For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Skeptic's Guide to Jesus
  • Christopher Cumo
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
Skeptic's Guide to Jesus.
Sound Bite
Western civilization was for centuries held together by the glue of Christianity, the religion founded upon the teachings and actions of Jesus — to the extent that it may be possible to infer them from the written record. This book has grown out of the conviction that the methods of history in particular and of the sciences secondarily have not been applied forcefully enough to an investigation of Jesus. We will scrutinize this written record and see how much we actually know.

About the Author

Chris Cumo earned his MA and PhD in history at the University of Akron. Throughout graduate school he focused on Roman antiquity and became engrossed with the ancient world. His knowledge of ancient philosophy centers on his reading of Plato’s dialogues. These concentrations have strengthened the breadth and depth of this book.

His usual research focuses largely on the history of science, so that he uses the methodologies of history and the Scientific Method daily. He has taught at three different universities and has written as an independent contractor for several publishers, including the ABC-CLIO in Santa Barbara, CA. Six of his books have been published.

Dr. Cumo is a member of the Ohio Academy of Science, the History of Science Society, the Agricultural History Society, and the American Historical Association.

About the Book
This book is part confession, a literary genre that goes back to Augustine, bishop of Hippo in North Africa and Catholic saint. Yet my agenda differs from his. Augustine lived at a time when the Christian Church was beginning to flex its muscles...
This book is part confession, a literary genre that goes back to Augustine, bishop of Hippo in North Africa and Catholic saint. Yet my agenda differs from his. Augustine lived at a time when the Christian Church was beginning to flex its muscles and make bold claims. Today we live in the "twilight of the gods," to borrow the title of one of Friedrich Nietzsche's last works. Religion as a general construct peaked long ago, probably before the Enlightenment, and is now in retreat. This period of decline and demise makes essential at long last a realistic treatment of Jesus of Nazareth.

As an Italian by birth and upbringing I was early baptized into the Catholic Church. I'm not sure how long I might have held on to these beliefs, but then, at age 43, my mother died. I was 15 at the time and didn't know how to reconcile the notion of a good, just, loving God with such a tragedy.

I eventually found what I believe to be the most probative way of examining Jesus. I want to know whether the Jesus of the written records can withstand the scrutiny of the sciences and history. This task will form the core of this book. A very long time ago, humans had little more than faith to guide them. I do not intend to write for this mindset but to entertain other methods of understanding what we call reality. The sciences, philosophy, and history will be our guides. I hope that their rigor will appeal to those who remain intellectually curious and open-minded.


Table of Contents

Preface

4

Introduction

5

Chapter 1. Toward an Understanding of the Sources

9

 The Sources

9

 Principles of Reasoning

9

 Method and the Historian

10

 Historical Methods and the Nature of the Sources about Jesus

13

 Naming the Gospels

18

 Jesus and Socrates

20

 The Method of Doubt

21

 The Canonical Gospels

23

 The Gnostic Accounts

27

 Pagan Sources

29

Chapter 2. The Birth of Jesus

30

 The Virgin Birth: Reproductive Biology

31

 The Logic of the Virgin Birth

33

 Bethlehem and the Birth Narrative

34

 The Larger Literary World

36

 Antiquity in the Larger Perspective

41

 The Absence of the Virgin Birth in Mark, John and Other Christian    Literature

45

Chapter 3. Jesus’ Childhood

49

 The New Testament

49

 Outside the New Testament

51

 The Infancy Gospel of Thomas

53

 The Gospel of Pseudo Matthew

63

 Emil Bock’s The Childhood of Jesus

63

 Miracles and Jesus’ Childhood

64

Chapter 4. The Ministry

65

 John the Baptist and Jesus

66

 The Temptation

69

 A Ministry of Miracles

72

 Jesus as Communicator

77

 An Odd Ministry

81

 Ministry and Anti Semitism

81

Chapter 5. Death and Resurrection

83

 The Last Supper

83

 Arrest and Trial

86

Chapter 6. Theologians and One Scientist Take the Offensive

98

 Wolfhart Pannenberg and Richard Swinburne

98

 Richard Swinburne

108

 Gerald Schroeder

113

Chapter 7. The Death of God

118

 Jesus, the Notion of God, and the Universe

118

 In the End

124

Bibliography

128



Pages 190
Year: 2016
BISAC: REL004000 RELIGION / Atheism
BISAC: REL006070 RELIGION / Biblical Commentary / New Testament
BISAC: REL006710 RELIGION / Biblical Studies / Jesus, the Gospels & Acts
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-234-7
Price: USD 21.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-1-62894-235-4
Price: USD 31.95
eBook
ISBN: 978-1-62894-236-1
Price: USD 21.95
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