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What Have They Done With Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History--Why We Can Trust the Bible Hardcover – October 3, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With all the talk these days about a diversity of Christian beliefs in the first century, here's a book designed to smack some sense into the dialogue. Traditional sense, that is. Witherington, professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, creates well-researched profiles of people in Jesus' inner circle—profiles that stand up to the most rigorous biblical criticism. No flights of fancy—just the historical understandings as they can be agreed upon by the best and brightest evangelical biblical scholars. At times, there is a strong whiff of defensiveness about the orthodoxy of the canon as Witherington skewers views on early Christian beliefs made popular by Gnosticism scholars Elaine Pagels and Karen King (they being among the purveyors of the "strange theories and bad history" in the title). Readers seeking a uniform and conservative view of early Christianity will find a wealth of information about Jesus and his early followers, which offers an ardent corrective to recent popular works by Bart Ehrman and others. Others, however, may be so put off by Witherington's polemical tones that they miss the meat of his research. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Witherington comes to his topic from an evangelical point of view. As he states in his introduction, "Readers should beware of shocking new claims about Jesus or his earliest followers based on flimsy evidence." His view is that the Gnostic Gospels and other discoveries are too far removed from Jesus' day to have much relation to seminal events in Christianity. The best sources, he believes, are the traditional ones--the Gospels, Acts, and Paul's letters. Witherington uses an interesting method of organization for his material: in order to explore the truth of Jesus' identity and his ministry, he focuses on the two Marys, Peter, Paul, James, and the Beloved Disciple. The book is eminently readable, very much at a layperson's level, but it contains circular arguments and continually strains at reconciling contradictory material--for example, the brusque treatment of Mary by Jesus at some points in the New Testament vis-a-vis his concern for his mother at the Crucifixion. Still, anyone who has been caught up in the recent controversies about the historical Jesus will want to read the other side. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition edition (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061120014
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061120015
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,509,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Marc Axelrod VINE VOICE on October 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Dr. Witherington contends that the primary source documents found in the New Testament are a much more reliable source for information on the historical Jesus than anything you will find in the gnostic Gospel of Judas or in any of the documents found in the Nag Hammadi Library. He also feels that getting close to the historical Jesus involves getting close to the people who knew Him best, and so there are chapters about Peter, Paul, his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the beloved disciple (the author of the Gospel of John), and his brother James.

Ben reveals that there is no historical foundation for identifying Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus, and that the material about her in the Gospel of Philip and in the gospel bearing her name are inconclusive and appear to tell us more about 2nd and 3rd century gnosticism than they do about Mary Magdalene or anything in the life of the historical Jesus.

The chapter about the mother of Jesus shows quite clearly that she didn't really put all of the pieces together about who her son really was until the end of His life, and that she is found in the upper room with the other disciples in Acts 1:14.

The chapter on Peter shows that the Gospel accounts are painfully honest about his triumphs and his failures as an agent of Christ. The material in 1 Peter and in 2 Peter 1:12-2:3 where Peter reflects on what he has learned as one who knew the Lord rings true. Peter very clearly sees Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

There are a few surprises along the way. Ben makes a powerful and convincing case that the beloved disciple who penned the fourth gospel is none other than Lazarus.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not a seminary student. Most theological books I have read tend to be lofty and rife with jargon. This one is not. Whenever Witherington introduces a term or concept, he explains it for the novice.

Whether you are liberal or conservative in your theology, you can easily understand Witherington's thinking process and exegesis. He is thorough, researched, full of references, and well organized.

This book was hard to put down and left me wanting more which is unique for me when reading nonfiction. I would not be surprised if this book becomes a sort of primer for the historicity of Jesus.

I recommend this book because of its content, exegetic process, and presentation. I received it for Christmas and am proud to display it in my library.
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Format: Hardcover
Common to the Christological revisionists are claims that there are lost or suppressed Christianities, and that there is a radical discontinuity between who Jesus really was and how he was represented by his early - and later - followers. What much of this amounts to is an attempt to rewrite history, to undermine the reliability of the New Testament, and to recreate Jesus in the image of liberal scholarship.

Thus we need once again to determine just who Jesus really was, and what in fact was his message. And the best way to do that, argues New Testament scholar Ben Witherington, it to get back to the inner circle of Jesus. Those who were closest to him or knew him best are our most reliable guides to what he believed and what the early faith was all about. This book provides a close look at this so-called inner circle. It carefully examines those from Jesus' own physical family: Mary, James and Jude; as well as Peter, the Beloved Disciple, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Paul.

Taken together, their testimonies help us understand who Jesus was, and what his core message was. A close examination of these individuals reveals that they all agree to a common understanding of the man and his mission.

Witherington argues that no wide wedge can be driven between these close associates and their take on Jesus, and that of Jesus himself. Consider James, the brother of Jesus, and the first leader of the post-Easter Jesus movement. The contents of the epistle that bears his name are remarkably similar to that of the most basic teachings of Jesus.

For example, one can find over two dozen close similarities between what is found in his epistle and what is recorded in the Sermon on the Mount.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Recently, I received an announcement in my email that this book was on sale on Kindle. Unfortunately, it is no longer at the sale price, but I scooped it up as soon as I saw it was. Why? Because frankly, Ben Witherington is one of the most phenomenal scholars that there is. I have been told that he has an excellent memory down to the page numbers of a book that he has read and is quite knowledgeable in many other fields outside of the New Testament.

Yet in this one, he's talking about the New Testament and taking a shot at the bad history that is often presented. I knew I was in for a treat when the very first chapter was titled "The Origins of the Specious." This is more of a classical humor that we often see from Witherington. Witherington says we live in a culture that is Biblically illiterate and yet Jesus-haunted. Jesus is seen all around us, and most of us have not done any real study on Jesus and that consists of more than just going to church every Sunday. The way that our culture buys into ideas on Jesus immediately has had Witherington tempted to write a book called "Gullible's Travels."

He gives an example of this when he talks about being interviewed by a major network and being asked if it could be possible that Mary was a temple prostitute who was raped and Jesus was the result. That would be why he said in Luke that he had to be in his father's house. Yes. That was an actual question that was asked and the tragedy is that was his first question asked by this network as was said and not presented apparently as some crank theory to get his take on.
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