When people want to talk to me about what I believe about Jesus and early “Christianity,” I often tell them–read Those Incredible Christians first and then we can talk.
The late Hugh Schonfield was a brilliant scholar who came to international fame in 1965 with the publication of his controversial and best-selling book, The Passover Plot. I like millions of others read it avidly and followed the controversies closely. I remember traveling on a flight just after it came out and seeing half a dozen people reading their copies of The Passover Plot. I think it ended up selling over 2 million copies. I was in college at the time but in later years I corresponded with Dr. Schonfield, when I was in graduate school at the University of Chicago. We developed a cordial and meaningful relationship. I was never able to endorse the thesis of the book, though I still recommend it highly for the ways it puts the historical Jesus in his late 2nd Temple Jewish/Roman world. The book was considered sensational and dismissed by just about every mainstream scholar. i believe everyone interested in Christian Origins should read it anyway–just for its historic place in our culture as well as its considerable historical value. Here is a blog post I wrote about Schonfield and his book on its 40th anniversary, “Hugh Schonfield and the Passover Plot–A Retrospective.”
That is unfortunate because Schonfield was a brilliant scholar of Christian Origins and ancient Judaism and published many other very fine books that are little known to scholars–and to the public. One of the best, in my view, is Those Incredible Christians (Bantam, 1969) (Hardcover and Kindle). In fact, I would rate it as among the very best general books on Jesus and his movement down through the 1st century. The two appendices on the “The Christology of Paul” and the “The Christology of John,” alone are worth the price of the book. I highly recommend a careful reading. When people want to talk to me about what I believe about Jesus and early “Christianity,” I often tell them–read Those Incredible Christians first and then we can talk. Copies are available in various formats and it has been reissued.
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