Much New Testament scholarship of the last 200 years has seen fit, to one degree or another, to relegate the Jesus tradition as recorded in the Gospels to the realm of legend, i.e., to the realm of fiction. But is this really what the evidence points to? By drawing together recent scholarship from a variety of fields, including history, anthropology, ethnography, folklore, and New Testament studies, Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd show that the evidence actually supports, rather than refutes, the historical reliability of the Gospels and the existence of Jesus.
After first presenting the cumulative case argument for the 'legendary Jesus' thesis, the authors proceed to dismantle it and seriously bring into question its viability. In the process, they range through issues such as the historical-critical method, form criticism, oral tradition, the use of non-Christian sources, the writings of Paul, and the Hellenization of Judaism. They come to the conclusion that the view of Jesus embraced by the early church was 'substantially rooted in history.'
Even mature Christians have trouble defending the person and divinity of Christ. The Jesus Legend builds a convincing interdisciplinary case for the unique and plausible position of Jesus in human history. He was real and his presence on the planet has been well-documented.
The authors of the New Testament didn't plant evidence, though each writer did tell the truth from a unique perspective. This book carefully investigates the Gospel portraits of Jesus--particularly the Synoptic Gospels--assessing what is reliable history and fictional legend. The authors contend that a cumulative case for the general reliability of the Synoptic Gospels can be made and boldly challenge those who question the veracity of the Jesus found there.
Paul Rhodes Eddy (PhD, Marquette University) is professor of biblical and theological studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Gregory A. Boyd (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is the senior pastor at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Eddy and Boyd are authors or coauthors of several books, including Across the Spectrum.
Skeptical answers to the question of what can be historically known about Jesus of Nazareth have elicited from evangelical authors a plethora of responses. This one, by biblical scholar Eddy (Bethel Univ.) and megachurch pastor Boyd (Woodland Hills Church, Maplewood, MN), is certainly among the best. It is accurate, up-to-date, grounded in a critical but fair understanding of its opponents positions, and thoroughly situated within the academic literature (the authors have also produced Lord or Legend?: Wrestling with the Jesus Dilemma, for a general readership). Eddy and Boyd understand and accept the value of critical biblical studies, and they avoid much of the defensiveness that characterizes the genre, e.g., as seen in Michael J. Wilkins and J.P. Morelands Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. Philosophically, the authors do not question the metaphysical usefulness of a naturalist/supernaturalist dichotomy, and their treatment of deconstruction is shallow. However, they are on firmer footing in biblical studies, offering compelling, nuanced critiques of tradition-critical readings of the Gospels and helpful surveys of relevant external and archaeological data. Highly recommended for all academic libraries.Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL
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