In Chapter 2, Strobel continues his interview with Craig Blomberg on the biblical evidence from eyewitness testimony. Strobel begins by identifying eight tests in which people can subject the gospels to get closer to understanding of whether they are trustworthy and credible. I won’t go through every single one because at least three of them, “character,” “bias” and “corroboration” are only given a few paragraphs each, which basically amount to Blomberg’s opinions on whether the gospel writers were of good character, recorded the events with integrity and used other sources to verify various places and events that they reference. I’ll only mention the five paragraphs Strobel calls “The Corroboration Test.”
When the gospels mention people, places, and events, do they check out to be correct in cases in which they can be independently verified? Often such corroboration is invaluable in assessing whether a writer has a commitment to accuracy.
Yes, they do, and the longer people explore this, the more the details get confirmed. Within the last hundred years archaeology has repeatedly unearthed discoveries that have confirmed specific references to the gospels, particularly the gospel of John — ironically, the one that supposedly so suspect!
Now, yes, there are still some unresolved issues, and there have been times when archaeology has created new problems, but those are a tiny minority compared with the number of examples of corroboration.
In addition, we can learn through non-Christian sources a lot of facts about Jesus that corroborate key teachings and events in his life.
Here, Strobel offers no notes that back up Blomberg’s claim about archaeological evidence, and Blomberg mentions no examples to support his claim either. Here’s a list of some of the Christian archaeological finds, none of which lends any credibility to Jesus or his miracles, just that select elements of the gospels, for instance, the pool of Bethesda and the historicity of Caiaphas, may have reflected actual people and places.
Further, Blomberg contends that non-Christian sources lend credibility to the gospels, but let me make this very clear: there is no contemporary source or bit of evidence that confirms the existence of Jesus. Not one. Here is a list, and here is former pastor Dan Barker on the subject:
There is not a single contemporary historical mention of Jesus, not by Romans or by Jews, not by believers or by unbelievers, not during his entire lifetime. This does not disprove his existence, but it certainly casts great doubt on the historicity of a man who was supposedly widely known to have made a great impact on the world. Someone should have noticed.
Christians sometimes like to claim that Josephus 37-100 A.D. was a believable non-Christian who wrote about Jesus, although he was not contemporary. This is the relevant passage:
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law …
While this passage may be authentic, two problems exist. First, it’s hard to believe that an historian would mention the Messiah almost as an after thought and buried in a long section of text. Second, why would Josephus, an observant Jew or possibly a priest at one time, would admit that Jesus was the Christ? I wrote more about this here: Josephus and the historical Jesus. Here’s another explanation of Josephus.
Strobel, ever the “unbiased” journalist said Blomberg answer was “concise and helpful.” While it may have been concise, it was lacking on detail. Of course, I can’t blame Blomberg since he knows full well that there are no credible details that he could have presented to support the authenticity of the gospels, much less of the life and miracles of Jesus. Ever the go-getter, Strobel tells us at the end of this short section on corroboration that he is jotting down a note to himself:
Get expert opinions from archaeologist and historian.
I guess we’ll get to that in Chapter 5 when Strobel speaks with John McRay, one of his “experts” who also happens to be an apologist.
So these don’t run too long, I’ll address the rest of this chapter in the next post.