Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Evidence for Jesus (Jesus Library) Paperback – March 1, 2006
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
France begins with a sober discussion of the non-Christian evidence related to Jesus. Most of it, such as Tacitus and Mara bar Serapion, he finds offer little direct evidence about Jesus. He then turns his attention to the Jewish evidence, providing a thorough discussion of the two references in Josephus--quite forcefully dismantling Well's rather dismissive approach to the subject. After one of the better treatments of the subject in a popular book (though relatively brief), France rightly concludes that "the skepticism which dismisses the Testimonium Flavianum wholesale as a Christian fabrication seems to owe more to prejudice than to a realistic historical appraisal of the passage."
After discussing references to the historical Jesus in the Epistles of Paul, France concludes that it is from the Gospels that we gain the bulk of the evidence for Jesus. With a scholar's familiarity with his subject, France moves through Gospel questions such as the genre of the gospels, the fluidity of oral tradition, the creativity of early Christians, theological motivation and historical credibility. His discussion of midrash is particularly relevant, showing that mythic attempts to cast the Gospels in such terms fail because evidence that midrash was ever used to invent recent historical episodes is lacking. France then provides an informed, yet common sense discussion, of the differences between the Gospels.Read more ›
Given that these books are a reaction to a specific documentary, it is in some ways dated. However, the evidence itself it not dated, but timeless. I think he could have made a somewhat stronger case, but he did a fine job. It's 1) a good first treatment for a Christian who wants more direct information about the historical evidence regarding the trustworthiness of the gospels or 2) another resource for someone reading similar type books, because he makes points that others don't and they make points he doesn't, so to get a more complete picture of the evidence, you'll want to include France's book.
I've read about a dozen books of this type. Still, F. F. Bruce's "The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable" never ceases to amaze me in how soberly, accurately, and yet briefly he treats the topic. Dunn's is recommended too, but not if you're very conservative, you'll get unnerved. Paul Barnett also has a great book this topic "Is the NT Reliable?" Leslie Mitton's out-of-print book "Jesus, the Facts Behind the Faith," is less conservative, but still makes a good case for the reliability of the main elements of the Gospels.Read more ›
He reviews the fragments of gospels we have, the earliest dating to 125 AD. The first Christian literature from the period would be Paul's epistles. Paul does not give a biography of Jesus--since he was writing to people already Christian, that would have been pointless--but he does, in many instances, underline Christian dogma.
He also covers many of the major arguments between scholars regarding this evidence. I was especially pleased by his mention of "Redating the Gospels" by Robinson. Also interesting is the discussion what languages Jesus and his followers spoke. There is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that they were trilingual--Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.
Other books that are recently published that deal well with this subject would be "Fabricating Jesus" by Evans and "Reinventing Jesus" by Komoszewski.
Tacitus is the main Gentile writer who mentions Jesus. There are others but to France, Tacitus is the most important. Tacitus states that Jesus was a Jew from the Roman province of Judea who was crucified under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. Interestingly, France does not take this as `independent testimony' since Tacitus could just be getting his information from what the Christians thought about their own origins. He gets this opinion from G.A. Wells who argues that Jesus was a mythic creation and not a historical figure. I tend to think that while Wells might be correct on Tacitus, I find it hard to believe that this information is not from some credible source since Tacitus was no friend of the Christians and would probably not accept whatever they claimed uncritically. However, Wells could be right.
The Jewish historian Josephus also mentions Jesus. France notes that the martyrdom of James, the brother of Jesus, as a Christian leader in 62 A.D. is generally agreed upon as historical. It is true that this mentioning of Jesus was embellished by Christian scribes, but most scholars believe that Josephus really did mention Jesus, but without the obvious Christian sympathies.Read more ›