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Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels Paperback – October 26, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


. . .great value for evangelicals. Evans demonstrates that good scholarship is on the side of Scripture. (Richard A. Fordyce, Stone-Campbell Journal, Fall 2008)

"This is a work that can be given to a genuinely interested skeptic, and you will not be embarrassed. Recommended." (Samuel Lamerson, Journal of the Evangelical Theology Society, March 2008)

"Dr. Evans has done a formidable service to evangelical Christianity . . . [and] has ably championed the integrity of the original New Testament documents as reliable evidence of the traditional Historical Jesus." (Frank Z. Kovacs, Haddington House Journal, 2008)

"[A]s a resource to quickly find some responses to or literature on some bewildering issues in Jesus studies, this volume will prove very helpful." (Jack Barentsen in Criswell Theological Review, Spring 2008)

"Fabricating Jesus is an excellent resource for basic information about the texts, issues and major players in the historical Jesus debate." (Juan Hernandez Jr. for Religious Studies Review, April 2007)

"In this book, aimed primarily at a nonspecialist audience, Craig A. Evans intends to show that traditional views about the Gospels and Jesus are historically well founded. Evans brings his considerable expertise to bear on a wide variety of topics." (Daniel A. Smith for The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, January 2008)

"Overall, this work makes a major contribution to historical Jesus studies." (Christian Apologetics Journal, Summer 2007)

"In the genre of conservative evangelical responses to The Da Vinci Code and the Jesus Seminar, Fabricating Jesus stands out as a generously civil yet firm critique of the way some scholars distort Jesus." (Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith, June 2007)

"[This book] is a timely, succinct, and well-written guide for those perplexed by this subject that is much in the news these days. In this wide-ranging book Evans covers numerous contemporary and perennial academic topics related to the historical Jesus." (On Mission, Fall 2007)

"This thorough, well-written book debunks a number of serious but widespread and influential misinterpretations of the New Testament Gospels, and thus provides an invaluable service." (CHOICE, September 2007)

"Fabricating Jesus is yet another resource from Evans to help our generation wrestle with the challenges of radical skepticism." (Scott Lamb, Providence Baptist Church, St. Louis, Missouri, The Pathway, April 13, 2007, http://www.mbcpathway.com/article70162.htm)

"Fabricating Jesus exposes the misinformed nonsense that has confused the reading public over the past few years. Craig Evans is a well-read and thoughtful scholar who knows all the ancient texts. In this well-written book, he exposes the misguided assumptions and dubious sources that lie behind the wild theories that have plagued the public. He has also presented Jesus and the Gospels in their proper historical context. With enthusiasm, I recommend this book for scholars and all interested in Jesus and Christian origins." (James H. Charlesworth, George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Director and Editor of the PTS Dead Sea Scrolls Project; author of Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls and The Beloved Disciple)

"Few scholarly debates are more controversial or more vulnerable to distorted views from right and left than the discussion about the historical Jesus. The increased attention given to extracanonical texts such as the recently published Gospel of Judas and even the fictional vapors of The Da Vinci Code can seem in the eye of the casual reader to put the historical and theological credibility of the New Testament materials themselves in question. That is why Craig Evans's thoughtful, well-informed and balanced review of the debate is so welcome. Fabricating Jesusis not a reaction to modern biblical scholarship but a judicious guide through the evidence--and a fair-minded and careful assessment of how scholars have dealt with it." (Donald Senior, President and Professor of New Testament, Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, and author of Jesus: A Gospel Portrait)

"Craig Evans has written a necessary book on historical Jesus research. His book is exemplary for a 'conservative enlightenment.' It is aptly critical as scholarship--but it is also critical of sensational modern approaches in Jesus research that do not live up to the standards of academic research. In this well-written, lucid book, Evans informs readers of exciting new developments in Jesus research which outdate some hypotheses that were once in vogue. He knows academic scholarship from within--and also the very human aspects of all those who are engaged in Jesus research. So it is not only a very good scholarly book, but also a noble and fair book." (Gerd Theissen, Professor of New Testament Theology, University of Heidelberg, and author of The Shadow of the Galilean and The Gospels in Context)

"This book belongs with the excellent work Craig Evans has already published on the historical Jesus. Professor Evans consistently uses evidence in a truly scholarly and properly balanced manner to reach convincing conclusions--so different from some sensationalist claims about Jesus that quickly turn out to be based on mere wishful thinking. This is contemporary Gospel apologetics at its very best." (Gerald O'Collins, S.J., Professor of Theology Emeritus, Gregorian University (Rome), and author of Jesus Our Redeemer)

"In Fabricating Jesus, we have one of the greatest talents in biblical studies applying his skills to one of the biggest problems in popular culture--the eclipse of the true Jesus, to whom history gives abundant witness. Craig Evans does a masterful job of exposing the sort of tabloid scholarship that captures headlines and confuses the general public. He returns us to the clear-headed analysis of genuine historical inquiry, demonstrating the reasonableness of the Gospel accounts. This book will clarify matters for ordinary readers, yet satisfy scholars too." (Scott Hahn, Professor of Theology and Scripture, Franciscan University of Steubenville)

"Craig Evans is a prolific and distinguished scholar whose many books and articles are well known to his colleagues in the academy. Fabricating Jesus adds another fine work to the list of his accomplishments. For decades now, the unsuspecting American public has been subjected to dubious academic claims about the historical Jesus that hardly rise above the level of sensationalistic novels. In particular, the Coptic Gospel of Thomas has been misused as a privileged route to the historical Jesus, when in fact it is an interesting and valuable source for knowledge of the patristic period. Especially in regard to the Gospel of Thomas, Professor Evans's arguments against the misuse of apocryphal Gospels are especially cogent. This book is a healthful antidote to a great deal of what claims to be the quest for the historical Jesus in the United States today." (John P. Meier, William K. Warren Foundation Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame, and author of the multivolume work on the historical Jesus titled A Marginal Jew)

"Many recent studies of Jesus are arguing that evidence requires a Jesus redo. Some works are written by well-known academics, while others are written by less well-known authors. Enter Craig Evans, who has given his life to the historical study of Jesus. Mincing no words, he calls most of these efforts what they are--fabrication. However, his tone is irenic, the style is accessible, his argumentation is sound, and his scope is comprehensive. This book is a necessary exposé of many recent works, taking us from the hype to the historical Jesus. Eminently qualified, Evans has done us all a great service." (Darrell Bock, Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, and author of The Missing Gospels)

"Craig Evans is well-known in academic circles for his expertise in Judaism and the history of early Christianity. In this new book he brings a refreshing mixture of scholarly erudition and critical common sense to an evaluation of the various documents that have been thought to undermine the credibility of the New Testament and demonstrates convincingly that they cannot bear the burden of proof that has been placed upon them. Such documents as the Gospels of Thomas and Peter have no significant new light to shed on the historical Jesus. At a time when much baseless fiction is being developed by novelists on the basis of such dubious sources, it is good to have this exposé of just how fictitious such writings are." (I. Howard Marshall, Honorary Research Professor of New Testament, University of Aberdeen, and author of I Believe in the Historical Jesus and The Origins of New Testament Christology)

"This powerful and persuasive book is a much-needed antidote to the outrageous distortions about Jesus and the Gospels that have been popularized in recent years. It's authoritative while still being accessible, and well-argued without being mean-spirited. I strongly recommend this outstanding resource to both Christians and spiritual seekers." (Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ)

"Few scholars are as well positioned, well trained and well informed as Craig Evans to critique the recent spate of books that have hit the stands, touting a new Jesus for a new day. In a scholarly world where almost anything can pass for knowledge of the historical Jesus or earliest Christianity no matter how far-fetched, it is comforting to have someone like Craig Evans as a sure guide through the maze of books on Jesus and supposedly lost Christianities. Fabricating Jesus is simply the best and most well informed popular-level book ever written on the Gnostic and apocryphal Gospels, as well as on a host of other early traditions that in some way touch on the story of Jesus. Along the way, Evans also provides us with a sane and sober reconstruction of Jesus and his aims and the history of earliest Christianity. I hope this book will gain the wide audience it so richly deserves." (Ben Witherington III, Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary, and author of The Jesus Quest and What Have They Done with Jesus?)

"The quest of the historical Jesus has been seriously misled by much poor scholarship and distorted almost beyond recognition by recent pseudoscholarship. But now Craig Evans out-skeptics the historical skeptics, demonstrating from his own intimate familiarity with the biblical texts and his mastery of ancient sources how unfounded are many of the claims made and how ridiculously bizarre are the hypotheses thought to give some support to The Da Vinci Codeand its like. The mature judgment of such an accomplished and front-rank scholar cannot be ignored or lightly gainsaid--a welcome draft from a clear spring after all the muddied waters of recent years." (James D. G. Dunn, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity Emeritus, University of Durham, and author of Jesus Remembered and Christology in the Making)


"Fabricating Jesus exposes the misinformed nonsense that has confused the reading public over the past few years. Craig Evans is a well-read and thoughtful scholar who knows all the ancient texts. In this well-written book, he exposes the misguided assumptions and dubious sources that lie behind the wild theories that have plagued the public. He has also presented Jesus and the Gospels in their proper historical context. With enthusiasm, I recommend this book for scholars and all interested in Jesus and Christian origins."

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 290 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books; 10/31/08 edition (October 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830833552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830833559
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Craig Evans is a very well-respected New Testament scholar with a background in historical studies. Although Fabricating Jesus includes brief though able refutations of claims made by The Da Vinci Code, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, The Jesus Papers, and The Pagan Christ, the bulk of material addresses popularized claims made by more reputable commentators, such as J.D. Crossan, Bart Ehrman, James Robinson, the Jesus Seminar, and James Tabor.

Evans begins by discussing his own religious background and how it was affected by the critical study of the New Testament and historical Jesus. He uses this personal reflection to try and understand why some respected scholars have embraced such far-fetched theories. One of his explanations is that some of these scholars came from strict, fundamentalist backgrounds. When exposed to the critical studies, they were not flexible enough to accomodate the new information in their existing religious mind set. As a result, their faith was shattered instead of modified. They see little middle ground betweeen strict fundamentalism and utter rejection of traditional positions. Evans points to himself as evidence of a middle ground that actually bases its opinions on better historical evidences.

The next few chapters demonstrate Evans' knowledge of the material, including especially the Jewish context of Jesus' ministry and the early Church, and ability to engage in dispassionate historical inquiry. Taking up some of the more unfounded scholarly conclusions about Jesus, Evans shows that Jesus likely was literate, interested in eschatology, and understood himself to be Israel's messiah.
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Several years ago I encountered claims of other gospels, that what we know about Jesus from the Bible is probably not all that accurate, even propositions that Jesus was a Jewish version of a similar god-man myth found in pagan religions. When I was faced with these challenges to the Jesus of faith and history I was defenseless. I had no reference for refuting these claims. It made me uneasy when I turned to read the New Testament. It made me question the validity of my faith. If only I’d known Craig A. Evans wrote Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels, I would have been saved a lot of confusion.

This book was intended for a variety of readers; some merely interested in Jesus, some confused by the theories that contradict the Bible, some wanting a defense of the New Testament, and some who are delving into the scholarly realm. In Fabricating Jesus Evans does a masterful job of presenting the material in a thoughtful and concise manner. Anyone interested in learning more are pointed to his section for further reading.

The first couple of chapters deal with Evans’ brief background, how he came to faith, and how he pursued both Old and New Testament Studies. These chapters also deal with New and Old skeptics. What ideas have they put forward, and what seems to have caused them to come to their beliefs? I love that Evans offers a conservative rationale for not needing the scriptures to be inerrant in order to believe the reliability of the New Testament documents, specifically the four Gospels in the New Testament. I thought playing this card would prohibit anyone from writing him off as an ignorant and bigoted conservative, but after reading the 1-2 star reviews I can see that I was wrong.
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At the very heart of Christianity is Christ. Remove Christ, and you no longer have Christianity. Thus those wanting to attack Christianity concentrate their heaviest firepower on Christ. And we have seen plenty of examples of that recently.

One way to attack Jesus is to attack the four canonical Gospels in which he appears. Parts of modern scholarship have been quite busy in distorting and misrepresenting the Gospels. They do this by questioning the Gospel accounts themselves, by speaking of other gospel traditions, by claiming there were alternative Christianities at the time, and so on.

In its more popular form this assault on Jesus comes out in such works of fiction as The Da Vinci Code. But it also comes out in more scholarly avenues, such as the Jesus Seminar. This volume examines all of these approaches, and finds them wanting. Indeed, Evans says the scepticism about Jesus and the Gospels betrays a "misplaced faith and misguided suspicions".

Craig Evans is well placed to undertake this task. He is a leading New Testament scholar, specialising in the historical Jesus and the Jewish background of the New Testament era. Here he takes head on the various challenges to the Jesus of history and the Gospel accounts.

Consider the reliability of the Gospels. As with all ancient documents, they need to be assessed. We need to know how trustworthy they are as sources for learning about the historical events surrounding the life and teachings of Jesus. Over the years such tests have been developed. We refer to them as the "criteria of authenticity". These are historical and literary criteria for assessing biblical literature.

One such criterion is that of multiple attestation.
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