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Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History Hardcover – November 1, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 588 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801035856
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801035852
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,047,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Do the gospels contain "the gospel truth"? The answer depends on how you define truth and whether you're willing to see beyond evangelical assumptions about the historicity of the canonical Jesus stories to a higher, more fully realized truth, according to author Dale Allison Jr. (see InProfile in this issue). To Allison, the gospels and the abundance of extrabiblical sources constitute a rich, heady brew of fact and fiction, all of which must be read not as a strictly historical record but as the collective memory of a people whose experience and dedication would define the direction of history. Allison, who is on the faculty of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, insists that efforts to reconstruct a purely historical narrative from the gospels are not just impossible but irrelevant. Looking beyond notions of inerrancy and consistency, the author convincingly presents a richly nuanced view of Jesus Christ and the birth of Christianity. The result is a feast to be savored. (Nov.)
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From the Back Cover

"This is vintage Allison: masterful in his marshaling and exposition of sources, thorough in his interaction with contemporary and opposing views, and robust and persuasive in his argumentation."--James D. G. Dunn, Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University

"Lucid, far-ranging, and quietly authoritative, Dale Allison's Constructing Jesus is required reading for scholars, students, and anyone who wants to understand where this most recent phase of the Quest has led us. Once I started, I could not put it down--nor could I stop thinking about its arguments once I finished. This is an important work."--Paula Fredriksen, Aurelio Professor of Scripture, Boston University

"Dale Allison has written another brilliant book. He manages to dissect technical, complicated subjects and then present them to his readers with remarkable clarity and simplicity. Constructing Jesus will be read with great benefit by scholars, pastors, students, and laity. Readers will find everywhere in this book mastery of the topic, judicious assessment of the options, and invariably sensible and compelling conclusions. If you are interested in learning more about the historical Jesus, then you must read this book."--Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College

"In Constructing Jesus, Dale Allison's erudite historical acumen is matched by the simple elegance of his compelling case. Rarely has reasoned judgment sounded so commonsensical. This book deserves to be one of the few to set the course for the next generation of historical-Jesus scholarship."--Bruce W. Longenecker, W. W. Melton Chair of Religion, Baylor University

"Displaying jaw-dropping acquaintance with primary evidence and the oceanic body of scholarship on Jesus, a sweet reasonableness toward the complexities involved, and just plain good judgment time after time on controverted issues, Constructing Jesus is essential reading for anyone concerned with the scholarly approach to the Jesus of history."--L. W. Hurtado, professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology; New College, University of Edinburgh

"This book rightly presents Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet. Elaborating this definition into a more detailed portrait, Allison pushes the envelope by exploring new methods and ideas. These detailed conclusions may be controversial, but the book is a must read for anyone interested in the historical Jesus."--Adela Yarbro Collins, Buckingham Professor of New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, Yale Divinity School

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Loren Rosson III on November 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Outstanding sequels are rare, third sequels even rarer, but trust Dale Allison to deliver against the odds. Constructing Jesus caps off the author's work begun in Millenarian Prophet and the even more impressive Resurrecting Jesus, and is a powerhouse presentation of an apocalyptic Jesus who had exalted thoughts about himself, and saw death coming at him and didn't run away. Taken as a whole, the trilogy -- but especially this book -- puts to bed fantasies of a non-apocalyptic Jesus, and calls for new ways of assessing the Jesus traditions in place of the classic criteria.

The first part, "Memories of Jesus", covers the fallibility of memory, and is a healthy antidote to monographs which treat the gospels as robust eyewitness accounts. "Even where the gospels preserve memories, those memories cannot be pristine; they must often be dim or muddled or just plain wrong." At the same time, the Jesus tradition is saturated with certain themes, motifs, and rhetorical strategies, and it is in these places that the historian should expect to find at least some reliable memory. Frequently attested themes point to something more promising, albeit more generally, than multiply attested sayings & deeds (pp 19-20), about which no consensus can be reached regarding authenticity.

The second part, "The Eschatology of Jesus", revisits arguments from the previous two books, but with more muscle and finality. Again we see, beyond a reasonable doubt, that if we can't trust the massive traditions of apocalyptic eschatology, then we can't say anything about Jesus at all.
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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful By S. Carr on October 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is ground breaking work which will revolutionise how historians do history.

Dale Allison's masterful demonstration on pages 417-418 that Romans 8:15 has an echo of Jesus being distressed in Gethsemane made a powerful impression on me, and made me reconsider how history should be done.

Allison states on page 418 that the urgency of Paul's word for `cry' well suits the description of Jesus in the garden who is `distressed' and `agitated.'

This demonstration of the historicity of the distress of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is a striking example of how historians should approach texts, and one that historians outside the field of New Testament studies should learn from.

Dale Allison also points out on page 419 the astonishing similarity in language between Colossians 4:2 `Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.' and the language in Mark 14:38, providing another striking example of how the distress of Jesus in the garden must be historical.

I quote from page 425 of Dale Allison 'Constructing Jesus' where he points out that a real historian accepts things as historical if he cannot see from a distance of 2000 years since date of writing why anybody would make them up.

'Some have urged that at least a few of the stories are likely to mirror real events because they cannot be derived from the Jewish Bible and because there is no obvious motivation for Christian invention: conscription of a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, to carry Jesus cross; crucifixion by order of Pontius Pilate; execution at a place known as Golgotha, the prescence of female followers at the cross, burial by a Jewish official, Joseph of Arimathea.

To my mind the argument is substantive, and since I have not, with regard to the items just listed, run across effective counterarguments, I accept them as likely historical.'
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Rob Barnacle on March 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very scholarly, but VERY dry reading too. If you're looking for a book that uses scholarship to confirm traditional gospel-centered views of Christ, this is NOT the book. The author takes a detached approach and breaks down every part of Jesus' life, person and tells you what objective historical analysis says about each particular part of the gospel story. Great read if you're confused about guys like Ehrman who seemingly pick and choose what parts of the gospels they think portray real history and what parts are only pious accounts. This book gives you the background scholarship on more popular books such as those by Ehrman and Geza Vermes. Good read. Just long and dry. Which was no real issue for me. I give it four stars due to it not taking the traditional views of Jesus very seriously.
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8 of 17 people found the following review helpful By C. Wagner on December 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you love footnotes, bibliographies, and indices, this is the book for you.
If you believe every word of your old and new testament is divinely inspired by God, then this is obviously a tool of Satan.
But, if you are interested in a scholarly approach of how the gospels came to be as they are now, then this serious tome is worthy of your attention. (You could take a reallllly long time just checking the author's references.)
This is probably as deep as the casual reader will wish to go. But the scholar, I am sure, will find Allison Jr's research a completment to continued learning.
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3 of 38 people found the following review helpful By TheoBooks on May 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Is NT scholarship intended to bring us closer to Jesus? Or hold him at a distance? I submit the reality of Allison's book is the latter, regardless of his own understanding of the project.
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