Jesus In An Age of Controversy. By Douglas Groothuis. Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1996. 374 pp. Paper, $10.99.
Groothuis systematically presents and then refutes unbiblical views of Christ that are gaining popularity today. Everyone seems to make Jesus out to be a proponent of his or her own view. Since everyone cannot be right, there must be an objective way to determine which are historical and which views are not. The author does this primarily by applying the tests of historicity to all the documents in question: integrity, authenticity, and veracity. Integrity asks how many manuscripts there are and how close they are in time to the writing of the original. Authenticity asks whether a manuscript was written by eyewitnesses and if we can determine who wrote it. Veracity asks how soon the first manuscript was written in relation to the event itself. The NT, we are glad to say, is the best attested ancient literature in the world.
Next comes a refutation of the “Jesus” presented by the so-called Jesus Seminar. According to the members of this group, 82% of what is attributed to Jesus in the Gospels He never said. Only 15 sayings in the Gospels are considered to be said by Christ directly. The rest, they teach, were added later by the early church. Groothuis refutes their presuppositions and presents the positive evidence for the integrity, authenticity, and veracity of the NT. One wishes that this treatment of the Jesus Seminar could have gone more in depth.
Chapter 4 gives an overview of the “Jesus” of the New Age Movement and the evidence used to verify these perspectives. For example, the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, found in Egypt in 1945, include the Gospel of Thomas, which presents a Jesus who says things that are Gnostic in nature. Groothuis shows that the Gospel of Thomas was not written until A.D. 150 or 200, thus certainly not by an eyewitness. He then applies the historical tests to this document and shows that the Bible has much stronger historical attestation than this “Gospel.” He reviews the historical evidence that contends that Jesus went to other countries in His “lost years” (between 12 and 30) or after the crucifixion. Proponents suggest India, Egypt, Masada, and other places. The “documents” used for this perspective are probably non-existent and those that do exist have extremely weak historical attestation.
The author also deals with the view that Jesus is the “Teacher of Righteousness” the Dead Sea Scrolls, which presupposes that our Lord was a member of the Essene community. Differences between Essene beliefs and what Jesus taught, plus the fact that most of the Dead Sea Scroll scholars date the manuscripts well before Jesus was even born, refutes the notion that Jesus was an Essene.
New Age views about Christ are not based on a manuscript evidence but on the practice of “channeling.” Groothuis contends for the more likely option of demonic influence or fraud in these cases.
The rest of the book presents the Christ of the Bible and refutes miscellaneous New Age perspectives about Jesus. The appendix is a presentation of the evidence for how the canon came into being.
This book is a handy guide to false views about Christ and how to refute them. What is particularly helpful is that all unfamiliar terms are defined to make the book completely readable. Though readers will note a slightly Lordship gospel, this book is a must read for anyone desiring to defend the Jesus of the Bible in today’s progressively New Age climate.
R. Michael Duffy