A handy little introduction to have on the debate of Jesus' historicity. The book is short at 168 pages of text but France provides references and notes at the back, which are useful for anyone wishing to study the subject further and a guide to other primary, or secondary, sources.
Insightful and scholarly, France takes the reader on a brief look at the evidence, directly and indirectly, for the historical figure of Jesus. This evidence includes the gospels, Josephus' two brief accounts (although they do suffer from interpolation), and indirect references such as Tacitus and Suetonius. There are also possible references to Jesus in the Jewish Talmudic and Midrashic writings. France also looks at indirect evidence, best described as background evidence, such as archaeology, the Qumran Scrolls and some of the Gnostic gospels - which are not evidence for Jesus per se, but are handy in giving a feel for what sort of environment Jesus lived in, both geographically, socially, politically and religiously. France shows briefly that the non-historicity of Jesus, as espoused by some authors, is untenable.
The reader is left concluding that the best evidence for Jesus is to be found in the New Testament, principally the the gospels, whilst other possible references to Jesus give us a taste of the non-Christian view of Jesus and archaeology help us to appreciate Jesus in the context of the world in which he lived.
Recommended for anyone interested in the discussion of Jesus' historicity.
This is an excellent first port of call for anyone interested in the debates surrounding the existence and the identity of Jesus. France, unlike some, is prepared to deal with fringe scholarship, such as that represented by "Jesus Myth" people like GA Wells. He fluently and straightforwardly presents the issues in the debates on textual / historical criticism as well as well as handling matters like non-Christian testimony. A balanced, accessible,informative and scholarly defence of the Jesus of the gospels.
This highly readable account of a painstaking but unbiased study of the evidence available some 30 years ago concludes with the acceptance of the Gospels as responsible, historically-grounded presentations of the early Christian tradition – and a compelling portrait of a real man in the real world of first-century Palestine. Concurrent reading of Salibi’s ‘Who was Jesus?’, which postulates an Arabian origin for the Jesus of Nazareth, raises the question of whether or not that matters in the wider context. Perhaps we shall see some scholarly examination of that intriguing aspect in due course.