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Deconstructing Jesus Hardcover – March 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews


"...this is a book I can recommend. It raises many legitimate issues..." -- Internet Bookwatch, July, 2001

From the Inside Flap

In DECONSTRUCTING JESUS, author Robert M. Price argues that liberal Protestant scholars who produce reconstructions of the "historical Jesus" are, as Albert Schweitzer pointed out long ago, creating their own Jesus icons to authorize a liberal religious agenda. Christian faith, whether fundamentalist or theologically liberal, invariably tends to produce a Jesus capable of playing the role of a religious figurehead.

In this way, "Jesus Christ" functions as a symbolic cloak for several hidden agendas. This is no surprise, Price demonstrates, since the Jesus Christ of the gospels is very likely a fictional amalgam of several first-century prophets and messiahs, as well as of purely mythic Mystery Cult redeemers and Gnostic Aions. To show this, Price follows the noted scholar Burton Mack's outline of a range of "Jesus movements" and "Christ cults," showing the origins of each one's Jesus figures and how they may have finally merged into the patchwork savior of Christian dogma.

Finally, Price argues that there is good reason to believe that Jesus never existed as a historical figure, and that responsible historians must remain agnostic about a "historical Jesus" and what he stood for.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (March 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573927589
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573927581
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,123,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert M. Price (Selma, NC), professor of scriptural studies at the Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary, is the editor (with Jeffery Jay Lowder) of The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave and the Journal of Higher Criticism. He is also the author of Top Secret: The Truth Behind Today's Pop Mysticisms; The Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church Was Left Behind; The Reason-Driven Life: What Am I Here on Earth For? and many other works.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

120 of 128 people found the following review helpful By George N. Wells on May 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I guess it all started with the pre millennium madness. More and more biblical scholars are following the footsteps of scholars who have attempted to find the actual person behind the gospel accounts.
"Deconstructing Jesus" isn't an easy read. Unless you have been diligently studying in this field you will find many references to authors you have never heard about. The field is rife with people studying this question.
Bottom line, as I understand it, is that the Jesus that contemporary Christianity follows is a multi-layered construction that has evolved over time to fit the needs of the current culture and political climate. The roots of this construction are all over the first century Middle East and various philosophies. From Cynic, to Gnostic, through Zealot, and everything in between has been woven into the picture that we get of "The Man From Nazareth" (or, was he a Nasserite or Nasorean?).
For the serious student of Christology or church history this book is an excellent criticism of all the current thinking in this area of scholarship. I doubt that the average pew-sitting Christian will be overjoyed with this book but the scholarship will, eventually, be the stuff of many homilies.
Will you find the historical Jesus in this book? No. But you will find an early Church struggling with a polyglot of beliefs attempting to blend them into a cohesive fabric of faith. Perhaps it is that dynamic that has kept "The Church" alive for two millennia. Mysticism and Gnostic thinking are on the rise again and "The Church" on the eve of another evolutionary move -- here's the first map of the territory ahead.
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68 of 74 people found the following review helpful By on July 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is a landmark: at long last we have a well-known and highly respected Christian theologian taking up for serious discussion the conclusions of several non-theological scholars about the non-historicity of the Jesus of the Gospels and Acts. Chief among these scholars has long been George A. Wells, whose first book on the subject was The Jesus of the Early Christians (1971). A half-dozen others have followed. In the last few years, Earl Doherty, a Canadian classical scholar, has pursued the subject with great energy on his very lively website, and this year in an impressive book, The Jesus Puzzle (2000). On the whole, the theological establishment has cold-shouldered, or more often, met such publications with silence rather than arguments. Hopefully Price's book will lead to a change of attitude. After all, theology, including the history of Christianity, is an essential ingredient in the history of civilization. Yet, unaccountably, Western historians have left the history of Christianity to their theological colleagues. It is significant that practically all Western general Encyclopedias have assigned the whole area of religion to theologians. The result is that the general public has got a rather biased picture of Christian origins. Price's book will shake them up. After a wide-ranging and always interesting argument he concludes as follows: "it seems to me that Jesus must be categorized with other legendary founder figures, including the Buddha, Krishna, and Lao-tzu. There may have been a real figure there, but there is simply no longer any way to being sure." Fair enough. But historians will not give up their search. After all, new manuscripts, providing new ways of looking at the field, may still turn up. Michael Wise's fascinating reinterpretation of the Qumran texts referring to the Teacher of Righteousness, in his recent book The First Messiah (1998), is a case in point.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By dzango on September 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For those who've read Burton L Mack or John Dominic Crossan or know about other modernist New Testament scholarship this is your next step. Robert Price charges in where others fear to tread taking the arguments of more cautious modernists to their natural conclusions and finally revealing that the emperor has no clothes or rather that he's got a whole wardrobe and that according to our prejudices and preconceptions we can dress Jesus/Barbi (or should that be Ken) in the clothes we prefer.Want a Cynic philosopher Jesus? You got it! Want a charismatic Jewish excorcist? You got it! Anyone reading Russell Shorto's indispensable introduction for layperson to the full spectrum of modernist debate 'Gospel Truth' will have concluded this already, but boy does Mr Price take everything a step further but leaves the arguments open ended. Even the apologists get a word in here and there! You're left to make your own mind up, to pursue trains of thought or further researches or just let your imagination rove through the religious mixed grill of the ancient world. There's enough information here to keep a post-graduate student or fascinated layperson busy for a very long time. There is nothing here that could offend anyone Christian or non Christian with an open heart and mind. If you want to believe there is a Yeshua ben Yusuf lurking in the shadows of the New Testament then Robert Price might just help to illuminate that figure for you. Robert Price writes with such riveting mixture of scholarship and good humour that I turned to each new chapter with eager anticipation.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Against all the books that purport to show what Jesus was "really" like, be it itinerant preacher, marginal Jew, radical zealot, etc., this book shows how the level of mythologizing has left it impossible to reconstruct a genuine biography. It leaves open the strong possibility that in fact there was no historical Jesus, or that there was more than one -- Jesus as a composite character.
Among books skeptical of Christianity, it is the best documented, with examples of similar beliefs in preChristion religions, Greek philosophy and early rabbinic Judaism contemporary with the New Testament writers.
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