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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (1 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801031141
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801031144
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.8 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 628,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Paul Rhodes Eddy (Ph.D., Marquette University) is professor of biblical and theological studies at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Gregory A. Boyd (Ph.D., 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.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By trini on 20 Nov. 2010
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This is an excellent book. The authors set out "A Case for the HISTORICAL RELIABILITY of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition" (subtitle), and do this utterly convincingly. It is impossible to summarize adequately the detail of the 450 pages of text, because every page contains passages deserving to be quoted, either (a) laying out the positions of those SCHOLARS WITH WHOM THE AUTHORS DISAGREE, or (b) quoting THE SCHOLARS WHO REBUT these positions and SUPPORT the general position of OUR AUTHORS, or, finally, (c) giving the INSIGHTS AND CONCLUSIONS OF OUR AUTHORS THEMSELVES..

Every chapter of this book is a worthwhile read, but the Introduction and the first chapter are indispensable. In pages 24 to 27 of the Introduction the authors identify four groups of scholars. (1) Some "have argued that the Jesus tradition is virtually - perhaps `entirely' [italics in text] fictional in nature ... this view holds that we have no good grounds for thinking any aspect of the Jesus narrative is rooted in history, including the very existence of an actual historical person named Jesus." (2) Others accept "that we have enough evidence plausibly to conclude that an actual historical person named Jesus existed. But, they insist, the reports we have of him are so unreliable and so saturated with legend and `myth' that we can confidently ascertain very little historical information about him. (3) Others, increasingly numerous now, accept much more of the gospel accounts of Jesus as having a historical core, but reject as legendary, not historical, "the authoritative claims made by Jesus as well as the miracles he performed ... "

(4) The fourth group of scholars, with N T Wright and John Meier singled out, support and include our authors, as against the first three groups.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 9 April 2013
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This is a long book - about 450 pages. What I like about it is that the authors openly admit they are Christians but will be evaluating the 'evidence' using the standards of historical scholarship. Doing this, they come to a few conclusions as scholars that they say are different to their conclusions as Christians about the reliability of some of the evidence. I respect this.

Some of the historical evidences are re-examined: and what comes out (for example re-examining the statements of Josephus and Julius Africanus/Thallus) is some fair minded and clear-handed thinking.

What I see in this book is that many critics of the New Testament are not prepared to give the evidence a fair hearing but simply jump at the first 'contradiction' they can find. A good example is one of the journeys Jesus took - I forget exactly where it was but the new testament states he went from x to y. Because x and y are not directly connected critics state that the author of the gospel was obviously unaware of the geography so therefore this is a mark against the historical accuracy of the scripture. The authors point out that Jesus was an itinerant preacher, preaching sermons all over the region and was under absolutely no obligation to go DIRECTLY from x to y - he could easily have taken a roundabout route to visit other villages on the way.

The most stunning part of this book is the weight of research done about documents that have been formed amidst orally based cultures (like the New Testament was). The conclusions will stun you and convince you even more that the documents are reliable BY THE STANDARDS of those who wrote them. Remember, we have only had printed books since the 15th century and the authors point out that most critical work is done treating the NT as if it were a book.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. J. Warden on 27 Aug. 2013
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This book has put barely a dent in Earl Doherty's magisterial 700-page blockbuster Jesus: Neither God Nor Man (2009). Admittedly this is a bit unfair since Doherty's book was published after this one, but it does suggest that Eddy and Boyd need to come back with a much more effective rebuttal of Jesus mythicism. For example, Doherty makes mincemeat of their treatment of Paul. See Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, pages 30-34.

The main thrust of The Jesus Legend is that biblical scholarship to date has been stuck in a `post-Gutenberg' paradigm and that it inappropriately analyses the Gospels from the standpoint of our literate, print culture. It charges scholars with the sins of chronocentrism and ethnocentrism. It suggests that the gospels are in effect transcripts of what would have been "oral performances" and that the discrepancies between the synoptic gospels can be accounted for on this basis. It even suggests that Jesus' own oral performances would have differed from occasion to occasion. Fair enough, but oral performances are also `texts', especially once written down, and thus not immune from scholarly analysis. Eddy and Boyd seem to downplay the significance of the differences as relatively trivial and rhetorical whereas the majority of critical scholars have concluded that the discrepancies are driven by different theological agendas, rather than any concern for historical fidelity.

Eddy and Boyd place so much emphasis on the gospels as effectively transcripts of "oral performances" I became more rather than less inclined to categorise the gospels as drama/fiction/allegory/myth/passion play than historical reporting.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 29 reviews
86 of 95 people found the following review helpful
Legendary 1 Jan. 2008
By wolvie05 - Published on
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The set of respectable ways to argue that Jesus was legendary or never existed just got a whole lot smaller. Two highly qualified scholars with impeccable credentials have granted the skeptics their wish: to subject the Jesus-myth arguments to critical scrutiny instead of simply dismissing them as 'anti-God' or 'just so much rhetoric'. Maybe now people like Robert Price and Earl Doherty wish they hadn't. Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy conduct such a thorough demolition of the Jesus myth and make such a strong case for the general reliability of the Gospels that, unless dramatic new discoveries come to light from the ancient world, I doubt anyone will be able on the available evidence to produce such an argument which withstands their criticisms. Skeptics will no longer be able to simply refer to 'the writings of Robert Price and Earl Doherty' and act as if that settled the issue of Christian origins. They will have to pass through Boyd and Eddy first.

From the reviews below it is evident that a major point of contention surrounding this book is whether it is a serious scholarly book or just 'conservative Christian propaganda'. The answer, of course, is that it is both: it is arguing for a conservative position vis a vis the reliability of the Synoptic Gospels, but the authors back this position up with scholarly arguments and extensive (even exhaustive) bibliography. The truth is that ALL scholars are apologists for one position or another, that is, they present positive arguments for their case and try to rebutt possible objections. If Boyd and Eddy are writing conservative Christian propaganda, then John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg are writing liberal Christian propaganda, while Burton Mack and Robert Price are writing skeptical/atheist propaganda. Let us say rather than each scholar argues as best he/she can and then it is up to other scholars and lay reader to judge whether or not they are convincing. If the arguments are good arguments, what does it matter the position they point to?

I will just make a few comments on the substance of the book, as the best word to describe it is 'exhaustive'. The authors try to address EVERY issue or question which arises with respect to determining the historicity of the Gospels and wrestle with the views of many other scholars. Less attention is given to the Jesus Seminar (whose views Boyd demolished in his Cynic Sage Or Son Of God?) and more to radical theorists such as Doherty, Price, Barker, Weeden, et al. With the exception of the important (indeed, according to the authors, most important) middle section of the book which deals with oral tradition, there is little new argumentation. Anyone who has read Meier, Sanders, Wright, Theissen, Dunn or Bauckham on the historical Jesus will find much of the material familiar. Indeed, it becomes obvious that serious scholars HAVE engaged and refuted most of the arguments which Jesus-mythers advance, but the lines of evidence are presented in piece-meal fashion in various parts of various books. Where Boyd and Eddy excel is bringing all this material together and putting it in dialogue with explicit statements and arguments of the Jesus-mythers.

It would be a mistake to think that this book is solely a defensive reply to the Jesus myth, however. The book also presents a constructive case for the reliability of the Gospels, again drawing from the best results of the last two centuries of historical study of the New Testament. Reading this book will acquaint you with all the critical tools and results one must be familiar with to offer a responsible historical assessment of these documents. That is no small feat. Indeed, I know of no other book (even Dunn's massive Jesus Remembered (Christianity in the Making, Vol. 1), to which the authors are heavily indebted) that covers this amount of material. Add to this an important preliminary treatment of philosophical issues surrounding the question of miracle and divine action, and you have a historical Jesus book unparalleled in the history of scholarship. Its interdisciplinarity is its major strength.

Evaluations of the book's main argument will of course differ, but as far as I can objectively tell the authors succeed brilliantly in arguing that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of History, or at least as close as we'll ever come to him. Their presentation of skeptical arguments is meticulous and fair (quotations are always put in their original context and further points and arguments are referred to when appropriate) and the implications they draw from their original research in oral tradition are eminently logical. This book strengthened my faith in Jesus and greatly encouraged me with regard to the state of believing scholarship. In a word, it is blossoming. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Comprehensive Defense of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition 25 Sept. 2007
By Lamont S - Published on
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The publishing of this book was well-timed, coming as it did just after the publishing of Richard Bauckham's excellent study of the connections between the Gospels and eyewitness testimony (in his "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses"), as Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory Boyd have pieced together a substantial volume that deals another hard blow to the critical assumptions behind the school of "Form Criticism". However, the authors' primary targets are the viewpoints of hypercritical NT scholars and popular writers (e.g. Robert Price (and the "Jesus Seminar" in general), Earl Doherty, etc.) who either consider Jesus to be a mythical figure or at least claim that the canonical Gospels are so unreliable historically that very little can be gleaned about him from these sources. So, while the book is directed at viewpoints typically not taken seriously by the mainstream scholarly guild, it nevertheless has important implications for the world of scholarly study within mainstream circles (as well as, of course, liberal and conservative ones). It is also certainly helpful to have well-thought-out responses to the kinds of arguments we see being advanced by the likes of Doherty and Price, whose works have been influential to popular audiences, if not those in the scholarly world.

The book is divided into 10 chapters, the first of which argues that truly objective historians should be open to the possibility of supernatural explanations for historical data. The second chapter deals with the impact (or lack thereof) that Hellenism had on 1st Century Judaism (and how this may have influenced the formation of a "Jewish legend of Yahweh embodied"). The third chapter deals in the ever-present issue of "parallel legends and/or heroes", with helpful discussions of Sabbatai Svi, Simon Kimbangu, and of course Apollonius of Tyana. Chapters 4 and 5 are devoted, respectively, to discussions of the extra-biblical sources of Jesus (including discussions of the two famous Josephus passages and that of Tacitus, plus others), and the alleged problem of Paul's silence in regards to details of Jesus' life. Chapters 6 and 7 deal with the reliability of oral tradition and the role of memory and eyewitness testimony as it relates to New Testament studies. Chapter 8 discusses the issue of Gospel genre, which includes helpful discussions responding to such proposals as "the Gospels as fiction" and "the Gospels as ancient romance novels", etc. Finally, chapters 9 and 10 evaluate features of the Synoptic Gospels themselves and how the sum total of the data should give us the impression of the Gospels' general reliability.

As one might imagine from the above list of objectives, the scope of the book is quite broad and gives, as a spatial necessity, only enough for a general overview of much of the pertinent data. While it is difficult to find fault in any particular chapter (given the fact that a thorough traversing of all of these issues might require a wheelbarrow-full of pages), certain chapters were more compelling than others given the detail that the authors managed to include. Perhaps more helpful than any chapter was that of the very first in which the authors argue for an approach to historicity that does not rule out, a priori, the possibility of supernatural explanations for historical events (e.g. Jesus' alleged resurrection) when all naturalistic alternatives fail to explain the scope of the data. This is extremely crucial, as it is this very issue that most often separates those willing to believe that the Jesus of the Gospels could exist from those that do not. I thought that the authors' established quite successfully their case in this regard. Unfortunately, many of the other chapters could afford but only a general overview of the relevant issues. The authors' discussion of the reliability of oral tradition was interesting, coming as it did from numerous recent multi-disciplinary studies of oral traditions encompassing a wide variety of cultures, yet there was simply not enough space to engage too many of the specifics. In fairness, however, the important message was delivered successfully, i.e. yes, testimony of historical events based on oral tradition, including the kind of extended narratives like we have in the Gospels (and even narratives much *longer* than those we find in the Gospels) can be and are generally reliable. The authors give a solid overview of typical NT features that suggest the documents' general reliability, but the reader may be frustrated at the lack of examples in some (though not all) cases. For instance, I found the authors to be successful in the all-important discussion of the manifold discrepancies among the Synoptic tradition in regards to establishing that such problems do not necessarily detract from general historical reliability, and that many of these discrepancies are simply matters of acceptable variation within oral tradition. However, it would have been even more helpful if more specific examples were offered.

Of course, this is all picking at nits. A book that is already in excess of 450 pages can hardly be criticized on such grounds when it is successful in establishing its main points of contention. In fact, I shudder to imagine the hours of research that must have been poured into this volume by Eddy and Boyd. This is evidenced by the authors' copious footnotes in each of the diverse sections. In fact, while the material within the book could only give us an overview of many of the pertinent issues, such as why the oral tradition standing behind the Gospels should be viewed optimistically in regards to its ability to produce a generally reliable written product penned 40-70 years after the events in question, the footnotes themselves serve as helpful guideposts pointing to locations that serious researchers can go to next should they wish to pursue the topic(s) in more detail. As anticipated, I found the book to be a masterpiece, and one that is essential reading for those immersed in popular theories such as "The Christ Myth", "The Gospels as Fiction", and of course the ubiquitous practice of "parallelomania" (to name but a few). However, in the scholarly world, this book should also substantially contribute to the painfully-slow demise of Form Criticism.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book 25 Feb. 2008
By Geronimo - Published on
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Is it legitimate to approach the Gospel stories with purely naturalistic presuppositions? Was primitive "Palestinian" Christianity replaced by Paul's "Hellenized" Christianity? Was Christianity nothing more than a new spin on the old paganism of surrounding cultures (e.g. the mystery religions, the hero myths)? What did Paul know about the historical Jesus? These and many other important questions are explored and addressed in this book. Great response to novel and sensationalist interpretations of early Christianity and the person of Christ. Written on a popular level but with extensive footnotes for further research. I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in researching the "historical Jesus."
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Solid Defense of the Synoptic Portrait of Jesus 9 Oct. 2009
By Randall Pratt - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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"
36 of 46 people found the following review helpful
The Jesus Legend 9 Nov. 2008
By Aaron Grabill - Published on
Format: Paperback
The Jesus Legend is worth reading. It is well written, organized, and clear.

The authors quote from other sources often, and include lots of footnotes. Although the book is somewhat lengthy, that alone should not discourage anyone from reading it. It has something for everyone (both believers and non-believers), and the way it's written is very approachable.

There are a few shortcomings of the book. One of these is that the authors sometimes seem a little too zealous in supporting their various conclusions. This led to a few demonstrable contradictions.

The authors, at one point, wish to demonstrate that the literacy rate of the time and region was quite poor. At another point, they argue that literacy rates were actually quite high.

On pages 243-245, the authors assert that literacy rates were pretty good. On page 245 they ask, "Does this (the evidence they cite in the previous few pages) not indicate that reading and writing were potentially widespread in Palestinian Judaism during the Hellenistic period?" They go on to state that "there are even stronger grounds for concluding that literacy rates among Jews in Palestine were likely higher than the general first-century Greco-Roman population."

In contrast to this, the authors also argue that the same society did not have a high literacy rate. On page 428 they state, "It means we have to understand that, unlike written accounts produced within a highly literate context, the various episodes recorded in the Gospels very likely were intentionally written..."

Obviously it can't be both ways for the authors particular points at any given time.

Another contradiction arises when the authors try to argue that:

1) Jesus was not well known. Not even well known in Galilee.

And then later on that:

2) Jesus was actually very well known throughout the region.

Pg. 168 says "First, there is a problem with the assumption that if the Gospel accounts are true, Jesus would have been something of an international figure whom people in the first century would generally be aware of." They go on to state, "While the Gospels certainly speak of crowds occasionally following Jesus in Galilee, there is no reason to think that his reputation would have expanded much beyond this region." They continue, "But it is not even clear that Jesus would have captured the attention of most people in the region of Galilee."

In contrast to this, on pg. 174 the authors argue the exact opposite. In a peculiar move, they attempt to show that a letter from Serapion to his son in prison made a reference to Jesus.

The letter "recounts the woes that fell on the Athenians after murdering Socrates. He speaks of the hardships that fell on the Samosians after putting Pythagoras to death. And, most significant for our purposes, he refers to the mistake the Jews made when they killed "their wise king, because their kingdom was taken away at that very time."

The authors ask, "How many Jews, martyred before the destruction of Jerusalem, were known by pagans throughout the Roman Empire in the second or third centuries as "wise kings" --to the point of possibly being household names, on a par with Socrates and Pythagoras?

Again, it seems that the authors are too quick to support whatever view seems to work out for the moment. Obviously these two proposals (pg. 168 & pg. 174) cannot both be true. The authors present a contradiction.

This is one of the points upon which I think the book could have made a better case. But instead of making a stronger case, the authors undermine their own arguments, as well as their credibility, by the contradictions that they present within the book.

The authors also address the idea that Jesus was not unlike other savior figures (like Apollonius of Tyana, Perseus, Mithras, etc.). They seek to address how strong the ties actually are between Jesus and other purported god-men, and to show that Jesus was someone altogether distinct from any of those who were historically cited as being nearly synonymous.

The authors of the Jesus Legend ask this question in regards to this matter of similarity between Jesus and other god-men: "The question, however, is whether these are merely intriguing similarities or whether they represent telling parallels, suggestive of some direct, if unconscious, influence or even conscious borrowing."

I'm just curious as to what the difference is between an "intriguing similarity" and a "telling parallel." I think the authors try to downplay how strong the case actually is here. They mention in the book that early Christian writers (Justin Martyr, Tertullian, etc.) made mention of these "intriguing similarities" but then they neglect to inform the reader as to what they actually said. For good reason! Justin Martyr, for example, thought the similarities/parallels (or whatever word we want to use here) were so strong that the devil had actually copied the truths of Christianity before they had even happened. But the writers (Boyd & Eddy) don't tell you what the church fathers actually said. Why? Because it would weaken their case.
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