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The Case For Christ

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"The Case For Christ" records Lee Strobel's attempt to "determine if there's credible evidence that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Son of God." The book consists primarily of interviews between Strobel (a former legal editor at the Chicago Tribune) and biblical scholars such as Bruce Metzger. Each interview is based on a simple question, concerning historical evidence (for example, "Can the Biographies of Jesus Be Trusted?"), scientific evidence, ("Does Archeology Confirm or Contradict Jesus' Biographies?"), and "psychiatric evidence" ("Was Jesus Crazy When He Claimed to Be the Son of God?"). Together, these interviews compose a case brief defending Jesus' divinity, and urging readers to reach a verdict of their own.

It should be noted that when the book is entitled "The Case For Christ", its objectivity should immediately be in question. Any search for truth would not start with the conclusion. It's well known this was the approach Strobel took in writing this publication so it's no surprise what the book's ultimate claim will be.

Reviews and critiques of Lee Strobel's "The Case For Christ"

The case for christ.jpg
As its title indicates, this book defends the case *for* Christ and does not purport to be an impartial examination of the evidence. Lee Strobel had made his mind before he wrote the book, and this volume is a reconstruction, in the form of a series of interviews, of his own conversion, which took place over a two-year period of intensive reading after that of his wife.
Precisely because Strobel is now a Christian, the fourteen scholars he chose to interview are all devout Christians themselves; they are all presented in a favourable light as rational, well-informed and benevolent individuals; and they all assert that their study of the archeological and textual evidence for Christ has strengthened their faith in his divinity. Whatever counter-arguments are presented in the book seem to have been included merely to make the book more convincing, by showing that all the "hard questions" have been dealt with.

In light of Strobel's frequent reminders that he used to be a hard-nosed, skeptical journalist, I skimmed the table of contents and index to see which critics of Christianity he interviewed. In so doing, I discovered a glaring deficiency in Strobel's journalism: Strobel did not interview any critics of Christian apologetics, even though he attacks such individuals in his book. For example, Strobel devotes an entire chapter to his interview of Greg Boyd (an outspoken faultfinder of the Jesus Seminar), yet Strobel never interviewed a single member of the Jesus Seminar itself! Likewise, he repeatedly criticizes Michael Martin, author of Case Against Christianity, but he never bothered to get Martin's responses to those attacks. This hardly constitutes balanced reporting on Strobel's part; indeed, on this basis, one is tempted to dismiss the entire book.

My biggest complaint is that Strobel's reporting is one-sided in several aspects. For one, all the scholars he interviews are all conservative, evangelical Chrisitans. Not once did he interview a person of who might have been more liberal... much less interview a non-Christian scholar on Christian or Biblical studies (and there are many).
Furthermore, never *once* did Strobel look to find rebuttals or other perspectives on the statements and evidence that these scholars gave him. Many of the information he received was controversial or from a very narrow viewpoint. This supposedly "excellent researcher" made no effortto seek a response to this evidence (even if he ultimately sought a rebuttal to said response).
No liberal Christians, no Jews, no Muslims, no secular scholars were ever consulted either for opinion, viewpoint or rebuttal. Very shallow "reporting and research."

Strobel has a Degree of Master's of Studies in Law from Yale. But after earning such a degree, a person is essentially the equivalent of a law student who just finished his or her first year of law school. Furthermore, many students do not take an Evidence course during their first year of law school. This may explain why Strobel does such a poor job examining the totality of the evidence and misses or fails to mention basic evidentiary legal concepts. I know that Strobel is not offering this book into a court of law, nor does he hold himself out as a lawyer. But it is misleading when he invokes legal terms when in fact he does not have complete legal training.
In describing its Master of Studies in Law program, the Yale Law School website reads: "[the] Master of Studies in Law (M.S.L.) degree program for a small number of non-lawyers who want to obtain a basic familiarity with legal thought and to explore the relation of law to their disciplines. It is a one-year terminal program designed for those who do not desire a professional law degree, but who are interested in a rigorous curriculum and grounding in legal studies. Candidates in the M.S.L. program are ordinarily experienced scholars with research or teaching objectives in mind, or journalists seeking an intensive immersion in legal thinking so that they are better able to educate their audiences upon their return to journalism."
This is exactly what Strobel did. He was a journalist by trade, went to Yale Law School for just one year to gain a basic grounding in legal studies, and returned to journalism. I am not saying that Strobel did not learn anything during that first year of law school. But any lawyer will tell you that after one's first year of law school, one really doesn't know much about the law. In fact, any lawyer will tell you that one doesn't know much after graduating from three years of law school! A career in law entails a lifetime of learning.
Here is an example of Strobel missing a basic concept in evidence law: He never addresses the issue of hearsay. Hearsay is an out of court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Subject to many exceptions, hearsay is generally inadmissible as evidence. If the gospels are used to prove the truth of its statements, then they are technically hearsay. If they do not fall under a recognized exception, then the statements would be inadmissible. On the whole (I am not going to go line-by-line here), the gospel statements do not qualify under any of the recognized exceptions.
Chapter 2 is entitled "Testing the Eyewitness Evidence," yet he never once mentions the hearsay problem or that the eyewitness accounts are that of unavailable witnesses whose statements would be inadmissible in court because the declarants could not be cross-examined. This is the underlying purpose of the hearsay rule: it attempts to exclude out of court statements as untrustworthy since they cannot be tested by cross-examination of its declarants. Furthermore, the eight "tests" that Strobel uses (e.g., "The Intention Test," "The Ability Test," etc.) are not recognized legal tests used to evaluate eyewitness testimony. They sound like they are because he puts the word "test" there, but none of them are legal tests one will learn in Evidence class or in practicing law. He made them up.
This passing treatment of evidentiary legal concepts epitomizes the overall problem with the book, which is its passing treatment of all issues. It briefly mentions its own problems and provides only lip service to opposing views. Granted, this is not meant to be a serious scholarly book and is meant for mass consumption. But you could find something much more intellectually challenging on the subject than this.

This is a poorly written book that resorts to cheap rhetorical tricks to establish the author's argument that there is strong historical evidence for the Fundamentalist Christian view of who Jesus was. The author pretends that it is an unbiased investigation by a journalist trained in the law. The author leaves out the fact that he is currently a pastor of a conservative Christian Church and the `investigation' was conducted while he is a pastor. Additionally, all the author's sources are conservative Christians who already agree with the author's conclusion. This is hardly an unbiased investigation.
The author makes much of the fact that he was trained in law and was a journalist and all of his sources have PhDs. A book such as this could easily dupe the average reader is unfamiliar with ancient literature and history. Perusing the footnotes, one sees that many of the author's sources are books written by fellow fundamentalists. Mainstream scholars will never refute a book like this since they would view it as beneath themselves to respond to such a shallow and unlearned book.
The book is full of half-truths and misinformation. For example, in the chapter titled The Scientific Evidence, the author has a section called Puzzle 1: The Census. In this section, the author attempts to defend the gospel story of the census against our knowledge that the governor of Syria, Quirinius, did not rule the area until 6 AD (The gospels would put the census prior to this date.) The author describes a coin that was found dating from 11BC with the name Quirinius in micrographic letters which establishes that there was another Quirinius who was proconsul. This supposedly establishes that the census took place during the timeframe of Jesus' supposed birth (The author implies that this other Quirinius is a new discovery, but has in fact been know since the turn of the century). However, the author leaves out other details, which establish the legendary nature of the account.
There is in fact no evidence outside the gospel account for a census of the whole Empire under Caesar Augustus (contra Luke 2:1). Obvious ancient authorities such as Monumentaum Anycyranum, Dio Cassius and Suetonius are silent. The only people who speak of it are Christians from the sixth century onward. The first regional census in Palestine did not occur until 6 AD under the second Quirinius. Palestine did not become a Roman province until 6 AD. Therefore, there would be not be any reason for a census prior to this. In fact, when the census did occur in 6 AD it caused such uproar that the Jews revolted under the leadership of Judas the Gaulonite of Gamala. If another unprecedented prior census of a nonprovince had occurred, it would also have caused a revolt. But, Josephus only recorded the census and revolt in 6 AD. All other sources are also silent about this. A further objection to Luke's account is that even the census of 6 AD would not have affected Galilee where Mary and Joseph lived. When Herod died, the southern part of his kingdom (Idumea, Judea and Samaria) was given to his son Archelaus, but Galilee in the north was put under another son, Antipas. Archelaus was deposed in 6 AD and his territory annexed to the Empire, but Antipas remained in office and ruled Galilee until 39 AD. Luke implies that the inhabitants of Galilee were affected by a Roman census that in fact only applied to the southern provinces.
The author's technique is the typical straw man device. He will take one objection, quote a conservative Christian scholar who disagrees and then conclude that this settles the case. The author acts as if the objections he has chosen are the only ones. Additionally, the author only deals with objections that were typically made during the nineteenth century. The world of twentieth century biblical scholarship is completely ignored by the author. This book says a lot about the intellectual bankruptcy of modern Christian Fundamentalism. It's only redeeming value is the insight it gives one about the movement. Unless you're buying it for this reason, don't waste your money.

There was a study done where 12 people witnessed a crime perpetrated by a person with a red shirt. These 12 witnesses were questioned by officers a day later and officers referred to the man as wearing a yellow shirt. 10 of the twelve people said the perpetrator wore a yellow shirt when asked to give an eyewitness account of the crime. This book doesn't delve into studies of this sort, but instead reports a highly emotional story where an eyewitness testifies against a known criminal and sends him to prison. Thus according to Lee all eyewitness accounts are infallible. Lee then confirms Jesus' resurrection because he is told by a 6'2" christian writer that although scholars claim the story of the resurrection was told 40 years after the fact he can argue it was actually told only two years after the fact. It has to be true. After all other historical writings document events 500 years after the fact and are accepted as factual. Another nail in the coffin for the logically impaired. He has proved the resurrection took place. This is what our culture accepts as logic?

Mr. Strobel's entire quest to find out the facts surrounding Christianity are apparently because of a "character change" in his wife when she became a Christian (pg. 16). He even states that her integrity changed after her conversion (must we then wonder what it was like before?). Sorry, but even if someone is changed for the positive by a belief, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the TRUTH of that belief; it means only that the person sincerely believes it herself. How many countless people of all religions (and atheists too) are wonderful people of excellent character, integrity, and personal confidence? Does this mean that what all of them believe is so?
This shaky premise begins The Case For Christ, and it is steeply downhill from there. I'll spare most details for the sake of brevity; logical readers will see the numerous flaws for themselves. However, the hammer blow to the book's entire line of "reasoning" comes on page 61, while Strobel is interviewing Dr. Craig L. Blomberg, a professor at Denver Seminary. When questioned about inconsistencies and contradictions in the Bible, Dr. Blomberg offers many of the usual Christian rationalizations. Finally, however, he delivers this gem of logical reasoning: "And there are occasions when we may need to hold judgment in abeyance and simply say that since we've made sense out of the vast majority of the texts and determined them to be trustworthy, we can then give the benefit of the doubt when we're not sure on some of the other details." Strobel, of course, makes no comment and implicitly agrees to this point.
Wow. Armed with this presumption, I could start my own religion complete with holy book. All I require is a few facts and historical truths mixed in with the dogma. I wonder if Dr. Blomberg would extend his gratuitous, non-critical approach to books of other religions which also contain some historical truth. Sorry, folks, but it doesn't work this way. The burden of proof is on the Bible to show that it is absolutely error-free. We don't start by believing a book until it is proved UNTRUE, do we? A logical person's default position has to be that of skepticism.
In the end, Lee Strobel reveals Christianity for what it is: a religious belief based on lack of conclusive evidence.

This book presents itself as an unbiased seeking after the truth about the life of Jesus. The narrator, Mr. Strobel, claims to have great journalistic credentials. Unfortunately, the book presents a case for Jesus as God that only a true believer could swallow.
The book is intellectually dishonest. I was barely 25 pages into the book before I came across several gems such as this. Mr. Strobel claims corroborating "evidence" for the Gospels being fact, because they are, "Confirmed by a sort of 1st-century journalist," (p. 25) after citing Papias (p. 23) and Irenaeus (p. 24). Both Papias and Irenaeus were active in the 2nd-century -- making them out to be 1st-century makes them seem closer to the events in question, not four to seven generations later. Both were early Christian church leaders, nothing like a journalist:
Irenaeus, (c. 130-202) was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyon, France. His writings were formative in the early development of Christian theology, and he is recognized as a saint by both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church; both consider him a Father of the Church. He was a notable early Christian apologist.
Papias (2nd century) was one of the early leaders of the Christian church, canonized as a saint. Eusebius calls him "Bishop of Hierapolis"
This deceptive tactic is typical of the entire flimsy fabric of the case Strobel makes.
Also typical is Strobel's citing of "indirect eyewitness testimony." (p. 25) Strobel begins the book by describing some of the trial of Timothy McVeigh. He states that McVeigh was convicted by only circumstantial evidence, thereby implying that circumstantial evidence is reliable. In U.S. courts, there is a specific term for "indirect eyewitness testimony." It's called hearsay, and it's not allowed. ("No, really Your Honor, Bob told me that he saw Mr. Strobel rob that bank.")
Strobel notes that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke appear to have copied material from the Gospel of Mark. Mark is purported to be (scholars aren't sure of course) the companion of Peter. And Mark is purported to have, "handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter's preaching." (p. 24). So we have Matthew and Luke copying the work of Mark who is interpreting the preaching of Peter, who actually saw Jesus. This is Strobel's idea of evidence: "indirect eyewitness testimony." This is hearsay on top of hearsay on top of hearsay.
Strobel quotes Josephus, born in 37 AD (p. 77): after Jesus' death. He participated in the war with Rome (66 - 74 AD). Josephus writes how a High Priest Ananias convened the Sanhedrin to question James, brother of Jesus and others. Josephus writes that this Ananias declared that James and others had violated the law and should be stoned. James, "had apparently been converted by the appearance of the risen Christ ... compare John 7:5 and 1 Corinthians 15:7 -- and corroboration of the fact that some people considered Jesus to be the Christ." (quote: Edwin Yamauchi, p. 78) Let's see: Josephus writes about a high priest at least a generation older than himself (hearsay) and that high priest convicted James, Jesus' brother of a crime worthy of stoning ("[he] had transgressed the law" (p. 78)). From this we are to conclude that Jesus was god resurrected, and this matches the Bible verses, so it must be true. Right.
Also from Josephus, is the passage from Testimonium Flavium, "he [Jesus] was one who wrought surprising feats and a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Christ. ... crucified ... appeared to them restored to life." (p. 79) Yamauchi admits the passage is controversial: "early Christian copyists inserted some phrases that a Jewish writer like Josephus would not have written." (p. 79) Insertions such as: "If one ought to call him a man," "He was the Christ," and "on the third day he he appeared to them restored to life." (all noted by the expert, Yamauchi, pp. 79-80) "The passage in Josephus probably was originally written about Jesus, although without those three points I mentioned." (Yamauchi, p. 80) And Strobel leaves it at that! All the supernatural godlike references (all hearsay anyway) were admittedly added by later Christian copyists (when? Yamauchi doesn't say.) Again, no one is disputing that a Jesus lived and taught in Palestine in the beginning of the first century, which is all the Josephus passages tell us. Pretty reliable that Josephus reported hearsay about a Jesus without supernatural aspects (p. 81). Amazing evidence!
Strobel and Yamauchi also quote Pliny the Younger (63-118 AD), born 30 years after Jesus' death. "I asked them if they were Christians ... they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses ... in honor of Christ as if to a god." So, Pliny simply confirms that there were early followers of Christianity. No one disputes this. From this passage, Yamauchi concludes that it is "Very important. It was probably written about 111 AD [80 years, 4 generations, after Jesus' death] and it attests to the rapid spread of Christianity, both in the city and the rural areas, among every class of person." (p. 82) Pliny mentions nothing about rapid spread, numbers of Christians, their locations, or their class. This conclusion is typical of the logic and reasoning used throughout the book. It's pathetic.
We are left with copies of copies of copies (errors in transcription acknowledged) of hearsay upon hearsay. This is presented as strong evidence. Only to a true believer. The book is superficial and too glib by half. It might be entertaining if presented as a novel; but it's got nothing on the DaVinci Code there (not that I believe anything in that book either!)

Lee Strobel's book, despite its high sounding title, miserably fails to make a case for the historicity of Jesus Christ. Strobel, without doubt, is a dramatic writer. Unfortunately, drama cannot substitute for substance, logic and consistency. Drama is not evidence.
Strobel is a former legal affairs journalist. Strobel's background makes it harder for me to believe that his earnestness about his case for Christ is real. What is real is his immaculate understanding of his main audience (hordes of believing Christians) who are predisposed to accept any "evidence" that confirms their belief in Jesus Christ as a historical character. Strobel deftly exploits this predisposition of his audience to the fullest. To those who are not similarly predisposed, but eager to sincerely hear his case, Strobel's brilliance fails to dazzle. In fact, the lack of substance in his "case" is disappointing, even annoying.
PREPPING HIS AUDIENCE -- STROBEL'S INTRODUCTION
Strobel cleverly uses the introduction of his book primarily to prep his audience. He starts out by informing his audience that he was an atheist. [Message: "Unlike many of you, I am not predisposed to believing."] It was the sudden conversion of his wife to evangelical Christianity that changed Strobel's life. The wife's conversion impelled Strobel to take Christianity seriously and to inquire the historicity of the Gospel accounts. Immediately he puts his audience into a great, positive mood by claiming that Christianity had no negative effects on his wife. Strobel's initial fears regarding her wife's conversion, such as her turning into a "sexually repressed prude," were groundless. Much to Strobel's relief, Mrs. Strobel maintained her "upwardly mobile lifestyle." Not only that, to Strobel's utter amazement, Mrs. Strobel miraculously developed "integrity" of character and "personal confidence." To the believing audience the message is clear: Jesus Christ has to be real to cause such "fundamental changes in her character." To the unbelievers the subtle message is: "No further proof is necessary. But since I said I will give you evidence for the historical reality of Jesus Christ, I shall condescend."
To further prep his audience Strobel asserts, "we can't have absolute proof about anything in life." That is a specious statement. Who is asking for "absolute proof?" All that is being asked is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
By making this "absolute proof" statement, Strobel is once again sending a subtle message to his audience: "There is sufficient "proof" for the Jesus story. But the skeptics are not going to believe even if "absolute proof" were offered." Strobel continues this technique through out his book of sending subliminal manipulative messages to his ingratiated audience.
"THE EYEWITNESS EVIDENCE"
That is the title of Strobel's first chapter. When I read that title I thought Strobel is going to do what no one has done: Present eyewitnesses accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. So what is Strobel up to? Well, through an irrelevant contemporary story of a black youth named Leo Carter, who witnesses murder and in the process almost gets killed, Strobel is dramatizing the importance of eyewitness testimony. Thank you Mr. Strobel for the dramatic story of Leo, or we would not know the central importance of an eyewitnesses testimony. Strobel writes: "I knew just as Leo Carter's testimony clinched the convictions of three brutal murderers, eyewitness accounts from the mists of distant time could help resolve the most important spiritual issue of all." Leo Carter's story as an eyewitness to multiple murders is real life drama. I begin to shift in my chair with excitement at the possibility of meeting the Leo Carters of "distant time." Strobel punctures the balloon of my excitement. Instead of bringing eyewitnesses to the witness box to get "solid answers," who does he bring? Hold your breath! It is Craig Blomberg, the author of The Historical Reliability of the Gospels."
So much so for the eyewitnesses!
To clear the mist hanging over Strobel's opening chapter, let us imagine that Strobel is in the courtroom before the judge. He just finished relating Leo Carter's story. This is what happens next.
Judge: "Mr. Strobel now produce your eyewitnesses please."
Silence.
Judge: " Mr. Strobel, I heard your irrelevant story about the black kid, now will you produce the eyewitnesses for your case, please."
Silence.
Judge: "One last time, Mr. Strobel, do you have an eyewitness?"
Strobel: "Your honor, I have an expert who can testify..."
Judge: " Mr. Strobel, by the story of the black kid you gave me the impression you had eyewitnesses -- don't you even have one eyewitness?"
Strobel: "I have an expert, actually several scholarly, sincere, Christian experts, who are willing to testify."
Judge: "So, you concede you have no eyewitness for Jesus Christ?"
Strobel: "Your honor, I will offer you expert testimony that shall convince you and the jury of the authenticity of the Jesus story."
That summarizes what Strobel's book is about. From here on all that Strobel does is talk to Christian experts who according to him are scholars of distinction and know their subject well. So much so that Strobel does not see the necessity to talk to any neutral or "non Christian" sources. Strobel's case is exclusively based on interviews he conducts with Christian "experts ." This one sided opinion is presented as "testimony." And woe unto you if you do not believe this testimony. Case closed.
Strobel completely aligns himself with the religious mindset and the book is nothing but a reinforcement of "accepted" Christian belief and scholarship. Not only his "case" has no eyewitnesses he has nothing to offer by way of new research or unbiased answers.
Is this deception or what? Why not tell the reader at the outset, "Look I have nothing new to offer. I concede there are NO eyewitnesses for my case for Christ. But I can offer you the expert opinion of Christian scholars who know what they are talking about." Such forthright statements are not made because such an admittance does not sell.

Just reading the pages excerpted on Amazon.com should be enough to raise serious doubts in anybody's mind about Mr. Strobel. For example, he opens by praising eye witness testimony. As a former court reporter, he should be aware that eye witness testimony is about the _least_ trustworthy type of evidence there is. In recent decades, eye witness testimony has been investigated closely and people have found case after case where witnesses confidently witness under oath to things that it was physically impossible for them to have seen. It was too dark, they were too far away, they were there at the wrong time, etc, yet that doesn't stop people from believing what they think they saw and confidently offering testimony that is totally false.
But then Lee gets worse. Who testifies to the veracity of the Gosples? Why Papias - who testifies in the year 125, nearly a century after Jesus died, that yes indeed, the Gosples were written exactly the way the church that he represents says so. Was he there to see them do it? Does he give any evidence for his belief? Well ... no. But he was an early Christian and that ought to count for something, right?
But never fear, next Strobel drags out Irenaeus - who also testifies to the veracity of the gosples - in the year 180! A century and a half after Jesus died! And was he there? Does he have any evidence? Nope, but his word's good enough for Lee.

One might first ask, if faith is faith, why is it necessary to make a "case" at all? One believes for compelling moral, personal, and spiritual reasons. By its nature, faith does not need proof; it isn't subject to logical necessity. It is a matter of heart and soul.
But Lee Strobel must think the opposite, for he has written a book to justify faith.
Strobel claims to be following the procedure used in court cases to determine the truth or falsehood of a case: he interviews "expert witnesses," i.e., people whose professional credentials qualify them to deliver authoritative and therefore persuasive opinions on the various kinds of evidence under consideration in the question of whether Jesus Christ was who he said he was: the son of God and the saviour of mankind. We readers are the "jury." Having heard the testimony of the experts, we are free to arrive at our own decisions about the divinity and mission of Christ.
If Strobel had actually done what he claims to be doing, we might have an interesting book. But in a real court case, the experts on both sides are available for questioning and cross-questioning. The lawyer for one side does not get to present his experts and merely summarize/characterize or sometimes caricature the opinions on the other side. If a decision were reached on such a basis, the case would be thrown out of court. Yet, this is essentially what Strobel has done. He interviews people who are unquestionably experts, but whose beliefs match his own. Like a good novelist, he creates a character who seems to be conducting an impartial inquiry based on a personal quest, but that is an authorial illusion. The case has already been decided, the experts chosen accordingly. As for arguments on "the other side"? Strobel gives his own paraphrases, but interviews no one. There is no real dialogue, no real disagreement, no real "other side" to the book at all, not even from believing experts whose credentials are equally compelling. The "case," though it appears to be impartially conducted, is loaded from the beginning. Stroebel's lack of real objectivity is apparent in the occasional reference to arguments on the other side as crazy or idiotic, or the implication that "liberal" scholars must be atheists or non-believers for not accepting the Bible's words at face value.
Interestingly, for Strobel the "other side" is not disbelief in the divinity of Christ. A believer who does not consider the Bible's texts unquestionably historical is on "the other side," a phrase which seems to suggest an entire lack of faith rather than a different understanding about the historical status of Biblical narrative.
One ought to be suspicious of the "dramatic" elements in Strobel's book as well. As any good journalist learns in school, one makes a story more readable and compelling by getting in "the human element," the telling detail, the puzzled reaction. Strobel's writing techniques are commercial and formulaic: he has studied up on how to create characters and dramatic scenes. His faith may be serious, but he writes to sell.
There are genuine and profound areas of debate and disagreement in the field of Biblical studies, even among believing scholars. After reading Strobel's books, I would recommend reading serious scholarship, and a lot of it, rather than the one-sided pretense of The Case for Christ. True faith doesn't need a defense, but it can be enriched by real inquiry.

The Case For Christ is a biased, one-sided presentation by a Christian minister. Strobel only interviewed believing Christian experts; most were professors at seminaries and schools of theology and two were also pastors. It is not surprising they believe in the accuracy of the Gospels and the divinity of Jesus. He interviewed no scholars with opposing views like Sanders, Mack, or Fredriksen. Although Strobel raised issues and problems he readily accepted any explanation given. An analogy would be a court trial where only one attorney presents his case and calls only his expert witnesses to the stand. How could a jury reach a fair and truthful verdict under these circumstances?
The common apologetic argument is presented that if the Gospels were not true someone would have objected at that time. Let's look at the situation. According to most NT scholars the Gospels were written by unknown authors decades after Jesus lived. They were also written in Greek outside of Palestine. Considering these facts and the short average lifetime, that few people could read, and that the common language was Aramaic, it is not surprising at all opposing words were not heard or recorded. Archaeology has not proven the accuracy of the NT. If certain towns or people mentioned in the Bible are found to have existed at that time, so what? A novel about the Civil War will include the names of actual places and historical characters, but it is still fiction.
Paul admitted he never knew or met Jesus "in the flesh." He only had a "vision" of meeting Jesus. Paul also stated Jesus "appeared" to the disciples, to the 500, and then to Paul. It is probable that seeing Jesus after his death only meant having had a vision or dream. And if one disciple claimed to have seen Jesus wouldn't the others also do so in order not to feel less special or blessed? There is no corroborating evidence outside the Bible for these appearances.
For outside corroborating evidence Strobel quotes a number of pagans and church fathers. Let us take a closer look at this historical "evidence.":
  • Josephus' comments are universally acknowledged to have been altered or doctored by later Christians. He also wrote eighty years after Jesus lived.
  • Tacitus and Pliny the Younger were Romans who wrote about the beliefs of early Christians. They also wrote eighty years later.
If I wrote that Mormons believed Joseph Smith discovered ancient tablets from which he wrote the Book of Mormon would that be proof he had actually done so? Of course not. I would merely be writing about what others believed.
This is all Tacitus and Pliny the Younger did. Thallus, whose works have been lost, apparently mentioned an eclipse in one of his books. Julius Africanus, a Christian Bishop writing 200 years after Jesus, said no, it was a supernatural event which took place the day Jesus died. This is hardly historical evidence supporting the validity of the Gospels.
Iganatius, another Christian Bishop and therefore biased, is cited as confirming the crucifixion, but he died an estimated eighty years later so how could he be a witness?
The Jesus Seminar is derisively dismissed as an "extremely small number of radical fringe scholars who are on the far, far left wing of NT thinking." The JS consists of 70 of the leading experts in the field like John Dominic Crossan, Robert Funk, and Marcus Borg. They hardly fit the author's description. On the contrary I would venture that the thinking of those in the book do not represent the majority mainstream thinking based upon the latest research.
Every argument has two sides but Strobel has only presented one. His book is not a true investigation but merely propaganda. He fails to provide rational and convincing evidence.


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