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Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels [Hardcover]

By Craig A. Evans (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   290
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.41" Width: 5.85" Height: 1.03"
Weight:   1.13 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2006
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830833188  
EAN  9780830833184  

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Item Description...
Modern historical study of the Gospels seems to give us a new portrait of Jesus every spring--just in time for Easter. The more unusual the portrait, the more it departs from the traditional view of Jesus, the more attention it gets in the popular media.

Why are scholars so prone to fabricate a new Jesus? Why is the public so eager to accept such claims without question? What methods and assumptions predispose scholars to distort the record? Is there a more sober approach to finding the real Jesus?

Commenting on such recent releases as Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, James Tabor's The Jesus Dynasty, Michael Baigent's The Jesus Papers and The Gospel of Judas, for which he served as an advisory board member to the National Geographic Society, Craig Evans offers a sane approach to examining the sources for understanding the historical Jesus.

Publishers Description
Modern historical study of the Gospels seems to give us a new portrait of Jesus every spring--just in time for Easter. The more unusual the portrait, the more it departs from the traditional view of Jesus, the more attention it gets in the popular media.Why are scholars so prone to fabricate a new Jesus? Why is the public so eager to accept such claims without question? What methods and assumptions predispose scholars to distort the record? Is there a more sober approach to finding the real Jesus?Commenting on such recent releases as Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, James Tabor's The Jesus Dynasty, Michael Baigent's The Jesus Papers and The Gospel of Judas, for which he served as an advisory board member to the National Geographic Society, Craig Evans offers a sane approach to examining the sources for understanding the historical Jesus.

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More About Craig A. Evans

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Bruce Chilton, Ph.D. (1976) in Divinity, Cambridge University (St. John's College) is Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College. He is a scholar of early Christianity and Judaism; his publications include The Isaiah Targum (Clark and Glazier, 1987) and The Temple of Jesus (Penn. State, 1992). Craig A. Evans, Ph.D. (1983) in Religion, Claremont Graduate School, is Professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, Canada. He has published extensively on Jesus and the Gospels, including Life of Jesus Research: An Annotated Bibliography (Brill, 1989).

Craig A. Evans currently resides in Kentville. Craig A. Evans has an academic affiliation as follows - Acadia Divinity College, Wolfville, Canada Acadia Divinity College, Ca.

Craig A. Evans has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology
  2. Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible
  3. IVP Bible Dictionary
  4. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement (Hardcover
  5. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
  6. JSP Supplements (Paperback)
  7. Library of New Testament Studies
  8. Library of Second Temple Studies
  9. New Cambridge Bible Commentary
  10. Of Scribes and Sages: Early Jewish Interpretation and Transmissi
  11. Sheffield Reader
  12. Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls & Related Literature
  13. T & T Clark Academic Paperbacks
  14. Word Biblical Commentary

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A helpful corrective  Mar 20, 2007
Craig Evans' very readable counter to the more speculative representations of Jesus is welcome to this reviewer, though it must be noted that the book is not in itself a "scholarly" work. Rather, it is a personal response informed by the author's scholarly research and reflection. Evans takes issue with the reconstructions of Jesus and the gospel accounts presented by the Jesus Seminar and others, and with the promotion of the Gnostic texts as authentic and independent testimony to be read alongside the canonical New Testament.

To be fair, Evans discusses and contests the views of the Seminar, Dominic Crossan and the academic revisionists in a different section of the book and in a much less dismissive manner than he does the Michael Baigents, Margaret Starbirds and others (but then he'd have to, wouldn't he). Still, his selection of straw men is limited, with no reference to the work of Geza Vermes, Paula Fredricksen or Elaine Pagels, for example, on the early church's possible post-Easter representation of Jesus' program and proclamations. Nevertheless, he deals with the positions of the revisionists neatly and, in this reviewer's opinion, well (bearing in mind that the book is not a comprehensive work).

I found the book instructive, easy to read and credible from a Christian perspective. Others would struggle with the author's fairly literal acceptance of a text based on the assumption that Jesus performed miracles and was resurrected, but Evans is, as he declares early, a committed Christian. As one committed to a belief system rooted in the life of Jesus, Evans accepts that he was seen by his followers as a miracle worker who rose from the dead, and their testimony in his view - at its core if not in detail - meets the requirements of authenticity.
Great book!!!!  Feb 4, 2007
Fabricating Jesus is a challenge to the wrong theories proposed in recent books and movies about Jesus. Craig Evans discusses numerous proposed historical sources for Jesus and archaeology.....In this well-written book, he exposes the misguided assumptions and dubious sources that lie behind the wild theories that have plagued the public.

Taking on the skeptics  Jan 11, 2007
At the very heart of Christianity is Christ. Remove Christ, and you no longer have Christianity. Thus those wanting to attack Christianity concentrate their heaviest firepower on Christ. And we have seen plenty of examples of that recently.

One way to attack Jesus is to attack the four canonical Gospels in which he appears. Parts of modern scholarship have been quite busy in distorting and misrepresenting the Gospels. They do this by questioning the Gospel accounts themselves, by speaking of other gospel traditions, by claiming there were alternative Christianities at the time, and so on.

In its more popular form this assault on Jesus comes out in such works of fiction as The Da Vinci Code. But it also comes out in more scholarly avenues, such as the Jesus Seminar. This volume examines all of these approaches, and finds them wanting. Indeed, Evans says the scepticism about Jesus and the Gospels betrays a "misplaced faith and misguided suspicions".

Craig Evans is well placed to undertake this task. He is a leading New Testament scholar, specialising in the historical Jesus and the Jewish background of the New Testament era. Here he takes head on the various challenges to the Jesus of history and the Gospel accounts.

Consider the reliability of the Gospels. As with all ancient documents, they need to be assessed. We need to know how trustworthy they are as sources for learning about the historical events surrounding the life and teachings of Jesus. Over the years such tests have been developed. We refer to them as the "criteria of authenticity". These are historical and literary criteria for assessing biblical literature.

One such criterion is that of multiple attestation. If we find a saying or teaching of Jesus that appears in two or more independent sources, that makes it more likely that they were circulated widely and early, and were not the invention of a single writer. And such is what we find in the New Testament documents.

Another is the criterion of embarrassment. This states that material that is potentially embarrassing or awkward for the early church is less likely to have been invented by believers after the Easter event. For example, given what a low view of women first century Judaism had, it seems strange indeed that the first people to report the resurrection of Jesus were women. Someone making up this story would surely not have chosen women, whose testimony was considered to be almost nil.

The various criteria taken together show that the four Gospels indeed have a high degree of authenticity and reliability. Says Evans, "Criteria of authenticity, which are remarkably vigorous in their application to the Gospels, confirm the essential core of Jesus' teaching".

Evans next looks at some of the other so-called gospels, the alternative gospels to the four canonical ones. Evans notes how the critics apply overly harsh and stringent tests for the reliability of the four Gospels, but when it comes to these alternative gospels, they approach them with kid gloves, giving them almost a free ride. Moreover, while they try to push the canonical Gospels to late dates, they are happy to give early authorship dates for these extracanonical writings.

Evans says the critics should show some consistency here, and apply the same standards to these new gospels as they do to the more traditional ones. Take for example the Gospel of Thomas. Liberal scholars tend to uncritically accept this as an early and legitimate gospel. But the evidence suggests otherwise.

As to dating, the four Gospels were all written within decades of the life of Jesus. Mark was penned in the 60s, Matthew and Luke in the late 70s, and John in the mid-90s. All of the alternative gospels however are dated to the second century and into the third. Thomas for example was written around A.D.180, perhaps later.

Moreover, it reads completely different from the four canonical Gospels. It is not really a gospel or biography at all, but a collection of sayings, reflecting a Gnostic, esoteric worldview. Says Evans, it clearly does not offer us "independent material that can be used for critical research into the life and teaching of Jesus".

After examining other pseudo-gospels, he moves on to various aspects of theological revisionism about the life of Christ. For example, was Jesus - as some claim - in fact a Mediterranean Cynic? Did he really view himself as the Messiah? What about his healings and miracles? How did he view the Judaism of his day? In all these areas, Evans argues that the traditional (biblical) understanding of Jesus is to be preferred to the new, more radical and speculative accounts.

He concludes by arguing that the traditional Gospel accounts of Jesus may be old, but they are reliable. In contradistinction to the "newer, radical, minimalist, revisionist, obscurantist and faddish versions of the Jesus story," the traditional one is both more convincing and more in tune with the historical and literary evidence.
The best correction of Jesus-revisionism I've read.  Jan 9, 2007
An excellent correction to much fashionable Jesus scholarship by a giant in the field. Though written for the intelligent non-expert, this book never compromises on substance. It is persuasive and worthy of careful attention. (And for those who wish to study further, there is a good deal of helpful bibliography in the very reader-friendly notes.) If you want a level-headed and erudite assessment of the Jesus Seminar and the likes of Bart Ehrman, read this book.
Taking Aim at Sensational Claims by Other Scholars  Jan 8, 2007
Craig Evans is a very well-respected New Testament scholar with a background in historical studies. Although Fabricating Jesus includes brief though able refutations of claims made by The Da Vinci Code, The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, The Jesus Papers, and The Pagan Christ, the bulk of material addresses popularized claims made by more reputable commentators, such as J.D. Crossan, Bart Ehrman, James Robinson, the Jesus Seminar, and James Tabor.

Evans begins by discussing his own religious background and how it was affected by the critical study of the New Testament and historical Jesus. He uses this personal reflection to try and understand why some respected scholars have embraced such far-fetched theories. One of his explanations is that some of these scholars came from strict, fundamentalist backgrounds. When exposed to the critical studies, they were not flexible enough to accomodate the new information in their existing religious mind set. As a result, their faith was shattered instead of modified. They see little middle ground betweeen strict fundamentalism and utter rejection of traditional positions. Evans points to himself as evidence of a middle ground that actually bases its opinions on better historical evidences.

The next few chapters demonstrate Evans' knowledge of the material, including especially the Jewish context of Jesus' ministry and the early Church, and ability to engage in dispassionate historical inquiry. Taking up some of the more unfounded scholarly conclusions about Jesus, Evans shows that Jesus likely was literate, interested in eschatology, and understood himself to be Israel's messiah. He then proceeds to discuss the criteria of authenticity often used by New Testament scholars, falling back on his background in history to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. As others have done, Evans demonstrates the limitations of the "criteria of dissimilarity."

Evans also provides sound refutations of two ideas advocated by more liberal New Testament scholars. First, he provides one of the best popularized discussions of the Gospel of Thomas I have read. He moves through the evidence methodically, leaving little doubt that the Gospel of Thomas is a late second century writing that is dependent on the canonical gospels. Thereafter, he provides effective though less thorough discussions of the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary, and Secret Gospel of Mark. Second, Evans devotes a chapter to the idea that Jesus was a kind of Greek cynic philosopher. His analysis demonstrates just how unfounded are such theories.

Additional chapters address the treatment of Jesus' miracle accounts by some modern scholars and how Josephus' accounts of Pilate and John the Baptist have been misused to create unnecessary tension with the Gospel accounts. Evans closes out with chapters reconstructing the early beliefs of the Church and how they are in line with traditional conceptions of Jesus. He then adds two useful appendices; one on the agrapha (non-gospel sayings of Jesus) and the Gospel of Judas.

Having found a used copy of Fabricating Jesus for only $10, I think I got a bargain. Evans again and again uses sober historical inquiry and a wealth of knowledge about Jesus' and the New Testament's backgrounds and contexts to counter those theories we hear are advanced by those in the know, but which are revealed to be worthy of our initial suspiciouns.

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