I am going to start reviewing several books by Christian authors on the following subject: Are the core claims of Christianity believable in a modern, educated world? The first book I intend to review is edited, partially written by, my former LCMS pastor, Dr. John Bombaro, entitled, Making the Case for Christianity; Responding to Modern Objections.
Dr. Bombaro had previously recommended the scholarly Christian works listed below to me in an email sent this summer after I had reviewed here on this blog a church newsletter article he had written regarding the above issue:
“Did you get through How God Became Jesus edited by Michael Bird? Read all the words in N. T. Wright’s 817-page The Resurrection of the Son of God? Or how about Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach? He’s got a much anticipated one being published by Oxford University Press by summer’s end — can’t wait for that one. How about you? Got yours on order? Or, again, Richard Bauckham’s landmark, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. If these academic works are too difficult for you, then how about Paul Barnett’s Finding the Historical Christ? Read that one. It’s now a standardized text.”
So I will attempt to review at least some of these texts next.
In fact, I have already read NT Wright’s book, The Resurrection of the Son of God…all 817 pages…but I found it unconvincing. Wright’s principle argument is that no first century Jew or Greek would have ever imagined the concept of an individual person being resurrected. However, if we are to believe the Gospels, this is exactly what Jesus had been telling his disciples for three years! So which is more probable: A guy in the first century invented a never heard of before concept, an individual resurrection, and a small minority of first century Jews did believe it, or, a god really did take on the appearance of a human being, allowed himself to be killed to atone for ancient-human-ancestral-forbidden-fruit-eating, came back to life three days later, and eventually flew off into outer space where he currently sits on a golden throne, ruling as King and Master of the universe?
Sorry, Christians, but most non-Christians are going to say that the former is much, much more probable than the latter.
Christians will counter that the disciples did not believe Jesus’ prophecy that he would soon be executed and would rise from the dead three days later until they saw his resurrected body with their own two eyes. They will say that no first century Jew would have believed that this prophecy had come to pass without seeing a resurrected dead body with their own two eyes!
But we know that this isn’t true by reading Paul’s epistles.
Jews in Asia Minor believed the claim of Jesus’ resurrection, not because they had seen a resurrected body with their own two eyes but because they had “searched the Scriptures”. Therefore the claim that no first century Jew would have believed the claim of a resurrected messiah without seeing the actual body of that resurrected messiah with their own two eyes is proven false by the Bible itself!