Book Review: He Walked Among Us

Note: This article is reprinted with permission from As I See It, a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, He Walked Among Us: Evidence for the Historical Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993. 366 pp., paperback.

He Walked Among UsChristus Ravenna MosaicJosh McDowell is well-known for the numerous books on various aspects of Christian apologetics, which he has penned over the past several decades. Those volumes are generally quite useful in deflecting, defusing, and discrediting various attacks on the credibility of the Bible. This present volume, co-authored by Bill Wilson (who is otherwise unknown to me) and originally published in 1988, is comparable to McDowell’s other volumes. Herein, the authors present, with numerous documented quotes from a variety of recognized scholars and experts, strong evidence from extra-biblical sources for the historicity of Jesus, evidence from textual criticism, secular history, archaeology, geography, and other areas for the accuracy and credibility of the New Testament accounts of Jesus. They also provide an excellent apologetic (defense) for the reality of New Testament miracles, including and especially the resurrection, and for the deity of the Messiah.

Some parts of the book can be characterized as excellent, some parts are good, and a few portions are not up to snuff, particularly the section on New Testament quotes of the Old Testament (pp. 227-232) where terminology is frequently improperly used and some facts are incorrect. There are also some minor errors elsewhere—“Q” is a posited common source behind Matthew and Luke, not Matthew and Mark, as stated (p. 155). “Pentecost” is said to be fifty days after the resurrection, when in fact it is fifty days after Passover (p. 162). The alleged “fourteen to seventeen” years during which Paul ministered in the vicinity of Tarsus (p. 171) is too long by at least seven to ten years. The “winter solstice” is inaccurately identified as occurring on December 25 (p. 191). “Literally” (p. 212) is certainly not accurately used. The claim (p. 237) that the New Testament contains more Hebrew than Aramaic words is incorrect, unless the very common “amen” is counted as a separate word every time it occurs. “Messiah” (p. 291) is certainly not a Hebrew word, but an Aramaic one. The quote ascribed to “Song of Songs” (p. 292)—a Biblical book—is rather a quote from the inter-testamental pseudepigraphal book “Psalms of Solomon.” The reference to “John 11” (p. 300) is more correctly to Matthew 11.

Some assertions are dubious, including the undocumented claim (p. 206) that “gates of Hades” was a rabbinic term referring to Gentile cities; I have never seen any such use anywhere, including numerous commentaries on Matthew 16:18, especially those focused on rabbinic literature. The claim (p. 246) that John presents Jesus as dying at the same time the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple is highly doubtful, as is the claim that Jesus and the disciples ate the Passover a day in advance of the Jerusalem Jews (p. 258). And while adequate and accurate documentation (and we ran numerous references to see for ourselves if they were given accurately) is provided for the great majority of the claims and quotes given, yet, it is in an abbreviated “code” that must be deciphered; it would not have required much more space to simply give the titles of the works cited in full. These few flaws do not seriously mar the overall worth of this book.

We append numerous quotations gleaned from these pages, with authors noted, if they are other than McDowell and Wilson. The book itself will have to be referenced to garner the precise published source of the quotes.

It is a matter of amazement to me that books constantly get published, and television programmes produced, which set out the most bizarre interpretations of Jesus of Nazareth on the most slender of evidence. (Michael Green, p. 15)

One often overlooked observation is the way the various popular reconstructions of Jesus’ life contradict one another. (pp. 16-17)

All such reconstructions of Jesus necessarily have in common an extreme skepticism with regard to the primary evidence for Jesus, the canonical gospels, which are regarded as a deliberate distortion of the truth in order to offer a Jesus who is fit to be the object of Christian worship. Instead, they search out hints of “suppressed evidence,” and give a central place to incidental historical details and to later “apocryphal” traditions not unknown to mainstream biblical scholarship, but which have generally been regarded as at best peripheral, and in most cases grossly unreliable. The credulity with which this “suppressed evidence” is accepted and given a central place in reconstructing the “real” Jesus is more remarkable when it is contrasted with the excessive skepticism shown towards the canonical gospels. (R. T. France, p. 18)

Did the early Jewish rabbis think Jesus was a myth or a legend? Absolutely not. There is not a hint of a suggestion of this hypothesis, regardless of what some modern philosophers and theologians may conclude. (p. 70)

Speaking of the post New Testament writings vis-à-vis the New Testament:

Not one compares for a moment in depth and spiritual fullness with a St. Paul or St. John; and the whole patristic literature, with its incalculable value, must ever remain very far below the New Testament. The single epistle to the Romans or the Gospel of John is worth more than all commentaries, doctrinal, polemic, and ascetic treatises of the Greek and Latin fathers, schoolmen and reformers. (Philip Schaff, p. 73)

We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A. D. 80, two full generations before the date between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today. (William F. Albright, p. 110)

Only modern scholars who lack both historical method and perspective can spin such a web of speculation as that with which form critics have surrounded the gospel tradition. (William F. Albright, p. 111)

At this point the literary critic continues to follow Aristotle’s dictum: “The benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, and not arrogated by the critic to himself.” In other words, as John W. Montgomery summarizes: “One must listen to the claims of the document under analysis, and not assume fraud or error unless the author disqualified himself by contradictions or known factual inaccuracies.” (p. 113)

A. N. Sherwin-White, a classical historian, writes that “for Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming.” He continues by saying that “any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.” (p. 117)

There are many definitions of “history,” but the one I prefer is “a knowledge of the past based upon testimony.” (p. 118)

In regard to the dating of the gospels by certain critics, R. T. France has commented, “It is interesting to observe that the lateness of the date proposed is often in proportion to the degree of a scholar’s skepticism as to their historical value; the cynic might wonder which came first!” (p. 129)

Referring to the Gospel of John, [C. S.] Lewis goes on to say: “I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that no one of them is like this… .These men ask me to believe that they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern—see and can’t see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight.” (p. 134)

They [i.e., modern Bible critics] will not let the text speak on its own terms. Certainly the modern theologians would not want us to read their books the way they want us to read the New Testament! (Harold Hoehner, p. 145)

Most scholars who do not presuppose an antisupernatural bias date the synoptic gospels generally in the 60s [A.D.], some a little earlier. (p. 154)

Bultmann, who viewed the New Testament as an historically flawed document, had never visited the sites in Israel and had never considered the influence of Jewish culture on Jesus. (p. 198)

All these evidences of accuracy [by Luke] are not accidental. A man whose accuracy can be demonstrated in matters where we are able to test it is likely to be accurate even where the means for testing him are not available. Accuracy is a habit of mind, and we know from happy (or unhappy) experience that some people are habitually accurate just as others can be depended upon to be inaccurate. Luke’s record entitles him to be regarded as a writer of habitual accuracy. (F. F. Bruce, p. 206)

It can be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. (Nelson Glueck, p. 213; the quote in the original source continues: “Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible,” Rivers in the Desert, p. 31)

More and more the older view that the biblical data were suspect and even likely to be false, unless corroborated by extrabiblical facts, is giving way to one which holds that, by and large, the biblical accounts are more likely to be true than false, unless clear-cut evidence from sources outside the Bible demonstrate the reverse. (Harry Orlinsky, p. 213)

A proper historical understanding of the New Testament is impossible without a detailed knowledge of Jewish literature and thought. (R. A. Stewart, p. 233)

I know of no reputable New Testament scholar or historian today who would any longer defend the view that the Christian ideas of the resurrection were derived from parallels of pagan religions. (William Craig, p. 283)

You can count on it. Every few years, some “scholar” will stir up a short-lived sensation by publishing a book that says something outlandish about Jesus… .The amazing thing about all these debunk-Jesus books is that they accept as much of the recorded gospels as they find convenient, then ignore or repudiate other parts of the same document which contradict their notions. (Lewis Cassels, p. 321)

kutilek.jpgDoug Kutilek is editor of www.kjvonly.org, a website dedicated to exposing and refuting the many errors of KJVOism, and has been researching and writing about Bible texts and versions for more than 35 years. He has a B.A. in Bible from Baptist Bible College (Springfield, MO), an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati), and a Th.M. in Bible exposition from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). A professor in several Bible institutes, college, graduate schools, and seminaries, he edits a monthly cyber-journal, As I See It. The father of four grown children and four granddaughters, he and his wife, Naomi, live near Wichita, Kansas.


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