Rebutting [Strobel’s]
‘The Case for Christ’

Jeffrey

From: Jeffrey
To: Positive Atheism
Date: Tuesday, December 14, 1999

A friend of mine has asked me to read the book called The Case for Christ by some guy named [Lee] Strobel. Do you have any reference source to rebut this material? Thanks.

 

From: “Positive Atheism”
To: Jeffrey
Date: Tuesday, December 14, 1999

While the Internet Infidels probably have (or will soon have) an article addressing this particular tome (just use their search engine), we do well to approach this one generically, keeping all similar books in mind (that is, those written from this or a similar perspective).

  

First of all, what is the main gist of the argument he presents in his book?

In the mean time, remember that we must eliminate the simple, more efficient, natural explanations (all of them) before we can allow ourselves to resort to the more cumbersome supernatural “explanations” that inevitably creep in to these things.

  

A good beginning would be to check out the works by Hyam Maccoby, a Jewish scholar specializing in the Christian (scriptural, etc) origins of anti-Semitism. Maccoby postulated a very reasonable model of Jesus as Jewish Messiah, who had hoped, through supernatural means, to save his country from the tyranny of the Roman occupation. Thus, it was Paul, not Jesus, who taught that Jesus was a god. More importantly, since Jesus’ followers were wiped out in the war of CE 66-70, nobody was left to counter what Paul was teaching about Jesus in the Gentile world.

There is nothing new, here. These are typical of what’s called the Jewish response to the claims of the Christians. Maccoby’s gift, really, lies in just how gently and reasonably he lays forth his position. There are dozens of ways in which he could have fostered ill will with this particular subject, but that’s not what Maccoby did, here.

You can still find his books in the used book listings at Barnes and Noble, Book Finder, and the like. I can give you links for them if you want. I have posted abbreviated versions of his arguments concerning Jesus and Paul.

  

Another angle is that advocated by G A Wells, whose books are in print and readily available. He shows that the common arguments that Jesus even existed (that the Jesus character of The Bible was derived from or inspired by a historical figure, but that the myth derive) do not make a convincing case. I abbreviated one example in the letter “Seek Jesus: Josephus Said He Existed” with Rebecca Phaeton.

  

The study of biblical errancy is a good way to remind oneself of the absurdity of the Christian Fundamentalists’ position. The must-read in this respect is “Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy” by C Dennis McKinsey (about $50). [There is now (2006) an “on steroids” edition for just over twice the price.] Remember to look up the passages McKinsey uses in several translations before you engage in a debate (we don’t recommend debating fundamentalists, as they are programmed to think of the opposition as de facto liars and to ignore any evidence against their position and to treat it as falsehood). Here are some examples of my abbreviation of McKinsey’s work: Genesis Creation; How faith protects itself from criticism.

  

“The Mind of the Bible Believer” by Edmund Cohen is a difficult book, requiring at least a year of college psychology. It is very revealing, however, when it comes to understanding the process that the poor mark goes through when being converted to Evangelical (fundamentalistic) Christianity. Remember, though, that Cohen’s and McKinsey’s works do not apply to liberal Christianity, only to the Evangelical variety. I have a brief overview of Cohen’s model. The book is in print and thus readily available.

  

If you can summarize the gist of any of the arguments given in this book, please send them to me and I will comment. At this stage, I don’t think there are very many popular arguments that I have not encountered. Of course, some of the more sophisticated arguments, such as those presented by the higher-level Roman Catholic theologians, are tedious and thus quite difficult to unravel. Fortunately, these are equally difficult to follow, and thus do not pose a serious problem to lay people who encounter them. Out of sight, out of mind, as it were!

 

Addendum: August, 2000

Since this writing, Prometheus Books has published the book, Deconstructing Jesus, by Robert M Price. In it, the author proposes that the Christianity that eventually became Catholicism during the reign of Constantine was derived from many different sources and sects, and that the Catholic Church suppressed the history of those other sects. Thus, any quest for a historical Jesus is in vain, because many different traditions contributed to

what we now know as the Jesus myth. One source had a teacher, another had a healer, another had a moralist, still another had a revolutionary, and still another may very well be Buddhism. Thus, the quest is not for a historical Jesus but an examination of the various source myths.

We intend to excerpt from this brilliant book sometime after the July, 2000, issue of the print edition, because this model has supplanted the “revolutionary Jesus” of Hyam Maccoby and the mythical Jesus of G A Wells in our minds.

 

Addendum: July, 2006

Gospel Fictions, by Randall Helms, posits (among other things) that the earliest churches derived their Gospels by studying Hebrew Scripture. The entire Christ myth, they thought, was contained in the symbolism that they thought they were finding in even the most mundane passages.

 

Cliff Walker
“Positive Atheism” Magazine