Monday, 18 April 2016

The Case for Christ the movie - Part 1 Examining the Record

For Part 2 Click here. For Part 3 click here.

The Case for Christ the movie - Part 1 - Examining the Record/Sources

The Case for Christ the movie introduces three very important sets of evidence or questions that need to be asked regarding Jesus. These questions are laid out within the opening scene of the movie, and so I will list them here:
1) Ask what are my sources?
2) Who was Jesus?
3) Resurrection?
Now, I will be laying out this review of the movie in three parts based on these three questions as they sum up everything pretty well. I will need to point out here though that if question 1 is found faulty then all the rest of the questions fail just based on question 1. Needless to say, this neglects the fact that the may contain inherent problems by themselves even though they are already false due to the initial premise being false.

I should point out that a sizable section of the movie does refer to Lee Stroebels personal experience of how his life got better, i.e. he went from being a drinker and angry person to a loving father (insert redemption music here). I point this out, as this is meant to be a movie about evidence so honestly Lee I don't care about your experience, as Jerry McGuire said, "Show me the money".

So lets, Examine the Record.

This section of the movie focuses on whether the New Testament, and specifically the Gospels, are truthful. Luckily for us Stroebel assembled a bunch of experts to help us in this regard and they are J.P.Moreland, Mark Strauss, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans and N.T.Wright. Now this group clearly does display a bias, but even some of them in their intellectual honesty discredit Stroebel. so, it is rather amusing that he can objectively reach the conclusion he reaches regrading the truthfulness of the gospels.

The first thing we get told is that the gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are eyewitness accounts. Well this is interesting when we consider that Matthew and Luke were written 50 to 60 years after Jesus death (80-90 AD), and Mark was written 40 years after his death (70 AD). Regarding the writing of John, the range of dates stretches from anywhere between 20 years after Jesus death to 70 years, in fact this is still a hot topic in Gospel research. Regardless if we take the low ball figure, this means that the eye witnesses Matthew and John would have been 80 and 50 years old, respectively, when they wrote the gospels. On the other hand the other two so called eye witnesses, were not eye witnesses as they were not Jesus disciples. However, Mark and Luke themselves would have been 70 and 80, respectively. These ages are remarkable as the average age of humans at that time was about 45 years old, so all these Gospel writers were remarkable to outlive their contemporaries. So, here we have two eyewitnesses that are not eyewitnesses and the age of these writers should cast doubt on their eyewitness position as well. All in all I would say this is enough to make anyone smell a rat.

Perhaps, I should also point out that the expert witnesses did mention the following in the movie which surely casts further doubt on the eyewitness accounts. Mark Strauss (10 mins) admits that the gospel Mark was removed from Jesus by one generation i.e. impossible to be an eyewitness. Next N.T.Wright (11 mins) admits that the gospels have been edited i.e. what is true? So what we have is some serious cognitive dissonance going on, as the expert witnesses are saying that the data is not true, but it is true. This really should make sense to non-believers though, as all the expert witnesses are Christians and Theologians.

Remarkably in this movie the one annoying thing is that their are no dissenting voices. This could be brushed aside if there were no dissenting voices, but there are many scholars that disagree with the analysis presented and so we can say Strobel is being intellectually dishonest. Honestly, I think to rely so heavily on the eyewitness testimony discredits Stroebels work and if anything shows that the Gospels are not historically accurate. Just to clarify, this does not mean I doubt the historicity of a person in Israel that we commonly refer to as Jesus.

Interestingly, we are told that we should trust oral tradition as it is completely accurate. Granted, there is no reference given for this, but it is irrelevant whether it is or not as next we hear that the gospels are different as it allows them to be more human. By admitting the Gospels are different in this way it does away with the need to defend the inconsistencies that exist in the gospels. However, here in lies the problem with this defence. Either oral tradition is accurate and the gospels are the same, or oral tradition is not accurate and they are not the same. You cannot use the same argument to defend your opposing views as it suits you Stroebel!

Next we hear that surely the gospels should be accurate as we have very old copies of the gospel and this should make it true, after all we accept the Iliad as being a true story and the remaining copies are far younger than the Bible. This is true, however we do not say that the gods referred to in the Iliad are real. So again, a stupid argument.

The last part about the historicity of the Gospels refers to other sources that corroborate the Gospels. This is important, as after all how are we to accept the Gospels as true if they are only contained in one book, and said book needs them to be true.

The first piece of evidence is naturally Josephus and specifically the part on the Testimonium Flavinium that refers to Jesus.  Firstly, again Strobel tries to deceive his audience by saying that all scholars agree that the Testimonium Flavinium is authentic. Well, this is not true in any way or form, and if anything a critical look at these parts of the document will probably show that they are not authentic. Now granted, I may be wrong, however for Stroebel to say it is authentic is completely misleading.

The last external reference is the Gnostic Gospels, and these documents get summarily dismissed by the experts for a very simple reason i.e. the character they paint of Jesus does not agree with the Bibles character of Jesus. So what we learn in this final section is very revealing, basically we have admittance that the truthfulness of the gospels section of this movie is based on the presupposition that the gospels are true.

All in all, the evidence presented by Stroebel should show that the gospels are anything but truthful. And, if the gospels are not truthful then any conclusions that arise from the gospels are already flawed, but that's a post for next week.