The best books about the (actual) origins of Christianity and Judaism

R.G. Price Author Of Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed
By R.G. Price

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by the Bible since my earliest days in Sunday school, coloring pictures of Noah’s Ark. Yet, even as a young child I was very skeptical of the Christian interpretation of biblical stories, seeing that they couldn’t possibly be true. But I’ve always respected the Bible as a literary work and sought to understand its details. In my years of researching the Bible and Christian origins, several works stand out as being particularly important in shaping my understanding of Judaism and Christianity. These are those books.

I wrote...

Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed

By R.G. Price,

Book cover of Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed

What is my book about?

The Christian Bible is one of the most fascinating and important literary creations ever produced. Like many ancient works, the Bible is filled with literary puzzles, secret codes, hidden references, and masked allegory. Deciphering the Gospels examines many aspects of the Gospel of Mark to show that the story is a fictional allegory, based not on the life of Jesus, but rather on the life of Paul. It goes on to show how understanding the fictional scenes in the Gospel of Mark changes our understanding of everything we think we know about Jesus.

The books I picked & why

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The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God

By Margaret Barker,

Book cover of The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God

Why this book?

This book was published in 1992, prior to the recent revolution in our understanding of Jewish and Christian origins, but no book has done more to revolutionize my own understanding of Jewish and Christian origins than this one. What is so important about this book is not any specific fact or revelation, but rather the framework that Margaret Barker establishes for understanding the complex development of Jewish concepts of divinity. Barker shows how the polytheistic roots of Semitic religion led to ongoing turmoil within ancient Judaism and interpretations of the scriptures in ways that indicated there were two or more divine beings, not one.

Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible

By Russell E. Gmirkin,

Book cover of Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible

Why this book?

Along with his other book, Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch, Russell Gmirkin puts forward compelling evidence to show that many of the most revered works of Jewish scripture were produced after the conquests of Alexander the Great, hundreds of years later than widely believed. Relationships between the Jewish Torah and the works of Plato have long been acknowledged by scholars, dating back to antiquity. Jews had long claimed that it was Plato who had derived his concepts from their writings, but here Gmirkin shows convincingly that the relationship goes the other way around. This realization has profound implications for our understanding of the origins of Judaism and Christianity.

The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth

By Neil Forsyth,

Book cover of The Old Enemy: Satan and the Combat Myth

Why this book?

The key to understanding the development of Judaism and Christianity is understanding how the problem of evil was interpreted in antiquity. There are many books on the subject, but Neil Forsyth’s is my personal favorite. His book is very thorough, covering the topic from ancient polytheistic Mediterranean mythology up through the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gnostics, and early Christianity. We can see that within religions of Semitic origin, there was fierce debate over whether evil was introduced by God himself, other heavenly beings such as angels or sons of God, by Satan, or by human beings. This led to debate over who the ruler of this world, the “material world,” really was. Was it God? Was it Satan? Was Satan actually God? These questions were of critical importance when Christianity emerged, and Forsyth’s book provides essential context.

The First Edition of the New Testament

By David Trobisch,

Book cover of The First Edition of the New Testament

Why this book?

Trobisch is a highly respected Net Testament scholar, and his insights are on full display in this short, but important, work. The exact origins of the New Testament have long been shrouded in mystery. Many people think of the New Testament as a collection of independent writings. Here Trobisch provides an important framework for understanding the New Testament as a whole. He reveals many important clues about who, when, how, and why the first edition of the New Testament was created. Trobisch shows the overall unity of the editorial features of the New Testament.

Mark Canonizer of Paul: A New Look at Intertextuality in Mark's Gospel

By Tom Dykstra,

Book cover of Mark Canonizer of Paul: A New Look at Intertextuality in Mark's Gospel

Why this book?

In this book Tom Dykstra provides an extensive background into the scholarship of the Gospel of Mark, explaining how so many people have misunderstood the work for so long and why other interpretations of the Gospel were sidelined. While my book reaches many similar conclusions to Dykstra’s regarding the relationship between the Pauline letters and Gospel of Mark, our approaches are very different and Dykstra provides important scholarly context.  

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