The Christian Fallacy by Paul McGrane: Book Review

The Christian Fallacy by Paul McGrane

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.

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The Christian Fallacy by Dr Paul McGrane
ISBN: 9781912317202
Published by RedDoor Publishing on July 27th 2017
Genres: General, History, Religion
Buy on Amazon US | The Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Buy on Amazon UK

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.

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23 responses to “The Christian Fallacy by Paul McGrane: Book Review

    • Denzil

      Well said Carol. Especially in regard to events that happened – or didn’t – 2000 years ago.

    • Paul McGrane

      Marketing hype I am afraid. I believe I have something new to say though – I wouldn’t have written the book otherwise.

      • paulandruss

        Hi Paul, I agree with you. I will be reading your book and I do think you have something new to say. All historical scholars use the same ancient sources pertinent to their field and all interpret elements from them – no matter what side of the fence they sit on. Biblical scholars have been doing it for generations and still are. Ehrman was surprised by Wallace’s statement of an early copy of Mark being found in 2012 (apparently a fragment: not yet published). I am a big fan of Barbara Theiring; although I don’t think everything she says stacks up, I think her explanations sound logical. In my eyes there may have been an historical Jesus (there may have been an historical Arthur) but the myths that gathered in his Name predate the period he was supposed to have lived. And Indeed I think there is evidence inside and outside the gospels that Christianity itself predated any historical Christ. I have been thinking recently lot of the endless arguments about the historical Christ is because were still in a christian paradigm. No one today cares whether Apollonius of Tyana is historical or not, nor if his miracles are genuine, yet one time he was as famous as Christ. So I AM definitely looking forward to reading your book.

    • Denzil

      You’re right Andrea. I think also that one of the problems with using the Bible as a source is that if you believe in it, you accept it, and if you are an atheist, you don’t and therefore disregard it as a historical document. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.

    • Denzil

      Thanks, I have tried to be fair, recognizing the excellent work he has carried out, while pointing out some issues.

  1. Denzil, my good man, methinks thou art a scholar! (Can I blend time periods here as McGrane has?) I think the premise is fascinating, but he has a tough row to hoe here. Staunch Christians will reject it outright, of course, and I am left wondering who his audience is. Great review.

    • Denzil

      Prithee Jeanne, thou art kindest. I was wondering who his audience is too. I would say atheists, liberal/progressive open-minded Christians, and young agnostics. As you say, staunch Christians will shrug their shoulders and move on.

  2. Hans De Keulenaer

    Thanks for this considerate review which saves me the effort of reading this book which you gave a 3-owl rating here (and a 2-star rating on goodreads :-). One has to be selective in the next book to read, so only 4 or 5-owl ratings will do!

    What disappoints me already without having read the book is the provocative title. Granted – a book’s title and cover serve a marketing purpose, but a publisher should be able to find an interesting title without provocation. Maybe you can suggest one as a recent reader.

    • Denzil

      Thanks for your comment Hans. I haven’t quite correlated ratings on Amazon, Goodreads and The Book Owl. Different nuances mean different systems. That’s something I have to make a bit more consistent. I agree with you about the book title. I think it will dissuade more than persuade people to pick it up and read it.

  3. Paul McGrane

    Can I – the author of the book – put in a view? Denzil is suggesting that by using the KJV I am hiding something. Not Guilty. I say explicitly in my book that any versions of the Bible and Josephus will do – none of my arguments rest on particular versions or contentious translations. I used the KJV for two reasons. First – as Denzil acknowledges – I regard it as the easiest available. I stand by this: other translations may be popular elsewhere, and I know the RSV is popular in the USA, but in the UK (where my book is published) it is still the most easily recognised and available text. It is also (as I point out in my book) a translation that some evangelical Christians regard as the only translation inspired by and therefore endorsed by God; if I hadn’t used it THEY would be accusing me hiding something!To accuse me of ignoring modern scholarship when my book spends considerable space acknowledging its achievements is not fair: the issues I raise are ones of interpretation not translation. It would be unfortunate if this issue put your readers off giving my book and its ideas a try. It would also be unfortunate if they were put off by the marketing blurb – selling books like this one is not easy, I can tell you! I do not expect to convince Christians of my point of view – they have already compromised their impartiality by trusting in faith rather than reason. But if you are interested and impartial, I hope you will give me a fair hearing.

    • Denzil

      Hi Paul and thanks a lot for joining the discussion here; much appreciated. I too hope that the KJV won’t put people off reading your book – perhaps they just need to keep a more modern translation open alongside. I can see that there is obviously no deliberate obfuscation on your part. Ironically, the people who are the most familiar with the KJV will probably be the least keen to read the book. I could imagine it being discussed in the more progressive theological schools though. Maybe your publisher could promote it as an interesting Christmas gift!

  4. is this a new site you’ve started, Denzil? looks great! as you know, I love anything to do with books – wishing you joy & success here 🙂

  5. paulandruss

    Denzil, I enjoyed your Review and Paul’s responses. I found both made me think… and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask from Authors and their reviewers. so thank you both! Best Paul

    • Denzil

      Thanks Paul for entering into the conversation with Paul about, amongst other things, Paul. 🙂

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