J. W. Wesselius: “The Origin of the History of Israel” (2002)—Review

This book by the Dutch scholar Jan Wim Wesselius presents yet another radical solution to the question hulking over OT studies like a malignant phantom: Who wrote the ancient history of Israel? Much depends on the answer—including the self-proclaimed legitimacy of the modern state of Israel. We recently considered Russell Gmirkin’s answer, which I personally find quite plausible: a group of Jewish scholars penned the Torah in Alexandria, c. 273 BCE, drawing on sources found in the Alexandria Library (particularly Berossus and Manetho). Wesselius presents a very different, but equally provocative, solution to the authorship question as regards the so-called Primary History (Genesis through 2 Kings). His book’s full title is The Origin of the History of Israel: Herodotus’s Histories … Continue reading

R. Gmirkin: Berossus and Genesis (2006)—Review

Though there are a few reviews of Gmirkin’s book it deserves a revisit today, over a decade after publication. Priced at $180, it’s unlikely that many of you have read this important tome. I did so only because the nearby University of Oregon Library possesses a copy. This is not a thoroughgoing review of Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch (New York: t & t Clark 2006), but rather a series of excerpts (see below) presenting its essential thesis and argument. For more details, see Neil Godfrey’s 2012 analyses (here, here, and here), and also Laura Knight Jadczyk’s fine customer review on Amazon.com. At 332, pages, the book contains eleven chapters and … Continue reading

Christianity in the Light of Science—Book announcement

A couple of days ago I received my author’s copies of the forthcoming anthology of essays, Christianity in the Light of Science: Critically Examining the World’s Largest Religion (Prometheus Books, 399 pp, US $19). The book goes on sale July 26, 2016, and it is available at pre-order discount on Amazon.com. The volume should also be available soon through Prometheus Books (whose website is currently in upgrade mode) and, of course, via your favorite local bookstore. My contribution is Chapter 12 (of fifteen), entitled “Pious Fraud at Nazareth.” Christianity in the Light of Science is edited by John Loftus (his fourth such anthology) and has a Foreword by Frank Zindler. It is dedicated to the late Victor Stenger, whose New … Continue reading

The Hebrew Gospel—Pt. 2

In the last post we introduced the Hebrew Gospel, specifically through the work of James R. Edwards and his 2009 book The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition. Edwards successfully sunders the Hebrew Gospel from association with the canonical Gospel of Matthew. The Hebrew Gospel was indeed pre-Matthean and even pre-synoptic. However, it had links not with the Gospel of Matthew but with the “special Luke” material in the third gospel. Furthermore, Edwards gives indications that the Hebrew Gospel was “heretical”: it was used by Jewish Christians, was never canonized (pp. 104–05), and contained a defective christology and a rejection of Paul (192). Now, “defective christology” can mean only one thing: the Hebrew Gospel had a different … Continue reading

The “Hebrew Gospel of Matthew”—Pt. 1

It doesn’t take long for researchers into Christian origins to come across enigmatic notices in the Church Fathers regarding a gospel originally written in Hebrew. I write “enigmatic” because such a Hebrew Gospel has never been found. So, scholars have been scratching their heads for generations—nay, centuries—over numerous ancient remarks attesting to such a work which has, apparently, disappeared. Some scholars maintain that the ancient remarks about a Hebrew gospel are simply errors—the ancients didn’t know what they were talking about! How convenient… A little thought, however, quickly shows this line to be completely indefensible, because if multiple unrelated sources wrote about a Hebrew gospel, it is most unlikely that they would all be wrong. But this is the way … Continue reading

“A Shift in Time” (L. Einhorn)—Book review, Pt. 2

A Shift in Time: How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth About Jesus by Lena Einhorn (New York: Yucca Publishing, 2016) Review by Hermann Detering translated from the German by René Salm In the foregoing paragraphs I necessarily simplified Einhorn’s argument and left out much in her book that supports her hypothesis. The many charts and tables that graphically illustrate and summarize her points are particularly successful and greatly strengthen the book’s conclusions. [A list of illustrations following the table of contents would have made the charts even more useful.—R.S.] Despite the above, however, I find myself not entirely convinced by Einhorn’s solution. The focus of this study is too narrowly fixed upon Josephus. Left untreated are many currents that … Continue reading

“A Shift in Time” (L. Einhorn)—Book review, Pt. 1

A Shift in Time: How Historical Documents Reveal the Surprising Truth About Jesus by Lena Einhorn (New York: Yucca Publishing, 2016; 227+11 pages) Review by Hermann Detering translated from the German by René Salm [For a 2012 review of Einhorn’s work on this site, see here.] Lena Einhorn has distinguished herself in Sweden as a documentary filmmaker. She is known in Germany mostly for her Holocaust book, Ninas Reise (“Nina’s Journey: How my Mother Escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto”). Over the last decade, the focus of her interest has moved to early Christianity. In 2007 the English edition of her book appeared, The Jesus Mystery: astonishing Clues to the True Identities of Jesus and Paul (Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press; German … Continue reading

Book Review: “Mark, Canonizer of Paul” by Tom Dykstra (2012) — Pt. 4

Deception and power      Dykstra writes that the canonical gospels are “scriptural historiography… The narrative is anchored to known historical facts, it is written to achieve a practical political or religious purpose, and in the furtherance of that purpose the author is free to invent whatever does not unreasonably transgress the bounds of plausibility” (p. 198). Dykstra then flat-out states that the evangelist is “compelled to invent whatever is necessary to achieve his purpose.” Well, that about sums up the situation: the evangelists invented what suited their purposes and that they could get away with (which is another way of saying: “whatever does not unreasonably transgress the bounds of plausibility”).      The closest contemporary genre to the above is probably what we … Continue reading

Book Review: “Mark, Canonizer of Paul” by Tom Dykstra (2012) — Pt. 3

Chp. 5: Presenting Jesus as the Crucified One      Dykstra begins this chapter with an important observation: “Another theme unique to Paul is his emphasis on the cross, or more specifically on the crucified Christ over the resurrected Christ” (p. 93). The terminology “crucified Christ” vs. “resurrected Christ” mirrors the two great models of salvation fighting one another for hegemony in the first century: salvation through faith (the “cross”) vs. salvation through gnosis (spiritual “resurrection”). In Pauline thought, salvation in “Jesus” is through faith in his atoning death on the physical cross. In gnostic thought, salvation in “Jesus” is through the acquisition of spiritual gnosis. These are two different religions and two different Jesuses—one material, one spiritual. Paul’s disputes with both … Continue reading

Book Review: “Mark, Canonizer of Paul” by Tom Dykstra (2012) — Pt. 2

Chp. 3: The Chimera of Oral Tradition      Like the Aramaic substratum thesis (Casey et al) the poor oral tradition has really been taking a beating lately and seems to be going the way of the dodo. I have no problem dispensing with the oral tradition theory and so skipped this long chapter on the first run-through. Dykstra asks (41): “How can a narrative written 30-plus years after the events that it records include such vivid detail..?” And: “How is it that Mark’s elaborate narrative appeared suddenly out of nowhere after three decades?” Whoah. This dating is increasingly passé. Accumulating data are showing that the Gospel of Mark probably dates to the second century CE, not the first (hence GMt and … Continue reading