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Background Reading for the Gathercole Lecture

On September 8, Simon Gathercole, a professor at Cambridge University, will give a library lecture entitled, “Did We Get Jesus Right? Jesus in the Canonical and Apocryphal Gospels.” We asked Gathercole to compile a reading list that would help lecture attendees increase their general knowledge about the lecture topic. Here are the books he suggested:

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony by R. J. Bauckham
LC Number: BT303.2.B36 2006

This book argues that the four Gospels are closely based on the eyewitness testimony of those who personally knew Jesus. Bauckham challenges the prevailing assumption that the accounts of Jesus circulated as anonymous community traditions, asserting instead that they were transmitted in the names of the original eyewitnesses. Bauckham draws on internal literary evidence, and recent developments in the understanding of oral tradition. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses also taps into the rich resources of modern study of memory, especially in cognitive psychology. Finally, Bauckham challenges readers to end the classic division between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith, proposing instead the Jesus of testimony as presented by the Gospels.

Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ by D.L. Bock & D.B. Wallace
LC Number: BT304.9.B63 2007

In this book, the authors identify a quest to reduce Jesus to a mythic legend or to nothing more than a mere man. For example, scholars such as Elaine Pagels and James Tabor are using such recent discoveries as the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Thomas to argue that the Christ of Christianity is a contrived figure and that a different Christ (one who is human and not divine) is the “true” Christ. Bock and Wallace address this “quest” and attempt to redefine Jesus in a convincing, winsome way that helps readers understand that the orthodox understanding of Christ and his divinity is as trustworthy and sure as it ever was.

Gospel of Judas: Rewriting Early Christianity by S.J. Gathercole
LC Number: BS2860.J832.G38 2007

This book examines the Gospel of Judas, a newly discovered ancient text that presents Judas as Jesus’ trusted friend and the recipient of secret revelation rather than the infamous betrayer of church tradition. Gathercole includes a translation of the ancient Egyptian text of the Gospel of Judas and offers new translations of all the ancient evidence about Judas Iscariot and the Gospel attributed to him. By discussing the bitter conflict between the group behind this Gospel and the mainstream Christian church, Gathercole shows how the Gospel of Judas is a window into the turbulent world of Christianity and Gnosticism in the century after Jesus.

Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy by C.E. Hill
LC Number: BS2555.52.H55 2010

The Bible contains four Gospels which tell the story of Jesus of Nazareth. And yet, many more Gospels once existed. Who, then, determined which Gospels would, for the next two thousand years, serve as the main gateways to Jesus and his teaching? Who Chose the Gospels? takes us to the scholarship behind the headlines, examining the great (and ongoing) controversy about how to look at ancient books about Jesus. How the four Biblical Gospels emerged into prominence among their competitors is a crucial question for everyone interested in understanding the historical Jesus and the development of the Christian church.