Friday, November 23, 2007

Book Review: ‘Dethroning Jesus’ by Bock & Wallace

Review by Nathan Williams @

Dethroning Jesus CoverThere has been much said about Jesus over the past few years in the media. All sorts of new discoveries have come down the pipeline that supposedly will give us the truth about Jesus of Nazareth. From the Gospel of Judas to the tomb of the family of Jesus, each of these discoveries has leveled some attack on the biblical understanding of Jesus.

In their new book, Dethroning Jesus, Darrell Bock and Daniel Wallace help the reader understand the focus of six of these recent attacks. They summarize these attacks as a movement called Jesusanity. “Jesusanity is a coined term for the alternative story about Jesus. Here the center of the story is still Jesus, but Jesus as either a prophet or a teacher of religious wisdom. (p. 4)” In other words, the recent attacks on Jesus seek to take something away from our understanding of Christ. In their own way, they each try to reduce Jesus from the incarnate Son of God who died to save sinners to a good teacher and moral example for mankind to follow. Bock and Wallace deal with six discoveries which if true, would drastically alter our picture of the biblical Christ. The opposite of Jesusanity is Christianity, which understands the true image of Christ to be one of the God-man anointed by God to restore the broken relationship between God and man.

Instead of chapters, Dethroning Jesus consists of 6 claims which have been made recently regarding Christ and the response of Bock and Wallace to each of these claims. They begin with the claim that the original New Testament has been corrupted so badly by copyists that we can’t even know what the original text said. They spend the bulk of this claim evaluating an incredibly popular book, Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman. At one point, Misquoting Jesus reached #1 on the best seller list. In it Ehrman argues that we don’t have anyway of knowing what the original text said because of the state of the copies we possess. This claim assaults the very Word of God and argues that it is unknowable. Bock and Wallace deal with this claim thoroughly by exposing the fallacies in Ehrman’s reasoning and explaining the case for the New Testament as the inerrant Word of God.

They next move on to deal with the claim that the Gospel of Judas belongs alongside the other four gospels and provides proof that early Christianity was a diverse group with multiple systems of doctrine. In this claim they go into the detail of what the Gospel of Judas specifically teaches and contrast it with biblical Christianity.

Third, Dethroning Jesus tackles the claim that the Gospel of Thomas radically alters our understanding of the person of Christ. Again, Bock and Wallace walk us through specific examples from the Gospel of Thomas and prove that this ancient document offers us a different Christ from the one found in Scripture.

Next they discuss the claim that the message of Christ was fundamentally political and social in nature. This claim is specifically dealt with in the writings of Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. They reinterpret sections of the Gospels to mean that Christ had as His goal the reform of political systems. He wanted justice and it was His passion for correcting social ills and political problems that eventually got Him killed.

The fifth claim dealt with in Dethroning Jesus is the claim that Paul took captive the original movement of Jesus and James and changed it from a Jewish reform effort to a religion that exalted Jesus and included Gentiles. This claim attacks the deity of Christ and the consistency of Scripture. James Tabor is the major proponent of this view and his work is dealt with in this section of the book.

Finally, the last claim discussed is that the tomb of Jesus has been found and thus He could not have risen from the dead. They examine the recent documentary the Discovery channel put together concerning the lost tomb of Jesus.

These six claims have covered a wide variety of topics and a massive amount of academic discussion over the past few years as each one has gained national attention in some fashion or another. Darrell Bock and Dan Wallace have done us a great service by explaining the danger of each claim and then providing ample evidence to refute the arguments of each.

Though it may sound intimidating to some, Dethroning Jesus is written in a flowing, easy to read style. This will prove to be a helpful and important book for understanding the current debate over the person and work of Christ. Bock and Wallace summarize by saying, “Each one of these claims has made an impact in the public square, having been articulated in books that have made the best seller list or in television specials that have attracted millions. These ideas legitimately have aroused the interest of those who have come into contact with them, but often in a one-sided way so that the ‘rest of the story’ was missing. We have endeavored to supply the missing pieces in this book” (p. 217).

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