- Paperback: 154 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books; Revised ed. edition (Jan. 1 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0879755725
- ISBN-13: 978-0879755720
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.2 x 22.7 cm
- Shipping Weight: 222 g
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #187,529 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Gospel Fictions Paperback – Jan 1 1988
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About the Author
Randel Helms is a writer, professor, biblical scholar, and specialist in the works of William Blake and J.R.R. Tolkien. Helms was born in Alabama and was educated at the University of California Riverside. After leaving school, Helms began teaching at a number of universities around the United States. Many of his books are dedicated to debunking the Bible as fiction. He is the author of Gospel Fictions, Who Wrote the Gospels, and The Bible Against Itself.
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The first Gospel to be written was that of Mark. It however from a doctrinal point has some problems. There is no mention of the Virgin birth, Mark in quoting a number of prophecies in the Old Testament misunderstands and misquotes them, the description of Jesus?s Baptism suggests that he only becomes the Son of God at that point and not at his birth and lastly the women who observe the resurrection tell nobody.
Helms suggests that the Gospel of Luke attempts to deal with these issues by providing details about the birth, it quotes correctly from the Old Testament and it tries to make sense of the baptism of Jesus and gives a different account of the resurrection. The process of working out the events of Jesus life rather than coming from a historical narrative are often constructed by looking at Old Testament prophecies and then creating events which mirror these prophecies. Helms gives as an example of this Mathew?s use of a prophecy in Isa 7:14-16 to predict the Virgin Birth. It is clearly a passage which illustrates a suggestion that King Pekah of Israel will not reign for long. Mathew has misunderstood the nature of the prophecy.
The writing of the Gospels has thus not come about from an inquiry into the historical Jesus but rather as a result of the Gospel writers creating a legend that fits in with their communities view of the personality and nature of Jesus. Helms refers to the large number of other Gospels which were in circulation `such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Phillip, the Secret Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene which have been disregarded from the Cannon. The survival of the current Gospels reflects their acceptance by the church as reflective of acceptable doctrine.
The chapter on the biblical miracles is perhaps the best in the book. A number of these, especially the raising of the dead are borrowing?s from the Old Testament. Again it is shown how Mark presents a view of Jesus using clumsy magic like tricks whilst in the later Gospels the magic is replaced by Godlike power. However there is a discussion about the story of Jesus arrest and the cutting of of the ear of the servant of the high priest. This starts off as a simple story but the later Gospels tease out a miracle with the curing of the ear.
The source of the miracles is shown clearly to be a number of Old Testament stories which have been copied closely. This book also shows the different treatment of miracles in the Gospels. In John they are proof of supernatural power and a reason to believe. In the other Gospels they are the result of the faith which Jesus inspires in people,
Unlike some authors, Helms believes in the existence of a historical Christ. He believes that the crucifixion and the baptism by John the Baptist were both inconvenient stories whose inclusion can only be explained by the fact that they happened. He suggests that a good deal of work has been undertaken by the writers of the Gospels to incorporate these stories in such a way that it fits in with Jesus divine nature. The story of the Baptism is the clearest example. Baptism was aimed at removing sin from a person. Why then was Jesus baptised? The later Gospel writers have incorporated dialogue from John the Baptist suggesting to Jesus that his Baptism was unnecessary as a means of dealing with this dilemma.
All in all an easy to read and interesting little book
Helms doesn't just point out the sometimes obvious and sometimes not-so obvious contradictions among the gospels, but he explains where the myths most likely originated and WHY the details of the individual stories change from one gospel to another. I didn't agree with him on a few of his explanations, as I was not completely convinced; however, on the whole his arguments are extremely persuasive and very logical. I had become aware of the absurdity of the stories as well as the contradictions, but only wondered how they had come about. Now I know, thanks to this book. I now understand what Paul means when he says in 1 Corinthians that he is revealing the gospel "according to the scriptures".
The book covers the nativity legends, numerous miracle stories, the crucifixion stories, and the resurrection myths. Things I had not seen before became obvious to me thanks to its elegant explanation.
I rate this book up with Thomas Paine's Age of Reason. If you find a copy, by all means purchase it.
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