Jesus of the Apocalypse, the life of Jesus after the Crucifixion, by Barbara Thiering (Corgi Books, London, 1996).

Since my conversion to Christ as a teenager, I have absorbed the Bible at its face value. I learned how to read the old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. In order to adopt Thiering's way of reading the Bible, I would need to deal with the following reservations.

If Jesus did not die but married twice, bearing at least three children, and lived on to between AD 70 and 73 as Thiering claims, why is there no record of this in the non-Christian literature of the time, of which we have a great deal? Who knew about Jesus' long life before Thiering revealed it? The ordinary believers did not (p36). Secrets generally become known, but we are asked to believe that the secrets of the life of Jesus have been kept for long ages. The notion that Thiering could have alighted on the truth 1900 years after the events when previous historians have failed to unearth it seems far-fectched to me. Thiering alleges that Peter and Paul met Jesus after the crucifixion, and knew that he had not died (p33). This does not fit with their insistent statements that he had died and rose again, and their willingness to die for what they believed in.

"As always, there are double meanings", Thiering writes (p133). Why disguise the true meaning to make it "obscure, even non-sensical to outsiders" (p380)? Thiering alleges that ordinary believers were babes in Christ who needed to be given what they wanted to hear, easy teaching that comforted and inspired (p10). The inner meaning was for leaders only. This is deception to my mind, and contrasts with the apparent desire for truth in the New testament writings. "Let your yes be yes and your no be no," Jesus said. "The Devil is the father of lies." "Bind on the belt of truth," wrote Paul. The attitude of the authors in hiding truth from ordinary believers, as Thiering proposes, is inconsistent with the subject matter.

If Thiering's approach is adopted, then there is a consequent loss of so much I value. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus, my sins are no longer forgiven. I can no longer believe that Jesus reveals God, as he is reduced to being no more than a man. His teaching loses its value for me. I have no grounds for believing in a heavenly father or a holy spirit. There is no longer any need to take up my cross in daily living, attempting to follow Jeus' way rather than my own. I might as well live a selfish life instead.

I suspect that this book will appeal to people who want a reason to ditch traditional Christian belief and practice. It looks and sounds authoritative, with its quotations of Hebrew and Greek and knowledge of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It has appeal, because adopting Thiering's outlook appears to cost the reader nothing. However, Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world but that through him the world might be saved. To my mind, adopting Thiering's approach in favour of a straight-forward reading of the Bible loses us far more than it gains, as we can no longer be saved. Personally, as I look a the world I live in with all its folly, I can think of nothing more important than that we should be saved.

Finally, I have a personal issue if Thiering is to be followed, and miracles, healings and deliverance are not genuine. What am I to make of my friend Bill Hughes of Bramcote, Nottingham, who in October of 1987 was told by the medics that he had terminal cancer and might live to Christmas, but then lived another seven years following an evening when three of us prayed with him, laying on hands? Or the suicidal young man who said that it was like been drawn up out of pit after we prayed with him a number of times over several weeks? Or perhaps most remarkably, my friend Cathy who was so deeply healed of Ankelosing Spondelytis while walking to the front at a Christian meeting that she bore a child the following year, which was declared to be impossible for somebody with her condition? I will need a new explanation of this evidence to replace the conclusion I have always had, namely that God answers prayer.

David Pennant Woking, UK