The Jesus Legend
Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd
Published in 2007
Review by Ben Pascut
Written by Eddy and Boyd, two evangelicals, The Jesus Legend is a strong defense of the historical reliability of the Synoptic Gospels, with a careful treatement of the major issues in historical epistemology (or how we claim to know what we know).
The first section, entitled Historical Method and the Jesus Tradition: Miracles, Parallels, and First Century Palestine, is an examination of the naturalist critical method, which Eddy and Boyd dismiss by arguing that it is a case of circular reasoning that ignores the ethnographic evidence about the paranormal. Instead, they argue in favor of an open historical critical method, where the possibility for the miraculous is kept as a possibility.
The second section, entitled Other Witnesses: Ancient Historians and the Apostle Paul, is a good analyzed survey of all relevant non-Christian sources in terms of their information about the historical Jesus, with the conclusion that there is no “conspiracy of silence” among early non-Christian sources concerning Jesus. At the very least, the evidence they provide dispels any suspicion that Jesus nver existed.
The third section, Between Jesus and the Gospels: The Early Oral Jesus Tradition, is, in my opinion, the best section of this book, because it carefully argues that the gospels were originally formed and passed over in a predominantly oral society that had a great interest in protecting their historically rooted traditions.
In the last section, The Synoptic Gospels as Historical Sources for Jesus: Assessing the Evidence, Eddy and Boyd argue against the legenday Jesus thesis and show how the general religious envirnoment of first century Jewish Palestine would not have provided a natural envirnomnet for birthing a legend centered around a recent cruciform-messianic God-man. This section is well footnoted and demonstrates that the Synoptics themselves give us plausible grounds for accepting that the basic portrait of Jesus they communicate is substantially rooted in history.
If you have an interest in the process and formation of the Gospels, if you want to know what other non-Christian historical documents tells us about Jesus, or if you have ever wondered or skeptically doubted the historicity of Jesus and the autheticity of the Synoptic gospels, the Jesus Legend is a must read.