Jesus the Nazarene: Myth or History?

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Overview

Originally published in 1926, this classic investigation into the question of the historicity of Jesus by Maurice Goguel, Professor of New Testament Criticism at the University of Paris, is considered one of the most important rebuttals of the "Myth Theory" of Christian origins. Advocated by a number of scholars in Europe and America, the theory maintained that Christianity evolved as an amalgam of salvation myths in circulation during the early centuries of the Roman Empire. The corollary of the theory is that the historical Jesus never existed.
Goguel first examines the meager non-Christian evidence from antiquity that attests to the existence of Christianity — i.e., in the works of Tacitus, Pliny, and Josephus, among others. Based on a statement about Christians in the Annals of Tacitus, Goguel is convinced that Tacitus knew of a document that "connected Christianity with the Christ crucified by Pontius Pilate."
He then devotes considerable attention to the letters of Paul, pointing out many points of historical reference in Paul that make it highly probable that Jesus was an actual religious leader. In particular he notes the sometimes-contentious relation between Paul and James, the brother of Jesus, as well as Jesus’ apostles. He asks why such details of conflict and disharmony among early Christians would be preserved in accounts that were completely fabricated.
Finally, he examines the four gospels. While recognizing their inadequacy as reliable historical accounts and the implausibility of reports of miracles in them, he argues that claims of miraculous power were commonplace in describing extraordinary persons in antiquity, including Roman emperors and heroes. Goguel’s analysis is especially important because he applies a thoroughly rationalist critique to the gospels without suggesting that the historical core of the story is negated by the fabulous and mythological details that give it context.
This classic text is essential reading for anyone interested in the modern quest for the historical Jesus.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591023708
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Series: Classics in Biblical Criticism Ser.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 330
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Table of Contents

Ch. I Nonhistorical theories 47
I The theories of nonhistoricity up to the close of the nineteenth century 47
II Nonhistorical theories in the twentieth century 56
III The problem 63
Ch. II The nonchristian testimony 71
I Flavius Josephus 71
II The Latin authors 77
III "Acta Pilati" (the acts of Pilate) 82
Ch. III Hypothesis of a pre-Christianity 91
I Jesus the Nazarene 91
II The hypothesis of a sect of pre-Christian Nazarenes, worshipers of Jesus 95
III Christianity and the disciples of John the Baptist 106
Ch. IV Two preliminary objections to the nonhistorical thesis 113
I The polemics of the opponents of Christianity 113
II Docetism 116
Ch. V The apostle Paul and gospel tradition 127
I The epistles of Paul 127
II Paul, before his conversion, a witness to the cross 129
III Paul and the unity of primitive Christianity 131
IV The brothers of Jesus and the Jerusalem apostles 132
V Examination of texts supposed to contain allusions to a Christ myth 134
VI The gospel tradition in Paul 146
Ch. VI The theology of the apostle Paul 161
I The character of Pauline thought 161
II God and demons 162
III Sin and evil 164
IV The redemption 168
V The Christ and his work 172
VI The justification and redemption of the sinner 179
VII The genesis of the Pauline theology 185
Ch. VII The non-Pauline epistles of the New Testament 191
I Their character 191
II The pastoral epistles 193
III The epistle to the Hebrews 197
IV The first epistle of Peter, epistle of Jude, the second epistle of Peter and the epistle of James 199
V Conclusion 201
Ch. VIII The Christ of the apocalypse 203
I Character of the apocalypse ("Revelations") 203
II The vision of the woman and the dragon 206
Ch. IX The theory of the prophetic origin of the gospel tradition 213
I The function of the prophetic argument in primitive Christianity 213
II The relations of prophecy and the gospel history 217
III Influence of prophecy on the facts 222
IV Fulfillment of prophecies discovered after the event 224
V The crucifixion 227
VI Christ the paschal lamb 231
Ch. X The gospel tradition 239
I Composition of the gospels 239
II The gospel idea 242
III The absence of chronological considerations 246
IV The plan of the gospels 249
V Concerning certain factors in the development of the gospel tradition 263
Ch. XI The origin of the faith in the resurrection and its function in primitive Christianity 281
I The resurrection problem 281
II The Pauline conception of Christ's resurrection 284
III The concept of the return of Christ to material life 288
IV Primitive form of the resurrection belief 289
V How the belief in the resurrection arose 292
VI The belief in the resurrection and the messianic belief 301
VII Conclusion 304
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