I’ve finished reading the kindle version of HOW JESUS BECAME CHRISTIAN, Copyright © 2008 by Barrie Wilson, Ph.D. published by St. Martin’s Press. While reading, I tried to follow Ed Groff’s advice to winnow what we read. That is, we should separate kernels of truth from the chaff wrapped around it. I intend to offer the truth as I found it in Barrie Wilson’s book in several blogs to follow.
Barrie Wilson is a scholar and professor. He says that he wrote this book, not for scholars, but for general readers who are curious, open-minded, and willing to wrestle with questions and new information. So he wrote in a popular style and asked questions in clusters. I’m still pondering the questions.
I wrote my first paper for a college class about 50 years ago. The professor returned it with a special message for me. Across the top in large red letters he scrawled, “use the language of the science.” I’m glad that Barrie Wilson did not muddy his message with the language of the science. He even defined familiar words that had an unfamiliar usage. He is easily understood.
It was helpful to me to learn a little of the author’s spiritual pilgrimage. He says he moved from being Episcopalian to Judaism. This helps me to understand repeated references throughout his book to the Torah, the first five books of Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
Today, Jews of faith are divided into orthodox, conservative and reformed, etc. branches. I wish I knew where Barrie Wilson places himself. It seems to me that he writes with a Jewish bias and critiques Jesus and Paul from that point of view.
Wilson offers a quick review of the development of the cosmopolitan world prior to the birth of Jesus. He begins with the rise of Greece as a world power and Hellenism as the dominant world culture. When the Greece empire fell, it was succeeded by the Roman empire that we meet in the New Testament. The Romans were in charge but Hellenism remained to influence the worlds of Jesus and Paul.
Hellenism offered gods and goddesses and philosophies that stood in stark contrast to the One God, the Torah, and the strict manner of life imposed on the Jews. Wilson helps us to understand the conflict that raged in the late BC and early AD years.
Some Jews found it easy to copy the free life style of the ancient gods and goddesses, while some non-Jews were attracted to the high ethical principles and monotheistic stance of Judaism, and began to associate themselves with Jewish synagogues. More winnowing to follow in blogs to come.