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Who Wrote the New Testament?: The Making of the Christian Myth Paperback – August 2, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mack's (The Lost Gospel; A Myth of Innocence) newest book is one of those rare volumes that, upon completion, makes one wonder how we could possibly have lived without it. The clarity of Mack's prose and the intelligent pursuit of his subject make compelling reading. Of course, the question Mack asks is not one Christians have been encouraged to ask, which only adds to the book's interest. Mack's investigation of the various groups and strands of the early Christian Community?out of which were generated the texts of Christianity's first anthology of religious literature?makes sense of a topic that has often been confusing. Regrettably, in an effort to appeal to a popular audience, Mack's treatment has been pruned of much of its scholarly apparatus; his notes would have been a welcome resource. Certainly, as the number of publications emerging from Jesus Seminar draw attack from conservative seminaries, such apparatus will become essential, popular audience or no. Nonetheless, this is an important book; a must-read for any student of the New Testament.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Certainly Mack's book should take a place in the front ranks of the many fine introductions available to students of the New Testament in both academic and nonacademic settings. A comprehensive synthesis of New Testament scholarship that is nevertheless popularly accessible, it will make a particularly useful introductory text in an area where such texts are in great demand. But it is more than an excellent introduction. As the subtitle suggests, the book is also a critical account of the making of the Christian myth--an invitation to critical reflection on the social construction of a foundational epic that has shaped (and been shaped by) the history and behavior of the West since Constantine. That makes it an introduction to mythmaking that is more than a colonial criticism or classification of other people's myths; it is an invitation to cultural self-criticism, an invaluable contribution to liberal education that is a potentially important corrective to triumphalist practices as tempting in our multicultural age as they were in the multicultural matrix out of which Christian scripture emerged. Steve Schroeder --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition edition (August 2, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060655186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060655181
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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189 of 216 people found the following review helpful By reason on December 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
If you want an honest, no-nonsense appraisal of the origins of the New Testament, then this book is for you. Unlike apologetic writers, who state absolute truths up front and then work backwards into a proof, Mack proceeds in a scholarly fashion to reconstruct who wrote the bible and when they actually did it.. This kind of scholarship is particularly difficult, because the earliest scrap of new testament we possess is a small piece of John's Gospel dated 125 CE(the Ryland fragment), and the earliest complete manuscripts are dated towards the end of the second century CE..Additionally, the only extrabiblical references to Christ in the century in which he lived are limited to one-liners from ancient writers and historians such as Tacitus, Josephus, Suetonius and Seneca.
Given this to work with, Mack proceeds with a remarkable bit of detective work to develop a working hypothesis about the true origins of the New testament. Consequently, and in a manner not unlike the methodolgy employed by the Jesus Seminar, he unabashedly (but carefully)incorporates non-canonical works such as the Gospel of Thomas and the hypothesized "Q" document into his analysis, being aware that an over-arching factor in the early church's assessment of the canonical worthiness of any book lay in its conformity to accepted church orthodoxy and doctrine. As a result, modern scholarship is therefore correct in being suspicious of some canonical works and in accepting(provisionally) the inclusion of other non-canonical works in any analysis. Frankly, this is no different than a paleontologist accepting new fossil evidence, even if it invalidates or alters his or her own pet theories.
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94 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Tom Munro on February 8, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If we read the dialogues of Plato the person who is the mouth piece of his thought is a historical character Socrates. It is clear however that Plato is not simply writing down what Socrates has said, but he puts in his mouth ideas that he thinks are correct. Mack thinks that this was a common practice in Greek communities and that a large number of the sayings of philosophers like Diogeneses were constructed after the event to reflect the spirit of his philosophy.
Mack is a biblical expert and has written previous works on the subject including one on the existence of a common source of sayings for two of the Gospels known as Q.
In this book he uses as a tool of exposition the recent finding of the Gospel of Thomas. A manuscript written in Coptic which was found in 1945. Rather than being a Gospel which purported to tell Jesus life, this is a collection of his sayings. Mack believes that all of the Gospels have a similar background. A series of sayings which have been developed by different Christian communities to reflect their teachings over practical and theological issues. The interesting thing about the Gospel according to Thomas is that there are no miracles, there is no crucifixion and no physical resurrection, suggesting that these things became important somewhat later.
He sees the writing of the Gospels as something akin to fiction writing. The authors of the Gospel wrote their stories to illustrate and to explain the doctrinal intricacies of their belief system. In much the same way that an ancient Greek may have developed a saying of Diogeneses to illustrate a point about his philosophy.
Later these stories have become something else and have been seen as literal history. The book is interesting as an exposition of what is common knowledge about the study of the bible. I personally would have preferred more detail about some things such as the means of dating the Gospels. However the book is aimed to be an introduction to a complex field.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dr. James Gardner VINE VOICE on January 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
There are many books on the New Testament, (e.g., Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, Galambush's The Reluctant Parting), yet each one of them has its own particular view of what constitutes the New Testament and their own focus. Some examine the gospel stories, some focus on only the canonical gospels, and some focus on Paul. Mack tries to discuss the entire picture, and this is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

Mack's book ostensibly deals with the New Testament, however, he begins with a focus on the Bible in general and stays for there quite some time. For some authors this would be problematic, but Mack is an excellent writer so we tend to go with the flow. He also has lots of interesting ideas and some very unusual interpretations of familiar material. Unfortunately he tends to present his ideas without adequate substantiating evidence or documentation, so that while his ideas are certainly worthy of consideration, they come from a theoretical rather than a hypothetico-deductive methodology which is more likely to yield fruit. This criticism isn't meant to disparage the ideas themselves, only to say that ideas with support are better than ideas alone, no matter how good the ideas may be.

Part 1 consists of 3 chapters. The thesis of Chapter 1 is that "Early Christianity was a creative, if daring, response to the multicultural challenge of the Greco-Roman age (p. 41). This chapter is among the very best descriptions you will ever find of the background forces which shaped early Christianity, and it's worth the price of the book by itself. Chapter 2 goes heavily into Q theory, and it is a core concept for Mack's approach. Chapter 3 deals with fragments from the Christ myth, which Mack sees as separable from the Q teachings.
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