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A provocative study that argues that the biblical characters of Jesus and David should be viewed not as historical figures, but as embodiments of Babylonian, Egyptian, and Near Eastern mythology.

Since the eighteenth century, scholars and historians studying the texts of the Bible have attempted to distil historical facts and biography from the mythology and miracles described there. That trend continues into the present day, as scholars dissect the gospels and other early Christian writings to separate the ‘Jesus of history’ from the ‘Christ of faith’. But in The Messiah Myth Thomas L. Thompson argues that the quest for the historical Jesus is beside the point, since the Jesus of the gospels never existed.

Like King David before him, the Jesus of the Bible is an amalgamation of themes from Near Eastern mythology and traditions of kingship and divinity. The theme of a messiah – a divinely appointed king who restores the world to perfection – is typical of Egyptian and Babylonian royal ideology dating back to the Bronze Age. In Thompson's view, the contemporary audience for whom the Old and New Testament were written would naturally have interpreted David and Jesus not as historical figures, but as metaphors embodying long-established messianic traditions. Challenging widely held assumptions about the sources of the Bible and the quest for the historical Jesus, The Messiah Myth is sure to spark controversy and heated debate among believers and sceptics alike.

Reviews

An important work... For those of us interested in the Bible, there are innumerable insights and understandings

Peter Burnett, Scotsman

Stimulating, controversial

The Good Book Guide

Thompson transforms the way we see the Bible

Observer

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback

    9780712668439

    October 1, 2007

    Pimlico

    432 pages

    RRP $39.99

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  • EBook

    9781446425855

    March 31, 2013

    Vintage Digital

    432 pages

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

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