Contrary to several popular works of Christian scholarship, historian Paul Barnett maintains that the first two decades of Christian history are hardly "lost years." As he shows in this penetrating book, the period between Jesus and the earliest Christian texts is open to historical investigation, and he richly details the time and setting in which the church was born.Writing in a very accessible style, Barnett provides an informative, reliable chronology of the years immediately following Jesus' crucifixion. Just as important, he presents the historical sources, biblical clues, and other telling evidence that we have for accurately documenting this crucial period of time. Looking more widely, Barnett also surveys world events during Christianity's first twenty years and notes their impact on life in the early church.The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years is Volume 1 of a trilogy titled After Jesus. Volume 2 will be Paul, Missionary of Jesus, and Volume 3 will be Finding the Historical Christ.
According to Barnett, a former Anglican bishop and author of Is the New Testament Reliable?, only a year separated Jesus' crucifixion and Paul's entrance into the Jesus movement, at which point Paul received a rabbinic-style grounding in the received traditions about Jesus. Therefore, read in conjunction with the biblical book of Acts, Paul's letters give accurate information on the development and spread of the Jesus movement in the two decades after Jesus' death. The resulting picture is of a centralized, apostolically directed mission emanating from Jerusalem, proclaiming Jesus the divine Messiah and son of God. Barnett has written this book-the first in a projected trilogy-as a conservative counter to John Dominic Crossan's 1998 book of the same title. However, his dated notion of history as a record of the deeds of "great men" begs the methodological issues that Crossan raised in his more ambitious and challenging work. Still, Barnett provides a useful and readable statement of the traditional alternative perspective. Those needing a more direct critique of Crossan's book should see Michael Wilkins and J.P. Moreland's Jesus Under Fire. This belongs in larger libraries.-Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Paul Barnett is Visiting Fellow in Ancient History at Macquarie University, and teaches at Moore College in Sydney and Regent College in Vancouver. His many other books include The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (NICNT) and The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years (both Eerdmans).