This post will briefly discuss the two final tests of “eyewitness evidence” (or rather, tests of the historical reliability and trustworthiness of the Gospel accounts) from The Case for Christ (CFC) by Lee Strobel.
UPDATE (5/24/12 at 5:15 pm Pacific Time):
It appears I owe an apology to Mr. Blomberg. I no longer believe that he had been smoking some good shit just before Lee Strobel interviewed him about the reliability of the Gospels.
In order to be fair to Blomberg, I took a glance at his own book on this subject (The Historical Reliability of the Gospels; hereafter: HROG) to see if he might have provided dozens of examples of passages about Jesus in non-Christian sources that give us “…a lot of facts about Jesus that corroborate key teachings and events in his life.” (CFC, p.50) and thus showing that it is “…remarkable how much we can learn about Jesus and his followers…” (CFC, p.51) from such non-Christian sources.
Chapter 6 (“The Jesus Tradition Outside the Gospels”) of Blomberg’s book deals with this issue. Blomberg devotes a whopping five pages (actually 5.3 pages) to evidence about Jesus from non-Christian sources in a section called “The Testimony of Non-Christian Writers”(HROG, p.196-201).
No, Blomberg does NOT manage to present dozens of examples of corroboration of the Gospels by non-Christian sources in those few pages. So, why then do I need to apologize to Mr. Blomberg? Because his view of non-Christian sources about Jesus is close to my own view and that of most Jesus scholars: there ain’t much there. Thus, it appears that it was Mr. Strobel who was high during the interview, and that the quotation of Blomberg above is a misunderstanding or distortion of what Blomberg actually said.
Here are a few highlights from Blomberg’s assessment of non-Christian sources about Jesus:
“None of the Graeco-Roman historians of the first generations of the Christian era has much to say about the life of Jesus.” (HROG, p.196)
“But apart from these references to his crucifixion and the movement which outlived him, one discovers nothing else from Graeco-Roman sources.” (HROG, p.197)
“At the end of the day, one must admit that the rabbinic traditions offer precious little independent testimony to the ministry of Jesus.” (HROG, p.199)
Blomberg is a bit more cheery about the famous references to Jesus by the Jewish historian Josephus. But there is one main paragraph in Josephus about Jesus, and at least a portion of that paragraph was inserted by Christian scribes who copied and preserved these historical accounts written by Josephus. Even so, there are only a few points of corroboration in that paragraph, not the dozens of examples required to substantiate the strong claim that Strobel stuck into the mouth of Blomberg.
So, if you want to refute the dubious claim that Strobel attributes to Blomberg, the best way to do so is to go straight to Blomberg’s own book on this subject, and quote Blomberg against Blomberg. I suspect that Blomberg did not become an ignorant fool in the ten years (or so) between the publication of his book on the reliability of the Gospels (1987) and Strobel’s interview of him for Strobel’s book The Case for Christ (1998). Rather, it is much more likely that Strobel’s biases on this issue led him to misunderstand something that Blomberg said during the interview.