In 1996/97 I read Barbara Thiering’s Jesus the Man – I have been
re-reading it now as someone who thinks they understand and have read more
of the Bible – specifically the New Testament in the 10 years since.
However, as a “lay man” , one with not a lot of knowledge on research
methodologies used and also access to more information, I cannot help it
but think that somehow Barbara’s hypothesis may have some “basis for
truth” in it. What is your response to the premise of Barbara’s book and
the arguments she puts forward?


Yours is not the first inquiry I have had on Barbara Thiering. This
woman is not a serious scholar at all, despite her credentials. She is a
fringe person with an agenda which has caused her to reach absolutely
insupportable, irrational conclusions. I would do more than take her with
a grain of salt. I would assume that she is an angry, cynical, deceitful,
untrustworthy witness. Her credentials tell me nothing about the quality
of her work. Her extreme, irrational bias makes every single conclusion
dubious. I will quote from a well-known scholar:

Thiering’s ideas, however, have not been embraced by other scholars in her
field and she is generally regarded as a fringe theorist. As Dead Sea
Scrolls scholar Geza Vermes put it:

“Professor Barbara Thiering’s reinterpretation of the New Testament, in
which the married, divorced, and remarried Jesus, father of four, becomes
the “Wicked Priest” of the Dead Sea Scrolls, has made no impact on learned
opinion. Scroll scholars and New Testament experts alike have found the
basis of the new theory, Thiering’s use of the so-called “pesher
technique,” without substance.” (‘New York Review of Books’, Dec 1, 1994)

I believe it is a good idea for you to read widely, including the ideas of
those with whom you do not agree. However, as you do so, you need to
develop a healthy level of skepticism to the claims of scholars. Many
scholars reach conclusions which have a lot more to do with their
preconceptions than the evidence. This is true on both sides of the
debates, by the way. There are many believers who reach unfounded
conclusions on a regular basis. I suggest you reread Thiering to try to
detect the warped, deceitful lines of reasoning in her work. You will
find that she makes absolutely unfounded assumptions on a regular basis.
Watch carefully for her assumptions. In these you will find her faulty
reasoning. For example, she simply assumes that the eye-witnesses are
completely unreliable, while taking as credible witnesses people who spoke
hundreds of years later. This is irrational, plain and simple. Perhaps a
scholar can choose to be skeptical of the eye witnesses. OK, I can accept
that, but to reject eye-witness testimony which scholars tell us comes
from within a generation of the events in question and accept the
testimony of those who lived hundreds of years later without question is
clear proof of either poor thinking or deceitful argument. I will let you
decide which is the case with Thiering. There is absolutely zero evidence
of any quality which even implies the possibility of Jesus being married
and having children. Not a single reliable scholar will accept this

John Oakes, PhD

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