Book: Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence

Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence” by Robert E. Van Voorst is a book wherein the author sets out  to evaluate the evidence we have, outside of the Christian scriptures themselves, for the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.

The author’s conclusion “…after much scholarly muckraking the author himself concludes that the New Testament is our best evidence after all.” is the point of this page.

The Truth Is…

Not even a devout christian professor of religion (see his biography) can, in good conscience, claim that there is any evidence outside the bible for Jesus Christ.

Here we present two reviews of the book.

From Publishers Weekly

Van Voorst is a capable guide in  this territory, which ranges from citations in Roman correspondence to the early Christian writings often called the “New Testament Apocrypha.” His lucid and judicious account of the state of scholarship will be most helpful to seminary students and others beginning to engage this material. Unfortunately if inevitably, the different sources are treated unevenly, with the very well-known classical quotations from Tacitus, Pliny and the like receiving extensive treatment while the more lengthy–and debated–proto-gnostic texts receive scant attention. Van Voorst devotes a surprising amount of energy to refuting the idea that Jesus never existed. He also includes a long and inconclusive chapter about what we can learn from the assumed sources of the New Testament itself, which is more a tutorial in 20th-century scholarship than evidence from “outside” the New Testament. Seminary professors will want to consider assigning this book, but those looking for revelations about Jesus of Nazareth will be disappointed, since after much scholarly muckraking the author himself concludes that the New Testament is our best evidence after all. Better to turn to works like John Meier’s A Marginal Jew for more fully considered and provocative accounts of the historical Jesus. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Van Voorst has written a comprehensive, rigorously focused survey of the evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as manifested by the written sources other than the New Testament. He has translated all relevant passages into contemporary English and presents the most important issues in their interpretation. After a brief survey of the history and principles of historical Jesus research, he takes up the evidence from Classical writers, Jewish writers, the “sources” of the gospels, and Christian writings after the New Testament. He finds that while some of the Classical and Jewish writings are not useful or reliable, others are surprisingly helpful albeit quite sketchy in details. The “sources” are controversial, while the writings subsequent to the New Testament are derived from the New Testament and therefore of no value as historical witnesses. Van Voorst (The Ascents of James) is an established, careful scholar who has adopted a critical but responsible middle-of-the-road stance. This very well-organized and -written book fills a comparative void left by the deluge of historical Jesus books. It will be valuable for those interested in the historical grounding of their faith.DEugene O. Bowser, Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.


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