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Challenging the Verdict: A Cross-Examination of Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ" Paperback – September 19, 2001
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From the Publisher
Challenging the Verdict is the first published book by Age of Reason Publications. It makes an ideal introduction to our stated purpose in introducing principles of rationality and scientific investigation to all aspects of societys laws, ethics and beliefs. We sincerely hope that books like this can provide a stimulus to the application of rational thought in our culture, something that has been absent in many critical areas for too long.
Does rationality matter? If people gain support and comfort through believing in a God and a supernatural dimension of angels, saints and a heavenly afterlife, ought those who have concluded that there is no rational basis for such beliefs seek to change their minds? In principle, it seems almost axiomatic that when a society formulates much of its views of the universe, its philosophy and ethics, its public policy and education, on things which have no basis in reality, such a course can hardly be advantageous to that societys health. Indeed, it may cause great harm. Our understanding of the world around us, our progress in finding ways to get the best out of this world, to live in harmony with it and with each other, to achieve the maximum in human happiness and the availability of human rights, cannot help but suffer.
Lee Strobel, in The Case for Christ, goes through the motions of a scientific reasoned approach to the Christian record, in an attempt to support the validity of the Gospel content and the truth of the resurrection. But the deficiencies and contradictions of that record will not bear the weight of such an enterprise, and the realities of the ancient world setting in which Christianity arose impose on us their own understanding of the Christian movement and how it began. Challenging the Verdict is the challenge of history, rationality and scientific research to the full body of Christian doctrine, in the hope that our 21st century will see the passing away of such irrationalities and the arrival of an Age of Reason.
From the Author
Challenging the Verdict is designed as a useful tool for promoting reason within the context of North Americas dominant faith in the reliability of the Gospel story and of Jesus bodily resurrection. It grew out of an intended book review for The Jesus Puzzle web site, one that was not originally envisioned to be longer than my other reviews. But the format I decided upon proved unexpectedly fruitful: a courtroom setting in which I adopt the role of cross-examining attorney, setting up a dialogue before judge and jury between myself and those scholars whom Lee Strobel interviews in his book, using quoted words spoken during those interviews. Not only was I able to address the claims and conclusions offered by Lee Strobels experts with an unexpected degree of realism, the vividness between opposing sets of views comes across to the reader in a highly lucid and compelling fashion. Those who have read the book have called it a real page-turner.
One cannot change the world overnight, or even within a lifetime, and there are many forms of irrationality in present-day society. It is not possible to address them all, and I have no delusions on that score. But I have attempted in my own limited way to make some contribution to the promotion of reason and science in the belief systems our society has adopted, and especially in the field of Christian origins, both in my two books and on my web site.
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Against the argument that 1st century critics would have criticized the gospels if they weren't true, Doherty says, "what we don't see is any comment on Christianity at all. If no one seems even aware of Jesus' existence during the first century, it is not surprising that we find no protest against the Gospel story." (Pg. 35) Against Jesus' existence, he states, "There are no Christian artifacts from the first century, no evidence of Jesus' presence anywhere on the landscape. There is not a trace of a mention of any relics associated with Jesus. What about his clothes, the things he used in his day-to-day life? Would none of these artifacts have survived his death, to be preserved by early believers, prized, clamored for, to be seen and touched by the faithful?" (Pg. 78)
About the Messianic prophecies, he argues, "I note that fulfilling all of the so-called prophecies runs into the trillions of trillions. But these numbers are meaningless, because they are based on false premises... if one reads the passages for what they say, and takes into account their contexts, one finds that those ancient prophets were anticipating a king or governor who would literally rule Israel... Jesus, as we know, never ruled Israel; he never brought about the new Golden Age the prophets were promising." (Pg. 138)
He asks, "if Mark was Peter's reporter, how can the original ending of his Gospel have stopped at the angel's direction to the women at the empty tomb, without reporting a single post-resurrection appearance, not even the one to Peter himself?" (Pg. 15) About the statement in Matt 28:15 ['this story has been widely spread among the Jews to this day'], he comments, "If this story was widely known throughout the first century, why do we see no sign of it anywhere else, either in the other Gospels or in the epistles? ... Those reputed references to Jesus in the Jewish Talmud give no hint of such a story circulating among Jews... and ... they would hardly have lost sight of the argument that the disciples had stolen Jesus' body." (Pg. 172)
He rejects the purported "historical core" of the resurrection stories, since we "have reason to regard Matthew and Luke, as well as John in his passion, as essentially reworkings of Mark. The core then becomes the product of Mark alone, with others adding or changing details. Those changes of detail we have examined in regard to the Joseph of Arimathea incident, the exchange with the two thieves on the cross, the different treatments of Jesus' baptism by the evangelists, to mention only a few... [which are] editorial changes by the Gospel writers themselves, to bring things into line with the way they wanted them or felt they should be." (Pg. 173)
Doherty's books are some of the most detailed arguments against traditional Christianity, and will be greatly appreciated by skeptics, atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers of all sorts.