Lee Strobel was an atheist and an investigative journalist who seeks to discredit Jesus after his wife converted to Christianity. He studied up on the literature and cross-examines scholars by asking the tough questions. The following are the takeaways from the book he wrote, The Case for Christ, about his experience lasting “more than 600 days and countless hours.”
Can the biographies of Jesus be trusted? (Consulted expert: Craig Blomberg)
- The biographies reflect eyewitness testimony and cannot be explained away as legendary invention because fundamental beliefs in Jesus’ miracles, resurrection and deity go way back to the dawning of the Christian movement.
- Mark, considered as the earliest gospel, was the companion of the Apostle Peter.
- Tradition has the author of “Acts of the Apostles” as Luke, the companion of Paul. Coincidentally, it doesn’t mention the death of Peter, thus it can be dated to before 62 A.D.
- Do the biographies of Jesus stand up to scrutiny? The gospel writers intended on preserving reliable history were able to do so, were honest, and were willing to include difficult-to-explain material, and didn’t allow bias to unduly color their reporting. The harmony of the among the gospels on essential facts, coupled with divergence on some details lends historical credibility. The early church could not have taken root and flourished right there in Jerusalem if it had been teaching facts about Jesus that its own contemporaries could have exposed as exaggerated or false. In short, the gospels were able to pass all eight evidential tests.
Were Jesus’ biographies reliably preserved for us? (Consulted expert: Bruce Metzger)
- Compared to other ancient documents there is an unprecedented number of New Testament manuscripts (more than 5,000 greek copies) and that they can be dated extremely close to the original writings. The modern New Testament is 99.5% free of textual discrepancies, with no major Christian doctrines in doubt.
- The criteria used by the early church to determine which books should be authoritative have ensured that we process the best records about Jesus.
Is there credible evidence for Jesus outside his biographies? (Consulted experts: Edwin Yamauchi & Gary Habermas)
- We have better historical documentation for Jesus than for the founder of any other major ancient religion. Sources from outside the Bible corroborate that many people believed Jesus performed healings and was the Messiah, that he was crucified and that, despite this shameful death, his followers, who believed he was still alive, worshiped him as God.
- Habermas mentioned that one expert documented 39 ancient sources that corroborate more than 100 facts concerning Jesus’ life, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection. Seven secular sources and several early creeds concern the deity of Jesus, a doctrine definitely present in the earliest church.
Does archaeology confirm or contradict Jesus’ biographies? (Consulted expert: John McRoy)
- Archaeologist John McRoy said there’s no question archaeological findings have enhanced the New Testament credibility. No discovery has ever disproved a biblical reference. Further, archaeology has established that Luke, who wrote about a quarter of the New Testament, was an especially careful historian. Concluded one expert: if Luke was so painstakingly accurate in his historical reporting of minor details, on what logical basis may we assume he was credulous or inaccurate on his reporting of matters that were far more important, not only to him but to others as well, like, for instance, the resurrection of Jesus.
Is the Jesus of history the same as the Jesus of faith? (Consulted expert: Gregory Boyd)
- Gregory Boyd said the much-publicized Jesus Seminar, which doubts Jesus said most of what is attributed to him, represents an extremely small number of radical fringe scholars who are on the far, far left wing of New Testament thinking. The seminar ruled out the possibility of miracles at the outset, it employed questionable criteria, and some participants have touted riddled documents of myth of extremely dubious quality. Further, the idea that stories about Jesus emerged from mythology about gods dying and rising fail to withstand scrutiny. Said Boyd, “The evidence for Jesus being the person who the disciples said he was is just light-years beyond my reasons that the left-winged scholarships of the Jesus Seminar are correct.” In sum, the Jesus of faith is the same as the Jesus of history.
Was Jesus really convinced that he was the Son of God? (Consulted expert: Dr. Ben Witherington III)
- By going back to the very earliest traditions which are unquestionable safe from legendary development, Ben Witherington III was able to show that Jesus had a supreme and transcendent self-understanding.
Was Jesus crazy when he claimed to be the Son of God? (Consulted expert: Gary Collins)
- Jesus exhibited no inappropriate emotions, was in contact with reality, was brilliant and had amazing insights into human nature, and enjoyed deep and abiding relationships. I just don’t see signs that Jesus was suffering from any known mental illness, he concluded. In addition, Jesus backed up his claim to being God through miraculous feats of healing, astounding demonstrations of power over nature, an unrivaled teaching, divine understanding of people, and with his own resurrection which was the final authentication of his identity.
Did Jesus fulfill the attributes of God? (Consulted expert: D. A. Carson)
- While the incarnation—God becoming man, the infinite become finite—stretches our imagination, Prominent Theologian, D. A. Carson, pointed out that there is a lot of evidence that Jesus exhibited the characteristics deity. Based on Philippians 2, many theologians believe Jesus voluntarily emptied himself of the independent use of these divine attributes as he pursued his mission of human redemption. Even so, the New Testament specifically confirmed Jesus ultimately possessed every qualification of deity, included omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, eternality, and immutability.
Did Jesus—and Jesus alone—match the identity of the Messiah? (Consulted expert: Louis Lapides)
- Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, prophets foretold of the coming of the Messiah, or the anointed one, who would redeem God’s people. In effect, dozens of these old testament prophecies created a fingerprint that only the true Messiah could fit. This gave Israel a way to rule out imposters and validate the credentials of the authentic messiah against astronomical odds—one chance in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion Jesus and only Jesus throughout history matched this prophetic fingerprint. This confirms Jesus identity to an incredible degree of certainty.
Was Jesus’ death a sham and his resurrection a hoax? (Consulted expert: Dr. Alexander Metherell)
- By analyzing medical and historical data, Dr. Alexander Metherell concluded that Jesus could not have survived the gruesome rigors of crucifixion, much less the gaping wound that pierced his lung and heart.
- As a result of the Roman flogging, there is evidence that Jesus was in hypovolemic shock for the loss of blood.
- Roman officials compelled a man named Simon to carry Jesus’ cross (Matt 27:32-33; Mark 15:21-22; Luke 23:26) probably because Jesus was too weak to continue on his own.
- The rapid heartbeat caused by the hypovolemic shock could have caused fluid to gather in the sack around the heart and the lungs (pleural effusion) which explains why, after they thrust a spear through his side, the Gospel of John states that both “blood and water” came out. (John 19:34)
- Even if Jesus had somehow lived through the torture, his ghastly condition could have never inspired a worldwide movement based the premise that he had gloriously triumphed over the grave.
Was Jesus’ body really absent from the tomb? (Consulted expert: William Lane Craig)
- There is striking evidence that the enduring symbol of Easter, the vacant tomb of Jesus, was a historical reality. The empty grave is reported, or implied, in extremely early sources Mark’s gospel and the 1 Corinthians 15 creed which dates so close to the event they could not have been products of legend.
- The fact the gospels report that women discovered the empty tomb bolsters the story’s authenticity, because the culture of the time did not consider women as viable witnesses.
- The site of Jesus’ tomb was known both to Christian and Jew alike, so it could have been checked by skeptics. In fact, nobody, not even the Roman authorities or Jewish leaders, ever claimed that the tomb still contained the Jesus’ body. Instead, they were forced to invent the absurd story that the disciples, despite having no motive or opportunity, had stolen the body. A theory that not even the most skeptical critic believes today.
Was Jesus seen alive after his death on the cross? (Consulted expert: Gary Habermas)
- The evidence for the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus didn’t develop gradually over the years as mythology distorted memories of his life. “Rather,” said resurrection expert Gary Habermas, “the resurrection was the central proclamation of the early church from the very beginning.” The ancient creed from 1 Corinthians 15 mentions specific individuals who encountered the risen Christ and Paul even challenged first-century doubters to talk to these individuals personally to determine the truth of the matter for themselves. The book of Acts is littered with extremely early affirmations of Jesus’ resurrection, while the gospels describe numerous encounters in detail.
- Concluded British theologian, Michael Green, the appearances of Jesus are as well authenticated as any in antiquity. There can be no rational doubt that they occurred.
Are there any supported facts that point to the resurrection? (Consulted expert: J.P. Moreland)
Final documentation of circumstantial for the resurrection:
- The disciples were in a unique position whether to know if the resurrection had happened, and they went to their deaths proclaiming it was true. Nobody willing and knowingly dies for a lie.
- Apart from the resurrection, there is no good reason why skeptics like Paul and James would have been converted and would have died for their faith.
- Within weeks of the crucifixion, thousands of Jews began abandoning key social practices that had critical sociological and religious importance for centuries. They believed they risked damnation if they were wrong.
- The early sacraments of communion and baptism affirmed Jesus’ resurrection and deity.
- The miraculous emergence of the church in the face of brutal Roman persecution rips great hole history. “A hole the size and shape of resurrection,” as C.F.D. Moule put it.
Some Concluding Statements of Strobel:
I’ll admit, I was ambushed by the amount and quality of the evidence that Jesus is the unique Son of God. As sat at my desk that Sunday afternoon, I shook my head in amazement. I had seen defendants carted off to the death chamber at much less convincing proof. The cumulative facts and data pointed unmistakably toward a conclusion that I was not completely comfortable in reaching. Frankly, I had wanted to believe that the deification of Jesus was the result of legendary development in which well-meaning, but misguided, people slowly turned a wise sage into the mythological Son of God. That seemed safe and reassuring, after all, a roving apocalyptic preacher from the first century could make no demands on me. But, while I went into my investigation thinking that this legendary explanation was intuitively obvious, I emerged convinced it was totally without basis.
After a personal investigation that spanned more than 600 days and countless hours, my own verdict for the case for Christ was clear. However, as a sat at my desk, I realized I needed more than an intellectual decision. I wanted to take the experiential step that J.P. Moreland had described in the last interview. Looking for a way to bring that about, I reached over to a bible and opened it to John 1:12, a verse I had encountered during my investigation. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” The key verbs in that verse spell out with mathematical precision what it takes to go beyond mere mental assent to Jesus’ deity and enter into an ongoing relationship with him by becoming adopted into God’s family: belief + receive = become.