Interview with cold case homicide detective J. Warner Wallace

Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace
Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace

J.W. Wartick reviewed the book a while back, and called it “the best introductory apologetics book in regards to the historicity of the Gospels I have ever read“.

Well, here is a new interview with J. Warner Wallace about the new book.


How is Christianity a “cold case”? When detectives investigate cold cases, they’re investigating events (murders) from the distant past for which there are often no living eyewitnesses and little, if any, direct or forensic evidence to make the case. Detectives learn how to evaluate and employ circumstantial evidence to demonstrate what happened at the scene of the crime. In a similar way, Christianity makes a claim about an event in the distant past for which there are no living eyewitnesses and little, if any, direct or forensic evidence.

What is your background as a detective? I’ve been working murders in Los Angeles County for 15 years and cold cases for the past 12. Many of these cases have drawn national attention and have been featured on FOX News, Court TV and Dateline NBC. Along the way, I came to appreciate the nature of circumstantial evidence and recognized the skills I developed as a cold-case detective would serve me well in my investigation of the claims of the New Testament Gospels.

What are some of the principles of investigation used in Cold-Case Christianity to evaluate the claims of the New Testament? I’ve identified 10 principles of investigation I believe will assist believers and skeptics as they evaluate the Gospel accounts. Cold-Case Christianity will help people to understand the importance of investigative presuppositions, the role of abductive reasoning, the power and nature of circumstantial evidence, the value of word choice in eyewitness statements and much more. The techniques we use as detectives are appropriate and relevant to the study of the claims of Christianity.

What made you change from a self-described “angry atheist” to a passionate defender of the gospel? When I first read through the Gospels, I observed “unintended eyewitness support” from one Gospel account to another. Like eyewitnesses I had interviewed at crime scenes, one Gospel writer would describe an event in a way that raised as many questions as it answered. The parallel testimony of another Gospel writer would then inadvertently answer the questions raised by the first account. This “eyewitness attribute” I observed in the Gospels intrigued me as an investigator. I eventually decided to use the tools of Forensic Statement Analysis to evaluate the Gospel of Mark. My conclusions forced me to take Mark’s account seriously. My journey toward Jesus began with this investigative approach to the Gospels.

This book makes me think of Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ” book. He brought a journalist’s perspective to the historical Jesus. What could be more interesting than a journalist? A cold case homicide detective who has to make cases to juries all the time. Like Strobel, Wallace is coming from a skeptical background, too. So he knows how to talk to skeptics in a way that many Christians who have always been on the inside don’t know. I think it helps that he has an outside-the-ivory-tower career and has to deal with non-Christians and even criminals all the time. He’s rooted in real-life, and knows how to talk about spiritual things in ways that are interesting to ordinary people.

By the way, there is a Kindle edition of it, although I will want a hard copy to lend. I’m pretty sure that this book will be easy to lend to my co-workers – there is just something about detectives that people find interesting. Think of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, for example.

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