Book Plunge: Strange Tales About Jesus

What do I think about Per Beskow’s book published by Fortress Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

One of the benefits of reading books is usually you can get the clue to one of the next ones to read. When I read David Marshall’s Jesus Is No Myth, I saw him talk about Per Beskow’s book about strange ideas about Jesus like Him going to India. That is an area of interest to me so I decided to look it up at the local library.

Beskow’s book is quite short, but it says enough. There are a number of different myths in there. I was quite surprised to see him even being willing to take on the Book of Mormon. Others include the Gospel of Barnabas, the Gospel of Peace, leaflets from Heaven, and the idea that Jesus was a magician.

Beskow will go through each of these and give a brief historical account. Then he’ll give the reasons why he thinks that it is a forgery. He will also explain the impact that each of these works has had and who has used it as if it was an authoritative source.

If you have heard a bizarre claim about Jesus that was before the publication date of 1983, it could be in here. Some of them are put together. There is a chapter on whether Jesus went to India or not. At the end of that, Beskow gives a paragraph that along the same lines, there is a claim that Jesus went to Japan and married and had kids and died at the age of 106 and to this day, that is still celebrated annually by some in Japan.

Most of these were done by amateurs, but one possible exception is the Secret Gospel of Mark. The only person who has seen the manuscripts that describe the account is Morton Smith. Today, we have more information that leads some scholars to think not only is it a forgery, but one done by Smith himself.

Chances are, you will also find one that’s new to you. I had not heard of the Leaflets from Heaven for instance. It also shows us that our day and age is not really new. It’s nothing new that people are going around sharing ideas without checking their validity. The danger is that it’s now all the easier to do so.

Which leads us to a need for today. We need some more people like Per Beskow to deal with the even newer strange tales about Jesus. Keep in mind we’re not just talking about false beliefs about Jesus that are well within the field of scholarship. We’re talking about ideas that are sensational and depend on isolated “discoveries” that strangely never seem to get to be seen by anyone else. Many of our new age accounts of Jesus today would be included.

The book is a good short read. Each chapter could be read in a few minutes and if you just want to go to one claim in particular, that can be done. A work like this could help end a lot of the nonsense that one sees regularly shared on the internet.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

  • As I wrote on Theologyweb, Beskow told me quite late that he was on the fence regarding the authenticity of the letter in which two excerpts from the so-called Secret Gospel of Mark is quoted. He preferred to regard this as an open question.

    And besides, many more than Smith has seen the document.

    Roger Viklund