In Oregon Next Week I’m Debating Whether Jesus Was the Son of God

On Tuesday (May 30) at 7pm in the Gilfillan Auditorium at Oregon State University, I’ll be debating Dr. Michael Gurney on whether Jesus was the son of God. This event is sponsored by the Socratic Club. I might have books to sell and sign at the final closing of the event. Video of the debate might be posted to YouTube later. Watch for announcements on the SC’s Facebook page (the live event is announced here). The venue is at 2601 SW Orchard Avenue (north of Wilkinson Hall).

Update: Video of that debate is now on YouTube.


  1. John MacDonald May 26, 2017, 11:14 am

    Jesus being identified as the Son of God in Mark just meant Jesus was destined to become King of the Jews, or some sort of equivalent exalted status. It has nothing to do with him being the “offspring” of God. That is a later invention of Luke and Matthew:

    Understanding the King of Israel as the “son of God,” we read in the Hebrew bible, for instance:

    (1) “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me (2 Sam. 7:12-14).”

    (2) In Psalm 89, in which the psalmist indicates that David was anointed by God (that is, literally anointed with oil as a sign of God’s special favor; v. 20), he is said to be God’s “firstborn, the highest of the kings of earth (v.27).”

    (3) God says to the king: “You are my son; today I have begotten you (Psalm 2, v. 7)

  2. Richard Johnson June 1, 2017, 1:07 am

    Person 1: “Was Jesus the Son of God?”
    Person 2: “No.”
    Person 1: “Why do you say that?”
    Person 2: “Because he didn’t exist!”
    Person 1: “But neither does God!”
    Person 2: “You have a point. So, we’re actually just interested in establishing the base mythology, sorta like discussing whether or not Darth Vader really was Luke’s father.”
    Person 1: “Yep.”
    Person 2: “Well then, yes!” 🙂

    1. John MacDonald June 2, 2017, 12:15 pm

      I’m trying to put together the big picture for the idea that Jesus didn’t exist:

      1) Love seems to be a central theme of early Christianity.

      Paul wrote
      – 8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not give false testimony, You shall not covet,” and if there are any other commandments, are summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love works no evil to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

      Mark seems to echo the commandment of love as we find it in Paul:

      – The Great Commandment: 28 One of the scribes came and heard them reasoning together. Perceiving that Jesus had answered them well, he asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. 30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

      (2) The problem of trying to create a benevolent, just society was that the Christians believed the central feature of that society, the Temple, was corrupt. Mark has Jesus say: “17Then He began to teach them and declare, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Mark 11:17). Jesus and his atoning death that effectively rendered useless the temple cult “coincidentally” emerged at just the time in history when a big problem for the Jews was, as Lataster says, the “inaccessibility caused by the temple being controlled by the Roman-loving Temple cult. One noteworthy example would be the more ‘progressive’ Pharisees, what with their synagogues and Old Torah, who had less need for the Temple; likewise the Essenes who thought the Temple leadership so corrupt that they developed and performed their own religious rituals elsewhere. (Lataster, Jesus Did Not Exist, 223-224).”

      (3) To rectify this problem, the first Christians invented a story of an atoning Christ, keeping the philosophy of love paramount, but substituting the temple cult with, to use Paul’s words, a simple and pure (2 Cor 11:3-5) faith in Christ.
      This is compatible with a purely mythic origin of Christianity, as with the ‘noble lie’ theory of Christian origins.

      1. Richard Johnson June 2, 2017, 3:09 pm

        This all pretty much agrees with what I read in Carrier’s book, “On the Historicity of Jesus”, which is a really great book and I simply couldn’t put it down! 🙂

        1. John MacDonald June 2, 2017, 9:17 pm

          Yes, I also learned a lot from Dr. Carrier’s “On The Historicity Of Jesus.”

      2. John MacDonald June 2, 2017, 10:50 pm

        Dr. Carrier expresses this line of thought when he writes:

        ‘A better question is “Why did they invent the idea that the messiah got crucified?” Because they needed one, is the mythicist answer. It accomplished what they needed: the elimination of dependence on the Jewish temple cult and its Jewish leadership. It also created a plausible Jewish variant of a massively popular fashion among salvation cults at the time.’

  3. Pete June 6, 2017, 10:19 am

    Richard, I’m not a patron but I just saw this debate and wanted to comment anyway, for what it’s worth.

    How do you debate with a person who has such a bizarre faith-commitment that they insist there’s no contradiction between the empty tomb narratives of Mark and Matthew? Who says that with a straight face? Good grief! I almost fell out of my chair.

    Imagine if the Matthew story is true: Paralyzed guards, flying angel who miraculously rolls the stone away. Is there any likelihood at all that Mark would avoid mentioning such things, and omit those amazing supernatural details for some strange and inexplicable reason, even though he’s writing his Gospel before Matthew’s is composed?

    There is no good reason that Mark would ever leave out those amazing details if Matthew’s version was factually correct (and Mark knew about it, which apologists often assume). For apologists to pretend otherwise, and say that there’s no contradiction is frankly a howling embarrassment.


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