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The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ Hardcover – February 2, 2016
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"I've lost count how many times I've heard critics say the Gospels are late, anonymous, and untrustworthy sources that don't prove Jesus was divine. At last there is a book that meticulously refutes these claims with an engaging discussion of the real Jesus that will benefit both scholars and laymen who read it."
-- Trent Horn, author of Answering Atheism
"Thanks to Dr. Pitre's magnificent book, you will now be equipped to make the case for Jesus and the veracity of the Gospels to even the most ardent skeptics. Perhaps more importantly, you will find your own faith reawakened."
-- Jennifer Fulwiler, radio host and author of Something Other Than God
“In The Case for Jesus, Pitre breaks his research down, in typically accessible prose, to bring us a readable and fascinating account of how questioning one accepted academic idea put him on a path of discovery that served to strengthen, not sever, his faith. Readers who loved Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist will come away from this book with a similar sense of gratitude for such a faith-affirming presentation, and also a bit of awestruck wonder at how faith and reason can complement each other so well, when allowed to. I loved this book!”
-- Elizabeth Scalia, Author of Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life and Little Sins Mean a Lot
“Brant Pitre, who has already demonstrated his brilliant scholarship in earlier works, explains here in remarkably easy-to-understand ways why we can trust the Gospels. Behind his effective communication, however, is wide-ranging research and careful rethinking. In fact, this book has given me a number of important new matters to consider myself.”
-- Craig S. Keener, Asbury Theological Seminary
“The Case for Jesus topples the naïve skepticism that too often dominates the study of the Gospels by showing that the evidence for the truth of the Gospels is far stronger than is often assumed. Pitre has a unique talent for putting scholarly work of the highest caliber into an accessible and engaging form. This book should be on the shelf of every homilist, catechist, and Bible study leader.”
-- Mary Healy, Sacred Heart Major Seminary
"Brant Pitre does a stellar job setting forth a robust and rock solid case for Jesus. The sensationalistic claims of super-sceptics are exposed as a sham as Pitre provides a meticulous presentation of the evidence about the reliability of the Gospels, who Jesus thought he was, and what he means today. A balanced, sensible, and measured book that counters the spate of hyped-up conspiracy theories that do the rounds. An informative and enjoyable read.
-- Michael F. Bird, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia.
"In this important book, one of America’s most brilliant young scholars wrestles with issues of profound importance concerning Jesus and his identity. Pitre, in a lively and direct manner informed by up-to-date scholarship, presents a case for Jesus as the divine Son of God, fully human and fully God. Along the way he bursts some scholarly bubbles and sets a much needed cat amongst the proverbial pigeons. A delight to read!"
-- Chris Tilling, King's College, London
“Like a room full of stale air, the popular-level conversation about Christian origins could use an open window or two. Thankfully, we now have one in Brant Pitre’s Case for Jesus. Personable, accessible, engaging – all supported by top-notch scholarship. Read it.”
–- Nicholas Perrin, Dean of the Wheaton Graduate School
About the Author
BRANT PITRE (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame) is Professor of Sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He is the author of the bestselling book Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper and Jesus the Bridegroom: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. Dr. Pitre is a highly sought after speaker and has produced dozens of Bible studies on CD, DVD, and MP3 in which he explores the biblical and historical roots of Christianity. He currently lives in Louisiana with his wife Elizabeth and their five children. More information about his work can be found at www.BrantPitre.com.
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Pitre begins by posing C.S. Lewis’ famous “trilemma” to the reader. If Jesus claimed to be God, we have three ways to respond – he was either a Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. Pitre’s work in this book strives to bring us back, face to face, with this trilemma. To accomplish this, Pitre needs to defeat another popular notion in the modern mind – that Jesus, or at least much of the Gospel material about him, was a “Legend.” If Pitre can show that Jesus did, in fact, historically claim Divinity, we will be forced to respond to his claim and answer Jesus’ own question for ourselves – “Who do you say that I am?”
To accomplish this Pitre first attempts to show that the Gospels are historically reliable. He believes that, contrary to modern scholarly opinion, the Gospels were indeed written by the authors they have been attributed to (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), that they were intended to portray historically accurate biographical pictures of Jesus, and that they were written much more closely to the time of Jesus than liberal scholars assume (Pitre tentatively dates the synoptic Gospels all before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70). These three pieces of evidence – authorship, intent, and dating – all lead Pitre to the conclusion that the Gospels give us historically accurate information about Jesus.
After setting the stage by arguing for the accuracy of our sources, Pitre delves into the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and tries to show that although it is not always explicit (i.e. Jesus doesn’t say “I am God, worship Me.”) even the synoptics portray Jesus as claiming Divinity. Using evidence such as Jesus’ use of the titles “Son of Man” and “I Am,” prophesy from the book of Daniel, Jesus’ “stilling of the storm,” the transfiguration, the pronouncement of the forgiveness of the parlytic’s sins, the riddle about the Son of David being David’s “Lord,”, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, Pitre makes his case. In the end, he believes that not only do the Gospel authors portray Jesus as Divine, but that these claims came from Jesus himself.
Thus we are led, full circle, back to the trilemma. We can call Jesus Liar, Lunatic, or Lord, but not, according to Pitre, a Legend.
This was a really interesting read from a conservative scholar. His exegesis of many Gospel passages illuminate how the Hebrew Scriptures provide a much needed backdrop for understanding each story. The Gospels are much more nuanced than we might first think and oftentimes one saying or image may evoke whole passages or concepts from the Old Testament that would have been apparent to early Jewish readers. As Pitre argues, understanding the Jewish context of the synoptic authors helps in understanding their Christology.
In the end, I agree with Pitre that the Gospels are generally more historically accurate than “mainstream” scholars give them credit for. I think it’s plausible that the Gospel titles reveal their true authors and that they were written fairly early after Jesus’ death (before the fall of Jerusalem). I also agree that the Synoptics may implicitly ascribe Divinity to Jesus – although I don’t think that is an open and shut case. If there were more explicit cases in the synoptic Gospels where Jesus claimed Divinity, it would help his case. It still seems to me the only explicit sayings we have come from the Gospel of John, which even Pitre doesn’t seem to argue is historically reliable (at least he doesn’t focus on this in the book).
It’s probably outside the scope of this book, but I would have loved to see Pitre address the idea of Jesus as Apocalyptic Prophet. He interacts with several scholars who accept this notion (EP Sanders, Dale Allison, Bart Ehrman, John Meier) and it’s a viable option in the world of Historical Jesus scholarship. I think it’s a relevant topic in all discussions surrounding a Historical Jesus and can be a large factor in how one answers the question of Jesus’ identity.
This study is worth reading regardless of your theological persuasion, and Pitre’s arguments deserve serious consideration.
Pitre's writing style is a joy to read: lucid, clear, and very easy to understand (even when I'm tired at the end of the day), without being annoyingly clever (as some popularizers can be) or pushy (as some apologists are). (I see Pitre as neither a popularizer nor an apologist; he is a scripture scholar who also is a fantastic communicator.) Without any attempt on his part to be "entertaining," Pitre has written a cliff-hanger - I couldn't put the book down! His insights - and now I'm speaking of the insights in all three of his books that I've read so far - Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, Jesus the Bridegroom, and this book, The Case for Jesus - are profound and deeply enriching spiritually. Although I've questioned a few of his insights, most of them have moved me profoundly, with a sense of wonder, and deep love and gratitude to Our Lord. Reading his books is, for me, a real form of prayer. I am looking forward to reading Jesus and the Last Supper (borrowed from the library to see whether I'll want to buy my own copy); this last book, per its reviewers, is aimed at a scholarly audience and different in tone from the three very accessible books I named above, but I'm expecting this book to be a treasure, too.
In all of his books, Brant Pitre's lucid writing style, coupled with his solid scholarship, deep faith, and beautiful love for Our Lord, makes for a very special reading experience. I appreciate his respect for and great knowledge of Judaism, and the way he helps us to see the rich continuity between the Jewish and Christian faiths. Brant Pitre’s books are a real gift to us all.
I have used Dr. Brant Pitre’s materials in many workshops and would love to meet him some day in person. In the meantime, I will continue to encounter him in his books and lectures and share my discovery with others. This is a MUST read for any Christian and even those who doubt the existence of the Christ.