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Christ: A Biography of God as Man Hardcover – October 1, 2001


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Bucking the trend of books about "the historical Jesus," Jack Miles offers a purely literary reading of the New Testament--rendering Jesus as a character whose history spans all of time, from the beginning to the end. Continuing the work begun in his Pulitzer prize-winning God: A Biography, Miles considers the New Testament the next chapter of an ongoing story. The central question of this chapter is, "Why does [God] become a man?" In Miles's reading, God "has something appalling to say that he can say only by humiliating himself." The world's inherent flaws, its pervasive injustice and cruelty, comprise "a great crime" for which someone must pay. "Mythologically read, the New Testament is the story of how someone, the right someone, does pay for it." As God, in the form of Christ, pays the price for His own mistakes, the crucifixion "saves us from the violence that we might otherwise feel justified in inflicting on one another." Ingeniously argued and masterfully paced, this book presents an original and unsettling portrait of Christ. Whatever readers think of Miles's premise--that God is heroic but not saintly--the book will certainly force them to reexamine Christ's relevance to moral life. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In God: A Biography, Miles observed that God undergoes remarkable changes in the biblical narrative, moving from action to silence. In this astonishing new book, Miles applies the same method to Jesus, God Incarnate, with even more remarkable results, arguing that "the changing of the mind of God is the great subject, the epic argument, of the Christian Bible." Engaging in close readings of the Gospels (particularly John's), as well as sweeping impressions of the entire Bible, Miles intriguingly shows that God's incarnation in humanity was a way of talking once again to God's people. After Israel experienced defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, God promised to defeat this enemy, restoring Israel. But, forgetting this promise, God allowed Israel to continue to suffer, even as God struggled to address the situation in a different, less violent way. Miles argues that when God became human in Jesus of Nazareth, God suffered with Israel, and offered some revolutionary new teachings that indicate a change of mind. As God Incarnate, Jesus taught humanity that he must die in order to bring about a restored paradise. Weaving philosophy and literature into his reflections on the Bible, Miles offers literary perspectives on the life of Christ that are at once provocative and revelatory. After reading this book, one can never look at God, Jesus or the Bible in quite the same way. (Nov. 5)Forecast: Miles's God: A Biography nabbed a Pulitzer Prize and enjoyed exceptional sales; Knopf hopes that this follow-up, which is a selection of the BOMC, History Book Club and QPB, will achieve similar heights. The title will launch with a 60,000-copy print run.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: William Heinemann; 1St Edition edition (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0434007374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0434007370
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 9.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,790,193 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Have fun reading *Christ: a Crisis in the Life of God*!
Therese
Miles' book attempts to interpret the Gospels through formal literary criticism.
Jeremy Garber
This is a book I will likely read again at a future date.
A. J. Valasek

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. David on November 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
By Miles' own admission, his approach is strictly literary and he has even coined the term "theography" to more properly describe his approach. Miles attempted in his first book to view the character of God in the Tanakh (the Jewish version of the Old Testament, which is in a different order than in the Bible that Christians use) as one would view a character in any literary work. God goes through doubt, conflict, remorse, even depression in Miles' reading of the Jewish scriptures, ending in an uneasy peace and a centuries-long silence. It is almost as if God is trying to figure out what the hell he's going to do next.
In the "sequel," Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God, God breaks his silence. God had promised his chosen nation, Israel, that he would return them to their homeland out of exile and demolish their enemies with glorious military victory. This was the currency of the day for gods, and Jehovah was not one to be one-upped. However, the crisis in the title deals with the fact that God does not keep his promise. Being the creator of the universe, one does not suspect that he can not keep it, so the only other option is that he chooses not to. Indeed, a Nazi-equivalent holocaust will soon strike his people and his nation. God not only will go back on his promise--he will do so in spades. But why? The answer to this question is to be found in reading the whole book, and a synopsis cannot do it justice, but in a phrase: he has thought of a better way.
God comes to earth, in the form of a baby, turning his sublime Self into the ridiculous humiliation of an infant being born with all that blood and pain, entering the world to the smell of manger droppings -- the Lord of Hosts, completely dependent on the world just to stay alive.
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62 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Garber on December 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Miles' book attempts to interpret the Gospels through formal literary criticism. Rather than attaching historical study to the Gospels' message, Miles treats Jesus and his message purely through the text, and comes to a startling conclusion -- that Jesus' death was necessary because God failed to deliver on God's promise to the Israelites, and needed a way to triumph on a metaphysical level.
Whether or not one agrees with Miles' premise, he writes brilliantly and understandably. Recent Biblical scholarship gets bogged down in dry-as-dust unintelligible "academicese." Miles understands the principles of clear and succint writing while still advancing complicated theories. I recommend this one for anyone seeking to stretch their understanding of what we have received as Scripture, as well as those interested in literature and how it relates to the Bible. Like him or not, read Miles to get your brain working.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Therese on May 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jack Miles, author of the Pulitzer Prize - winning *God -a Biogaphy* has written an excellent literary analysis of Christ in the New Testament.
What is the "crisis" referred to in the title? The crisis is that God has not delivered his Chosen People from 500 years of oppression. How does God solve this problem? Answer: God/Christ commits sacred suicide. This is Miles' provocative conclusion from his stirictly literary analysis the Christian Bible. How does Miles arrive at the conclusion? You, dear reader, should read the book in order to appreciate how he develops his plot and arrives at his conclusion. And believe me, there is a plot!
A caution is in order. Miles writes and studies Christ from a strictly literary point of view. He is not interested in the historical Jesus. If one reads this only to learn about the fundamentalist Jesus, the traditional Christian Jesus, or the historical Jesus, then this book will not satisfy! If on the other hand, you want to experience a great Biblical reading adventure, then buy and read this book!
I also would recommend that a reader, who is unfamiliar with literary critism and postmodernism, study and read Miles' appendices. "Appendix I" deals with the biblical canon and "Appendix II" deals with the history of critcal analysis of the Bible (e.g. historical criticism, canonical criticism, literary critcism)and how to appreciate the Bible as art.
I did not always agree with the author, but I enjoyed how he told the story of Christ. As a postmodern Christian, I will not privilege my reading over his.
Have fun reading *Christ: a Crisis in the Life of God*!
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By reason on January 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Pulitzer prize winning author Jack Miles, who wrote "God: A Biography", has finished in this work what he started in the other: a biographical analysis of God that developes both his character and characteristics throughout the writings of the old and new testaments. Written from a literary critic's perspective, Miles makes its clear from the beginning that his is not a historical or theological exegesis---something some reviewers have been in error to have expected. As such, Miles freely allows his character to to go where the literature of the bible takes him and to evolve plotwise from expectant creator, to general and ogre, to finally a loving father..
The outstanding contribution of Mile's book is the way it traces God's role from Israel's defender, to Israel's punisher, to finally the impotent (in this world) suffering servant who crucifies himself just before the entire country is about to be crucified along with him in the 70 AD and 135 AD rebellions against Rome. One can clearly see the changing motifs of the biblical writers as promise after promise in the bible fails to materialize and they are forced to literarily justify these failings in order to protect the integrity of their god. In the end, God's power is shifted to the next world and away from this one, in much the same way that Paul's theology shifted the second coming from this world to the next when it became obvious that it wasnt going to happen within his lifetime (read 1st Cor, 7:29). Miles, true to his committment to not render historical or theological conclusions, never explicitly says this, but it is obvious to anyone carefully reading the text.
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