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The Historical Evidence for Jesus Paperback – January 1, 1988


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 277 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (January 1, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087975429X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879754297
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,374,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Dr. James Gardner VINE VOICE on April 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Wells was a professor of German at Birkbeck College in London and produced several books on the life of Jesus (The Jesus of the Early Christians in 1971, Did Jesus Exist in 1975, The Jesus Myth 1999), of which this book is the 3rd and perhaps best known. Obviously a bright scholar, his writing style tends toward the academic, with endless summaries of other people's opinions along with the appropriate citations. This can be extremely valuable to researchers, but it makes for difficult reading. In this particular case, the poor quality of the book adds to the difficulties.

Laying aside the aesthetics and writing style, Wells provides an excellent description of the difficulties in using New Testament material for biographical purposes. From there he proceeds to identify the Jesus of Paul and other first Century pre-Gospel writers, who is very different from the Jesus of the Gospels. Wells tends to believe that there is little we can really know about the historical Jesus, and he goes to great lengths to explain the reasons why it is unlikely that Jesus performed miracles, had brothers and sisters, spoke in parables, etc.

Wells is excruciatingly fair in his approach, usually giving both sides of the argument, and explaining his own position.

In summary, this is a scholarly book that has good material, but it suffers from an academic penchant to spend too much time offering other people's research. Were Professor Wells able to take his enormous knowledge and advance his own theory, this book would offer a greater contribution.
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38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on February 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
Religious faith is probably the single most important idea in the Western world. It has compelled people to travel to distant lands, to help those less needy, to give up fortunes to those in need and to dedicated one's life to service and/or study of a higher power. Wells does not contest this. More refreshingly, he does not address the issue with the anger, scorn or vicious condescension often found in works like this. (Don't authors who engage in this invective realize how they sabotage whatever hope there was of making a point?)
Wells has been "preaching" the Gospel of a Christianity without a historical Jesus for some time. His series on this subject contains brilliant insights though the themes are repetitive. To wit, there is no external documented record of the man "Jesus" (besides an interpolated Josephus), Paul seems never to have heard of a Jesus of history, the Christ story is like others of that time, Paul was either mixed up or refining a philosophy involving the ancient "Wisdom" doctrines, etc...
What bothers me about his conclusions is that for some reason a group of people believed in "Someone" enough to die for this belief. This in itself is not radical: There are numerous incidents of apparently rational people defending to the death such ideologies as fascism, communism, racism and tribalism. The actions of the first Christians make sense only if they truly believed that their Savior was a real person at one time. The weakness in Well's thesis is explaining how early believers totally misconstrued Paul's message in an amazingly twisted act of interpretation. Even more, how did the whole idea of Jesus story get started?
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
The book reviews existing evidence about the dates and derivations of most of the books of the new testament. Very rationally presented, a little verbose at times but solid.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 50 REVIEWER on July 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
George Albert Wells (born 1926) is an Emeritus Professor of German at Birkbeck, University of London. He also wrote books such as Did Jesus Exist?, Who Was Jesus?, The Jesus Legend, etc.

He admitted in the "Acknowledgments" section of this 1982 book, "Of the many criticisms of my first book on Christian origins, The Jesus of the early Christians, three were substantially just: (1) The work relied more on the pioneer critics of the nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries than one would expect of a book published in 1971. (2) It gave too much attention to (and was not entirely accurate in its representation of) the pagan background of earliest Christianity, thus neglecting some of the Jewish factors in the origin of this undoubtedly Jewish sect. (3) It too readily posited interpolation (rather than redaction of traditions of different provenance) to account for unevenness and contradictions in early Christian documents. I was able to profit from these criticisms... In the present volume I shall try to answer criticisms of that book and to come to terms with some of the substantial body of apologetic and critical literature concerning the New Testament that has appeared in the meantime." (Pg.
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