|Here I explain a little about why I wrote this book, and answer some questions from my friends. You are welcome to post questions and comments below.|
Why would someone want to read your book, given that there are many other books about the historical Jesus and Christian origins?
I intended this book to be easy to read, but also scholarly, and that’s the feedback I am getting from readers, regardless of their familiarity with the subject. It is concise but thorough, appropriate for those who are simply curious to know what history can tell us, and also for serious students, with references provided for further study. It is the kind of book I wish I had found when I was 19 years old and trying to understand these things.
Do you bring a unique perspective to the subject of Christian beginnings? How is this book different?
One thing that sets this book apart is the way I combined a historical study of Christian roots with my personal journey of faith. I did this to make the history relevant and alive. This is not entirely unique, but I found that most books about Christianity and the New Testament fell into one of three categories: academic and impersonal; pious and unquestioning; or sensationalistic and misleading. This left a hole to be filled, to relate history and belief through a clear assessment of the available evidence.
Did the process of analyzing what you believe, and why, lead you to reconsider or modify any of your beliefs or opinions?
When I first began this research as a teenager and college student, I found it very challenging to my Christian beliefs. Some of these beliefs held up under scrutiny, but others did not. At first I found this disorienting, but then liberating and illuminating, and that is something I wanted to share in this book.
Can you give an example of a belief that held up to examination?
There really was a Jewish prophet, healer, and teacher of righteousness named Jesus of Nazareth, crucified under Pontius Pilate near Jerusalem 2000 years ago! We have more information about him than for most people from ancient times, especially for a poor person. His earliest followers believed he rose from the dead, and proclaimed him to be “the Christ” or Messiah. This began the movement we call Christianity.
How about a belief that did not withstand scrutiny?
One doctrine that is clearly false is the notion that the Bible as a whole is the perfect, infallible, word of an omniscient God. This is an impossible standard, and most people don’t expect any other book to be perfect, though it may be authoritative. Nevertheless, for most evangelical Christians, Biblical infallibility is a foundational doctrine that is rarely questioned openly, because to do so is to automatically expel yourself from this community. When I confronted this question as a teenager, my identity in this Christian community was very important to me, so it was traumatic to realize I could no longer be a part of it. One of the motivations for writing this book was to help others who are struggling with this question, and to show them they are not alone.
You have been studying this subject for many years, so why did you write this book now?
After researching and thinking about these things for most of my life, the time came when I felt I had something worth saying, and that might be helpful and interesting. I also wanted to organize and present the information I had found, for myself and anyone who might benefit. The resulting book has been fun to write, and the impetus for some great conversations about a subject that has fascinated me since I was a child.