David Boulton

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DAVID  BOULTON        Author  -  Writer  -  Broadcaster





Who on Earth was Jesus?


Foreword by Richard Holloway

O Books (John Hunt Publishing), Winchester (UK), Washington (USA), £14.99, US$24.99  ISBN 978-1-84694-018-7

Publication March/April 2008 Full print order sold out within five days of US publication! Reprinted March 2008



A comprehensive study of all the principal contemporary schools of historical Jesus scholarship.


Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh: “Brilliant and timely... Everyone ought to read it, especially those with no sympathy for religion and its crazier adherents... Boulton is an investigative journalist by trade, and here he sets out to find out what historians have discovered when they have gone searching for the man scholars describe as the Jesus of History before he became the Christ of Faith. On this level alone the book is an enormous achievement... What you get is a vivid description of what scholars have said in the past, and what living scholars are saying today... Apart from the excitement of the story of the scholarly quest itself, the book will be a useful resource for people who want a one-volume guide to a multi-volume industry. It’s all here, and it’s as up-to-date as you are likely to get... But there is a deeper level to this book: does the Jesus you see down the well of history come in peace, or with an axe in his hand? As the passionate conclusion to this fine book demonstrates, this is a question that’s important to us all.”  

Marcus Borg, internationally renowned historian of Christian origins: “The best and most thorough account of the breadth and variety of historical Jesus scholarship. Boulton’s writing is lively, his perceptions informed, and his judgments fair. Highly recommended.”

Henry Wansbrough, General Editor of the New Jerusalem Bible and former chair of the Oxford Faculty of Theology, writes in Sofia journal: "At no level, popular, student or specialist, have I encountered so comprehensive and comprehensible a presentation of the issues involved... It is a book which should be not merely read, but fought over until it is dog-eared and tattered. David Boulton has performed an important service to gospel studies which will be appreciated and argued over by Christians and non-Christians alike."

LLOYD GEERING, radical Christian scholar: “An exhaustive survey of the wide-ranging academic views of who Jesus was, all fairly and objectively summarised; scholarly in presentation, yet lucidly written for non-academic readers, who will find this a unique treasure; the whole is a masterly achievement, with a challenging conclusion.”

Publishers Weekly 
The US book trade bible, previewed it as follows, awarding its top three-star rating: "An amazingly good synthesis, wide-ranging and even-handed, comprehensible and comprehensive, unbiased and without proselytizing. Not to be missed."

MURRAY WATSON writes in The Catholic Register (Canada), February 22 2009:

“To get an accurate sense of the sweep of [historical Jesus] scholarship would require one to read hundreds of books. Or one could simply pick up David Boulton’s new book, Who on Earth was Jesus?... an extremely helpful reader’s guide to the key trends and authors in the field. Boulton has done an immense service to the reading public by tracing the various scholarly theories and schools of thought in this highly complex area of study.

“His book, however, is more than just a ‘who’s who’ of Jesus scholarship. It also provides an excellent overview of modern New Testament study in general, explaining sources and methods, terminology and major manuscript discoveries... These alone would make Boulton’s text a useful guide for any New Testament student to keep close at hand...

“The genius of this book, however, lies in its ability to accurately and concisely present the ideas of more than 20 prominent scholars whose work is representative of main currents of thought... in a way that is remarkably even-handed and fair...

“Such an approach always risks oversimplification of complex ideas. But Boulton has a remarkably good grasp of the material and his abbreviated versions certainly invite people to explore the author’s original work. I suspect that many of his readers will discover a wealth of thought-provoking and intriguing ideas they will want to pursue further...

“An excellent volume... accurate, informed and witty, Who on Earth was Jesus? succeeds admirably in doing what few have had the courage to attempt.”


To order, see notes at the end of this booklist



The Trouble with God: Building the Republic of Heaven


O Books (John Hunt Pub.), Winchester (UK), Washington (USA). £11.99, US$24.95

ISBN 1 905047 06-1

First edition 2002, international revised and expanded edition 2005


Three stories. First, the author’s journey from religious fundamentalism to religious humanism.  Second, God’s journey from badly-behaved tribal monster-deity to an idealisation of human values, incarnated within the wholly human spirit. Third, the building of the republic of heaven, “which is our goal when kingdoms are no more, and all the responsibility is ours”.

Don Cupitt, Cambridge philosopher of religion: “David Boulton is a highly entertaining writer, with a great gift of being funny and serious at once.”

David Hart, Fellow, Westar Institute: “Fascinatingly shows how a radical perspective on religion can bring together the religious and the humanist... An engaged and cogent expression of the human/divine vision in modern thought.”

Richard Holloway, former Bishop of Edinburgh: “Exactly like its author: affectionate, sane, learned and extremely funny.

Tony Benn, humanist and socialist: “Written with clarity and sensitivity, this book will make sense to a lot of people who might describe themselves as lapsed atheists, doubtful about Christian doctrine but believing that there must be more to life than a purely materialist journey... I recommend it to all who, whatever their personal faith may be, think deeply about the meaning of our existence and want to be stimulated and refreshed.”

Modern Believing called it “A wonderful repository of religious understanding and a liberal theologian’s delight”. Quaker Theology wrote: “Boulton’s presentation moves deftly from autobiography to religious history, lucidly through the twists of theology since the Enlightenment, and amusingly to the quirky debates among religious humanists, writing with flair throughout.” The Humanist said it “argues for a liberal, undogmatic humanism, never slow to counteract dogmatic, supernaturalist religion when it rears its ugly head, but eager to seek out allies among all true believers in Blake’s ‘mercy, pity, peace and love’.”

A Quaker reviewer wrote: "So inspiring, so uplifting, so hopeful, so funny, so erudite and so easy to read that I haven't been able to read anything else since I opened it... It really spoke to my condition. Although I have long felt that God was shorthand for what was best and most noble in the human character, I had not investigated my own feelings about God with anything like the clarity and insight that this book has helped me towards... I will remember what I have learned from it for a very long time, if not for ever."


Real Like the Daisies or Real Like I Love You?
Essays in Radical Quakerism

Currently out of print, but available from Amazon.

Dales Historical Monographs, Dent (UK), 2005, £7.50. ISBN 0-9511578-5-X

Published in association with the Quaker Universalist Group (UK)



What do we mean by “God” in the 21st century? If we say God is “real”, do we mean the reality of things that have an independent existence, like daisies, or the reality of wholly human values like love, compassion, beauty and justice? These are the questions tackled in the title essay, the first of 15 which explore radical Quaker and religious humanist ideas in our secular postmodern age. Other essays include “What on Earth is Religious Humanism?”, studies of faith and fantasy in Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, “Fiction, Theology and the Critical Postmodernist”, the writings of Gerrard Winstanley, and “The Ten Suggestions”

Anne Ashworth, Editor of Universalist, wrote: “If you know anything about David Boulton you will know how lightly he wears his erudition, and with what wit.”

[The essay on Winstanley, together with one on “The Quaker Military Alliance” exploring the links between early Friends and Cromwell’s New Model Army, have been reprinted by the Quaker Universalist Fellowship (USA) as Militant Seedbeds of Early Quakerism, 2005. Details: www.universalistfriends.org or email QUF@sylvania.net]

To order, see notes at the end of this booklist



Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up [Editor]
Sea of Faith Network (UK), 2000, £3.00 inc. p&p

A magazine-format miscellany of extracts from writings about Jesus  by “scholars, would-be scholars, poets, essayists, and even theologians”, from Ignatius and Celsus to Keats, Shelley, Dennis Potter and Oscar Wilde. Illustrated.


Available only from Sea of Faith Network (UK), www.sofn.org.uk


Gerrard Winstanley and the Republic of Heaven

Foreword by Michael Foot

Dales Historical Monographs, Dent (UK), 1999, £9. ISBN 0-9511578-4-1

A comprehensive study of all 20 books and pamphlets by the 17th century leader of the True Levellers and Diggers, whose radical liberation theology fed into Quakerism, socialism and modern religious humanism.

Michael Foot, former Leader of the Labour Party, writes in his Foreword: “David Boulton demonstrates that Winstanley’s vision, his enabling dream, is not fixed and confined in a romantic past but remains relevant today, despite all the convulsive changes of the intervening centuries.”

To order, see notes at the end of this booklist






In Fox’s Footsteps: a Journey Through Three Centuries

[with Anthea Boulton]

Dales Historical Monographs, Dent (UK), 1998, £9.50.  ISBN 0-9511578-2-5

First published 1998, reprinted 2002. New edition published June 1 2008 at

Not one but three adventurous journeys; first, a fresh retelling, with much new material, of George Fox’s 1652 “Fox-trot” from Pendle Hill to Swarthmoor; secondly, the Boultons’ own Fox-trot in 1994, following their radical reconstruction of Fox’s route; and thirdly, the long journey from the intellectual world of the 1650s to that of the 21st century. After 350 years of scientific, political, religious, philosophical and psychological revolutions, how relevant are the insights of Fox and his revolutionary band today?

Anne Ashworth, Editor, Universalist, wrote: “It is precisely this mixture which makes the book so engrossing. It is packed with erudition, but all carried effortlessly by the Foxtrot narrative... The constant commerce between then and now both exemplifies and symbolises what is made explicit in the last chapter, which I found extremely lucid and satisfying as the book tracks from Fox to the present.”

The Friend called it “an absorbing book, a breath of fresh air... David Boulton’s history is allusive and user-friendly. He often questions traditions... Quakerism is seen as a natural inheritor of the revolutionary views of Winstanley and earlier rebels... The final chapter is a masterly estimate of the values we may have salvaged from those early years.”

To order, see notes at the end of this booklist

The Faith of a Quaker Humanist

Quaker Universalist Group pamphlet # 26, 1997, £2.50

An early attempt to explain “Quaker humanism”, developed in more detail in later essays.

Available only from QUG, www.qug.org.uk


A Reasonable Faith: Introducing the Sea of Faith Network

Sea of Faith Network (UK), 1996, £2

Then editor of Sea of Faith magazine, David Boulton wrote this introduction to the non-denominational and interfaith network which explores and promotes religious faith as a human creation. “Here, an imaginative humanism and a rational, non-supernatural view of religious experience meet to generate a fresh understanding of human meaning and purpose in an age which is said to have seen the ‘death of God’.” First published in 1996, reprinted in 1997 and 2000, it remains after 12 years the Network’s official promotional pamphlet.

Available only from Sea of Faith (UK), www.sofn.org.uk


Early Friends in Dent: The English Revolution in a Dales Community

Dales Historical Monographs, Dent (UK), 1986

Only 500 copies were produced of this detailed micro-history of Quakerism in Dentdale, Yorkshire, from the 1650s to 1690s. It has long been out of print and second-hand copies are rare. Try Holletts Antiquarian Bookshop, hollett@sedbergh.demon.co.uk


“Looking Within: a Nontheist Perspective”, in Good and Evil: Quaker Perspectives, edited by Jackie Leach Scully and Pink Dandelion (Ashgate, Aldershot UK and Burlington VT, USA), 2007.

“This is My Song”, in This is My Story, Sea of Faith Network (UK), 1998.

“The Diversity of Truth”, in Sounding the Depths, edited by Harvey Gillman and Alastair Heron (Quaker Home Service, UK), 1996.

“Public Policy and Politics in Fox’s Thought”, in New Light on George Fox, edited by Michael Mullett (Sessions, York), 1991.

AVAILABILITY:  Unless otherwise stated, books may be ordered from any bookshop quoting title, author, publisher and ISBN number.  The Quaker Bookshops in London (bookshop@quaker.org.uk) and Philadelphia (www.fgcquaker.org) usually hold stocks for immediate despatch. For O Books publications enquire at www.o-books.net and for Dales Historical Monographs books and general queries email dboultondent@btinternet.com. Usual trade discounts available.