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Reviewed by Leonard Smuts for Readers' Favorite
The life and times of Jesus of Nazareth have inspired millions for almost two thousand years, but there are many anomalies and contradictions contained in the written teachings - in particular the English translations of the New Testament - which form the basis of modern Christianity. Salt & Light sets out to examine the evidence, weighing it against other sources, before applying logic and common sense to provide a wider and alternative view of events. Salt & Light reviews the available literature to build a more comprehensive picture of Jesus, His disciples, followers, and the people of the time. Jonathan Dean establishes objective criteria to conduct his evaluation, restricting it to credible sources such as eyewitness accounts. This effectively limits the scope of his inquiry to the first century CE and eliminates much documentation. The origin of the Gospels, along with the actual identity of the authors, has challenged theologians for centuries, with conflicting opinions emerging. This topic is revisited with some interesting conclusions drawn. Dean is able to establish a credible chronology for the writing of the Gospels, which he places some years earlier than many academics. He supports his conclusions with persuasive arguments, before presenting a summary of his findings.
Readers should be clear from the outset that Salt & Light is neither a conspiracy theory nor an attempt to tarnish the reputation of an iconic religious figure. Jonathan Dean reminds us that the Bible was originally written in several languages and that the translations into English from Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, or Latin have not always been entirely accurate. Some texts have become the subject of interpretation and speculation, while there are also gaps in the narrative. It should be remembered that few people were literate in biblical times. Of necessity, the Gospels would probably have been dictated to scribes from memory and anecdotal evidence some years after the events. The book is well illustrated with informative pictures, maps, and diagrams. I particularly liked the figure which showed the close relationship between the three Synoptic Gospels. The timelines provided are equally interesting and include a probable date for the crucifixion!
The book has been extensively researched and the list of references is impressive. Dean has provided much food for thought with this publication, which may not be universally acclaimed by fundamentalists. It was written for a much wider audience and is the first of a two-part series. It has succeeded admirably in shedding light on a controversial topic and should be read with an open mind. Christianity is about faith and it is up to readers to draw their own conclusions. A fascinating and courageous look at a topic that has interested me for many years. It is very thought-provoking.