The assumption that Jesus existed as a historical person has occasionally been questioned in the course of the last hundred years or so, but any doubts that have been raised have usually been put to rest in favor of imagining a blend of the historical, the mythical, and the theological in the surviving records of Jesus. Historian and philosopher Richard Carrier reexamines the whole question and finds compelling reasons to suspect the more daring assumption is correct. He lays out extensive research on the evidence for Jesus and the origins of Christianity and poses the key questions that must now be answered if the historicity of Jesus is to survive as a dominant paradigm. Carrier contrasts the most credible reconstruction of a historical Jesus with the most credible theory of Christian origins if a historical Jesus did not exist. Such a theory posits that the Jesus figure was originally conceived of as a celestial being known only through private revelations and hidden messages in scripture; then stories placing this being in earthly history were crafted to communicate allegorically the claims of the gospel. Such stories eventually came to be believed or promoted in the struggle for control of the Christian churches that survived the tribulations of the first century. Carrier finds this theory more credible than has been previously imagined. He explains why it offers a better explanation for all the disparate evidence surviving from the first two centuries of the Christian era. He argues that we need a more careful and robust theory of cultural syncretism between Jewish theology and politics of the second-temple period and the most popular features of pagan religion and philosophy of the time. For everyone intent on defending a historical Jesus, this is the book to challenge them.
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- Christian Esch
A book about a Jesus that never existed. Early Christianity and Roman mysticism are not among the subjects I have read a lot about, so there were quite a lot of ideas that were completely new to me and whose veracity I can't really comment on (and which don't affect me enough to research).
The book proposes - very roughly - the idea that Jesus originally was a mystic being whose actions and crucification only took place in "outer space", i.e. a mystic shpere and was only later projected into history for the masses, while the early sophisticated Christians knew he never really existed on earth. I bought the book more out of a lingering affection for Zacharias Sitchin and Erich von Daeniken (come on, admit it, they are fun!), but I have to admit that the book seems - in and for itself - rather a lot better reasoned than those.
However, I don't find the book completely convincing, even if I can't really point out any logical errors (but then, I am not a specialist either on Roman history or on scientific method and its use in history. Even if Dr. Carrier repeatedly points out that he is not personally interested in the outcome of his analysis, from some quick glances at blogs about this subject matter, there seem to be very few authors on this subject who don't take this personally.
Some parts of the book seem repetetive, and I fear that a book with this amount of Background Information and scientific depth is best consumed as an audio.