Wednesday, November 16, 2016


My review of David Marshall's latest book Jesus Is No Myth: The Fingerprints of God on the Gospels. This review is also posted on Amazon and Goodreads.:


Overall this book is a very enjoyable read, as David's wit and way with

words keeps the book moving along—often leaving you with a smile or a chuckle. But this book is far more than entertainment. To be sure, there are times when the detailed analysis does indeed cause the book to lag a bit, but such tedious work is sometimes important when digging for gold. And there is indeed gold in them hills!

Jesus Is No Myth is an important book for several reasons:

(1) Dr. Marshall engages the arguments of some of modern culture's most popular skeptics as they attempt to mythicize Jesus and discredit the Gospels that relate Jesus' teaching, miracles, death and resurrection. Marshall specifically engages the views of Bart Ehrman, Richard Carrier, and Reza Aslan. He provides brief (chapter long) analyses of each and skillfully makes note of some fatal weaknesses. As these skeptical detractors of Jesus are having a significant impact on our society and misleading many to believe things that are just not so, this section meets a clamoring need.

(2) In the second section, Marshall lays out 30 criteria for analyzing the historicity of the Gospels (which will serve as preparation for a serious comparison with the parallels alleged by the likes of Carrier and Ehrman in the third section). Marshall makes good use of recent work by great scholars like N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, and Timothy and Lydia McGrew. But he also provides his own original and helpful criteria for analyzing the Gospels' historicity. So this section is important for two reasons: (a) Helpful criteria for analyzing the historicity of the Gospels found nowhere else (so far as I am aware—and I have spent a lot of time studying this very subject). And (b) the collection of a large set of criteria into one place, which makes for a robust and powerful cumulative argument.

(3) In the third section, Marshall uses the criteria that he has just discussed related to the Gospels to see if the parallels offered by the skeptics stand up to scrutiny. Marshall carefully analyzes Apollonius of Tyana (who is most commonly offered as a historical figure parallel to Jesus), looking at his general historicity in one chapter and specifically at his miracles in the next. Then Marshall spends two chapters comparing the Gospels to ancient Greek novels--as skeptics have alleged that this might be the genre of the Gospels rather than historical biography. In the fifth chapter in this section, he compares the Gospels to the hagiography that arose in the 2nd Century and later. And finally, Marshall looks closely at a novel suggestion that Bart Ehrman recently proposed as a parallel to Jesus: the 18th Century Hasidic rabbi, Baal Shem Tov. In all cases, the parallels are clearly shown to be comical comparisons to Jesus. Again, I am not aware of anyone else who has taken the time to do this important and timely work.

(4) But perhaps the most important contribution that this book makes is that Marshall takes the skeptics' joint effort to mythicize Jesus and turns it on its head. The skeptics' desperate attempts to show that there were many others like Jesus instead reveal that Jesus is indeed unique among all persons of history. As Marshall notes: “If after ransacking your house for weapons, you challenge a thief with a butter knife, that probably means no more potent hardware lies hidden in your closet” (p.204). No one else ever claimed divinity like Jesus and left a lasting legacy...because no one else ever taught like him, performed miracles like him, showed compassion to outcasts like him, fulfilled ancient prophecies like him, died like him and rose again like him in a way that was experienced publicly and is therefore historically verifiable—and by hundreds of witnesses willing to suffer and even die for their testimony to these things. There is nothing else like this in history.

So this book provides important resources not only to anyone confused by the skeptics' claims but to anyone seeking serious analysis of the credibility of the New Testament Gospels and a mountain top view from which to see how truly unique Jesus truly is.

All that being said, David's book, How Jesus Passes the Outsider Test is probably still my favorite. You'll want to read it, too.

NOTE: This book does need some editing. Due to a rush to get this printed before his speaking tour, there are a significant number of typos and grammatical errors, which on a few pages show up in droves. But don't let that relatively minor issue stop you from a read that will be well worth your time.

FULL DISCLOSURE: David sent me a copy of this book for review. And David and I have been friends on Facebook for several years and are part of the same large Facebook group (The CAA: Christian Apologetics Alliance), where we first met. And I once saw him in person for a few hours at one of his speaking engagements. But that does not at all discredit my review. On the contrary, it is David's wide range of learning and his original insights into important topics that have time after time drawn me into conversation with him—along with his brilliant sense of humor! :)

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