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What is widely known as the quest for the historical Jesus finds its origins in the late nineteenth century with a German scholar by the name of Albert Schwitzer. Schweitzer’s work attempted to use the critical historical methodologies of the day to place Jesus in the context of modern historical interpretation. Since that time, there have been three similar iterations of this search, with each new generation seeming to take up the task of the last and seeking for themselves who Jesus really was. The outcome of each of these investigations usually plays out with the majority of critical scholarship concluding that there is nothing that we can reliably know about who Jesus really was. Against these claims, we see Dr. Habermas pushing against a new generation in his latest book, “Evidence for the Historical Jesus: Is the Jesus of History the Christ of Faith?” published by Christian Publishing House in 2020.
Dr. Gary R. Habermas is chair of the philosophy department at Liberty University, where he also serves as a professor of apologetics and theology. He received his Ph.D. in history and philosophy of religion from Michigan State University and has written extensively on this topic, having authored several monographs and over 100 articles on the subject.
The book’s contents are the transcripts from a series of conversations between Habermas, and Dr. John Ankerberg recorded when Habermas was a guest on Ankerberg’s show in 2000. The transcripts for each episode have been updated as of 2015 and edited for easy readability(3). Each episode stands as a chapter in the book where Habermas addresses a different question commonly asked by the general population regarding the historicity of the life of Jesus and His subsequent resurrection. Program one addresses the prevailing opinion of the search results for historical Jesus among today’s scholars. In program two, Habermas discusses the deity of Christ and the reliability of the resurrection. Program three discusses Jesus’ own opinion concerning His deity. Program four looks at the question of whether or not it is credible to believe in the resurrection. Program 5 presents twelve historical facts related to Jesus’ life, His claim to deity, and His resurrection. Lastly, in program 6, Habermas talks about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to His disciples and their relationship to apologetics.
The book is presented in an easy-to-read fashion constructed in a question-answer format between Dr. Ankerberg and Habermas’. The questions that Ankerberg asks Habermas are very on point and represent many of the common questions that are asked by believers and unbelievers alike, many presented as an argument against Habermas’ position. Dr. Habermas’ response to each of the questions fills most of the text, where Habermas responds with thoughtful apologetic dialog that is informative and pastoral and in line with the majority of conservative scholarship.
The book is written with the educated believer in mind reflecting the nature of the show from which it was transcribed from. Still, others may benefit as well, especially those that may not be familiar with the Christian faith that wishes to learn more about the historicity of Christ and what historical evidence exists for His life and ministry. Evangelists will appreciate the conciseness of arguments that Habermas presents as they can be easily applied as apologetic answers to questions they may receive. On this note, the book’s depth and brevity can also allow for a leader or pastor to use as a text to supplement a small group study or Sunday School class. One drawback of the way that the material is presented is that there really isn’t space for giving the audience resources to investigate the claims of the guest for themselves in an interview. Habermas attempts to make up for this gap by giving his readers a resource list at the end. Serious Bible students will appreciate this.
Habermas has succeeded in bringing an accessible and informative apology of the historicity of the NT. The content is academic yet accessible and not overbearing. It is recommended reading for anyone interested in apologetics and the defense of the historicity of the gospel accounts of Jesus. It is also advised for anyone who has a general interest in the topic but does not want something that is going to be overly technical.
The search for the historical Jesus is a hot topic in both popular and academic circles today and has drawn a lot of attention from national magazines, such as Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. Further, the media has given an undue amount of attention to the Jesus Seminar’s outlandish statements, a self-selected liberal group representing a tiny percentage of New Testament scholarship. Dr. Gary Habermas will address the questions surrounding the debate over the historical Jesus and show a significant number of historical facts about Jesus in secular and non-New Testament sources that prove that the Jesus of history is the same Jesus of the Christian faith. The author of EVIDENCE FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS is Dr. Gary Habermas, author of the book, The Historical Jesus and about twenty other volumes. He received his Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Dr. Habermas is chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Liberty University. He has written more than 100 articles, mostly on the life of Jesus, which have appeared in scholarly journals and elsewhere. Herein you will learn why Jesus is one of the most historically verified lives of ancient times.
Online Review by R. Thomas,
This book is fantastic! I especially like the way he dismantles the Jesus Seminar gang, who promote themselves and their scholarship (and secular media loves that!), but the author shows they have presuppositions in place that are not warranted and certainly not ones that adjudicate fairly historical data.