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The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know about Jesus

, 2010
ISBN: 9780310496830
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Uniquely among the world’s religions, the central claims of Christianity concern not just timeless spiritual truths, but tangible historical events. At the heart of the of the Christian faith are things that are meant to have happened in Palestine between 5 BC and AD 30. It’s as if Christianity happily places its head on the chopping block of public scrutiny and invites anyone who wants to come and take a swing. Some of Christianity’s claims are so spectacular that they provoke a firestorm of questions, scrutiny, debate, and misinformation whenever they are discussed.

The popularity of The Da Vinci Code and the frequent airing of TV documentaries delving into the darker uncertainties of Christianity show that such skepticism flourishes in the Western world today. In The Christ Files you will learn how historians know what they know about Jesus. Historian John Dickson embraces the need to examine Christianity’s claims in the light of history, opening readers to a wealth of ancient sources and explaining how mainstream scholars—whether or not they claim Christian faith personally—reach their conclusions.

Christianity arrived on the historical scene at a time of great literary activity. While many texts penned by ancient philosophers, historians, poets, and playwrights can reliably inform us about Jesus himself and about the culture in which he lived, others are not so credible. Dickson skillfully highlights both types of sources along with the historical methods used to study Christianity’s claims. He also shows how historians assess the reliability of available data, and provides an honest but informed perspective on where historical issues are clear-cut and where personal faith comes into play. The Christ Files is a must-read for those looking to expand their understanding of early Christianity and the life of Jesus.

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Resource Experts
  • Foreword by Professor Alanna Nobbs
  • Discussion guide
The Christ Files offers a wealth of knowledge of the key issues and interviews with key scholars answering key controversial questions about Jesus: Gnostics, the first century Judaism of Jesus, how oral tradition operated in the background, and archaeology. John Dickson is a skilled guide. These “files” are loaded with information that is fascinating and accessible. Open the drawer and enjoy.

Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

In a world of many books about the historical Jesus, there are very few which summarize the historical evidence, Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian, as well and as succinctly as John Dickson does in The Christ Files. . . . In an increasingly less Christian world, here is some first rate historical detective work that provides effective presentation without apologizing for the New Testament evidence. Highly recommended.

Ben Witherington III, Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

This attractive book is concerned not so much to tell us what can be known about the life of Jesus as rather to help people who want to know how to evaluate by strictly historical methods the conclusions set forth by contemporary writers who present bizarre reconstructions of him and to see how professional ancient historians give us a firm basis for accepting the New Testament documents as reliable sources for what he did and taught. This is a sober, well-informed guide based on sound scholarship.

I. Howard Marshall, professor emeritus of New Testament, University of Aberdeen

John Dickson . . . has demonstrated his ability to write both at the most sophisticated technical level for fellow New Testament professionals and for the average-level reader with little knowledge of the Bible—and for people virtually anywhere in between. This slim volume aims . . . to correct popular misconceptions about what historians do and don’t know . . . But don’t be misled by the book’s simplicity and clarity; it is based on wide-ranging knowledge of the field and on the finest and most cutting-edge scholarship.

Craig L. Blomberg, distinguished professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary

There is a huge need for intelligent scholarship to be effectively communicated beyond the academy, a role that Dickson fulfills brilliantly. Informed by scholarship, yet highly readable on a nontechnical level, this work is a very useful introduction to historical discussion about Jesus.

Craig Keener, professor of New Testament, Palmer Seminary of Eastern University

Confusion about the historical Jesus is epidemic today. Here John Dickson clears the fog and explains with scholarly acumen and compelling arguments precisely how we know what we know about Jesus. In one stroke, he combines first rate scholarship with a clarity found among only the best teachers. This is the book I’ll recommend to my students for years to come.

Gary M. Burge, professor of New Testament, Wheaton College & Graduate School

Finally, an honest response to sensationalized stories about the life of Jesus. Dickson addresses with refreshing directness the real questions about Jesus’ life and death and examines a sweeping collection of sources in providing full and fair answers.

Lynn Cohick, associate professor of New Testament, Wheaton College and Graduate School

There are many excellent books on the historical Jesus, but few written with the same clarity and balance as John Dickson’s The Christ Files. . . . Dickson writes like a journalist, gently guiding readers through the maze of essential questions in the search for the real Jesus. Skeptic and believer alike will find Dickson’s approach and cautious conclusions a breath of fresh air in a debate too often characterized by sensationalistic, headline-catching claims on the one side and fundamentalist naivety on the other.

Mark L. Strauss, professor of New Testament, Bethel Seminary

John Dickson is a senior research fellow of the department of ancient history at Macquarie University. He is also codirector of the Center for Public Christianity and senior minister at St. Andrew’s Roseville. Dickson is the author of more than a dozen books, including The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know about Jesus, Life of Jesus: Who He Is and Why He Matters, and, with Chuck Pierce, The Worship Warrior.


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Regular price: $14.99
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