On Tues 2nd October, Bill Cooke (former head of the NZ Association of Rationalists and Humanists) gave a talk on the historicity of Christ for RSS. I’m inclined to suspect it was the most face-palm-worthy talk I’ve heard at uni. Here is my draft response, to be updated as I find the time and patience required.
Bill Cooke gave a talk for RSS just over 2 months ago. Finally I have got my act together and typed a response – or started to do so. The simplistic account he gives of “education” versus the Evangelical faith is demonstrably false on numerous points; I would be glad to debate it, and can point to a number of New Zealand scholars who could do so more competently than I. It is disturbing that Dr Cooke is regarded as something of an expert on this issue.
Here’s the talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtqcRheqpc4&feature=player_embedded
The talk was to a large extent a rant against conservative Christians and evangelical Christianity. As such, there is plenty to respond to, but I will just pick up some points that seem most closely related to the core truth claims. One of the most frustrating aspects of this talk, other than the exceedingly arrogant tone, is the absence of distinction between quotes or references to historical texts and Cooke’s own views; in general it seems that the message from the quotes is being advocated.
Equates “modern” with “non-religious”.
The quote concerning the resurrection of Christ is from 1 Cor 15, not Colossians.
15 mins: “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” – as I understand, it is a myth that this was the topic of theological debate in the middle ages.
An astonishing section, worth a listen.
21: 30: It is claimed that “Jesus” becomes “the Christ” in the progression from Mark to John. This is nonsense.
In response to my question on this, Cooke says that in Mark, rather than Christ, he was “much more ‘Jesus’, a person with brothers and sisters …” But I don’t see any basis for this – on a quick flick through Mark’s gospel, I see only one reference to Jesus’ family, (3:31-34) – a reference that is paralleled in Matthew and Luke. His family are mentioned more in the other gospels.
Cooke then (22:00) says that in Mark, Jesus has an ordinary birth, while in the other gospels it is miraculous. This is also incorrect, as I pointed out (yes, that annoying person who keeps asking questions is me).
The idea that Mithras parallels Jesus (23:30) is wrong. This part of the talk is remarkably ill-informed. I challenge Dr Cooke to debate this (or any of the many criticisms listed here) e.g. can he provide any evidence that Mithras was believed to have been crucified?
[up to approx 40 mins out of 1hr 20.]
Incorrect about Josephus’ mentions of Jesus.
… more to come, if I can bear continuing the process of dissecting the talk.