The Case for the Real Jesus - Review and Comments

I recently read an excellent book called The Case For the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel. The book has 309 pages including the index. The author is said to have been the award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and a spiritual skeptic until 1981. In this book, the author tries to find answers for 6 modern challenges to the case for the real Jesus. He attempts to resolve each by consulting eminent scholars and authorities on the particular field where the challenge is posed, and each time he startles us with information and logic that should burst propaganda balloons and send them fizzing through the air. Two of the challenges are as follows: "Scholars are uncovering a radically different Jesus in ancient documents just as credible as the Four Gospels." [Answer: The challenge is faulty because the so called ancient documents turn out to be quite later writings influenced by Gnosticism], "The Bible's portrait of Jesus can't be trusted because the Church tampered with the text" [Answer: This challenge is uninformed by the latest developments in the field of textual criticism, which involves an understanding of what a textual variant means and why the Biblical manuscripts can be trusted as the closest to the original than any other ancient documents available. The so-called Telephone Game where a particular message is totally changed by the time it reaches a sixth or seventh ear, doesn't apply to the Biblical writings because there was always the community there that would evaluate the authenticity of the message]. Some of the eminent scholars that Lee interviews are people like Craig A. Evans, Daniel B. Wallace, Michael Licona, and Edwin M. Yamauchi. Some of the famous propagandists that are flat-tyred are people like Dan Brown, Bart Ehrman, Morton Smith, and Michael Baigent. The book is worth reading and I recommend it to anyone interested in a historical understanding of the Bible and the historical Jesus.

Having said that, I would like to add the following comments to the whole discussion of the Real Jesus:

1. To those who know it well who the Real Jesus IS in a personal way, the challenges regarding who the Real Jesus WAS (with regard to historical challenges posed by anti-Christian missiologists) is not a challenge at all. I have pointed the issue elsewhere in my philosophical discussion on the epistemology (root issues in the knowledge) of divine reality. Christianity doesn't move from Reason to Faith; it is Rational Faith. Also, faith is the foundation of reason itself. For a more academic treatment of the issue, I would refer the reader to my book Epistemics of Divine Reality. But, I'd just like to leave a quote here by an Indian evangelist Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929?) who was a very aggressive anti-Christian before his conversion to Christ through a vision of Jesus Himself. His life is an inspiration for any Indian youth who wishes to live and die for Christ alone. In his words, "I do not believe in Jesus Christ because I have read about Him in the Bible — I saw Him and experienced Him and know Him in my daily experience." "Not because I read the Gospels, but because of Him of whom I read in the Gospels, have I become what I am." "Already before my conversion I loved His teaching; it is beautiful. But my doubts were not swept away until I became aware that Christ was alive." (Cf. The Gospel of Sadhu Sundar Singh, pp.155,156. Original Book, PDF Text). When somebody asked Billy Graham how he knew God exists, he didn't need to quote some dry ontological argument; he simply replied, "I know He exists because I talked with Him this morning."

2. Often times the excuses against Jesus come from a mind that is blinded by sin. If the oppositions come out of ignorance, they can be shocked by facts and brought to a turning point. However, if they originate in a willful rejection, they may be silenced but not convinced. It's like the fool who closes his eyes and says, "There is no God." Sin distorts perception of and response towards truth. Denial takes many forms; some of which include disregarding evidences, distorting facts, and discriminating in favor of that which the heart wills to believe. Demosthenes said it well, "We believe whatever we want to believe." I don't think Lee Strobel's arguments could help someone who is not open to the truth and is someone who willingly wants to not listen to the truth. Lee's book can strengthen the faith of believers and help the agnostic seeker; but, a willful opponent might only be challenged to look for better reasons against all this. Jesus said, "Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." (Jn.7:17). The Jews knew the historical Jesus but refused to accept Him as the Messiah because they had willfully shut themselves against Him.

Academic studies have an important role to play in the various avenues of Christian ministry. But, when it comes to being a witness, Jesus has just one requirement: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8). Paul testified to the Corinthians, "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power." (1Cor.2:4,5). However, that is not reason to not equip oneself with the wisdom of faith that we see in books like Strobel's The Case for the Real Jesus. I would heartily recommend the reading of the book.

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