Book Review: The Case for the Real Jesus (Strobel)

The Case for the Real JesusIn some respects, The Case for the Real Jesus: Student Edition stands as but one Christian apologetics book among a market full of many. The back cover isn’t full of important Christian ‘celebrities’ and theologians saying how great this book is. There was no flashy marketing campaign when this book hit the shelves. It’s not a hardback tome proclaiming itself to include the answers to every question which might confront the Christian faith. In some ways, this relatively short book (at just fewer than two hundred pages) is pretty easy to overlook. But to ignore the contents of this book would be a major mistake.

In The Case for the Real Jesus: Student Edition, journalist Lee Strobel and Jane Vogel engage six of the most common challenges to Christian claims about the Historical Jesus and offer serious historical information on these claims for readers to consider. Through interviews with six scholars, Strobel tackles questions about the reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, the reliability of New Testament texts, counters to the resurrection, the influence of pagan religions upon stories about Jesus, Jesus’ fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, and what Christians should believe about the historical Jesus in today’s context. By looking at each of these topics seriously, Strobel provides a valuable tool for those seeking to understand and defend their Christian faith.

The best feature of this book is that Strobel doesn’t just do his own research and give us his perspective on various aspects of the Historical Jesus. Sometimes ‘apologetics’ gets a bad name because of certain apologists’ appeals to emotion, skewed facts, or one-sided presentations.[1] This book stays away from these concerns, as Strobel engages scholars whose work involves the particular question he is investigating. And these are not just ‘random’ people from some obscure college in a city you’ve never heard of. No, Strobel talks to some of the best in the business, published and widely respected scholars who have worked for extensive periods of time on the matters at hand. Strobel’s interviewee’s include Craig A. Evans, Daniel B. Wallace, Michael Licona, Edwin M. Yamauchi, Michael L. Brown, and Paul Copan, all of whom hold doctorates in relevant fields (though at the time this was written, Licona was not quite done with his degree yet). In this way, The Case for the Real Jesus: Student Edition reads like a cross between apologetics primer and introduction to early Christianity, as a wide variety of topics are touched upon in an easy-to-read way and with the clarity of serious academic engagement.

Given the wide variety of topics covered in The Case for the Real Jesus: Student Edition, it would have been nice to see a section on additional suggested resources for continued study of these questions. Apologetics books cannot be read in isolation, either from community or more in-depth resources. This book might be easy to read as an “open and shut” response to these historical controversies surrounding Jesus. Given the work of those whom Strobel interviewed, a list of “further reading” resources would have been very easy to compile and include—just list a book or two from each scholar! Instead, we are given a page of general apologetics websites; these are valuable resources, to be sure, but are not the best place to seriously learn more about the topics presented here.

This concern aside, however, The Case for the Real Jesus: Student Edition remains a supremely valuable resource. Both students and parents alike would benefit from reading this book, which is conveniently both small and short enough to fit in any page or purse. More Christians need to understand the historical viability and reliability of the Christian faith, and The Case for the Real Jesus: Student Edition is a great place to begin that journey of understanding.

I received this book from Zondervan and Book Look in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

[1] Admittedly, every introduction to a topic cannot be a dissertation on that subject—otherwise no one would ever learn anything, they simply would not be able to digest ALL of the information that’s out there on any given subject. Good scholars and apologists know how to take the vast quantities of information that is ‘out there’ and synthesize it so that non-specialists and people asking questions can readily understand what’s going on.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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