Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate Between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan

read more
Topics: Theology & Religious Education. Ages: Adult. Resource Types: Books.

Review & Commentary

One thought on “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate Between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan

  1. Review

    The seed for this book was sown in October 1994, when Dick Staub, a radio talk-show host in the Chicago area, invited John Dominic Crossan and William Lane Craig to debate at the Moody Memorial Church. Crossan, Professor Emeritus of Biblical studies at DePaul University, is a member of the Jesus Seminar and the author of several best selling books about Jesus, including his comprehensive The Historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant. Craig, a conservative evangelical scholar, is Research Professor at Talbot School of Theology and author of many books, including Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus. William F. Buckley , Jr., syndicated columnist and host of the television talk-show Firing Line, served as moderator.

    Two conservative evangelicals, Craig L. Blomberg and Ben Witherton III, and two members of the Jesus Seminar, Robert J. Miller and Marcus Borg, were asked to respond to the debate. The result is a lively, if sometimes repetitious, presentation and interchange between conservative and liberal Christian perspectives on the identity of Jesus. It is the hope of the editor that "the vigor and frankness"’ of the debate and the responses will "stimulate future interaction between the two groups.""

    Craig gave the opening address, framing the debate with the issue of the resurrection of Jesus. He declared that "the key to answering the question of who the real Jesus is lies in how we assess the resurrection of Jesus." It was his contention that "the real Jesus rose from the dead in confirmation of his radical personal claims to divinity." And if Jesus did not rise, he states, then "Christianity is a fairy tale, which no rational person should believe." It is obvious that Craig considers the resurrection of Jesus a historical fact. On the basis of this predicate he accused Crossan of denying the resurrection.

    In his opening statement, Crossan did not respond to Craig directly, but stated the presuppositions from which he works and how they bear upon the issue of the resurrection. The first presupposition is that the New Testament Gospels covering the words and deeds of Jesus contain three successive layers. There is the original layer, which can be traced back to Jesus. There is a second layer, which contains the developing tradition that creatively adapted the words and deeds of Jesus to new settings and issues faced by various Christian communities over a period of some seventy years. And there is a third layer, which comes from the Evangelists themselves. Each Gospel is an interpretation of Jesus, which reflects the theologies of the individual Gospel writers.

    The second presupposition is that there is a distinction between literal and metaphorical ( or figurative, symbolical, parabolic) language. The Gospels are a mixture of both literal (historical facts) and metaphorical ( expressive of meaning) language. For Crossan, the resurrection of Jesus is not a historical fact, but a metaphor expressive of the meaning of his life and death.

    Craig and Crossan then have opportunities for rebuttal, followed by a dialogue between the two and William F. Buckley, Jr. Part 2 of the book contains responses by the two conservative evangelical scholars and the two members of the Jesus Seminar which help illuminate the issues between Craig and Crossan. The final section of the book contains concluding reflections by Craig and Crossan. It is clear that the fundamental issue, which divides them, is that they start from divergent theological-historical presuppositions. Craig thinks that everything in the Gospels is historical and should be taken literally. Crossan thinks that some stories of the Gospels are historical and can be taken literally. But he also thinks that there are some stories that should be taken metaphorically. For Craig the "real Jesus" is the canonical Jesus. For Crossan, the "essential Jesus" (he dislikes the term "real Jesus") is the Jesus we might have met during his actual life in Lower Galilee.

    This book breaks new ground in presenting a dialogue between radically different views of J Jesus. It will help introduce the reader to the main issues involved in the debate and what is at stake.

or, use the form below to post a comment or a review!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>