Jesus the Magician
|Publisher||Harper & Row|
The idea that Jesus was a magician did not originate with Morton Smith. It was previously voiced by the philosopher and critic Celsus (The True Word c. 200 CE) as we know from the rebuttal authored by the Christian apologist/scholar Origen: “It was by magic that he was able to do the miracles” (Contra Celsum 1.6). Hans Dieter Betz (1994) observes that "from early on even Jesus of Nazareth was implicated in that he was said to be mad or a magician possessed by Satan" and R. Joseph Hoffmann writes (1987) that it is well attested that "the early Christian mission was advanced by the use of magic."
Smith's theories have not gained acceptance among scholars. Barry Crawford (Vanderbilt University), currently Co-Chair of the Society of Biblical Literature's Consultation on Redescribing Christian Origins, wrote in his 1979 review that "Smith exhibits an intricate knowledge of the magical papyri, but his ignorance of current Gospel research is abysmal", concluding that the work has traits of a conspiracy theory.
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- "Jesus the Magician", Kirkus Reviews, April 26th, 1978
- Hans Dieter Betz, "The Birth of Christianity as a Hellenistic Religion: Three Theories of Origin," The Journal of Religion 74 (1994), pp. 1–25
- Barry Crawford, Journal of the American Academy of Religion (1979), 321–322.
- Celsus, On the True Doctrine. A Discourse Against the Christians tr. by R. Joseph Hoffmann (1987), p. 53 n3.
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- H.S. Versnel, "Some Reflections on the Relationship Magic-Religion," Numen 38 (1991), pp. 177–197.
- Jennifer Viegas, "Earliest reference describes Christ as 'magician'" October 1, 2008. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26972493 Accessed November 2, 2009.