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Excellent Introduction to Jesus Research
on June 28, 2001
The subtitle 'A Comprehensive Guide' is well-earned. Amazon.com incorrectly lists its length as 624 pages; in actuality, it is 642 pages long, and every page is large. There is plenty of information here on almost every aspect of Jesus research. The book consists of the following sixteen chapters.
1. The Quest of the Historical Jesus
2. Christian Sources about Jesus
3. The Non-Christian Sources about Jesus
4. The Evaluation of the Sources: Historical Scepticism and the Study of Jesus
5. The Historical and Religious Framework of the Life of Jesus
6. The Chronological Framework of the Life of Jesus
7. The Geographical and Social Framework of the Life of Jesus
8. Jesus as Charismatic: Jesus and his Social Relationships
9. Jesus as Prophet: Jesus' Eschatology
10. Jesus as Healer: The Miracles of Jesus
11. Jesus as Poet: The Parables of Jesus
12. Jesus as Teacher: The Ethics of Jesus
13. Jesus as the Founder of a Cult: The Last Supper and the Primitive Christian Eucharist
14. Jesus as Martyr: The Passion of Jesus
15. The Risen Jesus: Easter and its Interpretations
16. The Historical Jesus and the Beginnings of Christology
Finally, there is a retrospect in which a short life of Jesus is presented.
This work was created with use as a textbook in mind. At the end of each chapter, there are 'Tasks' required of the reader that encourage a direct participation in the interpretation of the primary source materials. While it is suited for use in the classroom, it is also easily adaptable to personal study. Each chapter can be easily covered in a convenient session of a couple hours. There are extensive bibliographic notes for further study in particular topics.
The following historical facts about Jesus emerge from _The Historical Jesus_:
1. Jesus was from Galilee (p. 164).
2. Jesus was baptized by John (p. 207).
3. Jesus performed exorcisms and healings (p. 301, p. 304).
4. Jesus was accused of being in league with the devil (p. 76, p. 297).
5. His family thought him to be mad (p. 570, p. 582).
6. Jesus rejected an overestimation of himself as 'good teacher' (p. 558).
7. Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God; e.g., the logion concerning 'Taking the kingdom by storm' (p. 580).
8. Jesus spoke most of the parables that have been preserved (p. 338).
9. Jesus said something against the Temple cult (p. 432).
10. The disciples of Jesus fled at his arrest (p. 428).
11. Jesus was crucified with the titulus 'The King of the Jews' (p. 458).
12. The disciples were disappointed that Jesus did not 'redeem Israel' (p. 428).
One possible weakness of the book is that it offers no over-arching explanation or model for the historical Jesus. Rather, the book investigates each aspect of Jesus ('Jesus as...') more or less individually. On the other hand, this may be considered a strength, especially given that the real Jesus himself is not a cardboard cut-out figure but rather an actual human being. This is brought out beautifully in another book by Theissen, _The Shadow of the Galilean_.