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Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Are the four canonical Gospels actual historical accounts or are they imaginative literature produced by influential literary artists to serve a theological vision?
In this study of the Gospels based upon a demonstrable literary theory, Randel Helms presents the work of the four evangelists as the "supreme fictions" of our culture, self-conscious works of art deliberately composed as the culmination of a long literary and oral tradition. Helms analyzes the best-known and the most powerful of these fictions: the stories of Christ's birth, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, his crucifixion, death and resurrection. In Helms' exegesis of the Gospel miracle stories, he traces the greatest of these - the resurrection of Lazarus four days after his death - to the Egyptian myth of the resurrection of Osiris by the god Horus.
Helms maintains that the Gospels are self-reflexive; they are not about Jesus so much as they are about the writers' attitudes concerning Jesus. Helms examines each of the narratives - the language, the sources, the similarities and differences - and shows that their purpose was not so much to describe the past as to affect the present.
This scholarly yet readable work demonstrates how the Gospels surpassed the expectations of their authors, influencing countless generations by creating a life-enhancing understanding of the nature of Jesus of Nazareth.
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Review this product Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. Verified Purchase. As stated by Randel Helms, p. However, this seems to beg an important question; if the documents essential to Christian theology and belief have been shown to be fictional, is not Christianity effectively refuted?
Refuted at least as a historical narrative or as a guide to the world of human experience? As the author tells us, in the absence of any real evidence, the Gospels are carefully constructed literary fictions based on a beliefs in what must have been the case. For Randel Helms, the Gospels are self-reflective in that they are about the time and circumstances in which they were written, not about the time and circumstances in which Jesus lived.
They understood full well that they were creating a fictional literary construct to aid in belief rather than writing a historical narrative. They were intentionally creating an intellectual framework to support a particular world view. The natural evolution from the ideas, practices, theology and philosophy present in the Gospel writing era explains the Gospels and thus much of the theology and beliefs of Christianity.
Randel Helms shows how the Gospel narratives are a blending of faulty memories, earlier oral traditions subject to hyperbolic memory the Old Testament now read as a prophecy about Jesus , the Psalms, and pagan culture practices.
The Gospels are the Christian retelling of Old Testament stories mediated through the motifs of the Hellenistic world reaching as far back as ancient Egypt with themes taken from ancient religions as far back as BC.
Many unrelated stories are conflated to become the Gospel narratives. My only criticism of the book is that Randel Helms stops short of the obvious next step.
Perhaps at the time of the writing, , it was too outside of the academic mainstream consensus to suggest that Jesus was fictional along with the fictional Gospel literature. But with so much fiction afoot, is it not at least plausible that the person at the center of the fictional narratives was also fictional? That is, at the bottom of an extensive fictional literature is a larger-than-life fictional person.
In this case, we can think of Jesus himself as just the Jewish version of a mythical dying and rising personal savior god like so many others in the ancient near east.
The fact is that the oral tradition is unstable and leads to accretion, embellishment and thus to a mythical being. From the accretion of so much fictional literature there is ample reason to the think that the figure at the heart of all the fictional literature is also well, fictional.
The purpose of Gospels under this theory Mysticism is to retroactively place the mythical Jesus into recorded history, not amplify and embellish the existence of the historical Jesus. With so much admitted fiction in the Gospels, how is it possible to separate the facts from the fiction to establish the historical Jesus as the basis for the fiction?
Under the historicist position, the one here assumed by Randel Helms, the fictionally enhanced literature of the Gospels was created to provide an existence-confirming, life-affirming, belief-enhancing account of a real person not a divine miracle worker or savior , Jesus. That is, the existence of such an extensive apocryphal literature actually suggests the historical existence of the non-fiction person who provided the motivation for, and was the subject of, the fictional literature.
This begins with an unbroken chain of an oral tradition beginning c. AD 50 and on to the first recorded Gospel by Mark c. AD The purpose of the Gospels is to retroactively amplify and embellish the existence of the historical Jesus. We have a real Jesus and a fictional Christ. Under either theory, the Gospels are still nothing more than fictive literature for faith groups. If Jesus did not do all the miracles, then he would not be recorded in history.
We can of course dismiss the miracles so either the miracles are invented to embellish the real but mundane Jesus to justify the new world view of Christianity, or a historical Jesus is invented to ground the needed metaphysics of miracles, belief and saving grace to support a new world view. The miracles and metaphysics are needed to ground the religion and the religion was a source of a new world view.
Jesus contra Troy We have the historical example of the Homeric tradition. In this account, an extensive fictional literature is employed using accretion and embellishment with the subject of the fictional account assumed to be fictional, the city of Troy, only to later have its existence confirmed. In the case of Jesus, do we have a parallel of the Homeric tradition or do we have the contra case where that the subject of the fictional literature, Jesus, was always assumed to be historical and later found to be fictional?
Helms is not the first to pinpoint textual inconsistencies. The merit of his book is to clearly show how the stories were borrowed from OT narratives, as well as how different OT references were used, sentence by sentence or word by word, to justify changes introduced by Matthew, Luke and John. His literary approach is very efficient in arguing that the gospels were a work of fiction guided by an evolving theological agenda, and that the evangelists were more concerned in the future of their rising Party than narrating a biography.
The gospels are history in disguise but here Helms has missed the point by crediting an historical Jesus that gives him the impression that Mark's account is misguided fiction. I wonder how Helms would reconsider his book with the following information? The two gospel messiahs personified an intra-community split where Jesus was emblematic of the Essen avant-garde and John the Baptist, an allegory of Elijah, stood for a caricature of the Essen traditionalists.
Jesus is always competing against Elijah and the many textual references borrowed from Elijah and his follower Elisha both more famous than Jesus the beginner serve to show that Jesus is just as great, and even greater.
Elijah is always a big nuisance and permanently over-shadows the competing nascent messiah-mediated revival cult. Mark was writing contra the traditionalists, an angry and impulsive book, where his initial attack probably ended with the Transfiguration scene where both Moses, giver of an incomplete law so blind on eternal life as well as Elijah the competing Temple messiah are both dismissed.
The Jerusalem book is a later development that introduces a priority claim: resurrection belongs to the Jesus partisans, an affirmation that owned them the "Messianic" sobriquet. This is the raw material Matthew had to work on to expand the newly expanding party. The gospels are not poetry and fiction but strategies, founding a new Party and publicising its particulars against already established religious groups.
With these reserves, I'll give back a star to Helm's book because it has so much insight and is very informative. Go to Amazon. Back to top. Get to Know Us. Shopbop Designer Fashion Brands. Alexa Actionable Analytics for the Web. DPReview Digital Photography.
Would you like to tell us about a lower price? If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support? Are the four canonical Gospels actual historical accounts or are they imaginative literature produced by influential literary artists to serve a theological vision? In this study of the Gospels based upon a demonstrable literary theory, Randel Helms presents the work of the four evangelists as the "supreme fictions" of our culture, self-conscious works of art deliberately composed as the culmination of a long literary and oral tradition. Helms analyzes the best-known and the most powerful of these fictions: the stories of Christ's birth, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, his crucifixion, death and resurrection. In Helms' exegesis of the Gospel miracle stories, he traces the greatest of these - the resurrection of Lazarus four days after his death - to the Egyptian myth of the resurrection of Osiris by the god Horus.
Tolkien and critical writer on the Bible. Helms studied at University of California, Riverside , B. Helm's writings on Tolkien include Tolkien's world and Tolkien and the Silmarils Helms has written a series of books using Higher Criticism to analyze the Bible.