The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus was a 1998 book by Lee Strobel that argued for existence of Jesus Christ. He wrote it in the style of a detective solving a crime, but instead of a crime it was answering the questions of “Did Jesus did exist?” and Was Jesus the Messiah?”. These two questions were split up into three parts, first to examine the background behind Jesus and the Bible, second to analyze Jesus himself, and third to study the resurrection of Jesus.
Each chapter featured a different question related to those parts and an interview with a different scholar. Lee Strobel would play the part of the atheist, giving his best arguments he could think of, with the interviewee being the believer and having to counter those arguments. The final chapter was mostly a summary of the conclusions to all the questions. He then asked the reader to decide for him- or herself whether his findings were correct or not. Lastly, he asked the reader to take action: if not convinced, study more; if a believer, start practicing the faith to learn the full truth through experience.
Lee Strobel did a pretty good job remaining impartial. Despite being a believer himself, he was an atheist at one point. He made most of these arguments before, so it was easy to make them again during the interviews. However, in that last chapter he did call the reader to believe in Christ, and thus become Christian. This book was not entirely neutral. It was clear the author was Christian and an apologist, trying to convince the reader that Christ is real and to get them to convert to Christianity. I am already a believer, in the more strict Catholicism, so the arguments just verified what I already believed. It was interest to see some of these good arguments. I’m not into debating, but if I was, this would be a good book to have around just for all its defenses of the faith.
There was only one part I disagreed with somewhat. It was only the second chapter in the book. The claim was made that the gospels and the acts were written by the named authors. The problem with this claim is that I recently read the background introductions in the New American Bible for these books. I remember clearly how they listed anonymous authors for all of these books. The conclusion of the committee that put together this Bible was that none of the gospels were written by the conventional apostles and disciples they were named after.
I can see it being possible that their followers or assistants wrote these books, but not the apostles and disciples themselves. The book mentioned followers writing the books as a possibility, but quickly went back to believing the apostles wrote the books. The NAB is the official English Bible in America, so I really trust its claims more than the ones in The Case for Christ. After this I was worried the rest of the book would be full of arguments I didn’t agree with, but luckily, that was not the case. I pretty much agreed with everything else in the book. The later arguments were solid.
The Case for Christ was a slow read. It was very, very detailed. There were the debates between Mr. Strobel and the scholar, but he also drew on writings from other scholars. In addition, each chapter he would relate the story of a court case to the investigation he was about to do in the chapter. All of these made the book filled to the brim with details. It’s a book you would need to read several times to get all of it in your head. I had a hard enough time just keeping track of everything going on in a single chapter, let alone the whole book. By the time I was done with the book, I only vaguely remembered the arguments made at the beginning.
Overall, the book was hard for me to read, but I kept it around to write down all the arguments. I’m keeping these arguments in a file in case I ever need to defend my faith. This is something that can happen online a lot, but I might just want to have it to refer to when talking to fellow Catholics. Not all Catholics fully believe everything. One of these arguments might be a good way to bring them closer to God. So I consider this book good as a reference, but not all that entertaining to read unless the reader is a theologian. Then again, if the reader is a theologian they probably have access to the sources themselves and don’t need a book like this.