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9 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too narrowly focussed, 31 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Perfect Paperback)
1. In this 500-page volume, Bauckham constructs a scholarly but turgid and somewhat tenuous case for claiming that the gospels are based on eyewitness accounts. Earl Doherty (Jesus: Neither God nor Man, 2009) doesn't refer directly to Bauckham's work but in a devastating passage on page 400 (2009) he writes: `In the record outside the Gospels, in almost all Christian literature until the mid-2nd century, one looks in vain for any knowledge of characters such as Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea, Simon of Cyrene, minor apostles like Thomas, Andrew and Philip... even Mary mother of Jesus or Joseph his father.' Bauckham focuses obsessively on the gospels and misses this wider perspective. Doherty also points out that many of the names are symbolic devices, eg, `Judas' means simply a Jew.

2. Bauckham places a lot of emphasis on Papias, whose principal work is lost but is known to us through Eusebius, the 4th century historian of the church. Papias was a 2nd century bishop and therefore had a vested interest in establishing an apostolic `line of succession' back to Jesus. His testimony is very tenuous. It can be paraphrased along these lines: `information was passed to me by someone who knew John the Elder' who, we are supposed to infer, was a disciple of Jesus who wrote the 4th gospel. (The actual quotation is given on page 15.)

3. Gnostic Christians also claimed that their teachings came via a direct line of transmission from Jesus (Bauckham, p35).

4. The gospels often assume the perspective of an `omniscient narrator' (eg, knowing things which would not have been witnessed by anyone, such as Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane). This indicates the novelistic nature of the gospels.

5. Bauckham does not address the kind of critique represented by Randel Helms in Gospel Fictions (1988) which demonstrates that Mark got his information from the Hebrew scriptures. This is another example of Bauckham's failure to look at the wider perspective.

6. What did the word `eyewitness' (autopton) mean in any case? It seems that it can be applied to the kind of `seeing' or `revelation' which Paul reports. (See pages 37 and 117.)

This work barely addresses the wider Jesus Myth debate - but to be fair, this is because the Jesus Myth debate has become much more lively in the years since Bauckham's book was published. I don't think there is much here to put a dent in Doherty's magisterial 700-page book Jesus: Neither God nor Man (2009) which, by the way, is much more readable and enjoyable than Bauckham.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Dec 2013, 22:57:37 GMT
S. J. Wood says:
I would have thought the reason that this book doesn't deal with the Jesus Myth debate, is that not a single academic scholar regards it as a "debate" the protagonists of the myth idea are simply not serious historians or theologians.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Dec 2013, 08:44:15 GMT
This is a kind of denial. There are a number of serious scholars and theologians who are in the mythicist camp: Earl Doherty does not have a teaching position but his work is undeniably scholarly; Robert Price is a professor of theology; Tom Brodie is a dominican and a biblical scholar; Thomas Thompson is an academic; Richard Carrier seems to be freelance but again his work is scholarly. I could mention others. It suits mainstream orthodox scholars to dismiss the debate. Bart Erhman has at least taken it seriously enough to write a book trying to rebut their arguments. So no, don't say "the protagonists of the myth idea are simply not serious historians or theologians". This is just intellectual laziness.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Dec 2013, 19:35:17 GMT
Many can appear to write in a 'scholarly' way, but all serious authors have to be judged by their peers and in this respect Doherty et al do not fair well. It is not just 'orthodox' scholars who refute the Jesus myth idea, even the sceptical have tended to believe that there was a historical Jesus. Maurice Casey, for example, is far from 'orthodox', but is sharply critical of those who cannot come to terms with the idea that Christ existed, see his 'Jesus of Nazareth' p33ff.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jan 2014, 09:48:19 GMT
Thank you - I wasn't aware of Casey's work and I see he is just about to release a new book. I think your comment about Doherty is rather an easy put-down. Let's judge the debate by its arguments.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Mar 2014, 16:38:31 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Mar 2014, 17:08:44 GMT
gda259 says:
a lawyer looks at any case on its merits...the chances of eye witnesses relating to writers or a writer of the synoptics at all is minimal, hearsay is hearsay and even if the existence of the alleged person is proved , the nature of circumstances obtaining then [eschatology, sacrifice, slavery etc] should alienate any 21 st century Christian...and so I agree with all of D J Warden 's stated sentiments.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Jan 2015, 18:19:12 GMT
I think we can regard Richard Carrier as a serious historian and like many in the mythicist and extreme sceptic camp he is the holder of a PhD. Both he and Casey published works in 2014, the former pro-mythicist and the latter anti-mythicist. There is no doubt in my mind that Carrier's is the more impressive work. In it he throws down a gauntlet to the likes of Casey and the first commentator above, who are generally given to ad hominen attacks on the mythicists and their academic credentials, to come up with better arguments to explain all the anomalies that undermine the case for a historical Jesus. Having read both books recently, my view is that Casey fails to meet the challenge.
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