In The Jesus Legend, Doctors Paul Rhodes Eddy, professor of biblical and theological studies at Bethel University, and Gregory A. Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, perform what amounts to an autopsy on the pet theories of the Enlightened higher-critics and Bultmanniacs who have wasted generations’ worth of time trying to disprove the veracity of the gospels in their vainglorious attempt to remake Jesus in their own image.
Eddy and Boyd have immersed themselves in the revisionist material and deconstruct, argument by argument, gimcrack conspiracy theory by gimcrack conspiracy theory, all the legendary “explanations” intended to prove the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ a mere legend. From “Paul was constructing a mystery religion” to the gospels are coded midrash/pesher texts to (my personal favorite) Mark modeled his gospel on Homer’s Odyssey all are shown to be untenable in the light of current scholarship.
Eddy and Boyd go on to demonstrate how the supposed pagan influences on the fiercely monotheistic gospel writers are based more on wishful thinking and ignorance of first-century Judea, Samaria, and Galilee than on fact, and how many of these supposed influences were born centuries after the gospel writers lived and died, arguing for an influence going the other way. The authors also go into great detail about the nature of oral history and oral tradition, and how communities were quite conservative and guarded about mucking about with original source material.
As if that were not enough, Boyd and Eddy retire the tired wheeze about the ancients’ being illiterate, overly credulous dunces (the archaeological evidence alone proves that to be wrong) and invigorate Bauckham’s (and others’) work on Paul’s and the gospels’ reliance on eyewitness testimony (the kind of testimony still used in, say, twenty-first-century law courts).
While not arguing for an overly literalist interpretation of the biblical texts (whereby discrepancies are reconciled so that “two” magically equals “three”), and making room for the editing typically found in “oral composition,” the authors leave no doubt that the gospels are completely reliable in communicating the fundamentals of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and that the gospel writers were neither attempting to deceive or were themselves deceived.
Moreover, Eddy and Boyd marry accessible language with exhaustive, serious research, making The Jesus Legend the best one-volume debunking of the debunkers you could possibly give a college student, seminarian, or curious layperson.
When all is said and done, Spongian liberals and Dawkinsian New Atheists alike will be left lambasting orthodox Christians for adverting to pointy-headed scholarship instead of relying on good old-fashioned fideism. First science , now archaeology, ethnography, orality/literacy studies, and historywhere’s a good neo-Gnostic or materialist to go for ammunition now that Christians have become cutting edge?