"This book presents a picture of the origins of Christianity very different from anything that has been published before," writes Robert Sheaffer in the Introduction to The Making of the Messiah. "Many Christians will find this book as offensive as Moslem fanatics did Salman Rushdie's 'blasphemous' Satanic Verses." Sheaffer has provided fascinating reading for all those not afraid to question the jargon and inconsistencies that lie behind the "accepted truths" of Christianity.
In his attempt to dispel the myths surrounding the life of Jesus, Sheaffer presents Christianity with one of its greatest challenges. His approach differs from the conventional works of freethinkers by suggesting a radically different picture of Christianity's rise from (to borrow Friedrich Nietzsche's phrase) the "spirit of resentment." Sheaffer tells why Christianity could develop only as it did, as it emerged from the envious anger of the lower classes against the power and wealth of Rome. He shows how early Christian writers altered historical facts to make the new religion "sell" to potential converts. What emerges is a scheme of deliberate distortion and deceit that could grace a mystery novel, leaving in its wake a trail of highly suspicious and incriminating evidence.
The Making of the Messiah presents a compelling argument that Jesus was never "crucified by the Romans" but slain and hanged from a tree, under Jewish law, as a heretic and blasphemer. It shows that behind the Virgin birth story lurks a darker tale of Mary the adulteress whose "divine child" was rejected by her husband, Joseph, as a bastard. And finally, it traces the accounts of Jesus' Resurrection to reveal that the earliest gospel (that of Mark) contains no actual sightings of a risen Jesus. With time, however, Christianity's claims of a Resurrection gradually evolved, progressing from "vision" to "established fact" - the result of purposeful embellishment and mythologizing.
Working from the same ancient sources that biblical scholars use - some of the sources having only recently come to light - Sheaffer pieces the evidence together in a new way. The picture that emerges will generate much controversy. This unconventional perspective on some of the basic tenets of Christianity radically impacts biblical criticism in a manner that humanists and freethinkers will wholeheartedly applaud.