Did Jesus actually exist? Much has been written recently on this subject, including numerous books examining the New Testament record of Jesus’ life. Now Robert Van Voorst presents and critiques the ancient evidence outside the New Testament—the Roman, Jewish, pre-New Testament, and post-New Testament writings that mention Jesus. This fascinating study of the early Christian and non-Christian record includes fresh translations of all the relevant texts. Van Voorst shows how and to what extent these ancient writings can be used to help reconstruct the historical Jesus.
The book is a marvelous achievement and deserves a wide reading even by those who are already familiar with the sources. Nuggets of insight and illuminating suggestions often appear in the details and in the footnotes. For example, Van Voorst makes the intriguing proposal that Tacitus may have learned about Christians as part of his responsibilities as a member of the priestly college of the Quindecimviri sacris faciundis (p. 52). Inevitable trivial disagreements over minor points will not prevent one from admiring the caution, sensitivity, and literary skill that Van Voorst employs in his arguments. Most scholars will not seriously dispute his conclusion that the New Testament still remains the most important collection of sources for the study of the historical Jesus.
—Allen Kerkeslager, The Review of Biblical Literature
Robert E. Van Voorst is Professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan.