Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out! (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post) (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK)
“There are also telltale marks of eyewitness description, like the little detail of Jesus writing in the sand when asked whether to stone the adulteress or not (Jn 8:6). No one knows why this is put in; nothing comes of it. The only explanation is that the writer saw it. If this detail and others like it throughout all four Gospels were invented, then a first-century tax collector (Matthew), a “young man” (Mark), a doctor (Luke), and a fisherman (John) all independently invented the new genre of realistic fantasy nineteen centuries before it was reinvented in the twentieth.
The stylistic point is argued so well by C. S. Lewis in “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism” (in Christian Reflections) that we strongly refer the reader to it as the best comprehensive antidemythologizing essay we have seen.”
As mentioned in the introduction, the Bible commands Christians to be ready to give an answer for the hope that they have in Jesus. If you are talking to an unconverted person, or a skeptic, it is not enough to simply tell them that you believe Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible says He rose from the dead. I, for one, am not at all in the habit of accepting something that is told to me just because it comes from one holy book, or another. Most skeptics and unconverted people are like that as well. Understandably, it is not enough to convince them of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus by merely quoting chapter and verse. So, does this mean that the Bible has no benefit in apologetics, or in discussing truth claims with skeptics? Certainly not! It does mean, however, that anybody who would want to refer to Scripture to prove the resurrection of Jesus should be able to demonstrate that the Bible is a reliable and trustworthy witness. That is the focus of the next few chapters of this work. This section seeks to make the case that the Bible narratives of the resurrection of Jesus are trustworthy, because they are demonstrably not of the mythical genre of literature, but of the eyewitness account genre of literature.
C.S. Lewis was not merely a writer of children’s stories. His primary job during his lifetime was that of an Oxford professor of philology and languages. He was an expert on mythical literature and the development of language. In discussing the literary detail of the Gospels during a speech at Cambridge university in 1959, Lewis challenged:
“Turn to (The Gospel of) John. Read the dialogues: that with the Samaritan woman at the well, or that which follows the healing of the man born blind. Look at its pictures: Jesus (if I may use the word) doodling with his finger in the dust… I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage…. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative. If it is untrue, it must be narrative of that kind. The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read.”
Lewis is making the case here that the Gospel narratives, with all their detail, do not properly stand as fictional narrative. Writers in the first century simply did not adorn their fiction in the way that the writers of the Gospels wrote. As an example of what Lewis is discussing here, think about the seemingly insignificant details in the resurrection narratives of the Gospel. For instance – Jesus “giving” the care of His mother to John. This detail in the text doesn’t seem to serve any purpose at all – there is no obvious underlying meaning and the situation between John and Mary is not mentioned again in the Bible. Literarily speaking – it is a detail that adds nothing to the story, and that sort of detail is foreign to ancient myth and legend writing. This incident only makes sense in the context of an eyewitness report that endeavors to record what actually happened at the death and resurrection of Jesus….continued
 “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism,” an essay read by Lewis at Westcott House, Cambridge, on May 11, 1959
 Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 189.
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Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead)