Did the early Christians believe their myths? Like most ancient—and modern—people, early Christians made efforts to present their myths in the most believable ways.
In How the Gospels Became History: Jesus and Mediterranean Myths
(Yale University Press, 2019), M. David Litwa
explores how and why what later became the four canonical gospels take on a historical cast that remains vitally important for many Christians today. Offering an in-depth comparison with other Greco-Roman stories that have been shaped to seem like history, Litwa shows how the evangelists responded to the pressures of Greco-Roman literary culture by using well-known historiographical tropes such as the mention of famous rulers and kings, geographical notices, the introduction of eyewitnesses, vivid presentation, alternative reports, and so on. In this way, the evangelists deliberately shaped myths about Jesus into historical discourse to maximize their believability for ancient audiences.
Dr. M. David Litwa is a scholar of ancient Mediterranean religions and Research Fellow at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. His most recent books include Desiring Divinity: Self-deification in Ancient Jewish and Christian Mythmaking
and Hermetica II: The Excerpts of Stobaeus, Papyrus Fragments, and Ancient Testimonies
Jonathan Wright is a PhD student in New Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He holds an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a ThM from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @jonrichwright, or jonathanrichardwright.com.