Strange theories about Jesus seem to ooze from our culture with increasing regularity. Popular books and network TV specials proposing bizarre, historically unfounded tales of Jesus’ mysterious bloodline and secret teachings continue to titillate the religiously curious. Witherington, one of the top Jesus scholars today, will have none of it. There were no “Jesus Papers,” no “Lost Christianities,” no secret “Gnostic teachings” in the first century. With leading scholars and popular purveyors of bad history in his crosshairs, Witherington reveals what we can-and cannot-know about the real Jesus.
Utilizing a fresh “personality profile” approach, Witherington highlights core Christian claims by investigating the major figures in Jesus’ inner circle of followers: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Peter, James the brother of Jesus, Paul, and the mysterious “beloved disciple.” In each chapter Witherington satisfies our curiosities and answers the full range of questions about these key figures and what each of them can teach us about the historical Jesus. In what amounts to a vigorous defense of traditional Christianity, What Have They Done With Jesus? offers a compelling portrait of Jesus’ core message according to those who knew him best.
In this accessible, yet scholarly book, Ben Witherington is absolutely right to focus on the people who were closest to Jesus. We know lot about them, enough to know that they knew a lot about Jesus. As Witherington shows, to know the real Jesus, we don’t have to resort to late and unreliable sources. The best sources are the ones we’ve always known about.
—Richard Bauckham, Senior Scholar at Ridley Hall in Cambridge and a visiting professor at St. Mellitus College in London.
Witherington insightfully critiques today’s plethora of speculations about the evolution of earliest Christianity, rightly pointing us away from misinterpretations of Gnostic and other late documents and back to the earliest sources.
—Craig S. Keener, Professor of New Testament, Eastern University, and author of three commentaries on the Gospels
Rumor, conjecture, salacious gossip, conspiratorial plots, innuendo, and hysterical alarm swirl around the name of Jesus these days. Ben Witherington III genially and coolly examines each item, one by one. It is a pleasure to watch one of our best biblical historians do some of his best historical work.
Ben Witherington III is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world and has written over thirty books, including The Brother of Jesus (co-author), The Jesus Quest and The Paul Quest, both of which were selected as top biblical studies works by Christianity Today. Witherington has been interviewed on NBC “Dateline”, CBS “48 Hours”, FOX News, top NPR programs, and major print media including the Associated Press and the New York Times.
“This is not surprising: women in that culture were generally considered too emotional or too illiterate to be valid witnesses. For this reason, it is all the more striking that women were the key witnesses to the heart of the later Christian creed, for they were last at the cross, first at the tomb, first to hear the Easter message, first to see the risen Lord, and first to proclaim the Easter message.” (Page 18)
“There is a reason that both Ehrman’s mentor in text criticism and mine, Bruce Metzger, has said that there is nothing in these variants that really challenges any essential Christian belief: they don’t.” (Page 7)
“And at the end of the day it is this fact, having seen the risen Lord, that binds all these persons together, cementing their place in the family of faith, centered on Jesus.” (Page 11)
“So far as we can tell, women were not disciples of early Jewish teachers before Jesus’s time.” (Page 15)