Book Review: The Wrong Jesus

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It’s been a while since I last updated this blog! That being the case, I think it’s an appropriate moment for a change of pace. Up until now, I’ve sought to write about issues of modern-day apologetics, dealing with some of the objections people may have to the Christian faith or specific Christian beliefs. I’ll continue to do that in future, but I also want to broaden my focus, at least partly to open up more topics to write about!

I’ve never been massively into New Years’ resolutions. The last time I made a resolution, I decided it had to be something I’d actually get around to doing, so I resolved to go to the zoo and the Sealife Centre (I achieved both, you’ll be glad to hear!). Having said all that, this year I decided to set myself some goals. Some of my goals were work related, and some were personal. One of my personal goals is to read at least 12 books this year. To help me keep on track with that, I’ve decided to write a review of each book that I read. I’m two books in so far, but for now I’ll start by reviewing the book I just finished today.

The Wrong Jesus book coverThe Wrong Jesus, Greg Monette

I first met Greg Monette a year ago, when he sold me my copy of Logos Bible Software at a conference. A couple of weeks ago I saw Greg again at the same conference and we got talking about books, leading to us exchanging our manuscripts. Greg’s book, The Wrong Jesus, is published by NavPress and available on Amazon (amongst other places I’m sure).

The Wrong Jesus is an excellent book about the historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth. It is based on extensive research (it has a staggering 26 pages of footnotes), which gives the reader great confidence that Monette’s factual statements are thoroughly backed up by the most eminent thinkers in the field of history.

Given the nature and volume of Monette’s research, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is an academic book, but that’s the beauty of his work – it’s accessible. Monette has clearly spent years (and travelled the world) researching the evidence for Jesus, all so that he can present it in a way which anyone can understand. If you’re academically minded, each chapter has a short list of the best books on the particular subject covered for you to delve into yourself, with the more highly recommended works highlighted for your convenience. If, like me, you have neither the time or the inclination to pore through these books, The Wrong Jesus is absolutely the book for you.

Having led a few Alpha courses and studied for a theology degree, I would have naively said that I was quite familiar with the historical evidence for Jesus and the arguments against it. I’ve been known to throw out that almost cliche line, “Did you know that there is more evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is for Julius Caesar?” on occasion. I can now say that – cliche though it is – that statement stands, because of the clear and concise evidence given by Greg Monette in The Wrong Jesus.

When Greg sent me his manuscript, I sat up until midnight that night reading it, without noticing the time passing. It helps that I have more than a passing interest in history, but it’s the easy-going, conversational writing style which makes The Wrong Jesus such an easy read. This is even more impressive when you consider the weighty topics Monette covers in the book; What are our main sources for knowing about Jesus? Has the text of the New Testament changed over time? How does archaeology helps us understand Jesus’ world? Was Jesus a feminist? are just a few of the chapter headings.

It’s clear from the beginning of the book that it is written from a Christian perspective. However, Monette shows great scholarly integrity by ensuring that all of his assertions are based on historically verifiable evidence – the kind which is agreed upon by Christian and non-Christian historians alike. There are no assumptions of belief in Jesus as God, although it is clear throughout the book that this belief is the destination at which Monette wants all his readers to arrive. In his own words,

“This book was written to help you have an honest and secure foundation in Jesus of Nazareth and understand how taking time to rethink what you know about him can literally change your life as you discover where faith and history collide. I’m convinced that by doing this, you’ll avoid creating (and keeping) a portrait of the wrong Jesus and instead will have a healthy view of the real Jesus – a portrait that stands up under historical scrutiny and discovery.”

I learned a lot through reading The Wrong Jesus. It challenged some of my preconceptions on what I thought was historically accurate, and left me with a more profound and real understanding of who Jesus is than I previously had, even as a believer. If you’re a Christian, this book will help you cement your faith in historical evidence. If you’re not a Christian, this book will provide you with clear evidence from history of who Jesus is. What you do with that evidence is up to you, but it’s important that you explore the evidence for yourself.

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