I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Christian Fallacy by Dr Paul McGrane
Published by RedDoor Publishing on July 27th 2017
Genres: General, History, Religion
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The Christian Fallacy by Paul McGrane is a well-written, generally easy-to-read, and thought-provoking book. Some people of course may deride it as “the work of the Devil”. Others though, perhaps of a more open-minded persuasion, whether Christian or atheist, are more likely to find it fascinating. In it Paul McGrane presents an alternative view of the origin of Christianity.
What’s the author’s objective?
Nothing less than to debunk Christianity. He claims that Christianity has “no basis in historical fact, is misguided, and wrong.” According to McGrane, he has developed a new paradigm for the origin of Christianity.
What is this new paradigm?
That the early Christians were followers of a “Jesus Movement”, which developed not from Jesus’ teachings but from John the Baptist’s. They took ancient Biblical prophecies – particularly from the book of Zechariah – and reshaped and re-imagined them. By doing so, they invented a first century person called Jesus to fulfil those prophecies. In other words, the Jesus of the Gospels was a figment of the imagination of the early Christians.
Does he make sense?
On the whole, yes, although whether I believe his claims is another matter which I am not entering into here. The author presents his arguments clearly and logically. He marshals his facts and argues his case with clarity. At times, reading The Christian Fallacy is like having a favorite Uncle sitting beside you. He gently explains each step of his new paradigm, describes how he substantiates it, and then patiently summarizes his findings. He then considers how his findings are finally going to set the record straight that has been wrong for the past 2000 years.
Are there some more complex parts?
He is certainly more difficult to follow when he comes up with very complex and tortuous arguments to shift the chronology of first century events. He has Paul meeting the risen Christ and being converted on the road to Damascus in AD 20! That’s a whole 13 years before the traditional date for the crucifixion of Jesus. And the person called Jesus he places 500 years earlier, in the time of Zechariah, and says that Jesus was the first High Priest of the new Jerusalem temple.
Is the chronology the only difficulty with The Christian Fallacy?
No. I have one other complaint about The Christian Fallacy. McGrane bases his arguments on two main texts: the works of the Jewish historian Josephus, and the Bible itself. He quotes large passages from both.
For Josephus, he uses William Whiston’s translation from 1737, but understandably not the original; his source is the newly edited text (in 1998) that updates the 18th century language, using modern vocabulary and spelling. So when he quotes Josephus, it’s easy to read and understand. That makes perfect sense. Who would want to read something written in 18th century language?
For the Bible, he uses the King James Version that was completed in 1611. But he does not use a modern version; he uses that 1611 version.
What’s the problem with using the 1611 KJV?
There are two problems. First, by basing his arguments against the Bible on the 1611 KJV, he is negating 400 years of Biblical scholarship since 1611. Modern translations differ significantly from the 1611 KJV, mainly because they use source manuscripts that were not available then, and introduce a newer, improved understanding of ancient Hebrew.
Second, when he quotes passages from the Bible, at times it’s virtually impossible to understand what they mean because they are in 17th century language. So it’s full of “thou” and “verily” and “hast” and “thy”.
Got any examples?
“For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred and tongue,” quotes McGrane. How much easier it would have been if he had quoted from the New International Version (NIV): “Because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language.”
Here’s another one. “Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” quotes McGrane, leaving us scratching our heads in confusion. The NIV is much clearer. “Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas?”
And then dealing with the conversion of Saul on the Road to Damascus, McGrane quotes from the KJV. ”Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
Enough said. I think you get my point. Quoting Josephus in 20th century language and then quoting the Bible in 16th century language doesn’t a fair boxing match.
In his prologue, McGrane says he uses the KJV because it’s the commonest version available. I don’t follow his argument; the New International Version repeatedly tops Bible sales.
It’s a shame that the Biblical verses he quotes aren’t readily understandable, but the solution is easy. Read the book with a more modern translation open alongside. I would recommend Bible Gateway. Here you can instantly look up passages in any translation and in a variety of languages.
It would certainly be a shame if you let this put you off reading The Christian Fallacy.