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on 28 March 2008
Ian Wilson's book is elegantly written and lavishly illustrated. It is a beautiful hardback volume that must be considered a bargain at its current price. Appreciating the inevitably contentious nature of much of what is discussed in the volume, Wilson suitably identifies himself at the outset as a 'liberal-minded convert to Roman Catholicism', and one, despite his historical training, inclined to favour the 'maximalists' over the 'minimalists', in other words to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt unless there is strong evidence of its fallibility. In his discussion of the Old Testament, Wilson sticks to this creed, and the discussion here is very well informed and pretty well balanced. Unfortunately, when dealing with the New Testament, the Roman Catholic wins out over the historian, and Wilson becomes almost evangelical. He skips over numerous problems with the NT narrative, for instance the Virgin Birth and resurrection miracles, as well as problems with the authorship and transmission of many texts. The final pages, attacking 'debunkers' of Christianity, are pure polemic unworthy of anyone calling themself an historian. This does not prevent this book being an informative read, but the conclusion may leave many readers irritated.
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