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Rabbi or Messiah? Prophet or the Son of God? People have debated the identity of Jesus of Nazareth since the first century. But what if there was no Jesus? What if there was no Mary or Joseph, no twelve apostles? What if the story of Jesus was no more than a myth to convey spiritual truth? These claims have been around for hundreds of years and have become more prominent with well-known religion columnist Tom Harpur's recent book, The Pagan Christ. Harpur claims that Jesus was not a historical figure, but was one version of an ancient myth that can be traced from ancient Egyptian religion to the Roman mystery cults. Stanley Porter and Stephen Bedard tackle this radical claim by looking at the roots of the "pagan Christ idea," examining the supposed pagan parallels and presenting the evidence for the historical Jesus. The authors demonstrate that the suggestion of pagan origins for the Gospel story is not based on historical or textual evidence, but rather on a desire to create a universalistic spirituality revolving around a "Cosmic Christ" within each person. A fair examination of both the mythological and biblical texts reveal that the traditional understanding of an actual historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth appearing two thousand years ago is indeed the only logical conclusion. Stanley E. Porter is President and Dean, and Professor of New Testament at McMaster Divinity College, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Porter has M.A. degrees from Claremont Graduate School and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and the Ph.D. from the University of Sheffield. He has written widely on issues of concern in study of the New Testament, such as Jesus, Paul, the book of Acts, and John. He has a passion for education in the church, and preaches and teaches regularly. Stephen J. Bedard is the pastor of Woodford Baptist Church and First Baptist Church, Meaford, Ontario, Canada. He holds the M.Div. and M.Th. degrees from McMaster Divinity College, and is actively engaged in further graduate study. Bedard is an advocate of informed preaching and teaching, and is devoted to the ministry of the local church.
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