Who is Jesus? What did he teach? And why is he important? Traditionally, people turned to the Christian church and its Scriptures for answers to these questions. Now, however, many turn to alternative sources of information: apocryphal Gospels, self-proclaimed Bible scholars, suspense novelists, blockbuster films, and popular magazines. Often, though not always, these alternative sources of information paint a very different picture of Jesus than that of traditional Christian doctrine. Are these alternative portraits more historically accurate and spiritually viable than the traditional ones? Marvin Pate and Sheryl Pate think not. Their new book, Crucified in the Media: Finding the Real Jesus amidst Today's Headlines, takes a critical look at the alternative portraits of Jesus and finds the traditional accounts to be superior in every respect. Their criticisms of the Jesus Seminar, Elaine Pagels, The Da Vinci Code, and scholarly rehabilitation of the Gnostic Gospels are on target and concisely stated. But the Pates also focus on portraits of Jesus that are not necessarily hostile to the traditional Christian message about him. They provide a reasonable evaluation of the James Ossuary, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, the Shroud of Turin, and the Christian message of the Lord of the Rings. The Pates' book is not one of disinterested scholarship, however. They are advocates of the Christian message, as their chapters on the resurrection of Christ and the issue of religious pluralism demonstrate. As a Christian and a pastor, I found myself in agreement with the Pates' conclusions on most issues, although I would quibble with a point here and there. Because I have read fairly widely on some of these issues-especially the Jesus Seminar, The Da Vinci Code, and historical arguments for the resurrection-I was familiar with and sympathetic to their arguments. To whom, then, would I recommend this book? First of all, I would recommend it to pastors who need a rough-and-ready guide to alternative sources of information about Jesus. Second, to college students taking a religion class, especially if the professor is overtly hostile to traditional portraits of Jesus. Third, I would recommend it to lay Christians and other spiritually interested people who want help sorting out the confusing and contradictory things they see and hear about Jesus in popular culture.
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