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Jesus: One Hundred Years Before Christ Hardcover – October 1, 1999

3.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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These two books offer an enormous contrast. While Fredriksen provides a balanced, carefully reasoned, scholarly study of the historical Jesus, Ellegard's conclusions can only be described as preposterous. Ellegard (formerly dean, Univ. of G?teburg, Sweden) is clearly familiar with some mainline biblical scholarship, but he always opts for the minority view and stretches it beyond reason. For example, he believes that the Gospels were written in the second century C.E. and traces the origin of Christianity to "a group of pious Jews called the Essenes" (the Dead Sea Scrolls group). Then, based on this highly questionable and twisted "evidence," he leaps to several unjustified conclusions: that Jesus lived long before he was supposed to have and that his disciples had only "ecstatic visions" of him and never knew him in the flesh. The Gospel writers, he suggests, then mistook their visions for real events and created fictitious accounts of Jesus' life. Fredriksen (scripture, Boston Univ.), on the other hand, explores the conundrum of a well-established historical fact--namely, that Jesus was executed by the Roman prefect Pilate as a political insurrectionist while his followers were not. She concludes that it was the volatile mix of excited pilgrims in Jerusalem for Passover and their acclaim of Jesus at a time when Pilate was especially interested in keeping the peace that led to his death. Her balanced, well-written work could serve as a kind of introduction to the content and methodology scholars use in the study of the historical Jesus and is highly recommended for any library. Ellegard's work would only be useful as an example of the false conclusions that result when questionable opinion is stretched beyond reasonable limits.
-David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Deserves a serious look not just for its ingenuity but also for the questions it raises. -- The Cleveland Plain Dealer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Overlook Books; First Edition edition (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879517204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879517205
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,514 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I've read several books representing "minority" views on the historical Jesus, and this one seems the most thought-out to me. The others are "The Jesus Mysteries" and "Jesus Christ, Sun of God," both of which are interesting, but more speculative than Ellegard's. Ellegard acknowledges when he is being speculative, but also sets forth in welcome detail the evidence for his ideas. He is deeply aware of counterarguments and deals with them at every turn. His linguistic analysis, while not conclusive (can any evidence about the historical Jesus be conclusive?), is quite convincing in my (amateur) opinion. Perhaps the most fruitful line of study would be some combination of Ellegard's thesis with the "purely mythical Jesus" thesis. Has anyone pursued that?
In any case, if you want solid arguments raising serious doubts about the existence of the 1st century Jesus, and a well-considered and careful hypothesis as to who Paul was actually referring to, Ellegard deserves serious consideration.
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Format: Hardcover
Gospel writers had several tasks. They had to transform a minor Jewish preacher into a supernatural God, the long awaited Messiah, and they had to explain his rejection by his own people (directly contradicting the prophecies). Orthodox Jews considered the union of a woman and a god as heretical, a pagan Greek idea. Countless Old Testament "prophecies" (and some not in the OT) are used to "prove" his Messianic calling though the leading of Israel to glorious victory is omitted.

We have learned that the order of the New Testamen is incorrect and that Paul did not write all the books attributed to him. He preceded the Gospels. It's always seemed odd that Paul never spoke of a historical Jesus but of a spiritual Christ. Odder still, the historical Jesus was fleshed out decades later by various writers, four of which were voted by Council as being correct. This accounts for the numerous contradictions and variances among the stories. Ellegard contends that Jesus was a historical figure but lived 100 years before. He was associated (or adopted) by the Essene movement that was still strong when Paul began preaching a new message - Jesus died for our sins and was raised by God. In the maelstrom of disorganized Christianity of the day this kind of talk had huge implications.

Ellegard reviews and redates several documents of the period (comparing certain words, writing styles) to show that the spiritual Christ became the physical Jesus rather than the reverse as most assume. The biographies are noteworthy for their reliance on OT "prophecies" chosen, it seems, for their applicability. Modern scholars have revised the order of the four Gospels. John, once thought to come last, now is seen as the first written and this fits in with Ellegard since it features a "spiritual" Christ.
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Format: Hardcover
Ellegard points out many of the right problems in the "orthodox" view of Christian origins based on a scientific study of the early texts. But his postulation that the Jesus belief came from some corrupted tradition about the Essene Teacher of Righteousness seems unnecessary to me. It's quite possible that Jesus was a mythological savior-god from the beginning, along with Mithras, Hercules, Osiris, Dionysus, Adonis, and all the similar figures worshipped by Mediterranean peoples at that time. (Refer to the book, _The Jesus Mysteries_.)
It's quite possible for a totally false belief system to arise from some misunderstood event or story. In our time we've seen one emerge from the crash of a "Project Mogul" scientific balloon near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. An unusual event with a prosaic explanation has turned into a quasi-religious cult about the crashed alien spaceship, dead aliens, massive government coverup and conjectures that modern technologies were in fact reverse-engineered from alien artifacts recovered from that event. If a story that preposterous could gain adherents in our society, it's not hard to see how something similar could have happened on a much larger scale in a much less knowledgeable society like the declining Roman Empire.
Ellegard's book is worth reading for the background information on the problems surrounding Jesus' historicity, but I don't find his solution all that persuasive.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Bourquin's review seems more a reaction against a new idea than a review of the book. The real problem is that Ellegard asks us to accept the redating of a large number of ancient manuscripts, including the gospels, before we can really consider the argument itself. Since dating is one of Ellegard's specialties we have to take him seriously, even if we may ultimately disagree. My feeling was that Bourquin was reacting against the notion that the Jesus of the gospels is a fiction. But Ellegard does not say that Jesus did not exist, only that he lived much earlier than most scholars have thought. This is a thought-provoking book and I think all serious scholars should read it carefully and open their minds to this new idea.
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Format: Hardcover
The author opens up this work: "I shall argue in this book for an entirely new perspective on the earliest history of Christianity." Hardly! As I write this, I have another book before my eyes - written in 1903, no less - entitled "Did Jesus Live in 100 B.C.?" by the Theosophical Society scholar G.R.S. Mead.

One would think that a former Dean of a University, in the process of presenting his thesis proposing the origins of Christianity a hundred years earlier than traditionally perpetuated, would have taken into consideration the work of a predecessor! Yet there is not even so much a mention of Mead in his bibliography, nor even so much a passing consideration of the intriguing material from Jewish and patristic sources covered by Mead in his classic work (such as the hostile gospel "Toldoth Jeschu", elements of which Mead traces to Tertullian and others), which Ellegard could have employed to his advantage. Such blaring omissions by Ellegard are most puzzling and disappointing, to say the least.

Comparitively speaking, back in 1900 Mead didn't have the advantage of material that scholars do today (the Dead Sea scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Library, etc.) - but he certainly made the most of what little he had to work with at the time.

A consideration of the hypothesis set forth by Ellegard can never be complete without a review of G.R.S. Mead's volume and the material which he covered, which can be read online at the Gnostic Society library. A copy can also be ordered from Amazon.
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