Book Review: Unmasking the Jesus Myth by Stephen J. Bedard
[Following is a slightly revised version of a review that can be found at Amazon.)
The back cover to Stephen J. Bedard’s Umasking the Jesus Myth reads, "This book puts forward the evidence for Jesus and exposes the false claims of the Jesus Myth theory." I give Unmasking the Jesus Myth five stars because it fulfills its stated purpose effectively and succinctly.
Having previously coauthored (with Stanley Porter) the award-winning Unmasking the Pagan Christ, and now leading the Hope's Reason Ministries, Bedard is well equipped to unravel the often tangled web of Jesus myth speculations. His relatively compact survey first traces the history of the movement, beginning with the theologically-stripped “historical Jesus” proposed by Albert Schweitzer, followed by the increasingly skeptical concepts of, for examples, Bruno Bauer, G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty, Robert Price, D.M. Murdock (aka Acharya S.), Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, and of course, Richard Carrier.
This is followed by an overview of evidence for Jesus, which naturally begins with the Gospels as prima facie historical (specifically biographical) narratives, but also includes the writings of Paul, the Testimonium of Josephus, and others. A critical evaluation follows, of various presumed Pagan parallels to Jesus, such as Osiris, Horus, Dionysus and Mithras. An ensuing discussion of Jesus Mythicism and the New Atheism helps the reader to better understand mythicism by locating it within its larger social and ideological contexts. For apologists, the most valuable portion of the book might be the brief guide for seeking a fruitful dialogue with skeptics of the Jesus revealed in the New Testament.
Supplementing the five chapters comprising the body of the book are three quite useful appendices. These address, first, Paul and the historical Jesus, then methodological problems associated with the Jesus Myth movement, and finally, a brief critique of the popular but transparently biased "Zeitgeist" movie.
Unmasking the Jesus Myth is a great resource for anyone (like me) with an interest or active involvement in apologetics but perhaps lacking familiarity with the ideas and personalities underlying the arguments of the Christ myth movement in particular. For Christian believers and apologists generally, most of us would do well to be reminded of the importance of Christ's historicity, an issue with which the apostles were familiar and the truth of which they were ever ready to defend. With the recent resurgence of Gnosticism, and a corresponding rise in the popularity of mythicism (a revival of Docetism, essentially), believers in the twenty-first century would be well advised to get a copy of Bedard’s book and likewise equip themselves to answer myth with fact.