Friday, November 25, 2016

"Back to the Sources!" Wallace Marshall reviews Jesus is No Myth.

Dr. Wallace Marshall (no relation) has just posted the following review of my new book, Jesus is No Myth: The Fingerprints of God on the Gospels, on Amazon:

"A Great Contribution to Historical Jesus Studies!"

"This is a well researched and highly readable book. It's clear that Marshall has spent a lot of time with the original sources. He makes a compelling case for the uniqueness of both the historical Jesus and the canonical Gospels, and lays waste the arguments of "mythicists" like Richard Carrier who argue that Jesus may have never even existed.

"Marshall particularly excels in calling attention to the stylistic and literary qualities of the Gospels. He shows how understated their narratives are, vs. the dramatic embellishment, often to a hilarious degree, of their supposed parallels; how the personality of Jesus appears distinctively from the voice of his biographers, like Samuel Johnson's does in Boswell's famous "Life"; how the personalities of numerous minor characters, usually ordinary people, stand out in the Gospels as well, whereas they are rarely noticed in other ancient sources, and where they are, function for the most part like stage props; how unlike Jesus' character, teachings and interactions are from the ethno- and ego-centricity that predominates the alleged parallels to the Gospels.

"The chapter on Apollonius of Tyana, the favorite parallel to Jesus, is an absolute gem. Apollonius doesn't dialogue; he monologues. His moral teaching consists of platitudes. He doesn't really even work miracles, and where he "sort of" does, it is usually bizarre, and sometimes dark, as when Apollonius instructs the people of Ephesus to stone a beggar, who bloodied and broken reveals himself to be a demon. As for the source document itself, his life, written by Philostratus, contains fantastical details like flying, gold-gathering griffins, apes who farm and harvest peppers, 400-year-old elephants who shoot arrows with their trunks, and of course---dragons.

"By the time Marshall finishes his tour, you find yourself wondering how it could have ever occurred to scholars that either Philostratus' work, or his subject, Apollonius, could have been identified as legitimate parallels to the historical Jesus and the Gospels, and especially the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke). You wonder the same thing after the chapter on "In Praise of Baal Shem Tov," the eighteenth-century Polish rabbi who's recently been brought forward as a contestant on what Marshall amusingly calls "Celebrity Apprentice Messiah" (262). And indeed, a point Marshall returns to again and again---and it's difficult to disagree with it after reading his book---is this: "It is stunning that such are the closest parallels skeptics can find, after so epic a canvassing of ancient records" (214). He thinks skeptics have actually paid a tremendous compliment to Christianity by unwittingly underscoring this point.

"But the "compliment" only emerges clearly when one turns from the modern presentations of these ancient sources/figures, to the sources themselves. Marshall shows how scholars like Matthew Ferguson and even Bart Ehrman (who comes in for a particularly sharp rebuke on p. 204) have been guilty of gross misrepresentation. But it's impossible to do justice do this book in a review. The strength of "Jesus is No Myth" (which establishes far more than that bare historical fact) emerges from its wealth of comparative details and the insightful analysis Marshall applies to them. I went away from this book freshly reminded of the importance of the maxim, "Ad Fontes."

Now you know what you want to get your son or daughter off to college, or skeptical uncle, for Christmas! 

Order the book directly, and you can not only buy the book for $6 off, I'll also sign it, if you remind me:

David Marshall / PO BOX 403 Fall City WA 98024 ($16 per book, plus $4 postage for any number of copies)

Or, of course, there's still plenty of time to get Jesus is No Myth from Amazon.  

No comments: