How the Gospels Became History: Jesus and Mediterranean Myths

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Yale University Press, Aug 6, 2019 - Religion - 312 pages
A compelling comparison of the gospels and Greco-Roman mythology which shows that the gospels were not perceived as myths, but as historical records

Did the early Christians believe their myths? Like most ancient—and modern—people, early Christians made efforts to present their myths in the most believable ways.
 
In this eye-opening work, M. David Litwa explores how and why what later became the four canonical gospels take on a historical cast that remains vitally important for many Christians today. Offering an in-depth comparison with other Greco-Roman stories that have been shaped to seem like history, Litwa shows how the evangelists responded to the pressures of Greco-Roman literary culture by using well-known historiographical tropes such as the mention of famous rulers and kings, geographical notices, the introduction of eyewitnesses, vivid presentation, alternative reports, and so on. In this way, the evangelists deliberately shaped myths about Jesus into historical discourse to maximize their believability for ancient audiences.
 

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Brilliant, level headed, solid scholarship that lays open the nature of the gospels as literary products of their time and age. This study by classics expert David Litwa settles once and for all, the question of what the gospels are: a mix of history, legend and myth. This book is a MUST read for anyone interested in the new testament/christian origins.  

Contents

The Gospels Mythography and Historiography
1
Jesus Myth Theory
22
A Theory of Comparison
46
Incarnation
64
Genealogy
77
Divine Conception
86
Dream Visions and Prophecies
96
Magi and the Star
103
The Pharmakos
156
Empty Tombs and Translation
169
Disappearance and Recognition
179
Ascent
187
Eyewitnesses
194
The Myth of Historicity
209
Notes
223
Index of Subjects
269

Child in Danger Child of Wonder
115
The Righteous Lawgiver
127
Miracles
135

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About the author (2019)

M. David Litwa is a scholar of ancient Mediterranean religions and Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry in Melbourne. His most recent books include Desiring Divinity: Self-deification in Ancient Jewish and Christian Mythmaking and Hermetica II: The Excerpts of Stobaeus, Papyrus Fragments, and Ancient Testimonies.

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