This is a debate between Dr. James White and Dr. Shabir Ally on the Deity of Christ and the earliest NT writings/traditions. Dr. White did an excellent job of showing the earliest traditions / writings do demonstrate that the earliest followers of Jesus believed in His Deity. Dr. White draws from what modern scholars note are the earliest strands of tradition – James 2:1, 1 Corinthians 2:8; Philippians 2:5-8; and all through the gospel according to Mark. (some of the ones Dr. White mentions along with my expanded list – Mark 1:1; 1:11; 2:28; 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 12:35-37; 14:60-64; 15:39)
Scholars consider James one of the earliest NT books written, 1 Corinthians was written in 55 AD, Philippians 62 AD and has the hymn to Christ which goes back earlier, and most scholars believe the gospel according to Mark is the earliest gospel that was written. This is all demonstrated even without using the gospel according to John, even thought it is also “God-breathed” Scripture and a fourth testimony and historically reliable to the real historical Jesus.
To me, one of the highest statements of Christ and His Deity is in Mark 2:27-28 where Jesus claims to be the Lord (kurios = Yahweh in lxx) of the Sabbath Day – a claim of being the creator and thus equal in nature with God the Father, Yahweh-Elohim of Genesis 1-2.
But Shabir says we have to go with the earliest layers of tradition, so ok, we can play that game too.
“The true Jesus of history has to be sought mainly in the earliest layers of the tradition.”
Not only does Dr. White demonstrate early tradition for the Deity of Christ, but the earliest traditions embedded in the NT are about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ also:
All scholars agree that the tradition of 1 Corinthians 15:3-9 is from the earliest tradition – within a few months after Jesus’ death, and the resurrection and ascension.
James D. G. Dunn on the apostle Paul’s testimony in 1 Corinthians 15:1-9 – “This tradition, we can be entirely confident, was formulated as a tradition within months of Jesus’ death.” Jesus Remembered, page 855. (some online sources that are quoting this, say the page number is 825, but I have the electronic version of Jesus Remembered and it is on page 855.
Interesting that Paul Williams’ favorite NT scholar affirms 1 Corinthians 15!
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Fact of Christ’s Resurrection
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.