Item description for Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Studying the Historical Jesus) by Robert E. Van Voorst...
Overview Did Jesus actually exist? Much has been written recently on this subject, including numerous books examining the New Testament record of Jesus' life. Now Robert Van Voorst presents and critiques the ancient evidence outside the New Testament, the Roman, Jewish, pre-New Testament, and post-New Testament writings that mention Jesus. This fascinating study of the early Christian and non-Christian record includes fresh translations of all the relevant texts. Van Voorst shows how and to what extent these ancient writings can be used to help reconstruct the historical Jesus.
Publishers Description Did Jesus actually exist? Much has been written recently on this subject, including numerous books examining the New Testament record of Jesus' life. Now Robert Van Voorst presents and critiques the ancient evidence outside the New Testament-the Roman, Jewish, pre-New Testament, and post-New Testament writings that mention Jesus. This fascinating study of the early Christian and non-Christian record includes fresh translations of all the relevant texts. Van Voorst shows how and to what extent these ancient writings can be used to help reconstruct the historical Jesus.
Citations And Professional Reviews Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Studying the Historical Jesus) by Robert E. Van Voorst has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Publishers Weekly - 04/24/2000 page 87
Library Journal - 05/15/2000 page 100
Choice - 11/01/2000 page 553
Reference and Research Bk News - 11/01/2000 page 14
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Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.01" Width: 6.06" Height: 0.74" Weight: 0.86 lbs.
Release Date Apr 13, 2000
Publisher Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Series Studying The Historical Jesus
ISBN 0802843689 ISBN13 9780802843685
Availability 0 units.
More About Robert E. Van Voorst
Dr. Robert E. Van Voorst, Professor of New Testament Studies at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and former professor of religion at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, has written frequently on religious studies in noted journals and reference works. In addition, he has authored numerous books, including six with Cengage Learning: RELG: WORLD, 2nd Edition; READINGS IN CHRISTIANITY, 3rd Edition; ANTHOLOGY OF WORLD SCRIPTURES, 8th Edition; ANTHOLOGY OF WORLD SCRIPTURES: EASTERN RELIGIONS; ANTHOLOGY OF WORLD SCRIPTURES: WESTERN RELIGIONS; and READING THE NEW TESTAMENT TODAY, now also in a Chinese version. Other books by Van Voorst include BUILDING YOUR NEW TESTAMENT GREEK VOCABULARY, 3rd Edition; THE ASCENTS OF JAMES, a recovery and commentary on a second-century Jewish-Christian document; and JESUS OUTSIDE THE NEW TESTAMENT, an examination of traditions about Jesus from ancient classical and Jewish documents, now also in Italian.
Robert E. Van Voorst currently resides in the state of Michigan.
Reviews - What do customers think about Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence (Studying the Historical Jesus)?
For Believers Only Aug 5, 2007
If you are already a believer in Christ, this book might interest you. Buy it and you'll have a physical object to wave in the face of doubters and unbelievers while saying, "My faith is enough for me but if you want *proof*, here it is!"
Others need not apply. There is not much here.
Van Voorst overstates his case for his evidence, I think. The Thallus fragment is nothing if one doesn't crank up the faithful irrationality pump to force relevance into it and his defense of the authenticity of the "Testimonium" of Josephus is inadequate. As for most of the rest of it, it merely backs up the fact of the existence of Christians, hardly an impressive achievement.
His near-libelous assault on G. A Wells is completely inexcusable. It relies on misrepresentation and misinformation to a degree that one would expect of a raving fundamentalist, not a serious scholar. To my sensibility, his treatment of Wells undermines what little credibility Van Voorst could have had.
Fascinating study of Jesus in writings outside the Bible Sep 1, 2006
This is THE best book on the subject. For an academic scholar, Van Voorst writes really well, and does a good job at holding your attention. In this book, Van Voorst surveys what has been written about Jesus by historians such as Tacitus and Josephus. There are also candid discussions of controverted writings such as Suetonius (who mentions the name Chrestus) and Lucian of Samosota.
Van Voorst also delves into the early church fathers, the writings of rabbinical Judaism, and even early Islam to give a portrait of what others have written (or may have written) about Jesus. The discussions are fascinating, and the conclusions are well argued. Get this book without hesitation.
Rev. Marc Axelrod
Scholarly Jun 21, 2006
Robert van Voorst's book Jesus Outside the New Testament is one of the most scholarly looks at ancient evidence about the life of Jesus. He systematically probes every reference to Jesus from outside the New Testament, and then subjects them to a thorough analysis from every angle. Watching him at work is a true guide for any scholar.
In the classical area, Van Voorst examines the traditional Pliny, Suetonius, Tacitus, and Celsus writings, but he also includes such lesser known authors such as Thallos, Serapion, and Lucian of Samosata. In the Jewish writings he covers just about every reference there is to Yeshu, ben Stada, Balaam, and "the certain one". It's a tour d'force.
Curiously enough, while Van Voorst is unsurpassed in his presentation and interpretation of material, it's his conclusions that I find wanting. For example, he discusses all the reasons why the mention of Jesus in Josephus is regarded as a later addition, then concludes that he "present(s) an independent account of Jesus" (p. 103). His main reason for discarding all the contrary evidence is his disbelief that the later interpolators could describe Jesus in less than glowing terms. Hardly convincing for me. Similarly, he concludes that references to Balaam cannot be references to Jesus because Balaam was traditionally the "prototype of the deceitful prophet from outside Israel" (p. 116) and Jesus, after all, was a Jew. True, but to the people who wrote the Talmud, even in Tannaitic times, Jesus was accused of being deceitful and was then outside Israel. So the use of Balaam can be accepted as referring to Jesus.
My disagreemeents with Van Voorst's conclusions notwithstanding, this is an excellent book and belongs on the shelf of any scholar. Much of the material is generally unavailable elsewhere, and Van Vorost scholarship is exceptional.
Very Good Overview of Evidence for Historical Jesus Apr 23, 2005
This is your one-stop shopping place for reviewing the modern status of the historical Jesus discussion outside of the Bible. Areas covered include possible mentions of Jesus in contemporary classical authors (Thallos, Pliny, Seutonius, Tacitus, etc.) and Jewish writings (including Josephus and the Talmud). Each piece of evidence is offered and evaluated pro and con.
I used this book to clarify some points regarding the so-called "Testimonium" in Josephus' Antiquities. I found the information to be absolutely up-to-date and referencing the best scholarly arguments.
I've used Herford's "Christianity in Talmud and Midrash" as a source and found Van Voorst was able to assist me in coming to more sound conclusions about the many references Herford offered. If anything, I believe Van Voorst is a just a little too cautious. Still, a recommended book.
Van Voorst Gives Readers a Lot for their Money Aug 12, 2004
Judging this book by its cover, you would expect a discussion of references to Jesus outside the New Testament. And that you do get. Jesus Outside the New Testament is the best introduction to all of the usual topics, from the Roman references--Thallus, Suetonius, Pliny, and most importantly Tacitus--to the Jewish sources--Josephus and the Talmud--to post New Testament Christian writings. The term "introduction," however, may be deceiving. Van Voorst deals with each subject in accessible depth, addressing often overlooked objections to such passages as Tacitus' references to Jesus (shown to be without merit). He takes these objections seriously and concedes their merit (admitting that Pliny is not "a witness to Jesus independent of Christianity") or refutes them decisively (showing that Josephus provides two "non-Christian witnesses to Jesus").
But what you may not realize you are getting with this book, based on its cover, is an effective one-chapter discussion of the Jesus Myth and a very informative discussion of the Gospel sources.
Indeed, Van Voorst is one of the few contemporary New Testament scholars to devote much time to the Jesus Myth. He devotes most of Chapter 1 to discussing the Jesus Myth, including a helpful overview of its historical development. At the end of the chapter, Van Voorst helpfully summarizes seven grounds upon which New Testament scholars and historians have continuously rejected the Jesus Myth:
1. Jesus Mythologists routinely misinterpret Paul's relative silence about some biographical details of the life of Jesus.
2. Jesus Mythologists are forced to offer radically late and unsupported datings of the Canonical Gospels.
3. Jesus Mythologists often claim that evidence of literary development and errors in the Gospels support the idea that Jesus did not exist. But as Van Voorst points out, "development does not necessarily mean wholesale invention, and difficulties do not prove non-existence."
4. Jesus Mythologists have failed to "explain to the satisfaction of historians why, if Christians invented the historical Jesus around the year 100, no pagans and Jews who opposed Christianity denied Jesus' historicity or even questioned it."
5. Jesus Mythologists rely partially on "well-known text-critical and source-critical problems" in ancient Non-Christian references to Jesus, but go beyond the evidence and difficulties by claiming that these sources have no value. They also ignore "the strong consensus that most of these passages are basically trustworthy."
6. Jesus Mythologists are not doing history, but polemics. "Wells and others seem to have advanced the non-historicity hypothesis not for objective reasons, but for highly tendentious, anti-religious purposes. It has been a weapon of those who oppose the Christian faith in almost any form, from radical Deists, to Free thought advocates, to radical secular humanists and activist atheists like Madalyn Murray O'Hair."
7. Jesus Mythologists have consistently failed to offer a better explanation for the origins of Christianity than the existence of Jesus as its founding figure. Though various mythical origins have been attempted, they are even more deficient in corroborative evidence than the existence of Jesus.
Mocking these points hardly advances the Jesus Myth's agenda. Nor does raising red herrings like evolutionary theory and supposed double standards (not evidenced in the book by any means). Van Voorst is summarizing a war already won, not refighting all of the battles. The Jesus Myth has been leveled again and again by scholars--particularly earlier in the previous century (by scholars like Maurice Gougel and Shirely Case). Subsequent scholarly trends have been even less kind. Van Voorst helpfully distills down the reasons that "[b]iblical scholars and classical historians now regard [the Jesus Myth] as effectively refuted."
Finally, a surprising but welcome feature of this book is that it devotes an entire chapter to "Jesus in the Sources of the Canonical Gospels." This chapter is packed with excellent discussions (and bibliographical references) about the sources of Matthew, Luke, and John. Each section lays out the likely contents of these sources in convenient charts and provides informed discussions of their origins. Perhaps the most insightful discussion is of "L"--Luke's unique material--which Van Voorst concludes was likely a "complete" pre-existing source of material about Jesus. Next he provides enlightening discussions of "M"--Matthew's unique material--and the Gospel of John's "Signs Source." He caps off the chapter with an excellent overview of the "Q" question, accepting the established consensus that it was a source for Matthew and Luke, but chiding the overly speculative reconstructions by scholars such as Burton Mack and John D. Crossan
This book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in the study of the historical Jesus. I highly recommend it.