Aiding our efforts in promoting Biblical truth is a series of well-researched books by former Chicago Tribune legal editor and former atheist, Lee Strobel, including titles such as “The Case For Faith,” “The Case For the Real Jesus,” and “The Case For a Creator.” His best-selling book is titled, “The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation Of The Evidence For Jesus,” and is a strong refutation of those who demean and undermine the life, death and resurrection of Christ. I downloaded it over the internet at no cost as an audio book for a two-week loan from my local library, but it was so good that I then bought a paperback copy to donate to our church library for the teenagers (and adults) to read.
Author Lee Strobel explains that he began his journey when his wife revealed to him one day that she had accepted Christ as her Savior. He was a bit disquieted at hearing her announcement, and decided to investigate the Biblical claims about Christ for himself. As a lawyer, he approached this on an evidence basis. In 318 pages, Strobel documents his subsequent interviews with thirteen leading modern scholars, well respected in their fields, to examine the evidence for and against the truth of Scripture. His research converted him to Christianity. Briefly, here are a few highlights of the large amount of evidence that he found:
The New Testament’s eyewitness testimonies and the biographies of Jesus were discussed with Dr. Craig L. Blomberg, PhD, a former research fellow at Cambridge University. We often hear agnostics make the claim that there are differences between the four Gospels, but Blomberg pointed out that these are relatively minor. One of the interesting points Dr. Blomberg made is that, “for every major theme or distinctive in John, you can find parallels in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, even if they’re not as plentiful.” (p.30) The Apostle John, he says, wrote with more of a “theological bent” but that does not at all cast doubt upon what he wrote.
The documentary evidence was discussed in detail with Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, PhD, of Princeton Theological Seminary, who authored or edited over fifty books including editing the “New Oxford Annotated Bible.” Metzger stated that there are over 5,000 early New Testament Greek manuscripts; dating from as early as 100 B.C. (p.63) The earliest New Testament fragment is a papyri from the Gospel of John chapter 18. There are 306 uncial Greek manuscripts, written in all capital letters, from as early as the third century, the most famous of which are the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus dating to 350 A.D. There are a total of 5,664 of these early Greek manuscripts. The late professor F.F. Bruce of the University of Manchester said, “There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.” (p.66)
The corroborating evidence affirming the Gospels was discussed with Dr. Edwin M. Yamauchi, PhD, of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He was born into a Buddhist family in Okinawa, Japan, and holds degrees in Hebrew, Hellenistic and Mediterranean studies. He is former president of the Institute for Biblical Research with 80 articles published in 37 scholarly journals. Yamauchi countered the false claim that “Jesus was never mentioned in secular history,” by quoting important references to him found in the writings of Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus. Josephus in his “Antiquities” tells of the High Priest Ananias and states, “He convened a meeting of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned.” (Jos. Ant. 20.200) Although agnostics typically dispute its genuineness, Yamauchi affirms that most scholars consider it as reliably historical.
The Roman historian Tacitus, writing in 115 A.D. stated in his Annals (15.44), “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome…Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty: then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.” It is interesting that the exact same charge of “hate” is still being made today against those who proclaim Biblical truth.
The scientific evidence for the New Testament was shared by Dr. John McRay, PhD, of Wheaton College, the author of “Archaeology and the Bible,” whose scholarly research has appeared in seventeen encyclopedias and dictionaries as well as twenty-nine published articles. He pointed out that for many years, a lack of existing supporting evidence for some New Testament statements has been asserted by some as proof of Biblical errors. One example given is the account in John 5:1-15 when Jesus healed an invalid by the pool of Bethesda, which according to the text had five porticoes, or colonnaded walkways. This pool, now forty feet below ground, was excavated in the late twentieth century, and the Biblical account was confirmed. It may seem surprising today, but at one time agnostics disputed even the existence of the Roman official, Pilate, in their attempt to undermine Christianity. Instead, both history and archaeology have uniformly confirmed the Bible.
Dr. Gregory A. Boyd, PhD, a Yale and Princeton-educated author of several books and contributor to the Quest Study Bible, refutes the “Jesus Seminar” theology. These agnostics use arbitrary criterion, such as “multiple attestation,” meaning that a New Testament statement is rejected unless it appears in more than one source (p.125). Yet this does not prove it is invalid! Secondly, their criterion of “double dissimilarity” claims that a New Testament verse was a later addition if it appears similar to Hebrew or later Christian theology. Since Jesus was Hebrew and founded Christianity, such a similarity should not be surprising! Lee Strobel observes with great insight, “loaded criteria, like weighted dice, inevitably bring the results that were desired from the beginning.” (p.126)
Dr. Ben Witherington III, PhD, of Asbury Theological Seminary, author of several books, discussed the identity evidence: Did Jesus believe Himself to be the Messiah and Divine Son of God? It is becoming popular with a growing number of Dispensational Futurists, who excuse the Jewish people’s lack of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, by maintaining that Jesus Himself never made such a claim. Dr. Witherington gave a host of Biblical evidence spanning several pages, but Matthew 16:15-17 is enough to refute such an assertion. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” The Apostle Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” (The Greek word for Messiah is Christ.) Instead of correcting him, Jesus affirmed Peter’s statement saying, “Blessed are you, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.” The divinity of Jesus as Messiah/Christ is also affirmed in 1 Corinthians 16:22-24 and other places.
Of special interest to British-Israelites is a chapter heading titled, “Is Joseph of Arimathea historical?” (p.226) He was a member of the Sanhedrin and all four Gospels mention him. Mark says that the entire Sanhedrin voted to condemn Jesus, but Luke states that Joseph of Arimathea was absent from the vote. Dr. William Lane Craig, PhD, DTh, formerly of Trinity Theological Divinity School, says that the fact that he was “a specific member of a specific group” is evidence that he is historical, and that the account of Joseph claiming the body of Jesus is accurate. He does not address the subject of why Joseph of Arimathea was entitled to claim the body, but according to other scholars, Joseph was Christ’s uncle and had a sea trading career. According to early British legends, Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain before Christ began His ministry.
Other chapters of this book discuss the psychological evidence, the profile evidence, the fingerprint evidence, the medical evidence for the death and resurrection, defending the empty tomb, the evidence for post-resurrection appearances, and the circumstantial evidence. This short review covers only a very small part of the excellent substantiation given in this book for the truth of the New Testament account of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. I highly recommend obtaining a copy of this book for your teens and family members who need to have their faith strengthened in the face of the onslaught of agnosticism in our society today. The professionally done audio book version is really great for those loved ones whom are not avid readers. Let us establish a solid foundation for British-Israel belief in our families by first confirming the Word of God in their hearts and minds.