Cover image for The Christian myth : origins, logic, and legacy
The Christian myth : origins, logic, and legacy
Mack, Burton L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Continuum, 2001.
Physical Description:
237 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
BR129 .M33 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Mack rejects depictions of Jesus that have emerged from the quest for the historical Jesus--peasant teacher, revolutionary leader, mystical visionary or miracle-working prophet--on the grounds that they are based on a priori assumptions about Jesus, and are therefore contradictory. In addition, he argues, these portrayals are untrue to the many images of Jesus produced by the early Christians. Using systematic analysis, Mack seeks to describe and understand the cultural and anthropological influences on the conception and adoption of Christian myths and rituals.

Author Notes

Authors Bio, not available

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Mack lucidly presents a complex argument to scholarly and general readers alike. Moreover, his care in outlining his project opens a window on the research process. He begins and ends by discussing mythmaking. In between, he cogently critiques historical Jesus research. The New Testament, he says, isn't a repository of information on the historical Jesus but a source of information on mythmaking in an emerging religious community. That conceptual shift informs Mack's social theory, which attends particularly to social interest as a motivation for religious practice and to myth as social logic. Mack puts his theory to work in a reading of the Christian myth and its role in legitimating "the Christian nation," from Rome to the contemporary U.S. The Constantinian compromise Christianity made in its formative period, he maintains, transformed flexible communities, marked by experimental approaches to social organization, into an imperial cult that supported secular power by means of purity rituals. Some may find Mack's critique unsettling, but being unsettling in the study of religion "may finally be worthwhile." --Steven Schroeder

Table of Contents

Prolog: Mythmaking Then
Part I Setting Aside the Gospels
1 The Historical Jesus Hoopla
2 The Case for a Cynic-like Jesus
3 On Redescribing Christian Origin
Part II Constructing a Social Theory
4 Explaining Religion: A Theory of Social Interests
5 Explaining Christian Mythmaking: A Theory of Social Logic
Part III Tracing the Logic and Legacy
6 Innocence, Power, and Purity in the Christian Imagination
7 Christ and the Creation of a Monocratic Culture
8 The Christian Myth and the Christian Nation
Epilog: Mythmaking Now
Annex: The Christian Origins Project