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The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity Paperback – October, 1987

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Maccoby's book, written for the intelligent general reader, presents in clear and persuasive but controversial form his thesis that Paul synthesized Judaism, Gnosticism, and mystery religion to create Christianity as a cosmic savior religion. According to Maccoby, Paul's Pharisaism was his own invention, though actually he was probably associated with the Sadducees. Maccoby attributes the origins of Christian anti-Semitism to Paul and claims that Paul's view of women, though inconsistent, reflects his Gnosticism in its antifeminist aspects. A Talmudic scholar, Maccoby believes that Paul's wide variance from the Jerusalem Church (Nazarenes, under James and Peter) led to the separation of Christianity from Judaism. Recommended for theological and larger public libraries. Carolyn M. Craft, English, Philosophy & Modern Languages Dept., Longwood Coll., Farmville, Va.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Harpercollins (October 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062505858
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062505859
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Marc Dubey on March 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I found "Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Xtianity" to be the eye opener that a friend promised it would be. The edition I found is published by Barnes and Noble. So you won't find the current edition at Borders but they may carry earlier editions. While the book is about Paul and exploding the myths around him to see who he really was - what is most interesting is the look at the Jerusalem Xtians and JC in the context of Temple.

Maccoby did an excellent job of navigating Sadducee, Pharisee, and Pauline positions as well as carefully examining where JC's teachings fit in with each. Maccoby succeeds very well in demonstrating that Paul is the inventor of Xtianity as we know it today. He also goes into great detail in describing the Jerusalem sect, which is the inheritor of JC's ministry through his brother James. I think many Xtians may very well appreciate this aspect of the book. While common sense always told me that JC was a Rabbi teaching Torah, I really appreciate Maccoby's ability to look at JC's teaching with great care and demonstrate how they affirm Jewish values as well as looking at Jewish theological, political and (to a lesser degree) social trends of the day.

There are some limitations to "Mythmaker." The book is something of a well researched primer to Maccoby, not including references, is only 211 pages long. Some of the counterpoint as well some detail is lost for the sake of brevity. Of course this is aimed at a wider than typical audience. There is little appreciation for the possibility the Paul couldn't have really understood the anti-Semitism he was unleashing within Xtianity.
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67 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Agentgary7 on March 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Hyam Maccoby's "The Mythmaker, Paul and the Invention of Christianity" is one of the most profound and important books I've ever read. It's sat on my bookshelf for years; I've read through it several times. I've had a long time to think about this book and its various conclusions before submitting this review, so here goes. Maccoby's argument, in a nutshell, is that Pauline-Christian Scripture (i.e. the so-called "New Testament") is a revision. The real inventor of what we now know as Christianity was not Jesus of Nazareth, but rather Paul of Tarsus. To use the analogy that Maccoby himself uses, Jesus was no more the inventor of Christianity than was the real Prince Hamlet of Denmark the author of the plays of Shakespeare. Maccoby invokes the explanation for Christian origins given by a group long ago dismissed as heretical by the Pauline-Church, the Ebionites. According to the Ebionites, the claims Paul made in his letters to have been a great Pharisee rabbi were bogus; indeed Paul's claim's to have been a true-born Jew were bogus as well: according to the Church father, Epiphanius, "They (i.e. the Ebionites) declare that he (i.e. Paul) was a Greek, born of a Greek mother and a Greek father..."
Now before you dismiss that out of hand consider this: there are a number of instances in Paul's letters where he uses the third-person plural pronoun "we" to comprehend both himself and the Gentiles (for example, Galatians 3:14, "...that in Christ the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith.") Why would someone who was Jewish say "we" as in "we Gentiles"? How on Earth does that make any sense? But if Paul was himself a Gentile that otherwise-unsolvable problem would be immediately solved.
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87 of 101 people found the following review helpful By John S. Ryan on March 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
The received wisdom is that Paul was a Pharisee and Jesus was not. Hyam Maccoby makes a solid case here that the exact reverse is the truth.

Maccoby's case about Jesus is made at greater length in _Revolution in Judea_, but there is a chapter here describing Jesus's cordial relationship with the Pharisees. Maccoby further contends, perhaps less plausibly, that the "Ebionites" ("poor ones") were the group which accurately received and transmitted the traditions of the historical Jesus himself.

Maccoby's account of Paul is nothing short of a thorough shredding. If Paul was a trained Pharisee, why don't his arguments have the sound logical structure he should have learned in Pharisee School? Isn't there something a little funny about the way Paul whipped out Roman citizenship papers whenever he got into trouble? And just what _was_ the nature of the famous disagreement between Peter and Paul?

Maccoby's Paul was, in short, a cunning rogue who pieced together a new religion from bits of this and that, and then dressed the whole thing up with a sprinkling of out-of-context Torah quotations.

I have yet to see a solid reply to most of Maccoby's case. Does he denigrate Paul too far? Perhaps. Does he fail to account adequately for the rise of Christianity? Perhaps. But can we ever read the letters of Paul the same way again after Maccoby has scrutinized them? Undoubtedly not.

Agree or disagree, Maccoby's volume makes a strong counterargument to those who, having reclaimed Jesus as a Jew, wish to extend the same courtesy to Paul. If this book becomes available again, grab a copy at once. And check out Maccoby's other books as well.
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