Chapter 1 begins like well-written novels, describing a mad king bent on murdering any future rivals, or a novelistic accounting of the opening pages of Matthew and Luke. Most of this is benign and likely to be dramatized in the soon to appear National Geographic special on Killing Jesus. However, there seems to be a multitude of historical and scholarly errors.
In a note on the history of Israel, they cite the Philistines and not the Assyrians (note, the Assyrians had conquered the Philistines as well) as the conquerors of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This is not the last such historical oddity in this book. For instance, the Tanakh (the “canonical collection of Jewish Scriptures”), according to the authors, was compiled almost 500 years before the birth of Christ. And, of course, it was part of the canon of the Magi. This is plainly impossible given that many of the books in the Jewish bible was not written until a few centuries before the birth of Christ. The issue of canon itself was not settled until after the destruction of the Temple.
In the final footnote of the chapter, the authors who have already noted the lack of historical facts when it comes to the life of Jesus now turn to the four canonical Gospels, citing them for “the most insightful facts, quotes, and stories” about Jesus. They view this as not simply canonical (which I assumed would be a religious notion, but would shortly be proven wrong) but historical. They write,
Many today challenge these writings, but thanks to scholarship and archaeology, there is growing acceptance of their overall historicity and authenticity.
At this point, it is clear the authors have sourced only Conservapedia or Tektonics, as this is not the best picture of the current discussion in academia. They lay down without citation early dates, according to Tradition and hopeful Christians everywhere, for the Gospels. Legend, myth, and apologetics become their sources. Further, they call Paul a “former Pharisee who became a convert to Christianity.” Paul never left his Jewish sect and never converted to Christianity. There simply was no Christianity until well after the death of the Apostle. There are other errors as well. The authors call the Fourfold Gospel Canonical, but attempt to define ‘canon’ as “the essential canon of the Christian faith.” The image of John’s Gospel is not worth repeating.
The chapter is a novella, and nothing more. It expounds in a rather exciting way the stories told by Matthew and Luke, but is based on hearsay and gossip.
Chapters 2 and 3 merely recount, in the novelized fashion, the history of Rome from Julius until Jesus. Chapter 4, set in the backdrop of Luke 2.41-52, recounts some of the early uprisings of social banditry during what would be the young Jesus’s life. It pits only Jew against Rome and seemingly only on political level, rather than a religious level. At this point in time — and I am still not sure it is possible to do so — one cannot separate the Church from the State. Thus, Rome’s occupation was just as much a religious occupation as it was a political one. Further, social bandits were likely to attacks fellow Jews as they were Romans.