An atheist for 35 years, J. Warner Wallace was a homicide detective who decided to investigate the evidence for Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, and ultimately found that he could not deny anything in the Bible.
Raised by an atheist father and a Mormon stepmother, for years Wallace passionately debated the few Christian friends he had, but seldom found them prepared to defend what they believed.
After becoming a police officer, forensic scientist and eventually a cold-case homicide detective for 12 years, Wallace constantly relied on the nature and power of evidence. Yet, when he finally took time to be honest with himself, he realized he had not examined the evidence for the Christian worldview without the bias and presupposition of naturalism.
"Growing up as a skeptic, I never thought of the biblical narrative as an eyewitness account," Wallace writes in his book Cold Case Christianity, which chronicles his investigation.
"Instead, I saw it as something more akin to religious mythology – a series of stories designed to make a point."
On his first examination of the New Testament, he quickly noted that "the writers of Scripture identified themselves as eyewitnesses and viewed their writings as testimony".
To establish the authenticity of these eyewitness accounts, Wallace examined a dozen hostile witnesses: 'pagan' and Jewish historians from the first and second century. He found that they collectively provide a detailed outline of Jesus' life and His followers' actions afterwards.
Addressing the question, 'Is There Any Evidence for Jesus Outside the Bible?', Wallace writes on PleaseConvinceMe.com that it is possible to reconstruct much of Jesus' life from these hostile witnesses. They record his virgin birth in Palestine, his "magical powers" and healing of the lame, his teachings on repentance and faith in Him and deity claims, that He accurately predicted the future, His betrayal by Judas, crucifixion under Pilate, the sky's darkness and earthquake upon His death, the empty tomb, and the boldness and martyrdom of Jesus' disciples who claimed they saw Him, His wounds and His ascension to heaven after He rose from the dead.
Wallace notes four reasons why these non-biblical sources powerfully corroborate the authenticity of Jesus' life.
"One, there are amazingly few manuscripts of any text written during Jesus' time. Two, historians of this period wrote amazingly little about religious figures anyway. Three, Jesus was active (in public ministry) for just three years. Four, Jesus ministered in an amazingly remote corner of the Roman Empire."
Continuing his examination of the supposed contradictions in the Bible, Wallace eventually assembled ten rules to aid an accurate assessment.
The first two rules were: read it "with a fair attitude", and remember that Christians affirm the the original manuscripts are without error, so minor copyist variations are irrelevant to this inerrancy claim.
Third, to be fair, he needed to "allow the Bible to explain itself by reading other passages that comment on the difficult passage in question."
Fourth, he noted that Bible writers followed "the common cultural device of rounding numbers for the sake of simplicity."
Fifth, Bible translations add quote marks not in the original, which means, for example, that New Testament quotes from the Old Testament were not meant to be verbatim.
Six, Wallace realised that "no two witnesses to the same event will ever describe that event in exactly the same way. If the witnesses did describe the event in exactly the same way, you should question their honesty!"
Seven, the Bible is written from the viewpoint of earthbound people, not unlike modern meteorologists who refer to "sunrise" and "sunset" even though the earth moves not the sun.
Eight, the mere description of an historical event in the Bible, he explains, "does not mean that God approves it".
Nine, on investigating the small variations due to copyist errors, Wallace concluded that none affected the theology or instruction of the Bible.
The tenth rule of Bible, Wallace says, is "God alone is God," which means He is the transcendent "source of all morality", is innately good and "the Creator of life".
Since God is the Creator of Life and all things, Wallace observes that "[God] can also take back what He has created, and in doing this, He does not violate anything in His nature. But, we also need to remember that God has a reason for everything He does, even when we may not see it as clearly as we would like."
Wallace says he came to understand that God is loving and can be trusted to perform what seems harsh. Like a doctor who removes a gangrenous arm even though ignorant observers believe the hand and fingers are healthy.
In the final analysis, Wallace realised that he is imperfect and could not logically argue with a perfect God.
"As a reader of the Bible, either I am going to stand as its critic, or I am going to allow the Bible to stand as a critic over me.
"Utilising some simple rules of engagement, the apparent contradictions faded away."
When the evidence was collected, Wallace concluded that only the Bible had sufficient support from archaeology and broad eyewitness sources to be a true record of history.
On that basis he humbly asked Jesus Christ to be the King of his life and save him from judgment for his sin.
"I'm grateful for my evidential detective inclinations because they guided me to the truth," Wallace shares. "God moved first, I responded with the evidence God provided." •