Most Christians who have been brought up in the Christian traditions would never have dreamed of questioning the authenticity of the Holy Bible or to question who may have written it and why was it so written. Most would have taken the Bible as mostly a historical record of the Jews and of Adam and Abraham and Moses, and Noah and Jesus and Matthew, and Mark, and Luke and John with a few allegorical anecdotes thrown in. All other sources of contradiction were suppressed over the ages until the United Nations Convention of Human Rights freed human expression and the Internet allowed for the immediate access to information world wide. The inquiring mind was finally set free. The more evangelicals have proselytised that their “contained” views were the truth and the only truth, the more was there a reason to investigate whether what they were saying was true. So the reviews on this book will probably reflect the sentiments of evangelicals, open minded investigators, and atheists with entirely opposing views.
Burton Mack through his studies attempts to visualise early Jesus Movements that started in Galilee in the 30s and 40s of the first century AD. These early Jesus followers were seeking a kingdom, to take them away from their sufferings under the harsh Roman rule, a kingdom that they identified as “the Kingdom of God.” So different Jesus movements evolved forming different groups and these groups began to write their thoughts down, share it, saved it, embellished it and reworked it till it eventually resulted in the New Testament.
In the Early founding days, there were five different prominent Jesus groups such as
(1) The Community of Q (Q refers to Quelle meaning ‘source’ of the sayings of Jesus) who produced the Sayings Gospel Q,
(2) the Jesus School that produced the pre-Markan pronouncement stories,
(3) the True Disciples who produced the Gospel of Thomas,
(4) the Congregation of Israel who composed the pre-Markan sets of miracle stories, and
(5) the Jerusalem Pillars about whom we have only an early report from Paul in his letter to the Galatians.
All these groups shared the common feature of the idea of “the kingdom of god.” But the road from Jesus to the Christian religion only emerged in the 4th century developed from the myth of Jesus as the son of God firmly in place.
As many references refer to the Book of Q, here is a reference, < http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Lost-Gospel-Christian-ebook/dp/B00APGJZWS/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1 >
Because there is a general poverty of public knowledge of the origins of the Bible, Burton Mack has written this most comprehensive research into how he perceived the early Bible was in all probability derived. The writings included in the New Testament were not written by whose names that are attached to them.
(1) Most literature of the early Christian period was written anonymously, and
(2) the apostolic age was a second century creation, and
(3) that the later attribution of this literature to names associated with apostles can be explained in ways that showed it was not considered dishonest.
In the early period of collecting lore, interpreting teachings, and trying out new ideas to fit the novel groupings spawned by the different Jesus followers, many minds, voices, and hands were involved in on the drafting of the written materials. No one thought to take credit for the writings. Most of the writings in the New Testament were either written anonymously and later assigned to a person of the past or written later as a pseudonym for some person thought to have been important from the earliest period.
Modern Christian readers have interpreted the New Testament as a sort of “Christian Charter” or “constitution” written by a college of apostles, and that was what the 4th Century Christian centrists had intended but this charter was created for the 4th Century church by means of literary fictions. It is neither an authentic account of Christian beginnings nor an accurate account of the history of the Christian church. True religious historians would describe it as myth.
Burton Mack then goes into great depths and detail to analyse and to show the fallacies of the “Gospels” and the “Letters of the Gospels” and kept his arguments within the boundaries of the Bible and scriptures and to show that most of the contents of the New Testament were written by anonymous authors in the name of the Gospels and passed as historical events when in fact they were mostly allegorical or mythical stories made up to glorify Christianity and the Kingdom of God.
At the end Burton Mack criticises the attitudes of the evangelical North American Christians, but it could equally apply to any evangelical Christian in Europe, that they(evangelists) will always seek some some citation from the Bible regardless of how allegorical or mythical it might be to justify any of their own beliefs or policies and that it must be blessed by God because it was mentioned in the Bible. Evangelicals tend to assume that anything associated with the Bible must have the authenticity as though it was the literal word of God, almost in the same way Muslims consider their Quran is the literal word of Allah.
The book is certainly worthy of a good study as it opens avenues of thought that have been suppressed for centuries by the defenders of religious myths.