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Thorough and Useful,
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This review is from: Did Jesus Exist? (Paperback)Mr. Wells does a pretty simple thing here, but he does it well and he does it thoroughly. He takes the first four chapters of the New Testament (using the original Greek texts) and cross references it with other accounts of that time (Roman and Jewish sources). Nothing spectacular here, just good research and some decent historical work.
Because of his thoroughness, the reader is very early on faced with the obvious fact that there is completely no historicity at all for this fellow named Jesus in the New Testament. If you are into the whole faith thing, then of course this is no problem. Faith is faith is faith--that wonderful admission that pesky things like facts and logic and evidence and putting them all together to come to some sort of coherent conclusion is, well, not so important.
But, instead if you are into thinking stuff through, it is hard to walk away from this text and still admit that this guy ever existed, let alone did all those magic tricks: making some tasty wine from water, being born from someone who had never broken her hymen, busting out of his grave to make a short reunion tour before floating up, up and away on a fluffy, snow-white cloud.
The chapter on Pagan and Jewish Background was probably my favorite.
I should warn though that the text is a bit dry, but it makes for awesome reference. If I ever crack it open again it will be for that reason.
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Initial post: Aug 16, 2013 2:21:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 16, 2013 2:24:06 PM PDT
T.F. Rhoden's language is wrong:
"He takes the first four chapters of the New Testament".
No, the gospels are not the first chapters of the NT. They are the first four BOOKS of the NT. The NT has 27 BOOKS, all distinct and by many different authors.
Each book is divided into CHAPTERS. Mark, 16 (with its famous ch. 16); Matthew, 28; Luke, 24; John, 21 (and its no less famous ch. 21).
It is because those books are printed first in the Bible that Wells denounces the resulting illusion imposed on the unlearned readers, as this order presumes that the gospels were written first, and that the successive books imply the knowledge of the gospels.
Which is just the opposite of truth, Wells constantly objects. All the books called the "early Christian writings" were written well before the gospels began circulating. It is the contrast between the figure of Jesus in those 17 early writings by 10 independent authors (the 7 genuine epistles of Paul, the 3 post-Paulines, the epistles of John, James, 1 Peter, the letter to the Hebrews, and the Revelation of John), all composed before the end of the 1st c. and the biographical details of the gospels that Wells sees as a fundamental marker of the formation of early Christian doctrine.
Wells substantiates his demonstration by identifying 22 documents by 13 independent authors that he considers "late Christian writings", composed in the 2d c., and which began to manifest an influence of existing gospels (the 3 pastoral epistles of "Paul", the epistles of 1 and 2 Clement, Jude, 2 Peter, Ignatius, Barnabas, the epistle of the Apostles, plus Didache, the apology of Aristides and the surviving fragment of Quadratus's apology).
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 16, 2013 6:10:19 PM PDT
T. F. Rhoden says:
Thank you for the correction. It's been a while since I've looked back at all this. Just read your review on Arthur Drews' 1910 book and it has interested me in the subject again. Cheers, -t
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