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Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture's Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ Hardcover – November 6, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Ph.D.s and writers Bock (Jesus According to Scripture) and Wallace (author of one of the most widely used textbooks on New Testament Greek grammar) team up to address what they refer to as Jesusanity—the trend to dethrone Jesus and view him as a wise and revered leader rather than as the Christ of Christianity. They examine the ideas of numerous scholars and theorists, including Bart Ehrman, Elaine Pagels, Marcus Borg and James Tabor. With precision and care drawn from their years of research, they study six key claims—including the idea that the original New Testament manuscripts were corrupted beyond recovery, that Jesus' message was primarily political, that new gospels like Thomas and Judas throw traditional views of Jesus into doubt and that Jesus' tomb has been discovered. What emerges is an appreciation for the rigors of biblical study and a wealth of support for traditional views of Jesus. The writing is at times unclear and difficult, and could not compete on its own with the books Bock and Wallace critique. However, this overview provides a concise and well-researched evangelical Christian response to numerous popular theories, and conservative readers will be especially likely to welcome it. (Nov. 6)
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The authors quickly associate the reader with recent portraits of the alternative Jesus: E.P.Sanders's "eschatological" Jesus; Elisabeth Schusser's "egalitarian, antipatriarchial" Jesus; Richard Horsely's "Elijah-like" Jesus; Jesus Seminar authors Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan's respective "spiritual" and "anti-establishment" Jesuses. They examine in four groups (historical skepticism, new information, cultural factors, and innate desires to understand the spiritual) a total of twelve factors that they consider have contributed to the phenomenon of Jesusanity. The twelfth of these, "brittle fundamentalism" resonated with me: "many who write most skeptically about Christianity today started out in a conservative, Bible-believing environment ... they saw an often huge inconsistency between what the Bible taught, especially in areas tied to social justice and materialism, and what their conservative churches taught."
The "meat" of the book is the presentation and refutation of six claims that represent a large part of skepticism about Jesus today: (1) that the NT text has been too badly corrupted; (2) that "secret" gospels show an "early" alternative Jesus; (3) the differences revealed in the "Gospel of Thomas"; (4) that Jesus' message was fundamentally political and social; (5) that Paul's Jesus was an alternative to the gospel version; and (6) that Jesus' tomb had been found. Although each discussion is relatively short, I found that it properly represented the respective claim and gave a very satisfactory explanation as to why the claim should be rejected. There are other books that I have read on this subject by authors such as Ben Witherington, Craig Evans, Philip Jenkins, Ed Komoszewski, and N.T. Wright. All of these authors are convincing in their support for the Christ of Christianity. Bock and Wallace's book is very readable and of all of these, might give a skeptic the most room for reflection.
The scholarly work needs a counterpart with the fire of the Epistle of Jude against all false teachers who claim to be Christians but undermine the very faith they profess with an increasing intellectual sophistication.
Notably I felt that the last chapter on the Tomb of Jesus was good too. I feel that a great supplement to this chapter was the Discovery Channel special on this topic, especially the post-documentary segment. Ted Koppel does the job for the experts in tearing apart terrible journalism and documentary making. Bock follows this up (while he too was on that segment) with a good chapter on the flaws and assumption upon assumption the researchers made.
Since I teach I really appreciated the final note at the end of the book. Bock/Wallace commented on the loss of integrity that Ehrman has displayed in his conspiracy theory spreading. They note that even though he knows people are gravely misunderstanding him he not only doesn't do anything about it, as a good teacher/researcher would, but increases the paranoia by throwing out crazier unfounded claims on such places as NPR and Discovery Channel. Good note by a couple of responsible teachers/researchers.
Another good book on Gnosticism and The Gospel of Judas (which Bock, too, treats) is Judas and the Gospel of Jesus by N. T. Wright.