The Historical Jesus
by Gary R. Habermas, College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, MO, 1996, 304, pages
This book is subtitled "Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ". The author is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy and Theology Department at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. The book is a study of the historical and archeological evidence for the validity of the biblical account of the life of Jesus Christ. The book is divided into three sections.
Part one of the book expresses the challenges offered by liberal scholars to the validity of the biblical account of the life of Christ. Habermas examines and refutes those claims that Jesus never lived and is totally a fictional character. He then discusses Strauss', Barth's, Bultmann's, Wells', and Martin's attempts to discredit the claims of the Bible that Jesus lived. This is followed by a discussion of theories rationalizing things the Bible says Jesus did. The swoon theory, the Passover plot, Essenes connections, and claims of Japanese and Indian connections are all explained and refuted. The new Gnosticism and the Jesus Seminar each have a chapter devoted to them.
Habermas is concise and brings a wealth of quotes of skeptics of the Bible in these chapters. In the second part of the book, he provides historical data to support the biblical account. Starting with the consistency of the biblical account, the author discusses archaeological sources, non-Christian sources, and Christian sources that support the biblical account. Readers familiar with F.F. Bruce will see some similarities to his work in much of this, but the volume of sources is impressive. There are some areas of opinion that may reflect negatively on the author. For example, he does not depend on the Shroud of Turin, but also does not totally refute it as a source. There is little valid support for the Shroud as the burial cloth of Christ. Overall, however, the documentation is good and the treatment is fairly even handed. The third section of the book is a very useful supplement. There is a discussion of history and how it should be used, followed by an excellent outline of the book. In the book, there are useful summaries. Starting on page 78, for example, there is a listing of differences between Jesus and the Essenes. Since atheists like to claim that Jesus had connections to the Essenes and that this is where he got his teachings, a section like this is very useful.
We recommend this book highly to those struggling with the validity of Christ. It also will be most helpful to teachers and personal workers as a valuable resource.
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