The Case for Christ
Although Strobel claimed to be an atheist when he started this book, many readers have pointed out that he did a very bad job supporting the atheist position. Furthermore, he conducted interviews only with Christian apologists, and none with atheists or skeptics. He has claimed that the book is balanced because he himself is arguing against the apologists, but at many points in the book he appears extremely reluctant to challenge his subjects.
Further, if Strobel proved the existence of Christ as a historical fact then there would be no room for "faith". Therefore, he is satisfied to give the reader a "case" as to not negate the importance of faith.
Formula for the book
Basically, each chapter goes like this:
- Insert an anecdote about modern criminal cases and how they were solved by a piece of evidence.
- Introduce somebody to serve as the Christian apologist.
- Describe every facet of their education and work history (a classic appeal to authority in hopes the reader will trust the validity of the next few pages).
- Play devil's advocate and ask the person "tough questions" posed by skeptics.
- Accept weak argument.
- Asks personal questions about the subject's religious convictions. ("How much do you love Jesus now?" "A lot!")
Rebuttals by Chapter
Chapter 1: The Eyewitness Evidence
- Subtitle: 'Can the Biographies of Jesus Be Trusted?
Interview with Craig Blomberg. Blomberg acknowledges that "strictly speaking, the gospels are anonymous." However this does not stop Blomberg from suggesting that the four gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, making them eligible eyewitness testimony. According to Blomberg, this fact is confirmed by Papias (writing circa CE 125).
Chapter 2: Testing the Eyewitness Evidence
- Subtitle: Do the Biographies of Jesus Stand Up to Scrutiny?
The interview with Bloomberg continues. Strobel first asks him if the biblical authors were interested in actually reporting what really happened? Bloomberg quotes Luke 1:1-4, basically saying that the gospels are accurate simply because they say they are.
Bloomberg then says that the gospel accounts do not contain "outlandish flourishes and blatant mythologizing that you see in other ancient writings."
To explain away all the inconsistencies in the Bible, Bloomberg defends the Bible by stating "If the gospels were too consistent, that in itself would invalidate them as independent witnesses. People would say that we really have only one testimony that everyone else is parroting."
Bloomberg tries to counter the propaganda aspect of the Bible, saying that the Bible contains many embarrassing or difficult problems and yet the gospel writers made no attempt to cover it up.
Blomberg concedes that the Gospels, if accurate, would be corroborated by archaeological and historical evidence.
Finally, Bloomberg questions if the gospel accounts were not true, then why did contemporary eye-witnesses not correct them or proclaim their inaccuracy.
Chapter 3: The Documentary Evidence
- Subtitle: Were Jesus' Biographies Reliably Preserved for Us?
Interview with Bruce M. Metzger, Ph.D., a professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary and chairman of the New Revised Standard Version Bible Committee on the reliability of the textual transmission of the New Testament. That is, because the original books of the New Testament are lost, how do we know that "each copied document was identical to the original?" Metzger argues that because the gospels have a vast amount of copies that often agree with each other provides evidence for their accuracy.
Strobel then asks Metzger why some books were included in the New Testament and others (e.g., the Gospel of Thomas) were not? Strobel includes why did the early church fathers seek to exclude legitimate books that portrayed Jesus in a way they did not like and why the New Testament contains some evident interpolations. Metzger admits that "church councils squelched equally legitimate documents because they didn't like the picture of Jesus they portrayed."
Chapter 4: The Corroborating Evidence
- Subtitle: Is There Credible Evidence for Jesus outside His Biographies?
Interview with Edwin Yamauchi (who holds a doctorate in Mediterranean Studies from Brandeis University, and teaches at Miami University in Oxford, OH.) about extra-biblical evidence that confirms the contents of the New Testament. The first on Edwin's list of evidences in Josephus. Josephus was a Jew, born around 37 CE in Palestine. He served in the Jewish War of 66-70 and was captured by the Romans. He then threw his support behind the enemy, declaring that the General Vespasian would become emperor—a prophecy which came true within a year. As a consequence, he was adopted as a client by Vespasian and spent the rest of his life in Rome, where he wrote histories of the Jewish War and of the Jewish people. In manuscripts of the latter work, called Antiquities of the Jews, published about 93 CE. There are two references to Jesus in this book.
Yamauchi also claims that other ancient sources provide independent confirmation of the New Testament: Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Thallus, the Talmud, and the writings of the early church fathers.
Chapter 5: The Scientific Evidence
- Subtitle: Does Archaeology Confirm or Contradict Jesus' Biographies?
Interview with John McRay, Ph.D. He teaches at Wheaton College in suburban Chicago and studied at Hebrew University and the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem (an institution funded by the Vatican that for many years kept the Dead Sea Scrolls locked away from serious secular scholarship). McRay claims that archaeological discoveries have corroborated several of the incidental details of Luke, and that archaeology has bolstered the credibility of John and Mark.
In this chapter, they examine several stories in the New Testament, including the Consensus, Herod slaughtering the inhabitants of Bethlehem, and the existence of Nazareth.
The Consensus: In support of this contention, McRay provides an official Roman document (104 CE) that includes the reference: "...who for any cause are residing outside of their provinces to return to their homes that they may carry out the regular order of the census and may also attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments..."
The Existence of Nazareth: McRay says that Nazareth did exist as a hamlet.
Herod and Bethlehem:
McRay points out there is no historical evidence for the Book of Mormon, however reassures that evidence does exist for the New Testament.
Chapter 6: The Rebuttal Evidence
- Subtitle: Is the Jesus of History the Same As the Jesus of Faith?
In this chapter, Strobel addresses the Jesus Seminar. The scholars of the jesus seminar examined the canonical gospels and the Gospel of Thomas and pinpointed what Jesus actually said and did not say. They concluded 82% of the words of Jesus in the Bible are not the actual words of Jesus (doubt still remains on the remaining 18%).
Strobel interviews Gregory A. Boyd, Ph.D. Boyd holds a doctorate from the Princeton Theological Seminary, and he is a professor of theology at Bethel College. Boyd is also a pastor at Woodland Hills Church. Boyd dismiss the Jesus Seminar because they do not think like traditional scholars.
Later, Boyd defends the miracles of Jesus. He claims they must have been real because they are too radical and unlike the other miracle workers of Jewish history. Boyd says that "the radical nature of his miracles distinguished him." Here are several of Jesus' miracles: multiplied fish, raised sons and daughters from the dead, cured blindness, deafness, and leprosy. Based on all of this, Boyd concludes that Jesus was different and special.
However, Boyd addresses this magical era as well. According to Boyd (dismissing the previous point that the gospel authors could have borrowed stories from others), Boyd says "if you're going to argue for borrowing, it should be from the direction of Christianity to the mystery religions, not vice versa."
Boyd argues at baptism could not have come from pagan sources (such as Mithra).
Near the end of the chapter, Strobel notes Boyd was "on the very edge of his chair" making a case for believing in what you love to believe in because you love to believe in it!
Chapter 7: The Identity Evidence
- Subtitle: Was Jesus Really Convinced That He Was the Son of God?
Strobel interviews Ben Witherington III, Ph.D. Witherington and they examine the Hick theory. The Hick theory comes from a British theologian John Hick (and a half-dozen like-minded colleagues) which it is alleged that Jesus never thought of himself as a god incarnate (John Hick, ed., The Myth of God Incarnate 2nd ed. (London: SCM Press, 1993)). In response, Witherington examines several passages from the Bible where Jesus references himself as God.
Chapter 8: The Psychological Evidence
- Subtitle: Was Jesus Crazy When He Claimed to Be the Son of God?
Interview with Dr. Collins has a doctorate in psychology from Purdue University and teaches at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He is the president of the American Association of Christian Counselors, which might offer a clue as to what he's going to say about the sanity of Jesus.
Collins makes the claim that people in Jesus' time thought him mad (John 10:20) because he went around doing miracles. However no Christian critic of the time recorded anything claiming Jesus was crazy, but Collins states that Jesus was not crazy because he did not exhibit the behavior of someone who is mentally disturbed.
Collins makes the claim here that Jesus' miracles could not be accounted for by mass hypnosis, because first, mass hypnosis doesn't work, and second, the descriptions of the miracles don't fit the phenomenon of mass hypnosis.
Chapter 9: The Profile Evidence
- Subtitle: Did Jesus Fulfill the Attributes of God?
The purpose of the chapter is to justify the reasoning behind the Trinity in a Biblical sense.
Regardless of personal belief of the positive characteristics of Jesus, the chapter is light on details of the actual functionality of God.
Chapter 10: The Fingerprint Evidence
- Subtitle: Did Jesus - and Jesus Alone - Match the Identity of the Messiah?
Explains how Jesus fufilled Old Testament prophecy.
Chapter 11: The Medical Evidence
- Subtitle: Was Jesus' Death a Sham and His Resurrection a Hoax?
This chapter was devoted to explaining that if you get nailed to a cross, you will die.
Chapter 12: The Evidence of the Missing Body
- Subtitle: Was Jesus' Body Really Absent from His Tomb?
For this chapter, he interviews William Lane Craig. Craig's credentials include a doctorate from the University of Birmingham and a doctorate in theology from the University of Munich.
Craig goes on to try to explain away the massive contradictions amongst the gospels of the story from the Trial to the Resurrection. Criag's best response: none of it matters. The gospels main message - that Jesus was tried, found guilty, crucified, declared dead, and rose from the dead - remain consistent.
Craig is satisfied that the details of the story are not consistent, otherwise (Craig argues) this would be a sign of plagiarism.
The bulk of Craig's arguments against the motive of plagiarism was that the gospel writers motives were "pure."
Chapter 13: The Evidence of Appearances
- Subtitle: Was Jesus Seen Alive after His Death on the Cross?
For this chapter, Strobel interviews Gary Habermas, Ph.D., D.D. Habermas holds a doctorate in divinity from Emmanuel College in Oxford, England. His Ph.D. is from Michigan State University, where he wrote his dissertation on the Resurrection. He is currently the chairman of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's school for evangelical fundamentalists.
Habermas, basing on linguistic evidence, argues the Nicean Creed (quoted from I Corinthians) is in fact a creed of the early church.
Moving on, Storbel and Habermas discuss hallucinations. Habermas quotes Gary Collins as saying that hallucinations are, by their nature, never a mass phenomena. Yet confusing or misunderstood phenomena often are misunderstood by masses of people. For example, the "UFO" seen by hundreds of people in Phoenix on an August night in 1997. Many who saw them swore that the five lights were attached to a huge wing-shaped object. Yet it was later proven by photographic analysis of the videos and still photographs shot that night that they were simply illumination flares lit off over the Goldwater Gunnery Range in southwestern Arizona by the Maryland Air National Guard on maneuvers. There's no question of what they were. But that doesn't stop the hundreds of people in Phoenix from believing that they saw a huge UFO that night. Similarly, it's quite possible for many people to misinterpret a phenomenon with a simple, rational explanation as something supernatural.
Chapter 14: The Circumstantial Evidence
- Subtitle: Are There Any Supporting Facts That Point to the Resurrection?
Here, Strobel interviews J.P. Moreland. Moreland holds a doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Southern California and is a professor at the Talbot School of Theology. Moreland makes an argument for the martyrdom of the early Christians, that they are different from Mormon and Muslim martyrs. The early Christians were willing to face torturer, no instant death.
Next, Moreland addresses the "harden skeptics" who were convinced by the resurrection of Jesus.
Finally, Moreland concludes the reason for Christianities success must be because it is true.
Conclusion: The Verdict of History
- Subtitle: What Does the Evidence Establish - And What Does It Mean Today?