By Lionel Green
Special to The Times
Could the resurrection of Jesus have been a hoax? Was Jesus’ body really absent from his tomb? Were there witnesses who actually saw Jesus after his death on the cross?
After setting the groundwork in the previously reviewed parts one and two of Lee Strobel’s book “The Case for Christ,” the author digs deep for evidence regarding the most amazing claim about Jesus — his resurrection — in part three.
Strobel interviews Dr. Alexander Metherell who explains how Jesus could literally sweat blood. Metherell then gives a graphic description of a Roman flogging and the effects it likely had on Jesus. Metherell’s description is probably illustrated best in Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ.”
Metherell follows his flogging analysis with another even more graphic portrayal of what happened to Jesus during the crucifixion. The doctor gives a medical account of what Jesus physically went through.
It leaves little doubt that Jesus died an agonizing and complete death on the cross. Metherell even provides his explanation of the likely cause of death, which surprised me.
Strobel then attacks the contradictions surrounding Jesus’ empty tomb. I never realized the number of inconsistencies in the events surrounding the empty tomb, but scholar William Lane Craig patiently deals with each of Strobel’s contentions.
It provided me another opportunity to learn about portions of ancient history, which is the real strength of Strobel’s book.
Regarding the resurrection, Strobel goes straight to the point: “Isn’t it true that there are absolutely no eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection?”
I was surprised when scholar Gary Habermas answered, “That’s exactly right — there’s no descriptive account of the resurrection .... Nobody was sitting inside the tomb and saw the body start to vibrate, stand up, take the linen wrappings off, fold them, roll back the stone, wow the guards and leave.”
Habermas then follows with a detailed account of the eyewitness reports of Jesus after his resurrection. There were many more than I thought, and Habermas deftly handles Strobel’s arguments with logic and biblical citations.
Habermas also injects Strobel’s book with its most emotional moment — when the scholar describes how he used the resurrection to cope with the 1995 death of his wife Debbie.
In the final chapter of “The Case for Christ,” Strobel asks philosopher J.P. Moreland, “Can you give me five pieces of circumstantial evidence that convince you Jesus rose from the dead?”
Moreland gives Strobel five answers that are hardly disputed by anyone. They may not convince the skeptic, but they are legitimate answers that certainly provide food for thought.
Before Strobel wrote “The Case for Christ,” he was admittedly an atheist. After writing the book, he became a believer.
I found the book extremely eye-opening and interesting. I think believers who read it will likely have their faith confirmed. Doubters will likely take a step closer to belief. It’s hard to believe anyone could backslide in their faith by reading Strobel’s book.
The Cullman County Public Library System has one copy of “The Case for Christ” at its main branch due back Monday, according to the online catalog on Friday morning.
Suggest a book for review or tell us why you thought a book was particularly good by e-mailing lionelrgreen@msn.