Burton Mack's "Who Wrote the New Testament?"

A method in certain circles of Biblical scholarship today, observed by Philip Jenkins in Hidden Gospels, seems concerned with the idea of creating ideas that are "fresh" rather than "conventional" -- meaning, behind the euphemism, take anything that deflects the force of the traditional view, no matter how odd it is. Thus it is with this work by Burton Mack, a scholar of extreme presumption who has made it his mission to avenge our error in putting the Bible on a pedestal.

Mack's work is composed of several parts: Argument by incredulity, for example, plays a small role, but by and large the assumption of theory as fact is the chief methodology. Thus, for example, Mack merely creates from whole cloth seven individual "streams" of Christian belief in the first century that largely ignored and/or despised each other. Jesus himself was no more than a Cynic sage that was deified by people who basically decided to deify him. All of this sort of thing is answered between our material, and that of the Christian ThinkTank, and Boyd's Cynic Sage or Son of God?, so that we need not go into detail here.

Fortunately, Mack's writing style is so uninspiring that the average reader may not finish the book. The "conventional" view of the New Testament is addressed mostly by simply assuming it to be wrong; what little substantiative argument is made is rather incredible: For example, Mack supposes that the Gospel authors, whoever they were, could have gotten away with producing their works anonymously because Greco-Roman students of rhetoric were often assigned to create speeches and letters as though they were from authentic historical figures. That's true, but did any of these rhetoriticians ever try to pass off those works as genuine, and succeed in doing so?

Mack clearly allows ideology to reign over evidence.

-JPH