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George Albert Wells (born May 22 1926), usually known as G. A. Wells, is an Emeritus Professor of German at Birkbeck, University of Londonmarker. He is best known as an advocate of the theory that Jesus is a largely mythical rather than a historical figure.

Wells is a former Chairman of the Rationalist Press Association. He is married and lives in St. Albansmarker, near London. He studied at the University of London and Bernmarker, and holds degrees in German, philosophy, and natural science. He has taught German at London University since 1949, and has been Professor of German at Birkbeck College since 1968.

Work on early Christianity

Wells suggested that the earliest extant Christian documents from the first century, most notably the New Testament epistles by Paul and some other writers, show no familiarity with the Gospel tradition of Jesus as a preacher and miracle-worker who lived and died in the recent decades. Rather, they present him "as a basically supernatural personage only obscurely on Earth as a man at some unspecified period in the past". Wells believed that the Jesus of these earliest Christians is not based on a historical character, but a pure myth, derived from the mystical speculations based on the Jewish Wisdom tradition. According to Wells, the Gospel tradition was a later stage of the development of the Jesus myth, which was given a concrete historical setting and subsequently embellished with more and more details.

Wells allows for the possibility that certain elements of the Gospel traditions might be based on a historical figure from the first-century Palestine: "[T]he Galilean and the Cynic elements ... may contain a core of reminiscences of an itinerant Cynic-type Galilean preacher (who, however, is certainly not to be identified with the Jesus of the earliest Christian documents)." However, Wells insists that this line of first-century traditions is separate from the sacrificial Christ myth of Paul's epistles and other early documents, and that these two traditions have different origins. Wells concludes that the reconstruction of this historical figure from the extant literature would be a hopeless task. Co-author R. Joseph Hoffmann has called Wells "the most articulate contemporary defender of the non-historicity thesis."

Wells' claim of a mythical Jesus has received support from Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price and others. The classical historian R. E. Witt, reviewing The Jesus of the Early Christians in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, offered some criticisms but concluded that "Hellenists should welcome the appearance of this challenging book.", while Wells' conclusions have been criticized by some other historians, such as W. H. C. Frend. In response to Grant, Michael Martin "defend[ed] Wells against critics who dismiss his hypothesis."

In his book 'The Jesus Myth' (1999), Wells departed from his earlier insistence that there was no historical figure at the basis the Jesus of the gospels, acknowledging the Q document as early historical evidence. However, Wells still argues that Paul's Jesus was "a heavenly, pre-existent figure who had come to earth at some uncertain point in the past and lived an obscure life, perhaps one or two centuries before his own time." and was called a Christ Myth theorist by Price and was said to be an "eminently worthy successor to extreme Christ Myth theorists" by Price on the back cover of Can We Trust the New Testament?"


German intellectual history

His major works in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German language thought and letters are
  • Herder and After: A Study in the Development of Sociology (Gravenhage, Mouton, 1959)
  • The Plays of Grillparzer (Pergamon Press, 1969) ISBN 0-08-012950-1
  • Goethe and the Development of Science, 1750-1900 (Sijthoff & Noordhoff, 1978) ISBN 90-286-0538-X
  • The Origin of Language: Aspects of the Discussion from Condillac to Wundt. (Open Court Publishing Company, 1987) ISBN 0-8126-9029-X

Early Christianity

  • The Jesus of the Early Christians, (Pemberton, 1971) ISBN 0-301-71014-7
  • Did Jesus Exist? (Prometheus Books, 1975; second edition 1986) ISBN 0-87975-086-3 (first edition), ISBN 0-87975-395-1 (second edition)
  • The Historical Evidence for Jesus (Prometheus Books, 1982) ISBN 0-87975-180-0
  • Religious Postures: Essays on Modern Christian Apologists and Religious Problems (Open Court, 1988) ISBN 0-8126-9070-2
  • Who Was Jesus? A Critique of the New Testament Record (Open Court, 1989) ISBN 0-8126-9096-6
  • Belief and Make-Believe: Critical Reflections on the Sources of Credulity (Open Court, 1991) ISBN 0-8126-9188-1
  • What's in a Name? Reflections on Language, Magic and Religion (Open Court, 1993) ISBN 0-8126-9239-X
  • The Jesus Legend (foreword by R. Joseph Hoffmann) (Open Court, 1996) ISBN 0-8126-9334-5
  • The Jesus Myth (Open Court, 1999) ISBN 0-8126-9392-2
  • Can We Trust the New Testament?: Thoughts on the Reliability of Early Christian Testimony (Open Court, 2004) ISBN 0-8126-9567-4
  • Cutting Jesus Down to Size: What Higher Criticism Has Achieved and Where It Leaves Christianity (Open Court, 2009) ISBN 0-8126-9656-5

See also


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