Back in college I read the first couple chapters hanging out in a book store or a friend’s house one night. It was nice, but not nice enough I bought the book. Well, my church is going through the book in Bible study and sermons during Lent and they were giving away free copies, so of course I picked one up and started reading it.
Wow! It’s a good book! I really was not expecting much. I mean, how much 2000 year old evidence could there be? I was expecting him to cover maybe 10 sources or pieces of evidence, but when you add them all together you have dozens of points, and that’s just in his simple book for laymen. He lists dozens of sources with more thorough analysis of the individual pieces of evidence.
I’ve been a Christian my whole life. Sure I have doubts from time to time, but it’s always been a constant. My Christian experience, and simply knowing how quickly the early church grew despite persecution from the Romans has always been enough evidence for me. It was never important to me that Josephus or Tacitus wrote about Jesus. The fact that only a few of the disciples wrote down the story of Jesus, and not all of them never bothered me. Of course, in today’s world, were the three years of Jesus’s ministry to happen, everyone would write three books about his life. However, for the first century to have the four gospels, plus a few letters from the original 12 disciples, copied and translated remarkably consistently from a group of 12 people where a few might have been illiterate, there was no printing press or internet, and both the Jews and the Romans were trying to squelch Christianity, by historic standards is as strong as evidence comes. For example, Thallus wrote a three volume history of the Mediterranean, which would be an important text if it were found, but it hasn’t survived to modern times. So why do we have the New Testament? Probably because the people spreading it were incredibly convinced that this was a really important story to tell.
Who might possibly enjoy reading the book? Good question, honestly, anyone middle school and older, Christian or atheist. It’s an easier read than the Bible and provides a context to the Bible that the Bible itself does not give. It doesn't have all the answers, and honestly we never will.
If there is any change from me after reading the book it is that I might talk about God and Jesus more. Instead of being nervous of being ridiculed or challenged for my faith, at the moment I feel more like, ‘…whatever, and here is point A, B, C and D for your objection.’ What I’ve realized is that it’s easy to attack faith, and people have been attacking Christians (and every faith) for years, but it’s a lot harder to attack evidence, and people can't really dispute the evidence of Jesus and his resurrection. For example, why did the people who knew Jesus in large part die claiming he was raised from the dead? It's one thing to die for a faith as people still do today, but it's another thing to die for a faith that was started by a person you knew. In other words, if the original disciples knew that the story of Jesus was false, they would not have died committing to it.