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Gospel Fictions [Kindle Edition]

Randel Helms
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Are the four canonical Gospels actual historical accounts or are they imaginative literature produced by influential literary artists to serve a theological vision? In this study of the Gospels based upon a demonstrable literary theory, Randel Helms presents the work of the four evangelists as the "supreme fictions" of our culture, self-conscious works of art deliberately composed as the culmination of a long literary and oral tradition.

Helms analyzes the best-known and the most powerful of these fictions: the stories of Christ's birth, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, his crucifixion, death and resurrection. In Helms' exegesis of the Gospel miracle stories, he traces the greatest of these - the resurrection of Lazarus four days after his death - to the Egyptian myth of the resurrection of Osiris by the god Horus.

Helms maintains that the Gospels are self-reflexive; they are not about Jesus so much as they are about the writers' attitudes concerning Jesus. Helms examines each of the narratives - the language, the sources, the similarities and differences - and shows that their purpose was not so much to describe the past as to affect the present.

This scholarly yet readable work demonstrates how the Gospels surpassed the expectations of their authors, influencing countless generations by creating a life-enhancing understanding of the nature of Jesus of Nazareth.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2472 KB
  • Print Length: 154 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (October 31, 1988)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002I61F3A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,631 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
125 of 135 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A microscopic dissection of the Gospels.... September 27, 2000
The first of the Gospels (Mark) was written some 40 years after the death of Jesus (about 70 A.D.). Some thirty years later, Luke and Matthew separately updated, expanded, and edited the first document (using another unknown source as well). And after that, an anonymous writer put together the "Fourth Gospel", that of John. In Gospel Fictions, Randel Helms painstakingly, parable-by-parable, verse-by-verse, even word-by-word, analyzes the four Gospels. His thesis is: "The Gospels... are largely fictional accounts concerning an historical figure, Jesus of Nazareth, intended to create a life-enhancing understanding of his nature," A simple instance: After reading this work, one will not only be reminded that each Gospel quotes Jesus's last words on the cross differently, but -- one will have a better idea why each writer put different words into His mouth. This book will disturb those (like myself) who assumed that the Gospels were substantially historical, with minor differences of fact and emphasis. Helms paints a compelling picture of the exact opposite: almost none of the parables happened in fact, many stories were borrowed from the Old Testament, and the authors had little interest in leaving any record of facts. The only way to grasp the scope of Helm's challenge is to read this book. It will leave you a more informed person, if a somewhat disillusioned one.
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67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written, a revelation February 1, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a short simple little book. Anyone who is familiar with the Christian Gospels knows that they vary from each other in various details. This book provides and explanation why and in the process explains how they came to be written.
The first Gospel to be written was that of Mark. It however from a doctrinal point has some problems. There is no mention of the Virgin birth, Mark in quoting a number of prophecies in the Old Testament misunderstands and misquotes them, the description of Jesus?s Baptism suggests that he only becomes the Son of God at that point and not at his birth and lastly the women who observe the resurrection tell nobody.
Helms suggests that the Gospel of Luke attempts to deal with these issues by providing details about the birth, it quotes correctly from the Old Testament and it tries to make sense of the baptism of Jesus and gives a different account of the resurrection. The process of working out the events of Jesus life rather than coming from a historical narrative are often constructed by looking at Old Testament prophecies and then creating events which mirror these prophecies. Helms gives as an example of this Mathew?s use of a prophecy in Isa 7:14-16 to predict the Virgin Birth. It is clearly a passage which illustrates a suggestion that King Pekah of Israel will not reign for long. Mathew has misunderstood the nature of the prophecy.
The writing of the Gospels has thus not come about from an inquiry into the historical Jesus but rather as a result of the Gospel writers creating a legend that fits in with their communities view of the personality and nature of Jesus.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four stars from a former believer December 18, 2005
This book is a great introduction to a study of the four works of myth or fiction that we call the gospels.It is a short book and it is very well written and an easy read.It is not loaded down with long drawn out arguments that make reading a chore - this book was a pleasure to read.

Helms begins by giving the description of a man who lived in the first century and"taught the worship of one true god...the practice of charity and piety and the shunning of hatred and emnity...leading his followers to claim he was the son of God".

The similarities to Jesus go on and on including his death and resurrection,then we find out that we are learning about Appolonius of Tyana,who died around 98A.D. Claims such as these were not uncommon in the ancient world, and they certainly were not exclusive to Jesus.

In Helms' view the gospels were not written as historical biographies but as narratives "whose purpose is less to describe the past than to affect the present".In following the consensus of biblical scholars that Mark was the first gospel written, he shows how Matthew and Luke used it as a source for there own gospels.Each of the four gospels was written for a specific religious community with different theoligical purposes behind the writing of each one.When they are held to be inspired of God in makes no sense that they contradict one another,and not only in small details.When one realizes that they were never meant to be a literal recounting of historical events,and that these types of writings were a common form of religious literature,they make much more sense.

This is certainly not the last word on new testament scholarship,but it is a great place to start.I was a Jehovah's witness for eighteen years and took the bible as God's inspired word.If my blind faith can be shaken and I can begin to think for myself anyone can.I highly recommend this book.Others may dispute some of Randell Helms' claims,but he doesn't claim to be inspired of God.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book, valuable to the informal reader as well as the researcher, highlights the (seemingly intentionally) embellished nature of the New Testament, and notes the unconvincing arguments of Gospel defenders. With clear and convincing reasoning he exposes various discrepancies in the gospels, indicating how history was exaggerated to satisfy prophecies. Writing as literary critic the author does not pick an argument with the Christian faith and acknowledges the value of the Gospels as works of art, but strips the religious baggage from the New Testament books. Chapters address the fictional nature of theology, nativity legends, miracles, passion narratives and resurrection accounts. The book's non-emotional style shouldn't offend the believer who is brave enough to question dogma, yet the well-researched and uncompromising text should arm the skeptic with large-bore ammunition in arguing with Bible-defenders,
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a book that should be considered mandatory reading ...
This is a book that should be considered mandatory reading by anyone even remotely interested in how the stories in the gospels were motivated. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Mark Twain
5.0 out of 5 stars If you have any interest or belief in the Bible, read this book
Gospel Fictions is a very informative book in which author Randel Helms takes us expeditiously through the gospels, educating his readers to the Jewish origins of the New... Read more
Published 4 months ago by John H. Evans
3.0 out of 5 stars It gave the basic information on the Gospels and their ...
It gave the basic information on the Gospels and their origins. The book showed where the overlaps were between gospels and how the old testament influences the writers of the... Read more
Published 4 months ago by John K. Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars A GREAT MIDRASHIC STUDY
Mr. Helms has done a good job showing how the four gospels were written through the midrashic technique which he labels as 'fiction' and is an excellent study for those looking for... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Keith Herrick
The author brilliantly criticizes what he clearly does not understand. It is arrogant to assume that because one author did not like the way another author wrote his gospel, that... Read more
Published 9 months ago by ROBERTO HORNEDO
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing revelations
A medium size book that explains very well the process of writing the four canonical gospels. The author illustrates his ideas with plenty of examples and proofs. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Alberto Mendez
5.0 out of 5 stars Brief, entertained, overwhelming.
Every time you pick up a book from the shelves you make some calculations: how long does it take to read it? what should I read after? Read more
Published 13 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Parallel after parallel
Gospel Fictions by Randel Helms is an interesting and somewhat eye opening book.

Helms suggests, as any reader can see by a reading of the Gospels, that the Gospel... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Ben Adler
Randel Helms is professor English at Atizona State University in Tempe; he has also written Who Wrote the Gospels? Read more
Published 18 months ago by Steven H Propp
Randel Helms is professor English at Atizona State University in Tempe; he has also written Who Wrote the Gospels? Read more
Published 18 months ago by Steven H Propp
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