Robert E. Van Voorst chronicles the evidence for Jesus that exists outside the New Testament documents.
Did Jesus actually exist? Much has been written recently on this subject, including numerous books examining the New Testament record of Jesus? life. Now Robert Van Voorst presents and critiques the ancient evidence outside the New Testament? the Roman, Jewish, pre-New Testament, and post-New Testament writings that mention Jesus. This fascinating study of the early Christian and non-Christian record includes fresh translations of all the relevant texts. Van Voorst shows how and to what extent these ancient writings can be used to help reconstruct the historical Jesus.
Publishers’ Weekly said:
This book’s aim is promising: to evaluate the evidence we have, outside of the Christian scriptures themselves, for the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. Van Voorst is a capable guide to this territory, which ranges from citations in Roman correspondence to the early Christian writings often called the “New Testament Apocrypha.” His lucid and judicious account of the state of scholarship will be most helpful to seminary students and others beginning to engage this material. Unfortunately if inevitably, the different sources are treated unevenly, with the very well-known classical quotations from Tacitus, Pliny and the like receiving extensive treatment while the more lengthy–and debated–proto-gnostic texts receive scant attention. Van Voorst devotes a surprising amount of energy to refuting the idea that Jesus never existed. He also includes a long and inconclusive chapter about what we can learn from the assumed sources of the New Testament itself, which is more a tutorial in 20th-century scholarship than evidence from “outside” the New Testament. Seminary professors will want to consider assigning this book, but those looking for revelations about Jesus of Nazareth will be disappointed, since after much scholarly muckraking the author himself concludes that the New Testament is our best evidence after all. Better to turn to works like John Meier’s A Marginal Jew for more fully considered and provocative accounts of the historical Jesus. (May)
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