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on August 24, 2000
New Testament scholars, quick to dismiss evangelical leanings toward belief that the Gospels are verbatim accounts by eyewitnesses, should think again if they think they have silenced their critics.
Wells has shown that questioning a few assumptions can lead to vastly different conclusions. The assumption he questions is that the general framework of the gospel accounts is based in fact. His different conclusion is that the Jesus that Christians know and love is mostly or all a legendary character.
Basically, taking Paul's earliest writings (which predate the gospels), Wells examines the growth of a tradition which added more and more on to the idea of Jesus, which is how myths work.
Scholars have turned their nose up to this theory, citing that Wells is not accepted in scholarly circles and that he is just a German professor, instead of providing some reasons that Wells's inference from the known data CAN'T work.
Read and enjoy. Crossan, eat your heart out.
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George Albert Wells (born 1926) is an Emeritus Professor of German at Birkbeck, University of London. He also wrote books such as The Historical Evidence for Jesus,Who Was Jesus?,The Jesus Legend, etc. This 1986 edition is a revision of his 1975 book.

He wrote in the Introduction, "In my earlier book, The Jesus of the early Christians: A study in Christian origins... my purpose was to show the difficulties and problems which arise when the gospels are interpreted as historical records, and how Christianity could have arisen even had there been no historical Jesus... In the present book I discuss... more fully... the gospel evidence for Jesus' existence... In this present book, I try to indicate more fully what motives led to their [gospels'] composition." (Pg. 2-3)

Of the quotations in Josephus ], he comments, "In Josephus' entire work the word 'Christ' occurs only in the two passages about Jesus and his brother James. This hardly strengthens the case for their authenticity... The words have the character of a brief marginal gloss, later incorporated innocently into the text. Josephus probably wrote of the death of a JEWISH Jerusalem leader called James, and a Christian reader thought the reference must be to James the brother of the Lord... Other interpolations are known to have originated in precisely such a way." (Pg. 11)

He argues, "The view that the passage [about the Lord's Supper in 1 Cor 11:23-25] is a cult-legend is supported by the fact that the version of it recorded in the earliest gospel (Mk 14:22-25) does not fit the context the evangelist has given it... the command to 'do this in remembrance of me' is recorded in Paul's version... but not in the gospels (except in some manuscripts of Lk [22:19])... To suggest that an ordinance of such importance was made by Jesus, but forgotten by all the evangelists... is tantamount to abandoning all confidence in the gospels." (Pg. 27)

He asks, "Why is it that, although many theologians have their doubts about a great deal that is recorded in the gospels, nearly all commentators try to preserve a historical nucleus and shrink from admitting that the chief character in the story is legendary? One reason... is that there is now such a vast literature on Jesus that further contributors to it are more than pleased if they can convince themselves they they do not need to study certain elements of it." (Pg. 205) He further wonders, "Where is the difference between saying that we know next to nothing about Jesus and the position that the NT provides insufficient basis for believing that there was a historical Jesus?" (Pg. 214)

Wells [as well as Robert Price's Deconstructing Jesus, and Earl Doherty's more derivative The Jesus Puzzle] is probably the best advocate of the "Jesus Myth" theory today, and his writings (which overlap, somewhat) are "must reading" for anyone studying this matter..
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on December 15, 1999
To make this short, The best book on Jesus using historical facts
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