Item description for Jesus Legend, The: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition by Paul Rhodes Eddy & Gregory A. Boyd...
Overview A convincing interdisciplinary case for the unique and plausible position of Jesus in human history is presented in a volume that carefully investigates the Gospel portraits of Jesus and assesses what is reliable history and what is fictional legend. Original.
Publishers Description 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.
Awards and Recognitions Jesus Legend, The: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition by Paul Rhodes Eddy & Gregory A. Boyd has received the following awards and recognitions -
Christianity Today Book Award - 2008 Winner - Biblical Studies category
Citations And Professional Reviews Jesus Legend, The: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition by Paul Rhodes Eddy & Gregory A. Boyd has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Library Journal - 01/15/2008 page 107
Choice - 02/01/2008 page 1175
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Studio: Baker Academic
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9" Width: 6.26" Height: 1" Weight: 1.45 lbs.
Release Date Aug 1, 2007
Publisher Baker Publishing Group
ISBN 0801031141 ISBN13 9780801031144
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More About Paul Rhodes Eddy & Gregory A. Boyd
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.
Reviews - What do customers think about Jesus Legend, The: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition?
The Jesus Legend May 14, 2010
Although at first a hard read, due to the purely scholarly nature of the book, The Jesus Legend turns out to be a very useful and thoroughly researched case for the logic that it proposes. A must have for any theological library.
Excellent thorough Review of the Arguments Apr 1, 2010
The Jesus Legend considers the arguments of how accurate the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are using primarily high-criticisim with some use of low-criticisim. It also engages arguments from the moderns, post-moderns and naturalists concerning the reliability of the ancient texts in general. In addition, the text asks the reader to recognize that first century societies were oral-based. In addition, early Christianity developed in a Jewish Torah-centered monotheistic mind set. Overall I would recommend this text to anyone who is interested in how early Christian traditions and texts developed.
Exhaustive and exhausting Feb 16, 2010
The Jesus Legend is an exhaustive (and exhausting) attempt to examine all the arguments against the existence of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels. The authors ride the border somewhere between thoroughness and pedantry, and this makes for a relatively long book that covers a relatively small number of topics. They are fond of launching straw men whom, they subsequently demolish with relish. Along the way, however, they give us an excellent structure from which to examine the situation in the type of excruciating detail that it deserves. Thus, while one might question their assumptions and conclusions, one can't help but be impressed by their outline and the evidence that they bring to the table.
The writing sytle is clear, but the authors tend to use a paragraph to communicate a sentence's worth of information. It reminds me of reading a legal brief. This method may have been purposefully chosen because the authors are trying to cover all the bases, which they achieve, but at a cost.
Here are some specific problems I have with the text:
- There is far too much acceptance of the traditional interpretation of Paul with no attempt to even discuss alternative theories of the origins of Paul's letters. In addition, the authors claim "Paul was persecuting the early Jewish Christian movement..." (p. 96) and yet there is very little evidence of this apart from Paul's own testimony. Further, they argue that Paul "was an orthodox Jew...and there is no evidence that Jews were open to Hellenistic religious ideas... (p. 139)", yet they ignore the fact that Paul was a Roman citizen
- "An important consideration is the extremely short period of time that elapsed between Jesus' death and the divinity claims that were made..." (p. 146) which the authors claim is unequalled and therefore an indication of Jesus' historicity. Yet I can't help but think of Julius Ceasar, who was killed on the Ides of March in 44 BCE and deified less than two years later. Indeed, there are some authors who make the claim that much of the biographical story of Jesus is taken from the life of Ceasar.
- The authors claim it is "not at all surprising" that there is very little mention of Jesus in non Christian literature and "it seems unreasonable, then, to assume that Roman historians in the first or second century had heard about Jesus...(p. 168)." Yet there are mentions of many individuals from this period, such as Jesus ben Gamala, Jesus ben Ananias, Jesus ben Zaphat, John the Baptist, Theudas, "The Egyptian", Judas of Galilee, etc. None of these are mentioned by the authors, but the fact that they received notice speaks against their hypothesis.
- The authors argue that Mara bar Serapion's reference to "the wise king" is a reference to Jesus (p. 174), yet there is nothing in the letter (which itself is suspect) that points to Jesus as a person. Moreover, the death of the wise king is said to be contiguous with the kingdom being "taken away" and if anything this speaks against Jesus as the wise king, as his death is decades earlier than the destruction of the temple.
- "...it is interesting that Pliny notes that Christ was worshipped by Christians 'as if' he were a god. This may suggest that both Pliny and the former Christians he interrogated assumed that Jesus was a historical person (p. 175)" Note the dishonesty in this interpretation. There is nothing in Pliny that mentions "Jesus", only references to "Christ". Since Christ refers to the anointed one, this label can refer to anyone who was considered anointed. There is absolutely nothing in Pliny that speaks to the person Jesus.
I could go on but you get the point. This is a book with a definite bias and the authors do not shy away from interpreting the evidence in a manner intended to prove their hypothesis. While it can be acknowledged that most authors bring to the study of Jesus their own belief system, rarely have I seen the bias so obvious in a book that professes to be an historical study.
In summary, we have here a book that provides an excellent outline to the study of the historical reliability of the synoptic Jesus tradition, even while the assumptions and conclusions of the authors are open to criticism.
Excellent Feb 8, 2010
In `The Jesus Legend' Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy defend the historicity of the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke). While the text offers a broad ranging and comprehensive survey of issues pertaining to the historicity of the gospels, I particularly enjoyed the interaction with the `Jesus myth' and the discussion of ancient oral societies.
While there continues to be vigorous debate between liberals and conservative New Testament (NT) scholars on a wide range of issues, the claims of commentators within what could be called the "Jesus Myth' camp (e.g. Price, Doherty, MacDonald, Thiering) are often disregarded by mainstream scholars. Roughly put the `Jesus Myth' posits that if Jesus is not an entirely fictional person, he was radically unlike the person described in the New Testament and Christian tradition. From my perspective, this lack of engagement stems from two key reasons. On the one hand, there is what could call the silliness-factor, that is, some of these theories are so outlandish and improbable that engaging them is seen to be unworthy of serious scholars - akin to scientists engaging with `Flat Earthers'. While somewhat understandable periodically it is worthwhile engaging these arguments in a popular venue. On the other hand, the spade work and patience required to identify and dissect the myriad of presuppositions and conspiracies that underlie many of these views is a daunting task. Kudos to Boyd and Eddy for taking on this task - if nothing else it adds some color to what otherwise could be a rather bland academic book.
The second noteworthy aspect is the survey of multi-disciplinary work being done with respect to oral societies. As the authors note, contemporary NT studies is often characterized by a rigid modern literary paradigm, within which minor variants in phraseology between the gospels can on occasion spur wild theological speculation. The relationship between written texts and the oral traditions in the ancient world seems a promising area of exploration, not as a means of avoiding difficult textual questions; but, rather, to further our understanding the gospels and other ancient texts.
Overall this is an excellent book. It is the best popular-level survey of issues pertaining to the historicity of the synoptics. I recommend it to all readers Christian and non-Christian interested in NT studies or the historic Jesus.
Solid Defense of the Synoptic Portrait of Jesus Oct 9, 2009
In this "Christianity Today" book of the year (Biblical Studies category), Eddy and Boyd provide a rigorous and scholarly defense for the historical reliability of the synoptic gospels.
After setting the ground rules by describing an "open historical-critical method" for examining the evidence, they address eight major lines of argument that are commonly used by those who argue that the Jesus we read of in the New Testament is either fully or mostly a legend:
Naturalism -- the argument that supernatural aspects of the gospel stories must be interpreted as legendary
Hellenistic Judaism -- an argument that first century Jews were sufficiently hellenized so that the idea of a "divine man" was conducive to the creation of a myth such as that espoused in the Jesus tradition
Legendary Parallels to the Jesus Story -- the idea that there are plenty of similarities to the Jesus tradition in earlier stories. These earlier elements became parts of the Jesus myth.
Silence in Non-Christian Sources -- the argument that there is no credible early mention of a historical Jesus, and that this points to a legendary Jesus
Silence of Paul -- the claim that Paul makes little or no reference to a historical Jesus
Free-Form Fabrication of the Oral Jesus Tradition -- since oral transmission is historically unreliable, this process led to the development of a Jesus myth
The Historical Unreliability of the Gospels -- arguments that the gospels were not intended to be read as historically true, or that if they were it makes no difference because ancient works of this genre are unreliable.
The Burden of Proof -- a look at where the burden of proof lies in determining the reliability of ancient documents (and the gospels in particular).
In my opinion, the authors have successfully made their case that "if one remains open to the genuine historical possibility that the Synoptic portrait(s) of Jesus is substantially rooted in history, one will find there are compelling grounds for concluding that this portrait is historically plausible -- that it is more probable than not that this general portrait is rooted in history"