Book Description, Table of Contents, Book Reviews

Jesus in the Gospels

Man, Myth, or God

Monsignor John W. Sweeley, Th.D.

240 pages including notes, bibliography, index

If you want to know the historical Jesus, read this book

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This book utilizes the Historical Critical Method and Tools of Modern Biblical Criticism to strip away much of the mythology and misunderstanding about the nature of the historical Jesus. The goal is to discover Jesus in his sitz-im-leben (setting in life) of first century Palestine and to illuminate his life, ministry, death, and resurrection from this context. Jesus in the Gospels: Man, Myth, or God elucidates a more authentic Jesus allied to the liturgical and theological development of the early Christian Church.


Chapter 1

Jesus: Messiah to Triune God

Chapter 2

Jesus and the Gospel Tradition: Who Do You Say I Am

Chapter 3

God's Plan for Jesus: The Message of His Public Ministry

Chapter 4

The Passion of Jesus: The Will of God or Conspiracy to Commit Murder

Chapter 5

The Last Supper: Passover Meal or Mistaken Identity

Chapter 6

It is Finished: The Death of Jesus

Chapter 7

The Resurrection of Jesus: Myth, Magic, or Miracle


N.B. Jesus in the Gospels: Man, Myth, or God is the third part of my doctoral dissertation: Godtalk in the Ancient Near East: Man, Myth, and God. The first part is God in the Ancient Near East from 25,000 B.C.E. to the Advent of the Hebrews and the second part is Judaism: The Saga of the Jewish People. Neither the first or second part has been published.

As a consequence of this book being part of my dissertation, it does not have book reviews. However, I have included below Commendatory Comments on the work by Archbishop-Matriarch Meri Louise Spruit who was the Rector of Sophia Divinity School at that time and Raymond Eaton Sawyer who was the Chairperson of my Doctoral Committee and the Bishop of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America.

The author, John W. Sweeley, is a seeker of the truth and has spent many years in research and pondering the Synoptic Gospels. The purpose of this study was to satisfy the requirements for a Doctor of Theology Degree. This book is the third part of his dissertation.

Dr. Sweeley knows the Bible well and presents a method of analysis of its information along with a myriad of resource material. He offers the reader many comparative examples through exegetics as he clearly lays out his logic in diagrammatic form. He explains his method of deciphering the meaning which aids one in following his line of reasoning. 

If only one cold think in the same context as in the time of Jesus, the language of the Jews and the language of the Greeks, there would still be unanswered questions.Does one use a literal or analogous interpretation of the Bible  while building a body of evidence? John W. Sweeley explores the historicity of the Gospels as he describes how the Bible was written. In doing this, his style of writing is easy to comprehend in its forthright presentation.

An interesting fact he shares is that of the aorist verb tense, no longer used in modern Greek, which was used to write the Lord's Prayer. This is an unlimited tense and was just what the Gospel writers needed becasue the theology of the Lord's Prayer was still evolving in early second century Christianity as it continues to evolve today.

I found a similarity with our present day journalists and story tellers in that the slant of the Gospel writers reflects their particular personal or political agenda. The discussion of the Doctrine of the Trinity identifies the attributes of God which Jesus brought, as well as the Holy Spirit, in fulfillment of his promise to reveal the Father through his words and deeds. That is, the life of Jesus was preached to offer the Church a basis of faith and morals.

A lengthy bibliography and copious notes are presented referencing Dr. Sweeley's research citing ancient documents as well as contemporary writings. The notes are detailed and contain pertinent information that illuminated the text. Sweeley's hermeneutics of the Synoptic Gospels and passages of the Bible make this a good study for those interested in researching their own truth.

Archbishop-Matriarch Meri Louise Spruit, D.D.

Rector, Sophia Divinity School

August 3, 1998

As an examiner for his doctoral dissertation, I became acquainted with both the soul and the writings of Dr. John W. Sweeley. I have come to respect his humble servant of God.

His singular ministry is to help others view the word, the Church, and history from a biblical point of view. His work is representative of the first fruits of a new movement of renewal within the Church, a movement that seeks to involve the whole of Christianity in a rediscovery of our common heritage int he creeds, worship, and life of the early Apostolic Church. This new movement is about going back to our roots in order to go forward in this new millennium.

It all starts, I think, with the fact he has not prejudice against Catholic or Reformed theologies. For him, there is no artificial barrier between Eastern and Western Christianity. His only concern is for Orthodoxy, the Truth.

We today are in need of modern-day John the Baptists crying in the wilderness for the reform and renewal of our Church who understands the catholic nature of the Reformation and the catholic nature of all subsequent reforms in the Church. This will produce the convergent theology and faith of the third millennium.

Now, thousands and thousands of believers from the Body of Christ are experiencing a renewal in their worship and theology. This generation is moving away from dogmas and doctrines that are based on fleeting feelings and emotions toward traditional faith that is based on study and reflection. 

I think, most importantly, we are moving away from escapist versions of Christianity that tell us that everything will be made only when we leave this world and arrive at heaven. We are moving toward a traditional Christian realism that engages the world as it is and seeks to build the Father's Kingdom now, as his Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, taught us.

It is a move away from a spirituality that seeks to enshrine a mystical experience of each individual's private truth. Instead, this new movement of God's spirit is the church submits itself tot he truth given by Christ, through his chosen apostles, in scripture.

Dr. Sweeley represents a whole  new generation of Christian thinkers who are now poised to provide a means of enlightenment in a time in which many denominations are seeking to resolve their differences within and without their own religious tradition. I want to thank him for being bold, courageous, and loving in this treatment of his subject. He has spoken the truth in the form of a servant: that is, with the love of Christ.

Raymond Eaton Sawyer, Ph. D.

Bishop of Arkansas, Retired

Catholic Apostolic Church of North America

July 12, 1998