In an effort by the publisher of Cities to sell books, there is a quote from Booklist on the front cover that says the following: "This book will spark controversy." Of course, that piqued my interest, so I picked up the book and read the first few pages of the first chapter in the store. Here are the first two paragraphs:
New ccounts of early Christianity are everywhere. A book claiming that Jesus got married, fathered children, and died of old age has sold millions of copies. Bookstores are busting with 'new,' more 'enlightened' scriptures said to have been wrongly suppressed by the early church fathers. Often referred to as Gnostic gospels, these texts purport to have been written by a variety of biblical characters -- Mary Magdalene, St. James, St. John, Shem, and even Didymus Jude Thomas, self-proclaimed twin brother of Christ. Meanwhile, a group calling itself the Jesus Seminar receives national media attention each year as it meets to further reduce the 'authentic' words spoken by Jesus to an increasingly slim compendium of wise sayings.
But is any of this true? How can we know? Presumably, by assembling and evaluating the appopriate evidence. Unfortunately, far too many historians these days don't believe in evidence. They argue that since absolute truth must always elude the historian's grasp, 'evidence' is inevitably nothing but a biased selection of suspect 'facts.' Worse yet, rather than dismissing the entire historical undertaking as impossible, these same people use their disdain for evidence as a license to propose all manner of politicized historical fantasies or appealing to fictions on the grounds that these are just as 'true' as any other account. This is absurd nonsense. Reality exists and history actually occurs. The historian's task is to try to discover as accurately as possible what took place. Of course, we can never possess absolute truth, but that still must be the ideal goal that directs historical scholarship. The search for truth and the advance of human knowledge are inseparable: comprehension and civilization are one.
I guess Booklist was right, this book is controversial...and from the very first paragraphs!