What do I think of Peter J. Williams’s book published by Crossway? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
This book is a short read on the reliability of the Gospels. Don’t be deceived by its size. It is small, but it puts forward a succinctly powerful argument. Williams has written a book that is useful for the layman and yet incredibly scholarly at the same time.
It starts with just looking at bare facts about Christianity from outside of the New Testament. The information about Tacitus, Josephus, and Pliny the Younger, with an emphasis on Tacitus, is extremely helpful. Williams doesn’t spend time arguing with the idea that Jesus never existed, but he could have it in his sights.
Don’t think that means the information is light. It’s quite good and Williams still deals with popular objections, such as the spelling of the reference of Christ when it comes to the writings of Tacitus. Tacitus is probably the best extra-Biblical source we have on the base existence of Jesus and it’s quite helpful.
He then moves to an overview of the Gospels. This discusses what they are, why they are, and when they were written. Each of these chapters is short enough to read on its own, though reading the book as a whole will be more rewarding.
Then we move into Gospel reliability. In this, Williams leans heavily on Bauckham, and for good reason. This is the longest chapter, but it also contains a number of charts to help catalog the information. Williams looks at details like names, geography, finances, and even botany, to show that the Gospel authors did not make things up and were not writing from a standpoint where they were unfamiliar with the area.
Williams also looks at the idea of undesigned coincidences, made especially famous by the recent work of Lydia McGrew. This is not an extensive look, but it is a sufficient look. You could say this chapter is meant to pique your interest and if it succeeds, you could look into the research of McGrew on this.
From there, we get more into if we have the words of Jesus and if the text has been changed. Again, these chapters are short, but they contain a lot of really good information on the subject. I really encourage you to consider reading this even if you are knowledgeable on the subject. Williams has material that you won’t find in your regular apologetics book.
There is a brief chapter on contradictions and then one asking why this stuff would be made up. This last one ends with a powerful appeal to consider really recognizing who Jesus is and taking Him seriously. Naturally, that includes an argument for His resurrection.
This book is a gift to the church and one that skeptics will also need to take seriously. The layman will greatly appreciate how helpful and scholarly it is. The experienced apologist will appreciate having a brief guide to several key facts on the Gospels. Bottom line is to get this book and read it.