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What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History--Why We Can Trust the Bible [Hardcover]

By III Ben Witherington (Author)
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Item description for What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History--Why We Can Trust the Bible by III Ben Witherington...

A leading Jesus scholar debunks the latest fad theories about Jesus and offers a compelling portrait of his real mission and message according to the followers that knew him best.

Publishers Description

Strange theories about Jesus seem to ooze from our culture with increasing regularity. Ben Witherington, one of the top Jesus scholars, will have none of it. There were no secret Gnostic teachings in the first century. With leading scholars and popular purveyors of bad history in his crosshairs, Witherington reveals what we can--and cannot--claim to know about the real Jesus. The Bible, not outside sources, is still the most trustworthy historical record we have today.

Utilizing a fresh "personality profile" approach, Witherington highlights core Christian claims by investigating the major figures in Jesus's inner circle of followers: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Peter, James the brother of Jesus, Paul, and the mysterious "beloved disciple." In each chapter Witherington satisfies our curiosities and answers the full range of questions about these key figures and what each of them can teach us about the historical Jesus. What Have They Done with Jesus? is a vigorous defense of traditional Christianity that offers a compelling portrait of Jesus's core message according to those who knew him best.

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 2006 Reed Business Information.

Citations And Professional Reviews
What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History--Why We Can Trust the Bible by III Ben Witherington has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Christianity Today - 02/01/2007 page 123
  • Publishers Weekly - 08/14/2006 page 202
  • Library Journal - 09/15/2006 page 66
  • Booklist - 10/01/2006 page 34

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Item Specifications...

Studio: HarperOne
Pages   342
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.36" Width: 6.32" Height: 1.15"
Weight:   1.21 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Oct 3, 2006
Publisher   Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN  0061120014  
ISBN13  9780061120015  

Availability  0 units.

More About III Ben Witherington

Ben Witherington, III Bible scholar Ben Witherington is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. A graduate of UNC, Chapel Hill, he went on to receive the M.Div. degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from the University of Durham in England. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies.

Witherington has also taught at Ashland Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University, Duke Divinity School and Gordon-Conwell. A popular lecturer, Witherington has presented seminars for churches, colleges and biblical meetings not only in the United States but also in England, Estonia, Russia, Europe, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia. He has also led tours to Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Egypt.

Witherington has written over forty books, including The Jesus Quest and The Paul Quest, both of which were selected as top biblical studies works by Christianity Today. He also writes for many church and scholarly publications.

Along with many interviews on radio networks across the country, Witherington has been seen on the History Channel, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, The Discovery Channel, A&E, and the PAX Network.

Ben Witherington currently resides in the state of Kentucky. Ben Witherington was born in 1951 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Asbury Theological Seminary.

Ben Witherington has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Companions to the New Testament
  2. Lightfoot Legacy Set
  3. New Testament Commentary
  4. New Testament in Context
  5. Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Hermeneutics
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Christology

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Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > Contemporary Theologies

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Reviews - What do customers think about What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History--Why We Can Trust the Bible?

A fine addition   Feb 3, 2007
There are many strange theories about Jesus, but they don't come from Ben Witherington II, a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and the author of over thirty books on the subject. His title probes what is known and what cannot be known about the Jesus presented in the Bible, dispelling myths, using a 'personality profile' to illustrate basic Christian claims, and drawing important connections between key historical figures and the Jesus image. It's a fine addition to both general-interest Christian libraries and the holdings of more advanced, college-level seminary readers alike.
Excellent Exegesis and Presentation  Jan 5, 2007
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.
Even if you didnt see the DaVinci Code or read the book  Jan 3, 2007
This book examines and reviews the scholarship behind the premise of the fictional book the DaVinci Code and other books that claim to have "hidden truth" about Jesus and his lifeand teachings. The specious claims regarding the gnostics and the gospels of Thomas, Judas, etc are fully fleshed out for analysis. To those who are even alittle bit familiar with the teachings and life of Christ, will wonder why any modern historian or author value writings that do not provide internal consistency with the Gospels and the teachings of Christ. In short if your going to watch the movie, at least read the introduction of this will at least find out why the heads of many Christians heads exploded when the hype that surrounded this book broke out.
Clear and reasonable presentation of the author's view of Christianity  Nov 20, 2006
The subtitle is a better guide to the contents of the book than the title. I had expected this to focus on critiquing other people's work, but that is only incidental to the author's explication of his own point of view. That's not a complaint, just a clarification. The exception is an appendix, pp. 293-309, which is an in-depth review of James Tabor's The Jesus Dynasty. I found that book pretty interesting, and this contains some very valid criticisms.

Since this is a topic about which many people, including me, have strong ideas in which they have a substantial investment, I am not going to attempt to judge whether Witherington is "right" or "wrong", merely whether or not it is worth reading, especially for laypeople. I also have no ambitions to judge his scholarship; I leave the meaning of ancient Greek prepositions to those who know what they are talking about.

Since he refers to them in the third person, I assume that Witherington does not consider himself to be a fundamentalist. I gather that he doesn't regard that Christian canon as inerrant dictations from the Holy Spirit, but rather as the good-faith, reliable testimony of eye-witnesses. He includes miracles and the resurrection of Jesus as events on which they may be trusted. He makes a careful comparison of various texts and comments upon their probably lineage, e.g., Paul to Luke, Peter to Mark, etc. He is concerned mainly with the apostolic era. He argues that there were different streams of Christianity, e.g., Gentile versus Jewish, but that these difference were often more cultural than theological. There may have been multiple churches in one place with different orientations, but these represented an agreement to disagree, not hostility.

By the same token, he argues that the so-called Gnostic gospels, and other later writings, are so different from the early writings that it is doubtful that they were original strains of Christianity. Although I admire the tolerance and equality which some scholars have attributed to Gnostic gospels, I have never found their theology appealing, and I am amused by Witherington's comments (pp.28-29): "This puts salvation on a whole different footing ... [s]alvation is a matter of who you know and how well you understand these secret sayings ... presumably salvation for the literate or even the learned. It is not a surprise that some scholars find this vision of salvation appealing. ... This sounds like a form of revelation that can be received only by those who have far too much time on their hands." Cleverly and effectively put.

I think this is very well done: clear and logical. I don't think that definitive answers are possible to these questions, but Witherington has done an exemplary job of presenting his case. The chapters are organized around particular members of the early Christian community: e.g., Peter, James the Just, Mary Magdalene, Paul, etc. Particularly in the beginning, Witherington often shows a good-natured wit: the Introduction is entitled "The Origins of the Specious." The section labelled "Doubting Thomas" (p. 27) begins: "There is no doubting that the Gospel of Thomas ... "

I don't accept Witherington's criticisms of Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus. Ehrman's point is that while the originals of canonical documents may have been written in the first century, we have only later copies which differ from one another. In the picky, ruthless world of theology, "those who have far too much time on their hands", small differences have led to bloodshed.

I recommend having a Bible while reading this, since Witherington does not always explicate the verses he quotes, but although I didn't have one, he explains well enough that I didn't feel too much lack. (I have not read most of the Epistles, and in those cases, I had no idea what they were about, except as Witherington explains them.)

There is no bibliography, outside of the notes, which also contain numerous explanatory in addition to bibliographic notes. My personal preference is for having a separate bibliography and explanatory notes at the bottom of the page. The indexing could be a little more thorough: the reader is not led to information about the Gospel of Thomas by looking up Thomas, the Apostle, or Doubting Thomas. Even though the author does not believe that the Apostle wrote that Gospel, I think the two should be linked. There are two indexes, one for subjects and one for scriptures.
The Real Jesus Revealed!  Oct 13, 2006
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. He also holds (less convincingly in my view) that Joanna the wife of Chuza who traveled with the Lord's apostolic band (Luke 8:1-3) is in all likelihood to be identified with the female apostle Junia found in Romans 16:7.

Ben has also changed his view on the threefold questioning of Peter by Jesus in John 21. He now sees the word change from agape to phileo by Jesus in verse 17 as more significant than he originally thought. He sees it as Jesus questioning Peter's professed brotherly love for Him. I agree with Ben.

Throughout this epochal book, Ben has clearly made the case that there is enough light and truth breaking out of God's Holy Word concerning the historical Jesus that there is really no need to consult spurious documents two hundred years after the time of Jesus or to trust the gnostic and occasionally anti-Semitic Gospel of Thomas. He concludes the church had a high Christology of Jesus from the earliest years of Christianity all the way through the New Testament, and that the ancient faith was not a battleground of dueling Christianities.

This is a wonderful read, and a sorely needed book. There is a lot of junk floating around purporting to tell us something special and new about the real Jesus, and Ben cuts through all the baloney and takes us back to the primary sources. Go ahead and buy this book and read it through carefully. It is a great antidote to the stuff found in the DaVinci Code and to the stuff found in the National Geographic special on the Gospel of Judas.

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