The author produces many juxtapositions of texts from within the gospels and other ancient sources to make a case that the gospel writers were only rehashing older and unrelated accounts into the Christian story and theology. I think one can prove almost anything by this method if he is really creative in his comparisons and Mr. Helms seems to do this to some extent. Just because someone used the same word in Greek for a certain description of Christian events as another source uses to describe a pagan story does not in itself verify that the gospel author copied it. However, the connections Helms brings up do have some credence when simply trying to account for the great number of them. That said, it doesn’t mean all were plagiarizations . I’ve read Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem The Raven. Now, if a raven today were to fly into my room, similar to the account in Poe’s poem (which is certainly within the realm of possibility, though improbable) I would probably find myself using some of the terms Poe used in his writings to describe the event in my journal. This would be especially true if The Raven was among the very few writings I had ever read. This would not mean that my account is untrue, but simply that my way of expressing it was influenced by another’s (and in this case fictional) description. Such a “borrowing” may even help me to better communicate my thoughts and feelings of the incident, as well as color my perception.
Helms presents the argument that the Gospel of Mark was written first (about or soon after 70 A.D.) and that Matthew and Luke copied from it extensively—”fleshed it out” so to speak. Some 600 of Mark’s 666 verses, for instance, can be found, many almost word for word, in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew and Luke were both written, independently, as much as a generation after Mark, according to Helms, and the Gospel of John was originally written as a Gnostic gospel before being edited later by a more traditionalist writer.
Mark’s gospel was written as an “end of the world” text. It was written soon after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple as reassurance that Christ’s final coming was near. It also emphasizes the “secretness” of the gospel during Christ’s mortal ministry to point out its nature as a preparatory period and that now all could be revealed since the end is soon.
The author of Mark appears to not have been a Jew and was somewhat unfamiliar with all of Jewish culture. Some evidence is given that he might have been from Syria. He uses the Septuagint version of the Hebrew scriptures in his quotes, showing he was more familiar (or only familiar) with the Greek translation. He also mixes up and misquotes Isaiah and Malachi.
Helms makes the argument that Mark moves the Transfiguration scene—which he claims was originally a post-resurrection story—into the mortal ministry of Christ so that he could more easily make the case that Christ is about to return in glory by showing that, though Christ was resurrected, He has not yet returned—but He will soon—like He said He would.
Luke was really a woman, according to Mr. Helms. He provides many examples in the Gospel of Luke and in Acts (also written by Luke) of “pairings” where nearly every story concerning a man also happens to a woman in a similar fashion, often in a better light. There is a strong presence of widows and their sufferings and their needs throughout Luke and Acts which Helms gives as evidence that Luke “herself” was also a widow. The account of the widow of Nain whose son is brought back to life closely parallels the account of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath.
“She” also presents women, Mary and Elizabeth, in a better light than their husbands. The angel comes to Mary and to Elizabeth and announces that her child’s name will be John (unique to Luke). Also, there are soliloquies from Mary and other women not found in the other Gospels. Although Luke may have a more “feminine” touch, the evidence within the text of the Gospel is not at all conclusive, in my opinion, and I’m sure many would agree. It certainly gives a unique perspective, however.
The Gospel of John originally plays down the role of Peter and elevates the “disciple whom Jesus loved.” There is evidence in the text that a later editor of John restored Peter’s position but not thoroughly enough to eliminate all evidence of the motive of the original author to abolish the literal theology of the other gospels in favor of the figurativeness of the gnostic view.
I’ve heard of the adage that if something seems a little too confusing or muddled, it is probably because the author has an agenda. This was all too apparent in this book. Although I’m sure Mr. Helms is quite a scholar, he seems to bend the evidence to his viewpoint almost to the point of absurdity. There is no humility in this book, to speak of. Helms may say that we don’t know certain things, but then goes on to describe events as if they actually happened in a certain way based on mere supposition taken from very scant evidence. However, if one recognizes the scholarly “arrogance” (for lack of a better term) of the author’s style for what it is, there is still much to learn and digest in this book.