The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
Lee Strobel, a former legal journalist and atheist-turned-Christian, retraces his investigation into Jesus of Nazareth’s claim of being the Son of God when he interviewed respected scholars and authors as part of his extensive examination of Jesus. The Case for Christ was first published in 1998.
The text is basically a narration of the interviews and discussion, without it being a series of transcripts nor is the work autobiographical. It does, of course, reflect the author’s approach and mentality.
The text is logically structured into three (3) parts, spanning a total of fourteen (14) chapters. Part I: Examining the Record contains six chapters, Part II: Analyzing Jesus contains four chapters, and Part III: Researching the Resurrection contains four chapters.
The author writes well and the text is easily accessible. His questions are direct and no doubt his experience as a legal journalist contributed to his approach. The answers from the interviewees are succinctly presented. Each chapter can easily be a book in itself but the author has provided sufficient detail given by the interviewees whilst keeping the whole text to a single volume.
Those who are familiar with Christian apologetics will unlikely find anything new. Those who are not will most likely find something helpful. At minimum, even to believers who have been raised in the Christian faith and who are familiar with the subject, it is interesting to read what is in effect the author’s journey, an atheist’s critical but open-minded examination, and to see the questions and answers from his point of view.
Part I: Examining the Record.
1: The Eyewitness Evidence and 2: Testing the Eyewitness Evidence – Strobel interviewed Dr Craig L. Blomberg, an expert on the Gospels. Blomberg assesses the credibility of the authors, the origin of the Gospels as well as the variations and discrepancies. Also, there is a reasonably detailed discussion of the intention, abilities, character, consistency and objectivity of the Gospel authors.
3: The Documentary Evidence – Strobel interviewed Dr Bruce Metzger, expert on the New Testament, inquiring about the accuracy of the New Testament as we see it today. Metzger discusses the integrity of the New Testament in light of the number of manuscript or manuscript fragments and how it has been preserved through the ages. It is embarrassing as to how many manuscripts or manuscript fragments exist for other ancient texts and yet they are not questioned.
4: The Corroborative Evidence – Dr Edwin Yamauchi discusses the non-biblical references to Jesus and early Christianity. Yamauchi also points out that unlike Jesus Christ, the beginning of religious movements are typically not written about until at least a century later.
5: The Scientific Evidence – Dr John McRay discusses the archeological support for the events and occurrences as recorded in the Gospels.
Of course, no analysis is complete without considering any potential refuting evidence. In 6: The Rebuttal Evidence – Dr Gregory Boyd discusses the findings of the Jesus Seminar, other “mystery religions” and apocryphal writings.
Part II: Analyzing Jesus.
7: The Identity Evidence – Dr Ben Witherington III evaluates Jesus’s behavior and how he spoke as if he were God.
8: The Psychological Evidence – Psychologist Dr Gary Collins analyzes Jesus’s behavior, dealing with the obvious question of Jesus’s sanity.
9: The Profile Evidence – Dr D.A. Carson compares Jesus to the attributes of God, including omnipotence and omnipresence. The mystery of the Incarnation is also discussed and Carson evaluates the character of Jesus and how He interacted with others.
10: The Fingerprint Evidence – The author interviews Louis Lapides in what is probably one of the more interesting chapters. Lapides talks about his own spiritual journey, raised as a Jew who later investigated Jesus by studying the Old Testament prophecies. Lapides scrutinizes the Old Testament prophecies, discussing the objections of coincidence, intentional fulfillment, accuracy of the Gospels and the issue of inappropriate contexts. As interesting as this chapter is, it would be even more absorbing (and informative) if more prophecies are laid out and dissected. Admittedly, this could not be done to great detail without increasing the thickness of the book by a considerable amount, but for some a brief outline would be helpful.
Part III: Researching the Resurrection.
11: The Medical Evidence – Dr Alexander Metherell, a medical doctor and engineer, discusses in detail the physical effects on Jesus of each event during the Passion, from the hematidrosis at the Garden of Gethsemane to the flogging and the crucifixion itself.
12: The Evidence of the Missing Body – Dr William Lane Craig comprehensively deals with the issue of the empty tomb, including the security of the tomb, the question of the guards, the variations within the Gospel accounts, the reliability of the witnesses and alternative theories.
13: The Evidence of Appearances – Dr Gary Habermas, an expert on the Resurrection, discusses the details surrounding Paul’s speech in 1 Corinthians 15, the testimony as presented in the Gospels, Mark’s so-called missing conclusion and other objections such as the appearances are legendary or caused by hallucinations.
14: The Circumstantial Evidence – Although circumstantial evidence may be considered as secondary, it nonetheless enhances the overall case. The previous chapters dealt directly with various issues concerning Jesus. In what is probably one of the more interesting chapters, however, Dr J.P. Moreland discusses the circumstances, including the fact that the disciples died for the faith, the conversion of skeptics, the change in social structure as a result of conversion and the growth of the early Church.
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