Barrie Wilson

Barrie Wilson

An award-winning educator, Barrie Wilson, PhD, is Professor Emeritus & Senior Scholar, Religious Studies, York University, Toronto. An historian, he specializes in Early Christianity.

Wilson’s new book – Searching for the Messiah (Pegasus) – has just been released to rave reviews from scholars in the U.S.A., Canada and Israel. This ground-breaking historical investigation probes the idea of messiah from the Bible to Batman, with many stops in-between. Searching for the Messiah asks the fundamental question: what is a messiah? How should we recognize one should one appear?

King David, Jesus, Paul, political saviors as well as pop culture superheroes — all these figures appear as Wilson traces the evolution of the messianic concept and its migration from the religious domain into the secular. The ending is surprising as Wilson reflects on the overall search for a rescuer.

Of special interest is Wilson’s analysis of a much-neglected 1st century BCE writing. Written in Aramaic/Hebrew by a pious Jew in Jerusalem, this important work survives in a few Syriac and Greek manuscripts. This ancient text clearly sets forth the Jewish expectation of the messiah, just a few decades before the birth of Jesus.

  • Publishers Weekly: “Historians and lay readers alike will appreciate Wilson’s ingenuity and deep scholarship.”
  • Rivka Nir (Open University, Ra’anana, Israel) writes, “Wilson recruits his wide-ranging knowledge of Christianity, its textual and historical sources, and admirable writing skills, to lead us to a surprising conclusion.”
  • Gary Greenberg (jurist and biblical scholar, New York City) observes, “Is there a modern Messiah who can rise above politics and turn things around? [Wilson’s] answer may surprise you.”
  • Carla Ionescu (Trent University, Peterborough, ON): “This work is full of insights, well written and serious readers will come away with a better understanding of who is – and who is not – a messiah. The ending is surprising…and shocking.”

Wilson’s two earlier books established his reputation as an international historian of note. The Lost Gospel (Pagasus, 2014), co-authored with award-winning film-maker and bestselling author, Simcha Jacobovici, sparked worldwide controversy. This book decodes a mysterious ancient manuscript. Written by an anonymous monk in Syriac, the surviving manuscript is 1600 years old and based on an original that is likely a century or two older. The book was accompanied by a 2-hour feature documentary on Discovery Science in which Wilson participated.

The Lost Gospel provides an English translation along with two prefatory letters – never before translated that tell us that the book contains “a hidden message.” Once decoded, that secret has to do with Jesus being married and having two children. The idea that Jesus was human, Jewish, and, yes, married, upset many reviewers who preferred dogma over historical analysis.

How Jesus Became Christian (St. Martin’s Press, 2008) was a national bestseller in his native Canada, awarded the Tanenbaum Prize in History and short-listed for the Cundill International Prize in History. In How Jesus Became Christian Barrie Wilson challenges the way most people think of Christianity. He analyzes writings from the 1st and 2nd centuries CE that demonstrate that what we know as Christianity today is not the religion practiced by the historical Jesus and, in fact, bears little resemblance to what he taught. Rather, Wilson contends, contemporary Christianity was the creation of Paul, a man who never met the Jesus who roamed the Galilee and Jerusalem.

Learn more about Barrie and his work on his website!


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