Controversial biblical scholar Crossan restates his thesis that the Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus tell us more about the polemics of the early Christians than about what really happened. For Crossan (Biblical Studies/DePaul Univ.; Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, 1994, etc.) Jesus was the leader of a liberation movement that contrasted itself with Rome by seeking to empower rather than dominate people. He argues that the accounts of Jesus' trial, death, and especially resurrection are fiction, a patchwork of themes drawn from the prophets and written down as history. Moreover, he sees the role attributed to the Jews in Jesus' condemnation as reflecting a much later historical situation, when the vast majority of Jews had rejected the Christians' claims that Jesus was their messiah. This book is essentially a polemical reply to Raymond Brown's acclaimed Death of the Messiah and a popularization of Crossan's earlier study The Cross that Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative. Crossan takes fierce issue with Brown, who holds that the various agendas at work in the passion narratives do not mean that they lack a strong historical basis. Crossan's pages are marred by his frequent sardonic references to Brown, and although he argues his case well, it stands or falls according to whether the reader accepts his highly reductionist position that the supernatural, or even the unusual, could not have happened. Inevitably, Crossan's reasoning comes across as circular, and even arrogant, when he pronounces on events that are presupposed to be unique by an appeal to his own reading of what is ``more likely'' to have happened. Thus he holds that a nobody like Jesus could never have had a trial before Roman governor Pilate and that his crucified body was probably eaten by dogs from a shallow grave. Brilliant writing in the service of a disappointingly dogmatic positivism.