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May 5th, 2008
How Jesus Became Christian continues to be on the best seller list in Canada where it was published by Random House and is generating a lot of interest amongst progressive Christians and liberal Jews. The message that there are Christianities beyond Paul is being well received in many quarters and I’ve been swamped with invitations to speak in churches and synagogues.
Speaking engagements in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Waterloo and elsewhere have all been exceptionally positive, with questions from audiences building upon what I say and asking for more. All major print and broadcast media in Canada have reviewed the book and these have been glowing (see the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star reviews on this website).
Sales are exceeding expectations in the UK where the book was published by Orion Publishing and again it has been reviewed positively by the London Times, The Guardian. I also recently appeared on BBC radio, Worldwide Report.
Now promotional attention is turning to the US where the book was published by St. Martin’s Press. Liberal Christian clergy and rabbis engaged in interfaith dialogue have been contacted and I was recently interviewed on an Evangelical radio network by an interviewer with whom I disagreed about everything. In his view, the gospel documents are eye-witness transcripts so that everything that Jesus said is accurate. So, I guess, Jesus both said “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew) at his crucifixion as well as “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke) and that Jesus both did and did not say that all foods are acceptable. More speaking engagements are in the works.
James D. Tabor (University of North Carolina, Charlotte) has provided an excellent review for the book at his important site, www.jesusdynasty.com/blog. In my opinion, his book The Jesus Dynasty (New York: Simon & Shuster, 2006) represents a breakthrough in understanding the joint mission of Jesus, his cousin John the Baptist and brother James, highlighting the Kingdom of God message. His blog is well worth following for anyone interested in the study of early Christianity.
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See also this write up at www.religionnews.com --
How Did Jesus Become Christian?
View of Antioch -- the ancient city was double the size of the present-day city.
How Jesus Became Christian "...is beyond doubt one of the most significant works on early Christianity to appear in decades."
James Tabor (Chair, Religious Studies, UNC Charlotte)
NEW YORK, NY -- How Jesus Became Christian (St. Martin's Press NY) answers questions many people have asked about early Christianity. How did this new religion emerge out of Judaism? How did Jesus, a Jewish teacher, rapidly become the Son of God, a divine-human being?
What's a Messiah and what's he supposed to do? Why did early Christianity drop Judaism's central observance, following the Torah (Law)?
As Barrie Wilson, Professor of Religious Studies at Toronto's York University, says, "These are really good questions. I wrote the book to answer them in terms the general reader can understand."
Building upon contemporary scholarship, Wilson recreates a colorful portrait of the different movements and expectations within Judaism and the Roman world of the 1st century. Jesus is situated within these cultural battles, leading a Kingdom of God movement versus the Romans' Pax Romana touted as their greatest gift to civilization. The teachings of Jesus continued on after his death in "the Jesus Movement," under Jesus' brother James in Jerusalem. "Jesus," says Wilson, "through his Kingdom of God message, proclaimed the greatest coup of all times, the overthrow of all world governments."
Despite this powerful message, a new and separate religion arose shortly after the death of Jesus, led by Paul. This religion – "The Christ Movement" – differs significantly from that of Jesus in terms of origins, beliefs and practices. Wilson notes that Paul never met the Jesus of history, rarely refers to him or quotes him. Paul never mentions the parables, the Sermon on the Mount or even the Lord's Prayer. Paul also avoids Jesus' original followers in Jerusalem. How the two differing religions became merged is part of Wilson's careful detective work as early Christianity moved on to the world stage.
Wilson also discloses the real basis for anti-Semitism as the new religion turned on its rival with a nasty vengeance, attacking Jewish leadership, scriptures and covenant.
How Jesus Became Christian is available at all major booksellers or online at amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com. It's ideal for study groups, book clubs, adult Jewish or Christian education groups, or by individuals interested in exploring the exciting world of early Christianity.
"Wilson...offers a point-by-point rebuttal to Paul's reading of Jewish scripture as accommodating a divine Christ." Boston Globe
"...a significant and sensational work of scholarship. And it is truly religious dynamite." Globe and Mail, Toronto
"The book is certainly controversial." The Times, London