. But if you say that then in that case Jesus was not the perfect sacrifice, according to the doctrine of propitiation. As according to the Christian doctrine, all men are born with original sin because of Adam and Eve. So if he was born without the sin then he would be less than man and therefore he could not relate to temptation and suffering. You see how once you shoot oneself in the foot and up to this point Dr. Craig has not answered those particular . . . he has totally evaded those two issues. I gave you simple examples – the issue of Jesus and the fig tree and the issue of Jesus dying. Dr. Craig in his time in his rebuttal has simply as if I never mentioned those statements at all. It is important to note that the greatest commandment in the Bible and the Qur'an if we want to understand it as emphasized by Jesus when a scribe comes to Jesus and asks Jesus what is the most important of all commandments, Jesus repeats word for word what Moses said a thousand years before – [Hebrew] “Here o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” He was not one in a Trinity. And he used the word echad which Moses used a thousand years before. Six hundred years later when a Christian deputation from Najran come to Median they spend three days in a mosque, they sleep in a mosque, and over a period of time they question the prophet theologically and they ask him, “Mohammad, what is your concept of God?” And Mohammad is made to reply [Arab] “Say he is God, the one and only.” If you were to look at echad and ahad linguistically they are identical. So in the line of the prophetic tradition the prophet Mohammad was continuing the same message that was preached from David, Solomon, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus and bringing it to finality. There was no distinction in any of that. It is later inventions, idiosyncrasies, that changed what people want to read.
So it is important that if Jesus knew that God is a Trinity why did he not say so? If you take all the words of Jesus in a red letter Bible and you cut off all the duplications you wouldn't even be able to spell out the word Trinity. Why did he not say that God is one in three or three in one? Instead he declared again and again that God is one full stop. True imitators of Jesus would imitate him also in the declaration of God's oneness. They will not add three where Jesus never said it. Does salvation depend on this command? Yes, says the Bible. Jesus makes this clear when another man approached Jesus to learn from him. The man fell on his knees and said, “Good master, what good thing shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus says, “Why call me 'good?' There is only one good and that is God alone.” So by so saying Jesus made a clear distinction between himself and between others.
It is interesting to note, and I would say on a positive note to my fellow Christians, that according to Shabbir Akhtar in his book The Final Imperative (a Christian theologian of liberation), he says that there are three conditions for being accepted as a Christian. One, belief in the existence of one God, acceptance of the ethical and religious authority of the historical person of Jesus Christ, and lastly a commitment to viewing the life of Jesus as disclosure and human exemplification of the moral excellence of deity. Such that the imitation of Jesus' behavior is already a moral action in the [believer's] life.If we are to accept that that is the essence of Christianity – in other words, if you want us to accept that, you can qualify being a Christian without necessarily accepting the divinity of Christ – that is what the Anglican bishops have done. They say it is no longer a condition to being a Christian to simply accepting the divinity of Christ. It is becoming a minority view in the Christian world, brothers. It is not a majority view, it is a minority view. Look at the Anglican bishops, look at the biblical scholars, look at the own Bible, look at your text. Where do I see any kind of evidence about Jesus claiming divinity? Again and again and again he emphasizes the point of the oneness of God, about the separation between him and God. Again he rebuts the allegations of the Jews when they make accusations of blasphemy against him. As he said, seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not. Will they then not understand? Can't we see the truth? Can't we see what we read in the New Testament and indeed in the Old Testament? Where is the evidence that a man can become God when we hear the expression God is not a man that he should lie, neither the Son of Man that he should repent. Thank you for that, and I hope we can continue the discussion in this stimulating exercise. God bless you.
Moderated Dialogue - 7Q&A
Moderator:  Thank you very much, Mr. Ismail. I think it is coming down to this question of whether Jesus is alive today. I would distill it in that way, I think, if I was sitting as a judge. That is the basic issue. That is where I think you can help us from the floor. You have any personal experience like that of Dr. Craig's you may want to tell us.
[Moderator presents some logistics regarding the Q&A]
Question:  Mr. Ismail, my question has to do with your claims concerning mythology. How would you deal with a similar accusation launched toward Islam. That is, can we not argue under the same conditions that Islam is simply derivative of the Gnostic gospels – the infancy gospels – since they are a late addition. How do we reconcile that with the claims. I think that your accusations against Christianity can also be turned against Islam.
Mr. Ismail: I think the Gospel of Thomas – Dr. Craig can correct me on that point – you find passages that refer to Jesus assaulting people. Jesus behaving in manners which basically contradict his entire prophetic behavior or patterns on Earth. What the Qur'an would do is basically . . . if you find, for example, parallels existing in the Gnostic gospels then I would, for similar reasons, suggest that how do you reconcile the fact that in the existing Old Testament and indeed the New Testament you find, for example, parallels with the Epics of Gilgamesh and the Code of Hammurabi with ancient texts. Many particular scholars – modern day scholars – would suggest that some of these particular writings cannot entirely be rejected. That is why even the existing Gospels draw some of their information and material from that. In respect of the issue of the quotations given by Dr. Craig pertaining to the passages found in Sura Maryam, those particular passages are used to convey certain moral points, certain moral systems. For example, his first miracle in the Qur'an where he basically defends the false accusations against his mother. The first miracle in the Bible is you find him, for example, turning water into wine. More often than not you find sometimes even from the Qur'anic point of view these passages are there to convey certain moral points and value systems. But I don't have any kind of criteria – one cannot just simply reject passages just from the basis that they come from the Gnostic gospels. When did the New Testament come? When was the first earliest dated New Testament? It was in the 8th century.
Dr. Craig: The point that I was making there was that when you compare the Qur'an to the New Testament as a historical source for the life of Jesus, it is just incomparably poorer. It comes 600 years after the event written by a man living in Arabia who had no independent source of historical information and he unwittingly picks up these demonstrably legendary stories from the apocryphal gospels. The Qur'an doesn't so much correct the infancy gospel of Thomas as it simply excerpts from it and repeats these miracle stories about the boy Jesus thinking that these are historical and not knowing that in fact these are legendary forgeries that arose two or three hundred years after Christ. That was the point I was making.
Question:  Dr. Craig, I would like to know if Jesus was a Jew when did he become a Christian?
Dr. Craig: He never became a Christian! Jesus was Jewish through and through. All the disciples were Jewish. The early Christianity was Jewish. It wasn't until in the city of Antioch that people called these Messianic Jews “Christians.” What does that mean? Christ is the Greek word for Messiah. So they were called Messianics – Messianic followers of Jesus. Many Jews today – I was just in Israel last year – call themselves the Jewish equivalent. They call themselves Messianics. So Christianity is from its earliest roots Jewish right through and through. But the Rabbinical Jews eventually rejected these Messianics and said you can't be part of the synagogue and they anathematized them and kicked them out. I, in a sense, consider myself more Jewish than many modern day ethnic Jews who are atheists or agnostics and don't believe in God.
Mr. Ismail: In respect to the issue of Christians, it is interesting to note that in Acts 11:26, when the disciples are called Christians first in Antioch, that term Christian is used as a label of abuse. These are Christians. It is a label of abuse. Read the context. The point is that this is a distinction between Islam and Christianity. While Islam and Muslim is not a generic term, it means “peace and quiet submission to the will of God,” Christianity is not a generic term. It is a label. If Jesus was here among us he wouldn't recognize the term Christian nor would he recognize the term Jesus because he was not a Greek speaking Jew. He spoke Aramaic. So it goes back to the issue that we don't even have the original words of Jesus nor do we in fact have his original sayings, and that Christian is a label.
Question:  It is not really a question but more of a general statement to all unbelievers or people that don't believe in Jesus. Basically a model for the Trinity, I believe, can be seen in nature itself. For me the simple way for our minds is to put the Trinity into context is water vapor, ice, and water. All three. When you see water vapor what do you see? Water. When you see ice, what do you see? Water. When you see water, what do you see? Water. It is a model I am proposing to you.
Mr. Ismail: I think it is important that when you make comments you shouldn't shoot yourself in the foot. If I have three bowls of clay and I press them together into one bowl then they become one. But now it is impossible to retrieve your original three exactly as they were originally. By common analogy, if you say water, water specifically ice, liquid and steam, they say water is one with three states or three forms so God Almighty is three states. On the face of it, it might appear to be a compelling argument. If I have a cup of water which can become steam, it can become liquid or it can become ice then it is not possible for me to drink the liquid while the ice and steam remain inside the glass. It is not further possible for the liquid to beseech the ice to save it from being drunk while the ice stayed a safe distance away and was not itself drunk. In a similar manner, if God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are all merely three personalities or three states for one being then it is not possible for one personality of God to die while the other two remained a safe distance away unharmed by death.
Dr. Craig: What those of you who just applauded that point need to understand is that Jesus didn't die in his divine nature – he died in his human nature. So that is not a problem. Actually, I don't like the model. I don't think it is a good model. It seems to me that that teaches modalism which is the idea that the Father, Son, and Spirit are modes of the same substance. But it is not a good model for three persons in one being. Now, I have been told by a chemist that it can be a good model for the Trinity because there is apparently something in chemistry called the triple-point where he says that H2O can exist simultaneously as steam, water, and ice. Now I haven't checked this out but those of you who are interested might look into the chemistry of the so-called triple-point in physics to see if whether that is possible. In that case, I think it would become a good model but barring that it seems to me that it teaches modalism rather than orthodox Trinitarianism.
Question: [inaudible – he didn't really have a question]
Question:  Mine is a question to both Dr. Craig and Mr. Ismail and really to all of us. What tonight I was worried about at the beginning but it made me think about and challenge you the significant of this evening is going to be seen in the way we talk about what happened tonight tomorrow, the way we talk about it tomorrow and the next day. What does it show about our understanding of God in the way we will talk about it? To me I was wondering does it show a God distant and wanting to win and score points and score cheap points or does it show in the way we respond to this evening a God who is loving and serving?
Dr. Craig: I would just say that I second your concern and I hope that my closing statement made it evident that I am not here just to win cheap debating points but that I am here to proclaim the good news of the Gospel and the love of God.
Mr. Ismail: I would agree with that in principle that the debate should not be relegated to simply cheap polemics. What I would appeal to my Christian brethren as I would suggest that Dr. Craig appeals to the Christian audience and indeed the Muslim audience is read the New Testament. Look into the New Testament and see whether Jesus in fact really makes these particular claims. Because the more and more that you read it, the more and more you come to the discovery that he goes on to emphasize that he is human and there is one God. If this is the only defining factor between Christianity and Islam then there is no reason why we as Muslims and Christians can come together on a common platform in the worship of one true God.
Moderator:  If that is right, why did he allow people to fall down and worship him. Would you like to comment on that?
Mr. Ismail: Is that a question by the moderator? [laughter] The moderator asks the question, “What about people worshiping Jesus?” It is interesting to note that when you look at the Greek New Testament the word in Greek is prosekunesan which is derived from the root word proskuneo. According to Strong's Concordance, many biblical translations, and indeed the dictionaries, it would tell you it means to kiss like a dog licking his master's hand. What you basically find when you look at similar passages in the Greek Septuagint, where the Greek word prosekunesan appears then you'd find, for example, passages which are not translated as worship but where it alternatively is rendered as falling down before you. For example, 1 Samuel 25:23-24 it speaks about Abigail. She saw David, dismounted the ass, and she fell down before him. Elisha, she went out and she went and fell at Elisha's feet. Joseph's brethren went outside and fell before his feet. In the Greek Septuagint the word is prosekunesan. The point is most modern translators of the New Testament, particularly in the Gospel of Matthew, where you find the word “worship” used they give you alternative rendering as meaning “bowing down before you, falling at your feet.” In fact, according to Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary they said the word could basically mean to respect, to reverence, and to adore. And even among Muslims today, you'll find many Muslims going to the mausoleums and bowing down before many saints. They would tell you they are not worshiping the dead saint, [it is a cultural practice]. Similarly, from the biblical point of view you find these same passages where we are told that the people worshiped Jesus, there are alternative renderings to that in other Gospels where it simply is translated as falling down before him.
Dr. Craig: Proskuneo means to prostrate oneself in adoration. The context would be key to understanding how it is used in the sense of worship or just paying homage. One of the passages I quoted is John 20:28 where Thomas falls down before Jesus and says “My Lord and My God!” He uses the words Lord and God of Jesus. And Jesus doesn't rebuke Thomas. He says, “Thomas, have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who believe without having seen.” So I think the moderator's point is correct. It is Jesus' reaction to the way people worship him that indicates that this man didn't think of himself as a mere human being. To sanction that kind of activity would indeed be idolatrous.
Question:  Mr. Ismail, of all the Qur'anic texts I have here, and I am willing to submit it, I want to limit myself to chapter 4 of the Qur'an verse 171 where he says Jesus Christ is the spirit of God, the Word of God, and also Messiah. This to me would be difficult if someone would separate you, Mr. Ismail, in Word, Spirit, I am sure we wouldn't want to see how you would look like. Therefore, I know that you don't want to [inaudible] Qur'an 4:171. Not only that, if God is the only one that can save, and Jesus Christ is the only one that is the Messiah, why wouldn't we baptize [inaudible]?
Mr. Ismail: Thank you for that brother. In fact, the quotation Sura 4:171 actually goes against what you are trying to imply to the audience. What does it say here? Look at Sura 4:171. It says “O people of the book” – it is addressing you, sir. It says “O people of the book, commit no excess in your religion nor say of God except the truth.” Christ Jesus Son of Mary was no more than an apostle of God. In other words it was saying that he was not God. So I can't see how you are using that passage to prove that he was divine. It says Christ Jesus the Son of Mary was no more than an apostle of God and his word which proceeded from God. When we speak of Jesus being the word of God we believe that each and every single human being is a word of God. Why? Because in the Qur'an there is a proclamation which says [Arabic] – be and it is. It is by the will, the power, and the word of God that each and every single human being lives here and to say Jesus was the word of God then he would be no different from us. Regarding the aspect of Jesus being the Messiah and why don't we accept him as God – well, what do you say about the fact that in the Old Testament you find in Isaiah 45:1 God tells David “Thus said to his anointed messiah Cyrus (a pagan) with your right hand shall you subdue nations.” And you find God sends [inaudible], David, Solomon. They are all referred to as messiah. So the fact that Jesus was a messiah simply means that he was anointed or consecrated to a particular position. But it in no way implies he was God. In fact in John's Gospel 10:33, once Jesus refutes the allegations that he was ambiguous in respect to his claims to being the Messiah, then they make the second allegation that he is claiming to be divine. Then he goes on to rebut that particular allegation as well. So the verse you are quoting goes against your initial presuppositions.
Dr. Craig: I agree that the Qur'an does not teach the divinity of Jesus. I just think that it is mistaken in so doing. That is why one of the reasons I don't' regard the Qur'an as a revelation from God because I think it has got it wrong about Jesus. In particular, it has got it wrong about the crucifixion. The Qur'an says they did not crucify him, they did not kill him. That is just historically, demonstrably incorrect. I think that Mohammad, though in some ways a great religious leader in that he promoted monotheism and the oneness of God against the pagan polytheism that was in Arabia at that time, I think he went off the correct path when he denied the deity of Jesus and he began to condemn Christians to hell for their blasphemous beliefs that Jesus is in fact the Son of God and is divine. So the case that I presented tonight is an attempt to show why I think it is more rational to be a Christian monotheist than a Muslim monotheist.
Question:  Welcome, Dr. Craig. I am a little bit [inaudible] why you didn't tackle the question by brother Ismail about the development of the Testaments – the Gospels. We know, for example, that there was political strife in the Roman Empire at the time. Clearly, this seems to propound the Roman paganism at the time. This is all that you have proven here tonight. So with the Gospels developing the way that they are, it doesn't say anything about worshiping God. It just brings in Jesus as . . . previously mentioned Mithras.
Dr. Craig: The reason I didn't talk about the synoptic problem or the development of theology within the Gospels is because it wasn't relevant to tonight's question. Tonight's question was identifying Jesus: is he man (that is to say, merely man) or is he both God and man? My case for the humanity and divinity of Jesus doesn't depend upon any particular view of the development of the synoptic Gospels or the theology of the New Testament. What I do is I use the methods of modern biblical historical criticism to drive back to the historical Jesus using these criteria of authenticity and show that the historical Jesus himself made claims which imply his divine-human status. So all of these other points are later subsequent issues that can be addressed later on in another occasion. We are not interested here in biblical inerrancy or the synoptic problem. We are interested in understanding who Jesus was. What did he think of himself? My claim is that when you look at the historically authentic words of Jesus you find a person who C. S. Lewis said cannot be dismissed as just another human teacher as the Qur'an claims. He was either a nutcase, or he was a blasphemer, or he was who he said he was. I think that he was who he said he was because of the very persuasive evidence for his resurrection from the dead. As the moderator said, the real question is: is Jesus alive today? If he is risen from the dead then he must have been who he claimed to be. So that is my case. It is resting on these two points. These other points, though interesting and important, are points for another day. They are not relevant tonight.
Mr. Ismail: I think the question cannot be dismissed because it is an important issue. The synoptic problem is an important issue.
[The questioner interjects with the comment “It is the source of the whole debate.”]
It is the source. I basically pointed out, which Dr. Craig never denied and which scholars throughout the world state, that the Gospels are not historical accounts. Basically they are apologetic words to prove certain particular theological motifs. As I showed you earlier on there was a development. In Matthew's Gospel, for example, you find a particular view of Jesus which was human. As you go from one Gospel to the next to the next you find an evolved idea, an evolved concept of Jesus. The other point about the statements and the radical claims made by Jesus – all those claims where you want to prove or assume or adduce the divinity of Christ, you have to read into the text. It is implied. In other words, he says to the high priest, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the living God” and he says “Yes, I am.” It basically is an implication. You have to read into that particular interpretation. So in light of that, that is why you find someone like William Ellery Channing who had to go out of his basic way to suggest and conclude that “We do not find in the epistles a trace of the strange phraseology, 'I speak this as God' and 'I speak this as man.' It was not needed in that particular day. It was demanded by the errors of a later age.” If it was demanded by the errors of a later age, then in other words for the purpose of reconciling certain passages which a just criticism can in a great degree express then you have to basically invent a hypothesis far more difficult and involving a gross absurdity in order to prove that Jesus was God. Why not go back to the Qur'anic point of view and the New Testament where Jesus proclaims that he is human and he goes out of his way to emphasize his humanity.
Moderator: It seems to me that we need a debate on the inerrancy or the reliability of the Scriptures. But that is another day. It remains for me to thank Jubilee Church very much for hosting this occasion and thank you all for coming. 
John Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol.: 1: The Roots of the problem and the Person, Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York: Doubleday, 1991), pp. 168-177.
John Meier, A Marginal Jew, vol.: 1: The Roots of the problem and the Person, Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York: Doubleday, 1991), pp. 168-177.
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 56.
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), p. 56.
Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 125.
Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 125.
Jesus Seminar videotape.
Jesus Seminar videotape.
Paula Frederickson, remark during discussion at the meeting of “The Historical Jesus” section at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, November 22, 1999.
Paula Frederickson, remark during discussion at the meeting of “The Historical Jesus” section at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, November 22, 1999.
John A. T. Robinson, The Human Face of God (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1973), p. 131.
John A. T. Robinson, The Human Face of God (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1973), p. 131.
Bart Ehrman, “From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity,” Lecture 4: “Oral and Written Traditions about Jesus” (The Teaching Company, 2003).
Bart Ehrman, “From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity,” Lecture 4: “Oral and Written Traditions about Jesus” (The Teaching Company, 2003).
Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 80.
Gerd Lüdemann, What Really Happened to Jesus?, trans. John Bowden (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), p. 80.
N. T. Wright, “The New Unimproved Jesus,” Christianity Today (September 13, 1993), p. 26.
N. T. Wright, “The New Unimproved Jesus,” Christianity Today (September 13, 1993), p. 26.
Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Jesu Geschichte und unsere Geschichte,” in Glaube und Wirklichkeit (München: Chr. Kaiser, 1975), p. 92.
Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Jesu Geschichte und unsere Geschichte,” in Glaube und Wirklichkeit (München: Chr. Kaiser, 1975), p. 92.
Total Running Time: 2:33:12
Total Running Time: 2:33:12