The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition
Authors: Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd
Publisher: Baker (2007)
Topic: Apologetics: Are the Gospels historically reliable? (Written for an academic audience)
Description: In The Jesus Legend, Dr. Greg Boyd and Dr. Paul Eddy attempt to address every scholarly argument currently put forth in support of the view that the portrait of Jesus in the Gospel’s is mostly, if not entirely, legendary. Against these arguments, Boyd and Eddy provide compelling evidence and argumentation supporting the view that the Jesus of the Gospels is rooted in history, not legend. They demonstrate that the assumption that drives the legendary Jesus thesis is that supernaturally inspired events cannot occur. They then show that, once someone admits that the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels could possibly be historically accurate, they will find there are many compelling reasons to conclude that this portrait is in fact historically accurate.
Greg’s story behind the writing of Jesus Legend: Back in 2003 I debated Robert Price in a packed auditorium on the campus of U.C.L.A. I was accompanied by my long time friend and scholarly colleague Paul Eddy. The topic was The Historical Jesus. Price, who is one of the most liberal participants in the Jesus Seminar, argued that the Jesus of the Gospels is mostly, if not entirely, a legendary figure. I of course argued that the Jesus of the Gospels is significantly rooted in history.
I had debated Price before, but I felt this debate went particularly well. The way the material defending the historical Jesus was packaged just seemed to work. Paul agreed.
As we talked at the airport on the way home, we came up with the idea of putting the material of this debate into a book form. The goal would be to consider and refute every argument scholars use to substantiate the Legendary-Jesus hypothesis. By the time we boarded the plane, we were already arguing over the outline for the book. By the time we landed, we had our outline complete (though it was to change a dozen times over the course of researching and writing the book).
Initially we planned on a writing a 150 to 200 page popular level book and planned on getting it done in a year. It ended up being a very academic 400 + page book, and it took almost four years to research and write. (It would have been 100 pages longer, except the Baker editor made us take out two chapters!) Part of problem – which is also a blessing – is that Paul becomes “a bit” obsessive when it comes to research. He lives in the fear that someone somewhere might have written something we failed to uncover. It’s a great gift, academically speaking, though it can drive a co-author like me nuts. I’m just not as paranoid, or as patient, as Paul. God bless him.
What also contributed to the length and tardiness of the book is that Paul ended up doing some very exciting ground-breaking research on the nature of oral traditions. We had always planned on including an argument from the nature of oral traditions in our work, but as Paul spent more than a year obsessively researching this field, we came to see that this material deserved a far more prominent place than we initially planned on giving it. In fact, we believe this material is profoundly helpful in defending the historicity of the Gospels. The central role we give this argument, as well as the depth of research behind the construction of our argument, constitutes what we think may be our most significant contribution to the academic defense of the historical Jesus.
This is mostly to Paul’s credit, and it’s for this reason I felt Paul should be listed first in this co-authored work. He and I work very well together as a team. Paul is a much more patient and meticulous researcher than I am. I tend to have an easier time shaping a wealth of material into a single cumulative argument. Together, I humbly submit that we’ve produced the strongest and most comprehensive scholarly refutation of the Legendary Jesus hypothesis and defense of the historical Jesus available today. So far, the reviews of this book confirm this perspective, and The Jesus Legend was just awarded Christianity Today’s 2008 Book Award in the category of Biblical Studies.