Salt & Light

The Complete Jesus

Non-Fiction - General
240 Pages
Reviewed on 07/13/2022
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Author Biography

Jonathan Geoffrey Dean is a New Testament scholar, researcher, award-winning author, political leader and thought leader. Salt and Light; The Complete Jesus is his reaction to Jesus. He is a partner in an investment advisory firm and lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with his wife Lynn and new puppy Sprout.

    Book Review

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.

Dr. Jordan Alexander

Salt & Light: The Complete Jesus by Jonathan Geoffrey Dean was a fascinating read that made me fully appreciate the importance of getting the story right. This story is particularly important for billions of people around the world as it focuses upon a most significant figure in history: Jesus of Nazareth. Academics and researchers will appreciate the care and detail Dean takes in Salt & Light. The first half of the book relates entirely to a comprehensive survey of available ancient sources. With the precision of a surgeon, Dean checks, tests, and verifies references to arrive at his shortlist of primary eyewitness accounts to serve as his starting point to explore the life of Jesus.

Jonathan Geoffrey Dean remains the balanced storyteller throughout Salt & Light as he tackles tough methodological questions like when were the Gospels written and by whom, challenging perspectives without first-person validation. He supplies facts from disciples Peter and John only where testimony supports wondrous and unexplained miracle stories. Yet Dean also reports where a “fantastical turn of mind” embellishes the story, like John’s four chapter-long account of the teachings of Jesus at the Last Supper (John 14-17). Dean provides new insights in Salt & Light. Referring to wondrous birth stories that create a mystical persona for the likes of Alexander the Great, Plato, and Buddha, to name a few, Dean examines the Jesus birth story we celebrate each Christmas. The need for all roads to lead to Bethlehem is essential as Scripture certifies the one born here will be ruler over Israel. Dean explores how accounts from Matthew and Luke, for example, vary - the former starts Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, then fleeing to Nazareth, while the latter starts the couple in Nazareth, setting off to Bethlehem for a census. Only once comfortable his research has gotten “as close as we can to the real Jesus”, does Dean proceed with the story.

The second part of Salt & Light answers three simple, yet important questions: Who was Jesus? What did he do? What did he say? Dean answers these questions relying on the most accurate accounts to tell the whole story of Jesus of Nazareth from his early life, family, the last supper, his capture, ultimate death, and resurrection. Salt & Light highlights important dates, places, itinerary, travels, how Jesus chose his disciples, and in the end, shares Dean's personal view of who Jesus was. I appreciated Dean’s neutrality at the beginning and his commitment to taking a position in the end. Will you believe Jesus was a regular human, chosen by God to perform miracles and be His spokesperson to teach humanity; or that Jesus was a regular human who believed he was picked and conspired with his followers to perform phony miracles? Either way, believers and skeptics will appreciate Dean’s summary of what Jesus said including to act on the choice we all have to be free, to share our light, to love all, to keep learning, become stronger in our freedom and individuality, and to always try our best. Reading Salt & Light by Jonathan Geoffrey Dean will help readers better appreciate the story of Jesus, identify essential sources for future study, and aid personal choice by understanding who Jesus was. A great educational read.

Philip Van Heusen

Salt & Light is a scholarly work by Jonathan Geoffrey Dean. In this fascinating book, Jonathan attempts to come to a conclusion of who Jesus was. Jonathan also desires to discover what Jesus did. To achieve his purpose, Jonathan had several requirements for what ancient writings he used. These rules are the typical requirements found in Higher Criticism. The goal is to strip away all the myths and legends to reveal what Jesus really said and did. I found it interesting that, in one broad stroke, Jonathan dismissed the Gospel of Luke. As is typical of Higher Criticism, facts are given, then motives are attributed. Jonathan strives to provide a fair hearing for the Word of God. He uses his tools to reach his conclusions concerning what Jesus did, said, and who He was. This book makes the reader stop and think.

Jonathan Geoffrey Dean authored Salt & Light to examine three questions: 1) What did Jesus do? 2) What did Jesus say? and 3) Who was Jesus? Through a detailed examination of early writings, Jonathan comes to his own conclusions about the answers to these three questions. If you are a lay believer in the Word of God and do not like to have your faith challenged, then this is not the book for you. However, if you are strong in the faith and desire to learn more about the history of belief, read this book. Jonathan does a tremendous scholarly job. You may disagree with Jonathan’s dismissal of much of the Bible, but you will gain some knowledge. I do not want to give away Jonathan’s conclusions, but I recommend you read this book and come to your own conclusions.