61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
A good introduction to a wealth of mostly unknown literature,
This review is from: Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Studying the Historical Jesus) (Paperback)
This book is a great start into the research of all the writings about Jesus outside the New Testament Canon we all know. The book is written well, and is researched thoroughly. The footnotes alone are worth the read, but be prepared to want to buy several more books as a result of the excellent research.
The author starts with an overview of some classical writings including "Pliny the Younger", "Celsus", and "Tacitus". The second chapter goes into some of the classic Jewish literature that also refers to Jesus including the well-known Josephus passages. While some of this was new material for me, there were no real surprises. The information is presented well, with several commentary opinions regarding the passages. The author presents the information in a mostly neutral fashion and will often present both supporting and opposing views on the writings and their significance.
The sections on the Canonical Gospels were excellent. The focus is on the missing "source material" for the core Gospels. The Luke source, identified as "L", the "M" source which is reasoned to be part of the source for the unique material in the Gospel of Matthew, and the "Q" source for the sayings in Matthew and Luke. In Luke this source material is referred to directly in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke: "Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the things that have been fulfilled among us...I too decided, after investing carefully from the first, to write an orderly account for you...". This implies that there were "many" others who wrote down information about the life of Jesus and the Gospel message. The other sources. "M" and "Q" are not as directly implied in the Gospels. The chapter is well done, and is mostly speculative, as the alleged source materials obviously are not available to us. Again, the information is presented well, and arguments and theories are postulated on both sides of the debate about their authenticity and relevance.
The last chapter focuses on the writings of mostly Gnostic origin, including the discovery of the Nag Hammadi writings. The book examines the authenticity and relevance of these writings and compares and contrasts them to the Gospels. The Gospel of Thomas is reprinted in full which is fascinating, as are parts of the Gospel of Peter, Secret Mark, the Ascent of James. A writing conspicuously absent from the book is the Barnabas text, although this writing is widely regarded as a fraud in most Biblical scholarly circles.
Overall, a very interesting read. The material was presented well, and was not dry but moved quickly and kept my attention throughout. A great start to this study of the wealth of information and writings about Jesus outside the New Testament.