The Case for Christmas: Chapter 1
Or: How I Learned to Stop Thinking Critically and Accept the Gospels at Face Value.
I’m not sure that has much of a ring to it.
The for-real title is The Eyewitness Evidence: Can the Biographies of Jesus Be Trusted?
It begins as all of the chapters of The Case for Christ/mas apparently do: Strobel relates a story of some horrible crime, and how a certain type of evidence solved it. In this case, several murderers were put behind bars because of the testimony of an eyewitness.
And eyewitness testimony is just as crucial in investigating historical matters—even the issue of whether the Christmas manger really contained the unique Son of God.
Okay, let’s see where this gets us—after all, Strobel is investigating the issue, right? Says so right on the cover of the book. So there is no doubt that he will go about this investigation in a detached and objective manner, right?
Well, he interviews one person.
Yep, one guy. But hey, he’s a guy who will give Strobel the answers that he wants to hear, so that’s kinda like doing a real investigation and examining the competing viewpoints!
Hey—I know all about the Gospels, too! I recently listened to three out of the four Jesus Chronicles by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins!*
Anyway, there is no reason to doubt Strobel’s objectivity:
“Tell me this,” I said with an edge of challenge in my voice, “is it really possible to be an intelligent, critically thinking person and still believe that the four gospels were written by the people whose names have been attached to them?”
See, he’s serious about this! His voice has an Edge of Challenge!
Edge of Challenge would be a great name for a sword.
Blomberg set his coffee cup on the edge of his desk and looked intently at me. “The answer is yes,” he said with conviction.
Well, I’m sold. He looks with intensity and speaks with conviction. That’s like passionate sincerity, right?
He sat back and continued. “It’s important to acknowledge that strictly speaking, the gospels are anonymous.”
Dude. Not so sure that’s what Strobel wants to hear.
And it isn’t; Blomberg goes on to say that “the uniform testimony of the early church” (and if you can’t trust the early church, who can you trust???) is that the gospels are properly attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and that the gospels are “obviously based on eyewitness material.”
Well, second- and third- and fourth-hand material, written decades after the fact, in accounts that contradict each other.
Strobel goes on to make a couple of weak-assed points that Blomberg easily counters—such as that the gospels do not read like modern biographies. As an evil atheist myself, this is not exactly the kind of point that makes me question Christianity.
But I’m getting the feeling that this is what we’re in for—tiny and largely pointless issues being presented as Major Criticisms of Faith…until the softballs are hit out of the park by experts who have the answers Strobel already wanted to hear.
As I said, Blomberg is the only expert consulted in this chapter. Strobel interviews no one else about the authorship or veracity of the gospels. At a couple of points, he reads very brief passages out of books like Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, and Blomberg responds to them, but this hardly strikes me as proper investigative technique. Strobel certainly doesn’t speak to Armstrong personally, or anyone else who might disagree with Blomberg.
But don’t worry, because when Strobel quotes Armstrong’s book, Blomberg’s “expression turned sour,” his “eyes narrowed, and his voice took on an adamant tone.” So we know right away that there is only one way to think, and that interviewing people with other viewpoints would simply clutter up the “investigation.”
With an “air of triumph,” Blomberg explains how he thinks the gospels were written earlier than some people say they were. But even if that’s true, I can’t find myself caring very much, because that doesn’t make them any less mythological.
Honestly, this is my issue: whether or not the gospels were written by the guys whose names are on them, ARE THEY TRUE?
Hell, the title of this chapter is not “Who Wrote the Gospels?’ but “Can the Biographies of Jesus Be Trusted?”
Guys, this first chapter is not instilling confidence in me for the rest of the book.
But hey, next up, we are back in Michael Murphy’s wheelhouse: biblical archaeology!
* If you’re wondering if they will ever appear on this blog: no. Not in a million years. If they were the last books on Earth and I was the last blogger on Earth, I still would not critique them. They are excruciating, and not in fun ways like Christiano Brothers movies and Soon and Babylon Rising. I have rarely been so bored as when I listened to these books. I know it’s a cliché, but they are a cure for insomnia. If anyone wants to give them a try, well…you’ve got guts.