Is Craig Evans’s book worth reading? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
In Fabricating Jesus, Craig Evans takes a look at how modern scholarship mislead the populace and miss the real Jesus. Evans’s work is witty and engaging and the bluntness with which he speaks I find extremely appealing. How can you not love a work that has a chapter all about hokum history with after reviewing a claim saying something like “Let me get this straight.”
Yet in that, there is also a pastoral heart. Evans, for instance, writes about Ehrman’s deconversion experience and how it started with a paper he wrote on Mark 2. (For details, most any book of Ehrman’s seems to have it in there.) Evans says he has empathy for Ehrman, but is just puzzled by what happened. I wanted to cheer when Evans said what I’ve been saying for awhile, that Ehrman is still a fundamentalist.
Evans looks into the writings of a number of scholars and points out how they held a faith in childhood that never seemed to grow up. What you learn in Sunday School is often quite basic and should be subject to change, but these scholars had equated what they learned with what Christianity was entirely. In the work, he discusses other scholars who left the Christian faith such as Robert Funk, James Robinson, and Robert Price.
Evans also says he can’t believe he’s having to write against some of the arguments that he is dealing with. It would be more understandable if some of them were being shared by just popular writers or your internet atheists, but a few are actually held by people who are scholars!
For instance, Evans wants to know how the Jesus of the Jesus Seminar would have got himself crucified. What great threat was he? Why should he consider Secret Mark or the Egerton Gospel or the Cross Gospel or the Gospel of Thomas reliable sources the way Crossan does? This is especially so with the first one since a conclusive case has been made that it’s a forgery. Why should he also think that Jesus was a cynic sage wandering around Israel?
Evans also covers other topics such as other gospels that supposedly didn’t make the cut and the misuse of Josephus by modern scholars. Furthermore, he deals with the idea that there were lost Christianities by explaining many writers *cough* Bart Ehrman *cough* take a second century idea and transplant it into the first century. The first century church had its divisions, yes, but nothing like what we see in Lost Christianities.
An amusing section is that on hokum history. In this one, he deals with claims such as those of Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln, claims that were highly influential on a book like The Da Vinci Code. Claims that no one in their right mind should believe, but claims several people do believe and this largely because of the Da Vinci Code popularizing them.
Included in that section is James Tabor. While Tabor is a scholar, his arguments in the Jesus Dynasty contain some quite unscholarly claims, such as the reliance on a 16th century mystic. Of course, Tabor rules out at the start any idea that maybe Jesus actually was virgin born and was resurrected.
The final chapter, aside from appendices, is a statement on who the real Jesus is, which is a powerful and moving piece. Evans concludes that the gospel does stand up to scrutiny and he’s convinced that more real scholarship will further show there is no division between the Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history. Perhaps it could be the strange case that the gospels really did get it right and modern scholars with modern presuppositions have often got it wrong?
Fabricating Jesus is another book that I cannot recommend enough. Anyone interested in learning about how modern scholars go wrong on the historical Jesus owes it to themselves to pick up a copy of this work.