Are the four canonical Gospels actual historical accounts or are they imaginative literature produced by influential literary artists to serve a theological vision? In this study of the Gospels based upon a demonstrable literary theory, Randel Helms presents the work of the four evangelists as the 'supreme fictions' of our culture, self-conscious works of art deliberately composed as the culmination of a long literary and oral tradition. Helms analyses the best-known and the most powerful of these fictions: the stories of Christ's birth, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal by Judas, his crucifixion, death and resurrection. In Helms' exegesis of the Gospel miracle stories, he traces the greatest of these - the resurrection of Lazarus four days after his death - to the Egyptian myth of the resurrection of Osiris by the god Horus. Helms maintains that the Gospels are self-reflexive; they are not about Jesus so much as they are about the writers' attitudes concerning Jesus. Helms examines each of the narratives - the language, the sources, the similarities and differences - and shows that their purpose was not so much to describe the past as to affect the present.
This scholarly yet readable work demonstrates how the Gospels surpassed the expectations of their authors, influencing countless generations by creating a life-enhancing understanding of the nature of Jesus of Nazareth.