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    Review: The Case for the Real Jesus

    November 21, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    I warned you that I wouldn’t be using my usual methodology for this review. I just don’t think that it fits the genre, and there is no need to overextend the method. I am not as rigid as I often appear. I also prophesy that Thanksgiving is in our near future, and there is a chance that if I began an in-depth critical analysis of a book, I wouldn’t finish it until the New Year. This would make December seem very long.

    One of the reasons I didn’t want to stick to my good/true/beautiful analysis style is because this book is written by a journalist {Lee Strobel}. Even though Cindy says that Richard Weaver blames journalism for the vulgarization of language, I don’t dislike journalism. However, because of its aim for the plain facts, the only additional details are those that serve to make the source seem more “real,” which usually takes the form of a description of the source’s attire, demeanor, or selection of coffee mug.

    I consider journalism to be generally lacking in beauty, but I don’t begrudge it this fact, and I testify that there is a wealth of information in The Case for the Real Jesus. I would especially suggest reading this if you have friends, family, or aquaintances that have been confused {or even wooed} by the writings of skeptics concerning the Gnostic gospels, higher textual criticism, or “copycat” Pagan religions. I especially benefited from the discussion of Mithraism.

    Strobel attempts to discuss six challenges to the reality of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels by consulting with well-known experts in the field. Most of his sources have a whole host of letters after their names and are well respected by both liberal and conservative scholars. For instance, for Challenge #1, he interviews Craig A. Evans, Ph.D., who is, among other things, an author and editor of over fifty books mostly concerning ancient texts.

    I would say that Strobel’s weakest source was Michael Licona, who is currently a Ph.D. candidate. Strobel prepares the reader to become aquainted with the foremost scholars in the world, and then suddenly, here is Licona, a former Korean martial artist. Licona appears to be famous due to his association and collaboration with resurrection expert Gary R. Habermas. It was hard for me not to get the impression that Habermas was the real expert, and that Licona, though thoroughly versed in the facts, was still up-and-coming.

    This is not to say that Licona did a poor job. I simply had expectations of hearing from the most respected and recognized experts, and I think Licona doesn’t qualify as such, at least not yet. But maybe he does and I just wasn’t convinced? It is hard to say.

    The only other weakness I saw in this work was in the interview with Michael L. Brown, Ph.D. from FIRE School of Ministry. This man has an incredible heart to see the salvation of the Jewish people, and is an authority on Messianic prophecy. However, Brown seemed to muddle the humanity of Jesus a bit. I am do not claim to be sure about what Brown actually believes, but in the interview he seemed to hint that Jesus was fully God, not a man, but rather revealed Himself as a man.

    I do not think that I am finding an actual theological flaw in Brown’s interview. Rather, I would say that he was emphasizing the deity of Christ, and so Christ’s humanity simply got lost a bit.

    What I loved about this book was that it tackled a lot of the hard questions. For folks wanting to study more, it is heavily footnoted and also contains a suggested reading list at the conclusion of each chapter. This book would serve as a great starting point for those wanting to commence study on some of the confusing issues of our time.

    If I had a friend who was truly struggling in one of these areas, I think a great approach would be to read the applicable chapter together and then discuss it. If said friend is still questioning or confused, then I’d encourage pressing on into the suggested reading list. Many skeptics simply enjoy being skeptical and antagonistic, but there are also many seekers that will respond to chasing after truth together.

    And perhaps that is the best aspect of this book. Once again, I am reminded that Christians needn’t fear truth, that, as Si is always saying, all truth is God’s truth.

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  • Reply dude August 19, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    stumbled on this page while doing a little research and had a few of the same thoughts…good stuff.

  • Reply Brandy November 25, 2007 at 1:59 am

    Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

  • Reply Sarah November 25, 2007 at 1:18 am

    I’m looking forward to reading this. I heard Lee Strobel speak several months ago and thought he was great.
    Visiting from Semicolon’s Saturday Review–

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