BOOKS: FACT VS. FAITH

A REPORTER INVESTIGATES THE HOT DEBATE OVER JESUS

Camped ostentatiously at the impact point of our age's need to believe and its need to know, and generating best sellers both for its fervent proponents and (lately) its detractors, the historical Jesus movement (Flash! Virgin birth a cover-up! Resurrection a fraud!) hardly wants for print. Yet in his Gospel Truth (Riverhead Books; 305 pages; $24.95), Russell Shorto provides a useful addition: an up-to-date survey and smart lay analysis of the theories that together constitute one of the stickiest challenges to traditional Christianity.

Shorto, a journalist, skillfully lays out the anomalies, allusions and stylistic shifts that have caused a wide spectrum...

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