Sample text for The case for Christmas : a journalist investigates the identity of the child in the manger / Lee Strobel.
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The Case for Christmas
Copyright © 1998, 2005 by Lee Strobel
This book is excerpted from The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel,
copyright © 1998 by Lee Strobel.
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THE EYEWITNESS EVIDENCE:
CAN THE BIOGRAPHIES
OF JESUS BE TRUSTED?
When I first met soft-spoken Leo Carter, he was a
seventeen-year-old veteran of Chicago's grittiest
neighborhood. His testimony had put three killers in
prison. And he was still carrying a .38-caliber slug in his
head--a grisly reminder of a horrific saga that began when
he witnessed Elijah Baptist gun down a local grocer.
Leo and a friend, Leslie Scott, were playing basketball
when they saw Elijah, then sixteen years old, slay Sam
Blue outside his grocery store. Leo had known the grocer
since childhood. "When we didn't have any food, he'd
give us some," Leo explained to me. "So when I went to
the hospital and they said he was dead, I knew I'd have
to testify about what I saw."
Eyewitness testimony is powerful. One of the most
dramatic moments in a trial is when a witness describes
the crime that he or she saw and then points confidently
toward the defendant as being the perpetrator. Elijah Baptist
knew that the only way to avoid prison would be to
somehow prevent Leo Carter and Leslie Scott from doing
So Elijah and two of his pals staged an ambush. Leslie
and Leo's brother, Henry, were brutally murdered, while Leo
was shot in the head and left for dead. But somehow, against
all odds, Leo lived. The bullet, in a place too precarious to
be removed, remained in his skull. Despite searing headaches
that strong medication couldn't dull, he became the sole eyewitness
against Elijah Baptist and his two cohorts. His word
was good enough to land them in prison for the rest of their
Leo Carter is one of my heroes. He made sure justice
was served, even though he paid a monumental price for it.
When I think of eyewitness testimony, even to this day--
thirty years later--his face still appears in my mind.2
TESTIMONY FROM DISTANT TIME
Yes, eyewitness testimony can be compelling and convincing.
When a witness has had ample opportunity to
observe a crime, when there's no bias or ulterior motives,
when the witness is truthful and fair, the climactic act of
pointing out a defendant in a courtroom can be enough
to doom that person to prison or worse.
And eyewitness testimony is just as crucial in investigating
historical matters--even the issue of whether the
Christmas manger really contained the unique Son of God.
But what eyewitness accounts do we possess? Do we
have the testimony of anyone who personally interacted
with Jesus, who listened to his teachings, who saw his miracles,
who witnessed his death, and who encountered him
after his alleged resurrection? Do we have any records from
first-century "journalists" who interviewed eyewitnesses,
asked tough questions, and faithfully recorded what they
scrupulously determined to be true?
I knew that just as Leo Carter's testimony clinched the
convictions of three brutal murderers, eyewitness accounts
from the mists of distant time could help resolve the most
important spiritual issue of all. To get solid answers, I flew
to Denver to interview a scholar who literally wrote the
book on the topic: Dr. Craig Blomberg, author of The
Historical Reliability of the Gospels.
INTERVIEW: CRAIG L. BLOMBERG, PHD
Craig Blomberg is widely considered one of the country's
foremost authorities on the biographies of Jesus,
which are called the four gospels. He received his doctorate
in New Testament from Aberdeen University in Scotland,
later serving as a senior research fellow for Tyndale House
at Cambridge University in England, where he was part
of an elite group of international scholars that produced
a series of acclaimed works on Jesus. He is currently a professor
of New Testament at Denver Seminary.
As he settled into a high-back chair in his office, cup
of coffee in hand, I too sipped some coffee to ward off the
Colorado chill. Because I sensed Blomberg was a get-tothe-
point kind of guy, I decided to start my interview by
cutting to the core of the issue.
"Tell me this," I said with an edge of challenge in my
voice, "is it really possible to be an intelligent, critically
thinking person and still believe that the four gospels were
written by the people whose names have been attached to
Blomberg set his coffee cup on the edge of his desk
and looked intently at me. "The answer is yes," he said
He sat back and continued. "It's important to acknowledge
that strictly speaking, the gospels are anonymous.
But the uniform testimony of the early church was that
Matthew, also known as Levi, the tax collector and one of
The Eyewitness Evidence 15
the twelve disciples, was the author of the first gospel in
the New Testament; that John Mark, a companion of
Peter, was the author of the gospel we call Mark; and that
Luke, known as Paul's 'beloved physician,' wrote both the
gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles."
"How uniform was the belief that they were the authors?"
"There are no known competitors for these three
gospels," he said. "Apparently, it was just not in dispute."
Even so, I wanted to test the issue further. "Excuse my
skepticism," I said, "but would anyone have had a motivation
to lie by claiming these people wrote these gospels,
when they really didn't?"
Blomberg shook his head. "Probably not. Remember,
these were unlikely characters," he said, a grin breaking
on his face. "Mark and Luke weren't even among the
twelve disciples. Matthew was, but as a former hated tax
collector, he would have been the most infamous character
next to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus!
"Contrast this with what happened when the fanciful
Apocryphal Gospels were written much later. People
chose the names of well-known and exemplary figures
to be their fictitious authors--Philip, Peter, Mary, James.
Those names carried much more weight than the names
of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. So to answer your question,
there would not have been any reason to attribute authorship
to these three less respected people if it weren't true."
That sounded logical, but it was obvious that he was
leaving out one of the gospel writers. "What about John?"
I asked. "He was extremely prominent; in fact, he wasn't
just one of the twelve disciples but one of Jesus' inner three,
along with James and Peter."
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Jesus Christ -- Person and offices.