In The Christ Files, a four-session small group Bible study, scholar John Dickson examines the Christian faith through a historical look at the Christian faith and life of Jesus from both Scriptural and other non-Bible documentation.
Unique among the world’s religions, the central claims of Christianity concern not just timeless spiritual truths, but tangible historical events as well. Historian John Dickson examines Christianity’s claims in the light of history, opening you and your group to a wealth of ancient sources and explaining how mainstream scholars – whether or not they claim Christian Faith personally – reach their conclusions about history’s most influential figure, Jesus of Nazareth.
In The Christ Files, Dickson skillfully highlights sources and historical methods used to study Christianity’s assertions. He illustrates how historians assess the reliability of data, and provides an honest and informed perspective on where historical issues or clear-cut and where personal faith comes into play.
The Christ Files will help you and your small group expand your understanding of early Christianity and the life of Jesus.
This 110-page Participant Guide includes seven chapters of reading and background contextual information, along with questions for four impactful small group sessions. It is meant for use in conjunction with the four-session The Christ Files DVD (sold separately).
1. The Game of Scholarship…How to Read between the Haedlines
2. Secret Gospels…Jesus in the Gnostic Writings
3. The Troublemaker…Jesus in Ancient Pagan Writings
4. Deceiver and Magician…Jesus in Ancient Jewish Writings
5. Behind the New Testament…Earliest Christian Sources
6. Before the Gospels…Jesus in the Oral Tradition
7. Jesus in Context…Background Sources for the Study of Jesus
Small Group Study sessions include:
1. Gnostics and Romans
2. Jews and Christians
3. Lost Sources and Oral Traditions
4. Archaeologists and Artifacts
John Dickson is an exciting young Australian scholar who has demonstrated his ability to write both at the most sophisticated technical level for fellow New Testament professionals and for the average-level reader with little knowledge of the Bible—and for people virtually anywhere in between. This slim volume aims more at the ordinary reader, to correct popular misconceptions about what historians do and don’t know, and may or may not plausibly infer, concerning the Jesus of history and his first-century world, without presupposing any kind of religious belief or unbelief. But don’t be misled by the book’s simplicity and clarity; it is based on wide-ranging knowledge of the field and on the finest and most cutting-edge scholarship. – Craig L. Blomberg, PhD, Professor
There is a huge need for intelligent scholarship to be effectively communicated beyond the academy, a role that Dickson fulfills brilliantly. Informed by scholarship, yet highly readable on a nontechnical level, this work is a very useful introduction to historical discussion about Jesus. The DVD is superb, communicating the best of scholarship in a way that ordinary viewers can appreciate. I cannot imagine an introductory New Testament or Gospels course where it would not be useful. – Craig Keener, Professor
In a world of many books about the historical Jesus, there are very few which summarize the historical evidence, Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian, as well and as succinctly as John Dickson does in The Christ Files. The accompanying DVD is also a first rate resource for introducing almost anyone to the discussion about the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. In an increasingly less Christian world, here is some first rate historical detective work that provides effective presentation without apologizing for the NT evidence. Highly recommended. – Dr. Ben Witherington III, Professor
This attractive book is concerned not so much to tell us what can be known about the life of Jesus as rather to help people who want to know how to evaluate by strictly historical methods the conclusions set forth by contemporary writers who present bizarre reconstructions of him and to see how professional ancient historians give us a firm basis for accepting the New Testament documents as reliable sources for what he did and taught. This is a sober, well-informed guide based on sound scholarship. – Howard Marshall, Professor
Confusion about the historical Jesus is epidemic today. Here John Dickson clears the fog and explains with scholarly acumen and compelling arguments precisely how we know what we know about Jesus. In one stroke, he combines first rate scholarship with a clarity found among only the best teachers. This is the book I’ll recommend to my students for years to come. – Gary M. Burge, Professor
There are many excellent books on the historical Jesus, but few written with the same clarity and balance as John Dickson’s The Christ Files. While well-versed in the world of critical biblical scholarship, Dickson writes like a journalist, gently guiding readers through the maze of essential questions in the search for the real Jesus. Skeptic and believer alike will find Dickson’s approach and cautious conclusions a breath of fresh air in a debate too often characterized by sensationalistic, headline-catching claims on the one side and fundamentalist naivety on the other. – Mark L. Strauss, Professor
Finally, an honest response to sensationalized stories about the life of Jesus. Dickson addresses with refreshing directness the real questions about Jesus’ life and death and examines a sweeping collection of sources in providing full and fair answers. The accompanying video supplements and expands on the book in several important ways: by showing pictures of Rome, Jerusalem, and other important historical sites, by interviewing top-notch scholars, and by chatting with average people about real issues. This series should be part of every church’s education curriculum. – Lynn Cohick, Associate Professor
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