It is fashionable today to see the Christian religion as a massive cover up and the real story is supposed to have gone something like this: Jesus was a pious, Torah-observant Jew whom Paul got hold of and cranked up a few notches into a God-like deity, called him the Christ, and then handed on to the Gentile world a new religion. By the time of Constantine and Nicea, the original vision of Jesus was wiped off the map. That’s the common story. Good grief, Thomas Jefferson’s views were about the same thing. Barrie Wilson is the most recent proponent of this story. (See How Jesus Became Christian
I will make a brief case that this author debunks orthodoxy by ignoring contrary (and expert) opinion. Where else do you see this?
It would take a dozen posts or so to dismantle all the theories Wilson requires to argue his case, but a few major points need to be made:
First, how a reputable scholar can write a book on the development of christology and ignore the work of Larry Hurtado is not only inexplicable but irresponsible.
Second, Hurtado’s work completely undermines Wilson’s book: Hurtado, working with the texts and the best of scholarship, demonstrates that Jesus was worshiped alongside God the Father within a decade or so of Jesus’ own death and this worship was found among Aramaic-speaking Jewish believers.
Third, Wilson has an axe to grind against the apostle Paul and it is unfortunate because Paul was also a faithful Jew — and the diversity within Judaism is insufficiently explored in this book.
Fourth, Wilson thinks James represents the movement most faithful to Jesus, but what he fails to examine is that James’ use of “Lord” reveals that he called Jesus Christ “Lord” and this term was Judaism’s translation of “YHWH.” This undercuts the thesis of Wilson too.
I was disappointed in this book. We’ve got our share of books all arguing the same thing and one expression unites them: conspiracy theory. The oddest thing about this book is that he debunks orthodoxy by completely ignoring everything that goes against his theory.
Conservatives and liberals alike … one way of winning your argument is to silence all the opponents, especially the ones with the most potent arguments.