A friend recently sent me a link to an article published by a popular British online newspaper. The title was “Jesus Christ was Greek and Not Jewish.” With a deep sigh of exasperation, I clicked on the link and these were the opening lines:
“Jesus has been confused with a Greek philosopher who lived at the same time and was thought to restore life to the dead, according to a new documentary. . . Descriptions of Jesus’ life and the miracles he performed in the New Testament may have been mistaken for Preacher Apollonius of Tyan.”
To the article’s credit, it went on to share some of the reactions to this controversial Netflix documentary, emphasizing that most of the reactions had not been positive. The article ended with this cautionary plea from one reviewer: “Do not waste your time here, there are far better research documentaries on this particular subject out there.”
To which I say, touché.
This whole thing about the person of Jesus, or Jesus’ miracles, being based on (or confused with) the first-century miracle worker Apollonius is nothing new. Such “mythicist” hypotheses had their heyday in the mid-to-late nineteenth century among critical New Testament scholars (particularly in Germany). In the twentieth-century, these “Jesus myth” theories were universally rejected by New Testament experts. But in more recent years, such ideas have been once again offered by notable skeptics like Bart Ehrman and Michael Shermer. The “dying and rising god” theories are far from dead.
While some scholars have offered serious refutations, and re-refutations, of such mythicist theories (like that offered by N.T. Wright in the opening chapters of his magisterial volume The Resurrection of the Son of God), the idea that the biblical accounts of Jesus and his miracles were fabricated still finds popularity, especially among the New Atheist types. No matter how definitively such problematic theories about Jesus are refuted, they just keep creeping back. It’s like a Counterfeit Christ apocalypse: they just won’t die—and they’re everywhere.
This is why I was so glad to see my friend Trent Horn come out with his new book discussing the many bad theories about Jesus still on offer today. The book is called Counterfeit Christs: Finding the Real Jesus Among the Imposters.
Clearly stating the Catholic Church’s traditional understanding of Jesus, Trent places the many extant false understandings of Christ side-by-side with the real McCoy, in order to show where atheists, non-Christians, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, LGBTQ activists, and others, have went wrong. He dissects and disarms eighteen “counterfeit Christs” in total.
Counterfeit Christs is as practical as it is informative. What always impresses me about Trent’s writing is how he is able to combine his real-life experiences with systematic—and always charitable—take-downs of opposing arguments. I’m my mind, the author of this new book from Catholic Answers Press is one of the best apologists out there; and as far as Catholic apologists go, he just might be the best.
I strongly recommend getting this book for yourself; and if you’re an educator—whether you teach high school, or home school, or you’re a youth minister, or whatever—I strongly recommend getting this book for your kids. And study it with them! The days of cozy Catholicism is over. We need to know our stuff. Most of all, we need to know our Lord. And we have the books to teach us. Counterfeit Christs is one of them.
***Also be sure to check out my interview with Trent about his new book here.