Book Review: Evidence That Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell

I recently finished reading the book Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell. I’ve known of the book for years, and had someone recommend it to me years ago, but kept putting off reading it. Now that I’m writing a blog, I need to research the questions I have. This seemed like a good time to read a classic book on Christian Apologetics.

Josh had been an atheist when he was in college, but felt he needed answers for life. He knew some Christians, and they challenged him to research the accuracy of the Bible. Josh accepted the challenge…to prove them wrong. After months of research and visiting libraries and museums in several different countries, he became a Christian.

At the end of my journey in Europe, I found myself sitting in a museum library in London, England. After several hours of research studying some out-of-print books, I leaned back in my chair, rubbed my eyes, and without remembering I was in a quiet library, I spoke out loud, “It’s true. It’s true! It’s really true!” It was about 6:30 p.m. when I left the library. As I walked along those London streets, I realized that there was no escaping the facts: the Bible is true, the resurrection of Christ really did happen, and Jesus is who he claimed to be.1

In 1972 Josh published the results of his research in the first edition of Evidence That Demands a Verdict. The book has been revised several times to include current research and remain culturally relevant. The latest revision was written with his son Sean and published in 2017.

Since 1972, Evidence has been translated into forty-four languages and published worldwide. Millions of people from South America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East, and beyond have come to rely upon Evidence as one of the most important apologetics books of this generation.2

Josh tells one favorite story about Evidence That Demands A Verdict:

A man walked into a Christian bookstore in an Arabic-speaking country. “I want your best book on the defense of Christianity.” The bookstore manager handed him Evidence That Demands A Verdict in Arabic. As the man left he exclaimed, “I’m doing my dissertation on destroying Christianity.” Six months later the storeowner baptized the student who had become a believer.3

The book is big. I read the Kindle version, and the Kindle reader shows the book is 868 pages. The preface, introduction, acknowledgement, testimony and prologue (and a few other items) are 78 pages. The bibliography is 52 pages. There’s a lot of information in the book, as you can see from looking at the chapter titles.

  • PART I: Evidence for the Bible
    • CHAPTER 1: The Uniqueness of the Bible
    • CHAPTER 2: How We Got the Bible
    • CHAPTER 3: Is the New Testament Historically Reliable?
    • CHAPTER 4: Have the Old Testament Manuscripts Been Accurately Transmitted?
    • CHAPTER 5: Gnostic Gospels and Other Nonbiblical Texts
  • PART II: Evidence for Jesus
    • CHAPTER 6: The Historical Existence of Jesus
    • CHAPTER 7: The Lofty Claims of Jesus
    • CHAPTER 8: The Trilemma: Lord, Liar, Lunatic?
    • CHAPTER 9: Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled in Jesus Christ
    • CHAPTER 10: The Resurrection: Hoax or History?
    • CHAPTER 11: Is Christianity a Copycat Religion?
    • CHAPTER 12: The Deity of Jesus: An Investigation
    • CHAPTER 13: The Martyrdom of the Apostles
  • PART III: Evidence for the Old Testament
    • CHAPTER 14: The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Influences
    • CHAPTER 15: Biblically Faithful Approaches to Genesis
    • CHAPTER 16: Archaeology and the Old Testament
    • CHAPTER 17: The Historical Adam
    • CHAPTER 18: The Historicity of the Patriarchs
    • CHAPTER 19: The Historicity of the Exodus 
    • CHAPTER 20: The Historicity of the Conquest
    • CHAPTER 21: The Historicity of the United Monarchy
    • CHAPTER 22: The Historicity of the Divided Monarchy and Exilic Period
    • CHAPTER 23: The Composition of the Pentateuch
    • CHAPTER 24: The Composition of the Book of Isaiah
    • CHAPTER 25: The Historicity of Daniel
    • CHAPTER 26: Alleged Contradictions in the Old Testament
  • PART IV: Evidence for Truth
    • CHAPTER 27: The Nature of Truth
    • CHAPTER 28: The Knowability of Truth
    • CHAPTER 29: Answering Postmodernism
    • CHAPTER 30: Answering Skepticism
    • CHAPTER 31: Are Miracles Possible?
    • CHAPTER 32: Is History Knowable?
  • EPILOGUE: Final Thoughts
  • APPENDIX: Responding to the Challenges of Bart Ehrman

Neither Josh nor Sean are experts in all of these fields of study, so they rely heavily on the expertise of other people. There are many quotes from other authors, speakers, theologians and professors. Most of these people are Christian, but some non-Christian sources are also included. Since I read this book to use as a resource for my blog, I copied over 350 quotes from over 125 different sources, and put them in my notes for over 175 different questions on my list. Many of those questions were ones I hadn’t thought of until reading this book.

Evidence That Demands a Verdict may be intimidating for a beginner, just on size alone. It took me 70 days to read it, and I often spent 2-3 hours a day reading (although I was taking notes at the time). The book is written in a style which makes it fairly easy to understand, and each chapter is broken down into smaller sections. There is certainly a lot of technical jargon in the book, so reading the electronic Amazon Kindle version with links to definitions and Internet resources is helpful. It is not intended to be a scholarly work, so I think most people who are interested in these topics should find it informative. This is definitely one of the best apologetics books I’ve read, and I highly recommend it.

Resources

  • McDowell, Josh and McDowell, Sean. EvidenceThat Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017) (Amazon)

Footnotes

  1. McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. Evidence for the Resurrection: What it Means for Your Relationship with God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009) xxvii.
  2. McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. Evidence for the Resurrection: What it Means for Your Relationship with God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009) xxi.
  3. McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. Evidence for the Resurrection: What it Means for Your Relationship with God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009) xxii.
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