Review of The Original Jesus by Daniel Darling

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from Baker Books for review purposes without obligation to give a positive review.)

Theme and Summary

The subtitle describes the theme of the book: Trading the Myths We Create for the Savior Who Is. To do so, Daniel Darling examines 10 “myths” or false images of Christ that are common. The complete list is as follows:

  • Guru Jesus
  • Red-Letter Jesus
  • Braveheart Jesus
  • American Jesus
  • Left-Wing Jesus
  • Dr. Phil Jesus
  • Prosperity Jesus
  • Post-Church Jesus
  • BFF Jesus
  • Legalist Jesus

Strengths of the Book

The book is balanced. Darling spares no one’s toes from a hard stomping. Political conservatives and liberals will be equally challenged or offended by Darling’s words. His call to a biblical view of Jesus challenges us to lay aside our agendas to accept for Him who He is. In accepting Him for Who He is, we will also be about His mission and agenda, what Darling refers to in the final chapter as a “Gospel-centered life”.

Another strength is the writing style. Darling’s writing is like an engaging conversation. Darling manages to deal with serious issues in a whimsical and appealing manner.

Also, the book is useful to Americans seeking to work cross-culturally. Having lived and worked in cross-cultural settings, I am sensitive to the fact that the themes of Darling’s book are specific to the U.S. context. It would not appeal to a Christian from another culture. However, it would be useful to people going overseas for either short-term or long-term missions. One of the challenges in cross-cultural work is separating cultural baggage from the gospel message. Darling’s chapter titles reveal much of the cultural baggage we carry with us into cross-cultural settings.

Weaknesses of the Book

I never thought I would say this about anyone’s writing (even my own), but Darling’s book is too short. I would have liked for Darling to exegete the cultural issues underlying the myths that are attached to Jesus. Often, these myths represent an attempt to address certain fears or concerns. While Darling does so to some extent, I would love more explanation of how the true, original Jesus meets those needs more than the mythical Jesus that we create.


The weakness is a minor one flowing more from my preference than from any fault with the book or the author. I recommend this book to anyone interested in proclaiming Jesus in our present day culture. The corrections and warnings of the book are important ones to hear.