Top critical review
6 people found this helpful
Jesus Wins in the End
on July 11, 2007
Professor Gregory Riley's "One Jesus, Many Christs" (2001, 228 paperback) attempts to presents a first century classical view of Jesus of Nazareth. The book's scholarship is apparent and well documented with the helpful in-the-text style referencing.
Riley basic premise is that the world of late antiquity (roughly Jesus' era) was replete with heroes and "Christs" ("Messiah's" for Jews). He presents a fascinating study of ancient world heroes.
He compares Jesus to Achilles, parallels Hesiod's narrative with the Nazarene's, equates Oedipus to Job, introduces Elysium (similar to the Testamental "Heaven") as the post life heroic abode, and compares Jesus' movement to the Greeks' adoration for the god Asclepius. In the end, the Jesus movement wins.
Hercules' and Hermes' origins in Grecian schools of thought are thoroughly explained. From this background Riley suggests Jesus as a "classical hero" with "cosmic destiny" (page 81). One wonders why the Hebrew concept of "Messiah" is not also considered?
Riley offers plenty of fuel for thought: God's destruction of Palestine (presumably by the Romans of AD 70) is the result of divine revenge for killing Jesus and the martyrs (page 86), Jesus' passion and trial show his character (page 87), and early Christianity's most radical, and unique, claim was the eternal promise for everyone, not just heroes (page 93).
Although Riley quotes the Bible extensively (with a 2-page "Biblical Citations" index) the book reads like an ancient Greek world primer. The book is interesting and helpful, but it fails to fulfill the expectation presented by its title. (A better title might be: "Jesus and the Greeks" or "Jesus as Olympian".) This text needs less Grecian recovery and more New Testament discovery.
This book is recommended to all students of ancient Greece, mythology buffs, classical scholars, and those already biblically well read.