Now in its second edition (1990, 1997), this up-to-date book has the power to inspire, fascinate, and infuriate, depending on one's presuppositions or lack of them. The open minded and genuine seeker of solid historical fact and sensible analysis will be richly rewarded; and the doubting, liberal, hair-splitting type will be richly refuted. Thiede is not afraid to open with statements like 'It is one of the myths surrounding the New Testament that the first disciples were poor and simple people and that one of the miraculous hallmarks of Christianity is that its message was spread by, and indeed entrusted to, such people'. The next 200 pages are then devoted to respectfully but assertively making this expert statement secure.
The sections covered are: 'How were the documents about Jesus compiled?', 'How ancient and reliable are the documents about Jesus?', and 'How Jesus came to Rome'. Each of these sections is divided into very readable chapters, and each is packed with the most recent discoveries of archeology of the New Testament times, and reports on the ongoing controversies concerning redating of certain of the earliest papyrus scrolls, including some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The style is accessible and all technical terms are fully explained. Thiede's academic credentials are of the highest quality and his lines of argument are lucid. The tone is rarely if ever dogmatic, as arguments and evidence that leads to conclusions based on the balance of probability are freely admitted. A superb vindication of the historicity of the documents and the veracity of the witnesses.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose