[After the second round of speeches, Geisler and Till answered questions from the audience. All questions were submitted on cards and specifically addressed to one of the speakers. The speaker to whom a question was addressed had two minutes to answer the question; his opponent then gave a one-minute response.]
Question for Till: What does eternal life portend for you?
What does eternal life portend for me? Well, according to the Bible, I’m going to straight to hell, and I’ll fry there for eternity. [applause and laughter] How’s that for an answer? [spoken above a continuation of scattered applause] But, to come back to a point that I’ve tried to make, which those of you that are obviously not in my corner can’t seem to grasp, the mere fact that the New Testament teaches that doesn’t mean a thing, doesn’t mean that it’s so. I don’t know if you people will begin to comprehend how seriously I have studied the Bible. I put twelve years into being a minister and a missionary, and I was sincere, whether you believe it or not. I just could no longer believe it anymore. Now, if God wants to send me to hell for that, that would be just like him, wouldn’t it? [murmurs of disapproval] Because this is the God in the Old Testament, First Samuel the 15th chapter [raising voice over murmurs from the audience], that ordered the killing of babies, and he did it in Numbers the 31st chapter, and read the book of Joshua, and you’ll see that he did it there. Is that the God you want me to believe in? You people can have him! [applause]
Since I’ve given arguments, in fact ten arguments, that the New Testament documents are true, not just accurately copied, which professor Till never answered any of the ten, I believe that when New Testament documents say that this is eternal life that you may know him, Jesus Christ, I believe eternal life is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the eternal one ["Amen!" from the audience], and I don’t believe that God wants to send anyone to hell and certainly not professor Till. Jesus said, "Oh, Jerusalem, oh, Jerusalem, how oft I would have gathered you together as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you would not." And if professor Till goes to hell, it’s because he doesn’t want eternal life [loud applause and shouts of approval], not because God doesn’t love him [louder applause].
Question for Geisler: What is the medical evidence that it is possible for one to be dead three days and then live again?
You may recall that we argued that the New Testament documents are historically reliable. When you’re talking about evidence for an ancient event, you’re talking about evidence based on documents and based on early documents and based on contemporaries and eyewitnesses. The New Testament has over five hundred eyewitnesses, contemporaries of the event, documents that go right back to the beginning. To deny the credibility of those documents and the testimony that Jesus died and rose from the dead is to undermine the credibility of all ancient documents, because the evidence for the Bible is much greater than that for other documents. I have not seen professor Till or anyone else here tonight in the questions or comments provide anything to disprove that evidence. If the documents are reliable, if they are true and they present that Jesus died and rose from the dead, that’s the best kind of evidence you can have for ancient events. If you won’t accept that evidence, that is kind of like the famous philosopher Nietzsche, the one who said, "God is dead," signed Nietzsche, under which some Christian wrote, "Nietzsche is dead," signed God. [laughter] Nietzsche said this: "If you can prove this God of the Christians to be, I would believe him all the less." I commend to you that disbelief is not rational; it’s volitional. Disbelief is not because of people don’t have enough brain power; it’s because they don’t have the will power. The evidence is there. It’s valid, it’s historical, and it’s ample. If someone rejects it, the consequences are theirs. It’s not because of lack of evidence; it’s because of their choice to disbelieve the evidence that is there. [applause]
Well, pardon me, but I thought the question was, "What medical evidence is there [loud applause] to prove [pausing as applause continues] that someone could return to life after dying?" And he talks about how I don’t answer this and I don’t answer that. I heard absolutely nothing in his answer to indicate that he knows of any medical evidence that can be given to support the premise that someone can rise from the dead. He got off again on the, uh, on the fact that we have five, uh, over five hundred reliable witnesses. Who were these five hundred? I challenge him to tell us before he leaves tonight who these five hundred were that the Apostle Paul mentioned in First Corinthians the fifteenth chapter, that Jesus allegedly lived, uh, appeared to after he had died. Where did they live? When did this happen? How can we know that this happened? The New Testament is reliable? Yes, but does that mean that whatever it says is true? [applause]
QUESTION FOR TILL: There have been many hearsay accounts that Elvis lives. Do you have any firsthand evidence that he doesn’t? [Laughter, continuing while Till walks to the lectern]
And that’s funny? Well, let’s go, let’s go back to what I said a moment ago. He who makes an outrageous, extraordinary claim, he is the one who is obligated to prove it. If there is anyone in this audience tonight who believes that Elvis, Elvis Presley is alive, that is your responsibility, your obligation to prove. I Don’t have to prove that Elvis Presley did not rise from the dead. I do not have to prove that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead. I’m not the one who is making this outrageous claim. Dr. Geisler is claiming that this man who was stone-clod dead in his grave came back to life. That is an extraordinary claim; it requires extraordinary evidence, and I certainly have not seen anything that even comes close to being extraordinary evidence to support that. We’ve heard a lot of talk about how reliable the documents are. Well, the book that I pitched on his desk and then retrieved, because I certainly want it [laughter] in my library, is over on my desk now. Do you know that that book says that Jesus Christ appeared in the Americas and that he preached to the Native Americans? I doubt seriously if Dr. Geisler believes that that actually happened. Yet if there are any Mormons in the crowd, I’m sure they would say, "How in the world could you possibly believe that this did not happen?" What’s the difference? They were conditioned to believe it; we have not been conditioned. That’s why those of you who applaud everything that he says, even though it offers no evidence, do what you do. See, you have been conditioned to believe this [applause].
Even in a courtroom, as it was in biblical times, from the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established. I can name a lot of people who saw Jesus — Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Judas, the Apostle Paul. You only need two or three; you don’t need five hundred to establish there were eyewitnesses. Secondly, historical evidence is what you have for historical events. Medical evidence is what you have for medical events. I gave the medical evidence that Jesus died, and I gave the historical evidence that Jesus arose — firsthand, first-century, eyewitness evidence. Professor Till hopes to escape the net tonight by saying two contradictory things. On the one hand, it’s pretty obvious to all of us that he doesn’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. Either Jesus did or he didn’t. He says I have to present evidence for my view, but he doesn’t have to present evidence for his view. Everyone who makes a truth claim has to present evidence for their view. I presented evidence that Jesus did. Where is his evidence that Jesus didn’t? [applause and "Amen!"]
QUESTION FOR GEISLER: Given that you believe that the Holy Spirit is the true author of the Bible, how does it add to the credibility of your position to say that the gospel accounts were written by human witnesses?
As I indicated, the topic for discussion tonight is, "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" Secondly, I answered that not by claiming the Bible’s inspired. In fact, if you check the tape, you’ll see that I disclaimed that that was necessary for argument. I simply argued that the Bible was historically reliable. You don’t have to accept the Bible as inspired to know that Jesus rose from the dead. You just have to give evidence that it’s [a] historically reliable document in its central truth. You don’t have to prove the Bible was inerrant. There are answers for all of Professor Till’s little questions about this or that. The women, for example, at the tomb simply said they remembered, didn’t say they believed, which is an easy answer to his question, but that is not necessary to prove that an ancient document is reliable; otherwise, all the documents from ancient history, which by admission of the people who accept them have minor errors in, would have to be discredited. If we had to have inerrancy before we had reliability, we wouldn’t have knowledge of the past at all. All the arguments claim is that the documents are reliable. I offered dozens of arguments combined that they are, that the earliest desk on the other side — eyewitnesses, first-century, contemporary accounts, or even close to it — that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. Any intelligent person who wants to make a choice built on the evidence has to choose that Jesus did rise from the dead. If one chooses to [dis]believe in spite of the evidence, then all we can say is you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. That’s exactly what the problem is tonight. Looking at the evidence, it favors the fact that Jesus rose. Giving theories, hypotheses, suggestions about the Book of Mormon [time clock beeps], or some other book, which the eyewitnesses said that they saw [time clock continues to beep], what does that prove? [beeping continues] They weren’t seeing anybody who rose from the dead [beeping continues]; they were seeing supposedly tablets of which some of them later denied their testimony. Show me an apostle who later denied his ["Time!" shouted from the audience] testimony. They all died for what they believed. [Applause as Geisler finally walks away]
Well, of course, the gospel accounts were not written by eyewitnesses. Bible scholars know that, and Dr. Geisler has to be familiar with the evidence that indicates that they didn’t. If you think that Matthew, the apostle Matthew, wrote the book of Matthew, if you think that the apostle John wrote the Gospel of John, you have to be living on another planet or else you are not paying attention to the evidence. Uh, there is nothing to indicate that they were eyewitnesses. Luke even in the beginning of his gospel said that he was not an eyewitness to these things but that he had researched the subject. And, uh, to get to this thing that he keeps harping on, I’m going to announce to him something that he doesn’t know. I’m not really Farrell Till, Dr. Geisler. I’m Napolean Bonaparte reincarnated, and I want to see you stand here and prove that I’m not. [laughter, then scattered applause as Till walks away]
QUESTION FOR TILL: John and Paul both saw Jesus after the resurrection and wrote about it in the New Testament. Is that also hearsay?
Well, uh, I just got through saying that John did not write the gospel that bears that name. Bible scholars know that. I’ll quote a Unitarian minister whom I once heard say that there are Bible scholars and there are fundamentalists. And, of course, there are fundamentalists who certainly believe that Mark wrote Mark, that Matthew wrote Matthew, that John wrote John, but the evidence against this is overwhelming. I just urge you to go to your library, get the information, and study it for yourself, and you’ll see that "John" who wrote the book of John was certainly not an eyewitness to the resurrection. As for the Apostle Paul, he had a vision, and visions don’t count. It’s that simple. If this hypothetical person that we’ve been talking about walked into the auditorium tonight and said that he had seen Elvis Presley and that he had seen him in a vision, why, we’d rush him off to some psychiatric ward and get attention for the poor fellow, because we would know that he needed it. But, of course, the Apostle Paul said almost two thousand years ago that he saw Jesus in a vision, and Dr. Geisler swoons over that, as if that is some great proof. When we have dreams, we know that there’s really nothing to it, and when we hear people say that they have visions, we know that this is very, very unreliable evidence. So he’s basing much, uh, much of what believes on [time clock beeps] a man who said that he had a vision. That’s unreliable. [applause]
First of all, I didn’t claim only eyewitnesses. I said eyewitnesses or contemporaries of events. Luke was a contemporary, and he said very clearly that he was a contemporary of eyewitnesses. In chapter one, he said, "I have put down what, things most surely believed, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses." He was [a] contemporary of eyewitnesses; he interviewed eyewitnesses. Secondly, John clearly was an eyewitness. He said so right in John chapter 21, verse 22 and following, and he says, "This thing then went out among the brethren that this disciple, John, would not die, yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die but if I will that you remain until I come." This disciple, John, in context, who testifies of these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true, and there are also many other things which Jesus did which are not written in this book, uh, that I suppose if I would number them the whole world [time clock beeps] could not contain the books." [beeping continues] Jesus, uh, John did claim to be an eyewitness [time clock beeping continues], and in First John one, he said, "I saw, I heard, I handled I touched them" [beeping continues]. I would say that’s a good eyewitness. [applause]
QUESTION FOR GEISLER: Can you cite any corroborative evidence outside of the New Testament that Jesus rose from the dead?
Actually that question is kind of like saying, "Now apart from your eyewitnesses, you don’t have a very good case." That’s like four eyewitnesses in court who saw an accident, and then one person came right after the accident, and the defense attorney said, "Now apart from those four eyewitnesses you just gave, you know you have only circumstantial evidence." So it’s begging the question to say apart from the New Testament, and I gave the argument that the New Testament was historically reliable. Those arguments haven’t even been addressed, let alone refuted. But in addition to that, there are whole books, as several on the table, on this single topic, one by Dr. Habermas, one by the Manchester scholar F.F. Bruce. I’ll cite just some of this evidence that Jesus lived in the first century, died, and it was believed by his disciples that he rose from the dead. Josephus, Antiquities 29, [sic] Cornelius Tacitus, uh, the Greek satirist Lucian, Roman historian Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Samaritan born Thallus, letter of Mara Bar-Serapion, the Jewish Talmud, Phlegon, who spoke of Christ’s death and resurrection in his chronicles, saying this: "Jesus while alive was of no assistance to himself but that he arose after his death and exhibited the marks of his punishment and showed how his hands had been pierced by nails." This is in his chronicles, cited by Origen. Here is an early Roman, as well as Josephus, reporting that the disciples did, that they were convinced, that they were converted, that they believed that he was God, that they worshipped him. All of this is reported by contemporary, early first-century historians in support of precisely what the New testament says. [applause]
I really have to wonder about your honesty, Dr. Geisler. You have to know, or else you’ve been living on another planet, that many of those writers that you’ve refer to have been discredited by scholars, especially that quotation you referred to from Josephus. It is recognized by all reputable scholars of Josephus as a forgery. I see someone shaking your head. Come and see me after this is over, and I will present you with testimony from very reliable theologians who just admit, "It’s a forgery! Josephus did not write that." As for as some of the other things, other so-called historians that he referred to, in many of those references that he has in mind, all that they were doing was recounting what Christians believed. Christianity was a fact by that time, and I can take you to encyclopedias now, and I can, I can show you where encyclopedias say [time clock beeps] that Mormons believes this and Mormons believe that [beeping continues], or this happened in Mormonism… [Gesturing at time keeper] He went over a few times; I can too. [scattered laughs as beeping continues]. And all that they’re doing is recounting the claims of Mormonism. [applause]
Question for Till: You said that Dr. Geisler must prove to us that Jesus rose from the dead. How do you define proof?
Well, uh, I would just ask you to apply to that the same standard that you would apply to our hypothetical gentleman who walks in and tells us that he has seen Elvis Presley [comment from back of audience provokes scattered audience laughs and murmurs] or someone else has risen from the dead. Are you going to accept his mere word? You will at least have the person himself saying that he saw him. In all of these wonderful witnesses that he’s citing [gesturing at Geisler], with the exception of the Apostle Paul, all he is hearsay. What did Mary Magdalene ever write? Do you have it, Dr. Geisler? What did Salome write? [turning to Geisler] Would you even tell us who this Salome was? Where did she live? When did she die? Would you tell us who this Joanna was who went to the tomb? You don’t even know who she is, but you seem to think that she is a credible witness, and you don’t even know whether she really said [time clock beeps] that she saw the resurrection or whether… [Till turns to time keeper] Don’t I have two minutes? [Time keeper apologizes] Uh, you don’t even know whether she actually said that she saw the empty tomb and that she saw Jesus after he was resurrected. You have the word of someone who wrote a gospel account who said that she said. You have the account of the Apostle Paul, a man saw visions, who said that Jesus appeared to five hundred witnesses. Trot out one of those five hundred witnesses or give us something that they wrote, that we can be sure that they wrote, and we will accept that as reliable proof or evidence. Until then, I have to keep hammering home the point: he has nothing but hearsay evidence. And go ahead and shake your heads, but that’s the truth. That is the truth, my friends, and if you had not been raised and conditioned to believe this, you wouldn’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead any more than you would believe that Krishna [gesturing emphatically] rose from the dead or that Osiris did. [light applause]
Let me remind you again of the eyewitnesses. Paul was an eyewitness and was not a vision. I challenge professor Till to find one passage in [the] New Testament [that] clearly and unequivocally says that it was a vision. I can show you many passages where says he saw, just like the other apostles, appeared to him. First Corinthians 15:3 and following and 1 Corinthians 9:1, he lists himself right along with the others. He saw, John saw, I’ve already mentioned, James saw — that was Jesus’ half-brother, who was an unbeliever before the resurrection. He was converted as a result of the resurrection. Notice professor Till never really defined proof. The reason for that is, had he defined it, we had already given it, so it’s better not [loud applause] to give a definition than to face the consequences [applause continues].
Question for Geisler: Dr. Geisler, address the other claims of being the Christ. Were they reliable accounts? Was it [sic] historically accurate?
Well, of course, that’s been shown. The New Testament documents, the gospels, Acts, and First Corinthians, which are the crucial ones, in talking about the death and resurrection, they’re reliable, and once you accept that they’re reliable, then, of course, you accept the fact, as indeed professor Till did. With regard to did Jesus die, he said there’s no question that the New Testament says that he rose from the dead. The question is simply, "Is it true?" We gave ten arguments that it’s true; he didn’t respond to any of them. I’m still waiting for the response, and in addition to that, if that’s true, then, of course, Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah is true. He said, "I who speak to you am he," to the woman at at Samaria; he said to Caiaphas, the high priest, "I am the Christ." Jesus claimed to be the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, and he offered the resurrection as a proof of that claim. That’s why we celebrate Easter, because who’s buried in Grant’s tomb? Grant! Who’s buried in Washington’s tomb? Washington! Who’s buried in Jesus’ tomb? Nobody! He rose [applause] from the dead! [applause intensifies]
No, Dr. Geisler, you’re wrong. We don’t celebrate Easter because it was the time that Jesus rose from the dead. We celebrate Easter because it is a carryover from paganism. [weak laughter] Read Ezekiel the [loud laughter] eighth chapter, verse fourteen — my friends who are back there laughing, I’m quoting your Bible to you. Read Ezekiel the eighth chapter, verse fourteen, and you’ll see that Ezekiel referred to the women who were standing before the gate of the house of Jehovah, weeping over Tammuz. Tammuz was a virgin-born, Sumerian-Babylonian, uh, savior-god, who died and was resurrected, and each spring, in this ceremony, the women weeped [sic] and wailed over his death, and then a few days later, they celebrated his resurrection. It’s a pagan custom, Dr. Geisler. You know that, and you talk about I don’t deal with arguments. [Time clock beeps] I wish you’d deal with this one. [applause]