by miriam berg


In my earlier work called "The Story of Yeshua" I told the story of Jesus as I thought it must have happened, after much study of the gospels and works about the gospels. After more than two decades and much discussion with many persons about that story, I can see two main defects or lacks in it. Firstly, I did not provide any references for the quotations or paragraphs in my story, although there was a listing of the references I had used chapter by chapter in the Table of Contents. Secondly, I did not sufficiently explain why my recasting of quotations from the gospels or rewording of narrative descriptions were justified in terms of all the evidence as I saw it.

This second book, called Handbook to the Gospels, is intended to correct those deficiencies and make it clearer why my telling of the story of Jesus and what he said and did is more probable than the traditional notions. I have also included all of the sayings attributed to Jesus by the gospel of Thomas, which is now accepted by scholars as being just as authentic as the canonical gospels.

A word about my own background. I had grown up in a religious household, my mother being a lifelong Christian Scientist. So I came to the University of California in 1952 not questioning the existence of God or the existence of Jesus, in fact I made a point of saying that I didn't believe anyone was a real atheist. I remember how startled I was after encountering for the first time the notion that Jesus was actually God in human form. I spent a few years in reading and researching to try to find some proof that there was a God, and equally some proof that Jesus really existed. Then after I began psychotherapy in 1958, and my therapist suggested that i attend the seminar in the Records of the Life of Jesus at Four Springs, California, I attended that study group, and again in the following two summers. Up to that point I had not heard of Sharman or the Records or textual criticism at all; I did not yet even know that Mark was considered the oldest gospel! But I can cite those three summers at Four Springs as changing my life and giving me my lifelong interest in the gospels and what they say and whether it can be verified.

I want to express my thanks to all those who have read my earlier work and offered me their feedback and challenges. And to repeat from my first preface I owe an overwhelming debt to those who have preceded me in these studies: Elizabeth Boyden Howes, who led the Seminars in the Records of the Life of Jesus which I attended for those three years; Henry Burton Sharman, whose life work, embedded in and constituted by his masterly book called "The Records of the Life of Jesus" and his doctoral thesis called "The Teachings of Jesus About the Future" are unexcelled and complete and irrefutable; and my lifelong friend Dryden Linsley Phelps, who had been a friend of Sharman's and who modelled the Christ for me and who always encouraged me in my work on creating my earlier work.

And my gratitude also to all the notable scholars going back to the 1600s who have pored over the gospels and the earliest manuscripts and brought our historical understanding of the life of Jesus and the gospels to its present levels, not the least of whom were Friedrich Schliermacher who first proposed the existence of document Q, Ernest deWitt Burton, who showed that Q was actually two documents which he called G and P, and Burton Streeter, whose 5-document thesis practically created the modern understanding of the gospels.

miriam berg
Berkeley, California
September, 2013