Thinking Out Loud

May 30, 2013

A Homicide Investigator Looks at History’s Most Famous Death

Cold Case ChristianityEvery decade or so a great work of apologetics appears which breaks the boundaries of the discipline and reaches a wider audience. Josh McDowell did it years ago with Evidence That Demands a Verdict; Frank Morrison with Who Moved the Stone? and more recently Lee Strobel brought a large audience to the discussion with The Case for Christ series.

Enter former Los Angeles County homicide investigator J. Warner Wallace and his book Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. (2013, David C. Cook).  Like Strobel, Wallace was a skeptic turned believer, and like McDowell, Wallace leaves no stone unturned in his study of the reliability of scripture, from obscure passages to those central to core doctrine.

The book is divided into two parts, the nature of cold case investigation — and this case is 2,000 + years old, and the particular evidence that the Bible offers. But first one other book comparison, and you won’t see it coming. Years ago Philip Keller wrote A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. People loved that book because there were particular insights that only one who tended sheep could offer toward interpretation of the text that begins “The Lord is my shepherd.” In many respects, Cold Case Christianity offers the same type of intimacy with the subject matter that only an insider who has worked in this vocation can contribute. So if you feel you’ve read enough apologetics titles to last a lifetime, allow me to offer you one more! 

It’s important to note that Wallace approached this originally from the perspective of an atheist. While the evidence in this case is compelling, I found the first part of the book (which is more than half of the total) most interesting. Possible recipients of this book would include men (Father’s Day is coming) and anyone who reads mysteries or watches mystery or suspense or programs related to the justice system on video or TV.

In a sense, in Cold Case Christianity you, or someone you know who is sitting on the fence in terms of belief, are the jury. So the other possible recipients of this book would be anyone who is investigating Christianity; including people who might not read other books in the apologetics genre.

The second part of the book is the evidence itself. Here, Wallace brings in much from non-Biblical sources, satisfying the oft-voice complaint that some apologists are simply using the Bible to prove the Bible.

Learn more about the author’s ministry, forthcoming titles, and read articles and blogs at This is a handbook I intend to keep within reach and will no doubt refer back to many times.


  1. “Wallace brings in much from non-Biblical sources, satisfying the oft-voice complaint that some apologists are simply using the Bible to prove the Bible.”

    He brings in much non-Biblical sources from decades later. Which, I’m sorry, aren’t at all impressive.

    Comment by NotAScientist — May 30, 2013 @ 7:52 am

  2. The truth reveals itself no matter what

    Comment by bryanpattersonfaithworks — May 30, 2013 @ 7:56 am

  3. Wallace does mention sources which were contemporary to the gospel writers; however, corroboration of Biblical documents would have to, by definition come “later,” after the documents were distributed. In an age where oral tradition was quite accurate, it’s just a matter of how much “later” you accept. In their world, where most people could recite their own genealogy back to Abraham or even Adam, I would have no problem with “decades.”

    Everyone who chooses to take issue with the Bible has to at some point ask themselves, “Why I am hoping against hope that this thing isn’t true?”

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 30, 2013 @ 8:42 am

    • “which were contemporary to the gospel writers”

      And as the gospel writers weren’t contemporary to the story they wrote, why should that matter?

      “In an age where oral tradition was quite accurate”

      Not accurate enough to serve as good evidence for supernatural claims.

      Comment by NotAScientist — May 30, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

      • Hello NotAScientist,
        I feel you have a point. For that reason I wrote the book “Jesus’ Stenographers”. The title of this book speaks for itself, doesn’t it?
        If you like, you can freely download it on: There you can also read the Introduction to the book, if the entire book would be too much for you. I suppose that the Introduction is completely matching with your point.

        Comment by BJE — May 30, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

      • You’re commenting on a book review for a book you obviously haven’t read.

        A few weeks ago you might have swayed me — a little — but Wallace has me utterly convinced that there is no way that any of the gospels could have been written later without mentioning the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. It is one of the single most significant events in all of Jewish history, plus it would have been very convenient to mention it since it fulfilled one of Jesus’ prophecies.

        I’m sorry, there’s just no wiggle room on that one for me, but if you don’t find that compelling, then your mind is obviously closed, and there’s no room for further discussion.

        …Wallace also offers three or four other arguments that support the earlier dating. Track down the book and take a look at it before returning to this discussion.

        Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 30, 2013 @ 7:08 pm

      • “You’re commenting on a book review for a book you obviously haven’t read.”

        I’m commenting on known and documented facts. We have no originals of the gospels. The authors were anonymous. They were written decades after the events they are reporting. Experts, Christian and not Christian, agree on this.

        That isn’t good enough evidence to say a person existed, let alone a person existed who could perform miracles.

        Comment by NotAScientist — May 31, 2013 @ 7:19 am

  4. Hello Paul,

    Let me be more clear. I had not the intention to cast doubts on the book of Wallace “Cold-Case”. I didn’t read the book either and certainly Wallace did a good job according to your review. However, the case of Jesus is not only a cold case it is also a hot case. I mean it is very well possible to collect facts and arguments to show that Jesus’ life does fit in the contemporary situation of Judaism and the Roman world. That is what I call the cold part of the issue. But is that enough?
    The hot part of the issue according to me is the question: Do we possess the original words of Jesus? And I supposed that NotAScientist referred to that, quoting about the oral tradition. Does a dating of the gospels before the year 70 (which I believe strongly) guarantee that we possess the original and authentic words of Jesus Christ? I’m sorry to say, but I don’t believe so. In my view this is the hot part of Jesus’ case. An oral tradition could never produce a transmission of Jesus authentic words. And this is also what nowadays all theologians take as a starting point, even the flower of evangelical theologians.
    You referred to the year 70 AD (not mentioned in the gospels), I will refer to the year 63 BC (neither mentioned in the gospels) in which stenography started in the Roman empire as it was then introduced in the Roman senate by Cicero. Plutarch wrote (in Greek language) about that event that then the first step to the trail of stenography was made. As he wrote in Greek about Greek stenography and the impression of a trail remains the same, it is clear that he spoke about stenography as a common achievement (in the Latin and Greek language) in the Roman empire.
    Moreover there are sufficient texts in the New Testament that Jesus was followed by writers. The conclusion of this short survey is that we indeed possess the original words of the Lord. To defend the view that we indeed posess the very words of Jesus is as important in the field of apology as to show that the events of Jesus life are properly reported in the gospels. And therefore I think that this approach – however not common – deserves respectful consideration.

    “… everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Are Jesus’ words still there? I think so on good grounds, but not on the ground of an oral tradition.


    Comment by BJE — May 31, 2013 @ 7:39 am

  5. Thanks for your review Paul, I appreciate you!

    Comment by J. Warner Wallace (@jwarnerwallace) — June 1, 2013 @ 12:27 am

  6. […] with Jesus’  life, ministry and teachings.  J. Warner Wallace deals with this passage in Cold Case Christianity. But this is insufficient to declare the fourth gospel a forgery or deception on a wide […]

    Pingback by Liberal Theology Can’t Shake a Faith That Wasn’t There to Begin With | Thinking Out Loud — June 21, 2013 @ 7:55 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Your Response (Value-Added Comments Only)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: