Do you meet all of the following conditions?
-under 35 years old
-debate Christians on the Internet
-have attended a talk put on by the Secular Student Alliance
If you answered yes to all four, chances are, you know David Fitzgerald. You might also know Dave if you are a Christian apologist who is involved with campus ministry. Apparently, William Lane Craig knows. David is the author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All? and promotes the Christ-Myth Theory, which claims Jesus Christ never lived.
I debated (informally) David on three different occasions in 2013. In our second conversation, he made a claim that John the Baptist was a failed Messiah. This claim came in the flow of an argument he was making about Jesus (supposedly) not having the same amount of historical corroboration as so-called “loser Messiahs”. I asked Dave for evidence or a source for his take on J to tha B. He mentioned the Clementine Recognitions, saying it backs him up. Watch the debate here and note our dialogue between 12 and 13 minutes.
-pause the video
-read sections 155 and 160 of Book I of the Clementine Recognitions
(it’s pasted in below and I’ve underlined the most relevant lines but you can read more here)
1.54 — Jewish Sects.
“For when the rising of Christ was at hand for the abolition of sacrifices, and for the bestowal of the grace of baptism, the enemy, understanding from the predictions that the time was at hand, wrought various schisms among the people, that, if haply it might be possible to abolish the former sin, the latter fault might be incorrigible.
“The first schism, therefore, was that of those who were called Sadducees, which took their rise almost in the time of John. These, as more righteous than others, began to separate themselves from the assembly of the people, and to deny the resurrection of the dead, and to assert that by an argument of infidelity, saying that it was unworthy that God should be worshipped, as it were, under the promise of a reward. The first author of this opinion was Dositheus; the second was Simon.
“Another schism is that of the Samaritans; for they deny the resurrection of the dead, and assert that God is not to be worshipped in Jerusalem, but on Mount Gerizim. They indeed rightly, from the predictions of Moses, expect the one true Prophet; but by the wickedness of Dositheus they were hindered from believing that Jesus is He whom they were expecting.
“The scribes also, and Pharisees, are led away into another schism; but these, being baptized by John, and holding the word of truth received from the tradition of Moses as the key of the kingdom of heaven, have hid it from the hearing of the people.
“Yea, some even of the disciples of John, who seemed to be great ones, have separated themselves from the people, and proclaimed their own master as the Christ. But all these schisms have been prepared, that by means of them the faith of Christ and baptism might be hindered.”
1.60 — Disciples of John Refuted.
“And, behold, one of the disciples of John asserted that John was the Christ, and not Jesus, inasmuch as Jesus Himself declared that John was greater than all men and all prophets.’If, then, ‘said he, ‘he be greater than all, he must be held to be greater than Moses, and than Jesus himself. But if he be the greatest of all, then must he be the Christ.’
“To this Simon the Canaanite, answering, asserted that John was indeed greater than all the prophets, and all who are born of women, yet that he is not greater than the Son of man. Accordingly Jesus is also the Christ, whereas John is only a prophet: and there is as much difference between him and Jesus, as between the forerunner and Him whose forerunner he is; or as between Him who gives the law, and him who keeps the law. Having made these and similar statements, the Canaanite also was silent.
“After him Barnabas, who also is called Matthias, who was substituted as an apostle in the place of Judas, began to exhort the people that they should not regard Jesus with hatred, nor speak evil of Him. For it were far more proper, even for one who might be in ignorance or in doubt concerning Jesus, to love than to hate Him. For God has affixed a reward to love, a penalty to hatred. ‘For the very fact,’ said he, ‘that He assumed a Jewish body, and was born among the Jews, how has not this incited us all to love Him?’ When he had spoken this, and more to the same effect, he stopped.”
Re-listen to David’s claims about John as a failed Messiah – does the source (which is a late work falsely ascribed to Clement of Rome) match his claims?