My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
Dune
Jhereg
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Review: How Did Christianity Begin? Hallucinations? Fabrications? Myths? Resurrection? A Look at the Evidence

How Did Christianity Begin? Hallucinations? Fabrications? Myths? Resurrection? A Look at the Evidence How Did Christianity Begin? Hallucinations? Fabrications? Myths? Resurrection? A Look at the Evidence by Christopher Hearn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book as an interesting premise; however, it is by no means an academic or scholarly work. The entire focus is on proving the Resurrection of Jesus, and while it marshals an impressive amount of circumstantial evidence, there is little to no direct evidence (as might be expected), so it is unlikely to convince skeptics; although it might comfort believers. No where does it cover anything about the origins of Christianity outside of the resurrection narrative, so if that is what you are looking for, this is not the book for you. The book is divided into three (3) parts, with each part organized differently. Part One proposes that the resurrection has been denied with the claim that all witnesses were experiencing some form of mass hallucination … and makes the unsupported point that this is the principle means by which the resurrection story is denied. I count myself as fairly knowledgeable in christian apologetics, and I have never found this to be true, not have I encountered this anecdotally; however, there is still some good information here (such as a convenient table of all the biblical post resurrection sightings of Jesus) as well as provides a few basic reasons for the early resistance to the message of christianity … and then it undermines its own credibility with poor scholarship such as the insistence of inserting a creedal statement into 1 Corinthians that was adopted no more than 9 years after the crucifixion with no supporting citations. That is not to say anything in this part is complete wrong, just that what is there is not really a strong supporting argument if you are trying to convince a non-believer, so the best use here would be as a supplement to private or personal reflections by believers.

Part Two focuses on the Empty Tomb … with the basic claim that resurrection deniers attempt to explain how the early believers could have found the tomb of Jesus empty. There are 10 more specific claims here, each with a response. And while I don’t have the credentials needed to verify how accurate this information is, it seems reasonable in many cases and does have some supporting citations (from people that I have not previously encountered in my own studies). For example, there is an interesting connection on why Joseph of Arimathea was the one who had to claim the body of Jesus that was connected to his belonging to the Sanhedrin that was pretty investing and not something that I had heard before (will still need to do some follow-on research to verify though). Additional there was an interesting discussion about why the tomb had to be new in order not to run afoul of custom and law; however, the discussion of why we are so certain of the tomb’s location doesn’t appear to follow any consensus and fails to mention any of the competing claims, giving the a impression of certainty here. Additionally he talks about the James ossuary as if it has been determined to be authentic, while that is actually still contested. This might be inferred by the fact that Oded Golan was eventually acquitted of personally forging the ossuary, but the courts made no ruling on the items actual authenticity.

Part Three attempts to defend the New Testament as a whole; doing so with a combination of strawman arguments and historical inferences (the later being a list of extra biblical documents that mention Jesus by name). An immediate problem here is the inclusion of Thallus, who, while a favorite of Christian apologists because of its early date (52AD), really only confirms that solar eclipse around the time of the crucifixion and it was Africanus writing nearly 200 years after the fact that made the connection to Jesus. So the best external reference we have is actually Josephus as part of his histories, who mentions Jesus primarily in passing as the founder of a Jewish sect that was [believed to have been] executed on a cross by the sect members. In short, all of these arguments have potential, but they are all circumstantial and fairly weak on their own.

The chapters and sections in this work are:

Introduction
Part One - Hallucination Theory (1 claim w/ 8 responses)
Part Two - Empty Tomb (1 main claim w/ 10 subclaims and responses)
Part Three - The New Testament (1 main claim and response with 4 counter arguments and responses)

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

Jesus made thirteen recorded appearances, at different times and locations, over the span of forty days.

When we look at what happened to people who gathered followers in Israel both before and after Jesus' life, we find that all of the movements failed and were finished off. Done. Yet only Christianity survived the death of its leader and did so in a spectacular way.

This brings us to the second hurdle. Jewish custom at the time stated that if a Jewish person was crucified, being a criminal, his or her body could only be retrieved by a member of the Sanhedrin. Family members or friends were not allowed. This explains why Mary, Jesus’ mother, or any of His siblings or even His disciples did not ask for Jesus’ body for burial.

According to the rules and customs of that time, Jesus' body should have been buried in a tomb for criminals. But Joseph asks for Jesus' body and places it in his own, brand-new tomb which had never been used. This works because as a new tomb, it is neither a place of honor or dishonor.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#HowDidChristianityBegin #LibraryThing

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.