Item description for A MYTH OF INNOCENCE (Foundations & Facets Series) by Burton Mack...
Overview For the past two centuries, theologians and biblical scholars have engaged in a relentless search for the origin of Christianity in the historical Jesus. What would happen, Burton L. Mack asks, "if one acknowledged that the gospel story was Christianty's charter document and regarded its formation as an essential moment in the 'laying of the foundations'?" (xii) This would allow scholars to trace the origins of Christianity to the rich and complex social context of the writing and reception of the gospels. Ron Cameron writes, "With a single stroke, Burton Mack has shifted the investigation from the quest for a singular genesis to the perspective of the social history and imaginative labor documented in the texts."
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Studio: Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.02" Width: 6.06" Height: 1.18" Weight: 1.6 lbs.
Release Date Jan 1, 1998
Publisher Augsburg Fortress Pub. #99
ISBN 0800625498 ISBN13 9780800625498
Availability 0 units.
More About Burton Mack
Burton L. Mack, Emeritus Professor of Early Christianity at the Claremont School of Theology, is the author of A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins; The Lost Gospel: Q and Christian Origins; and Who Wrote the New Testament: The Making of the Christian Myth.
Reviews - What do customers think about A MYTH OF INNOCENCE (Foundations & Facets Series)?
Wha'd 'e say? Oct 20, 2004
This review will be brief. I can understand some cosmology and James Joyces' Ulysses, play a pretty good game of chess, write legal briefs that work. But I cannot understand Mr. Mack's writing. It's like Finnegans Wake. I'm sure he is a very intelligent man. He has a wonderful vocabulary. But it is not all immediately recognizable as standard English. His premises are very thought provoking, but his proofs are unintelligable. Perhaps it's Social History. I didn't do well in my Social History class at Berkeley. They seem to make things up as they go along, as though by gnosis. Mr. Mack needs to limit his exposition to the immediate point. Alternatively, he may simply be intellectually beyond me.
BIG MACK ATTACK Oct 30, 2003
Did Jesus create Christianity or did Christianity create Jesus? Traditional scholarship has assumed the former, Burton Mack seeks to prove the latter in his book A Myth of Innocence. This thought-provoking book takes up the question of Christian origins, focusing on the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the Gospels. The author is not interested in otherworldly explanations for Christianity's emergence but in the social context which produced the earliest Christian literature. The forty years between Jesus death and Mark's Gospel account for the divergent images of Jesus in his Gospel. By the time Mark wrote his account there were various Jesus movements which can be categorized into two major traditions: "One stream was that of movements in Palestine and southern Syria that cultivated the memory of Jesus as a founder-teacher. The other was that of a congregation in northern Syria, Asia Minor and Greece wherein the death and resurrection of the Christ were regarded as the founding events"(11). Mark brought these two very different visions together in his Gospel.
In Mack's construction Jesus emerges as a Cynic-sage rather than an apocalyptic Jewish rabbi. Yet Mack gives no direct evidence that Jesus ever read or had contact with Cynics. Intellectual parallels do not prove influence. Mack's picking and choosing of passages which represent the "authentic" Jesus is at times arbitrary, and it seems that Mack has precluded predictive prophecy and miracle stories out of hand. Anything which doesn't suit Mack's image of Jesus is "myth" and Mark's "fabrication." For example, Mack writes "Mark can be shown to have exaggerated the power of Jesus to cast out demons for his own narrative purposes. Thus the evidence is that miracle stories functioned in some early Jesus movement to enhance its claim to significant social identity by claiming for its founder miraculous powers. They are not historical reports." There seems to be some a priori reasoning going on here. Mack does not believe in miracles, therefore they are not historical, therefore they must be accounted for some other way.
Mack distinguishes between the various and competing "Jesus movements" in the first generation of Christianity (ch. 3) and the later "Christ cult" established by Paul (ch. 4). In regard to the latter, Mack says "No one would have dared suggest on the basis of the narrative gospel traditions that such a cult could have developed at all, much less as soon as it did" (98). Why is this? Don't all of the gospels recount the death, burial and resurrection? Doesn't Jesus predict that he will "give his life as a ransom for many" in Mark's Gospel (10:45)? Conveniently Mack has already disallowed those passages as anachronistic and therefore inauthentic.
Mack surveys scholarly attempts to understand the origin of the passion narrative (ch. 9). This discussion culminates with the theory put forward by American scholars such as Kebler and Nicklesburg, namely, that "Mark made it up." The author lavishes much praise on form-critical reconstruction of Bultmann student Eta Linnemann, yet he seems totally unaware that Dr. Linnemann has long since rejected her own theories in favor of a more traditional Christian interpretation of the Gospels.
Mack's book adds a new theory to the origins of Christianity debate: Mark invented Christianity. Mark, not Jesus, is the real founder of Christianity. By separating the simple Cynic-sage (Jesus) from the myth-making innovator (Mark), Mack is able to cast aspersions on Mark without saying bad things about Jesus. By the end of the book Mark is blamed for all of the ills of Western history from the crusades to Hiroshima and the holocaust (p. 375). This seems ridiculously farfetched.
A Myth of Innocence is a hostile, skeptical attack on the earliest Christian Gospel which is at times scholarly and at times arbitrary, bombastic and highly speculative. The Jesus who emerges from Mack's study looks a lot more like a post-modern Claremont professor than a first-century Palestinian rabbi.
Loved It, Hated It Apr 15, 2000
I completely disagree with Mack's conclusion that Christianity was 'made up' later. That said, his meticulous footnoting made a wonderful resource that I still look to for information and his research is thorough and engaging. His conclusion, relating a concoted Christianity to the evils of Reaganomics, is just plain wacky.
I always enjoy Mack Feb 1, 2000
Mack is somewhat the bad boy of Jesus and Early Christian scholarship. Most Christians I know hate him. That is mainly because they haven't read his books. This book has a cover designed to irritate fundementalists. First it calls Christianity a Myth which is the correct word for any such tradition (just because it's a myth doesn't assume that it was made up). It also has a picture of a lion on the front which makes people believe that Mack is hostile towards the Christian myth. Not at all, in fact, the lion is from a seventh century Mosaic that depicts the four gospel writers and animals they represent, Luke is a person, Matthew I believe is an Ox, John is an eagle, and Mark is a Lion. Simple as that. Those who undertake to crack the cover and read this book will find it to be good scholarship and an exciting journey into the world of Mark. It is well informed and comes from one of New Testament scholarships most proific writers. Although Mack is now retired I sincerely hope he will continue writing, I will certainly continue reading his work.