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The Historical Jesus of the Gospels Hardcover – November 3, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J.
-- Catholic University of America
"With critical acumen, Craig Keener presents a comprehensive account of the study of the historical Jesus. It will be a boon for all readers -- inquisitive laypeople, pastors, students of the Gospels, and biblical colleagues."

James H. Charlesworth
-- Princeton Theological Seminary
"Keener proves why the Evangelists' view of Jesus is preferable to most modern constructs: the Gospels, as ancient biographies, reflect eyewitness accounts of Jesus and provide the only valid sources for reconstructing the historical Jesus. . . . This book is exceptional for its breadth and its captivating prose."

Gerd Theissen
-- University of Heidelberg
"Historical Jesus research has developed in the last decades from a 'postminimalism' concerning the authenticity of Jesus traditions to a new 'moderate confidence' in the historicity of the Gospels. Craig Keener's book is both a milestone and a boundary stone in this development. By contextualizing the sources of Jesus research and Jesus himself, Keener succeeds in increasing the historical plausibility of the Gospels to a degree that is exceptional among critical exegetes. Therefore this book must be read and taken seriously -- both by those exegetes who are reluctant to support this 'historical-critical maximalism' in Jesus research and by those reluctant to contextualize Jesus in such a way. But both will enjoy reading what Keener has written with an open and critical mind." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Craig Keener is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky. Recognized for his expertise in the early Jewish and Greco-Roman context of early Christianity, he is the author of many books, including The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary and The Gospel of John: A Commentary (two volumes). Three of his books have won awards and together have sold over half a million copies.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 876 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802862926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802862921
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.6 x 2.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #730,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Craig Keener is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky. Three of his many books have won national awards, and his background commentary has sold over half a million copies (including electronic copies and translations). Craig is married to Dr. Medine Moussounga Keener, who holds a Ph.D. from University of Paris 7. She was a refugee for 18 months in her nation of Congo, and together Craig and Médine work for ethnic reconciliation in the U.S. and Africa.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Here's the oddest thing about current biblical scholarship: even as the public laps up hilarious idiocy like 'The DaVinci Code', even as PBS and Peter Jennings' infamous documentary and the History channel cough out anti-Christian documentaries, even as the newly atheist 18 year old college student insists Christianity is based on pagan mystery religions, the orthodox scholars involved in actual biblical scholarship are beating the stuff and nonsense out of the liberals. Go figure.

Anyone who doubts that can pick up this book for proof.

Keener is calm, polite, and thorough as he demolishes the arguments of liberal scholars. Best of all, Keener writes so clearly that anyone, even someone with no background in scholarship, could pick up this book and read it.

Keener gives the background of the hunt for the historical Jesus and then sets out systematically to show how liberal theories were shown wrong.

Apocryphal gospels? "Most scholars recognize that the apocryphal gospels...bear...similarities to ancient novels...In contrast to Luke's Acts, the apocryphal acts date from the heyday of the Greek romances" (p 50). Gnostic gospels are late compared to Christian gospels and aimed at "an academic elite" (p 52), not the general public. The Gnostic gospels rely on information given in Christian documents.

Thomas, so beloved by the Jesus Seminar, has recently been shown by Perrin to bear "numerous characteristics of Syriac Christianity from the second half of the second century" (p 56).

Keener also discusses Burridge's bombshell of a book arguing that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John follow the Greco-Roman bioi. Ancient history writers aimed at finding the truth. They "harshly criticized other historians who...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The scholarship in this book is so thorough that I don't even know where to begin. The one thing I will say: it is a must read book on the historical Jesus! There are many books that I have read on historical Jesus studies (from both sides of the fence). But rarely (with the exception of Dale Allison) have any achieved the scholarship that is contained in Keener's tome. So, what makes Keener's book so different from the others?

Well, (despite one reviewer that says otherwise) Keener is very objective in his scholarship. He seems to heed critical scholarship when it might not suit his Christian fancies. For instance, Keener thinks Jesus was an obvious Eschatological Prophet and even seems to hint that Jesus' eschatology involved apocalyptic thought (something that conservatives cringe at). Keener's tome is also thoroughly footnoted and it's obvious he has done his homework. Moreover, the one thing that makes this book so valuable is the way Keener demonstrates that the majority of Jesus tradition strands can be traced back to an early Palestinian environment. This aspect cannot be overlooked. Keener demonstrates how permeated the Gospels are with early Palestinian Jewish tradition which in turn makes the Gospel's historicity even more plausible. In fact, there was so much information to be absorbed that I plan to read the book a second time in the future just to catch up on the abundance of scholarship.

My only (small) problem with this tome was Keener's chapter on the resurrection. Not only was the chapter weak (I will be fair and assume this was due to the space constraint) but it did not flow very well and it seemed slightly thrown together. The book would've been much better if Keener left it out. However, this problem is very minor and is not substantial enough to take away from the excellent scholarship that precedes the aforementioned chapter.

Interested in Jesus studies? Do yourself a favor and read this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
All Christians, and particularly pastors and the mentors of pastors, need to have access to the information in this book.

I don't have a television, but the one time I had access to one recently--the day before Easter Sunday, no less, in a hotel room--the programs about Jesus made him out as some kind of product of human imagination, a mere social construct. One so-called expert even characterized him as a rather pathetic individual, somewhat confused and perhaps even a bit twisted.

My faith in Jesus didn't collapse as a result of watching those programs. But it was tested. And I can imagine how, if you were a searcher of spiritual things or a struggling Christian, you might experience doubt.

My only suggestion to one who is about to abandon or dismiss Jesus is to either read this book or buy it for someone who can explain its contents. And then read or have it explained to you all over again, because there's so much to miss the first time through, and every bit of information works to build a solid case for the reliability of the Jesus of the Gospels.

You'll find out that verdict isn't in on the historical Jesus. What you see on television or hear in the lecture halls of universities isn't always as objective as it's made out to be. As a result, you'll learn not to fall for the mere speculations of experts who base their conclusions on obvious forgeries or documents that long post-date the biblical gospels. Are you listening John Dominic Crossan? Bart Ehrman?

(I'm not saying that the Bible is easy to understand. I'm not even saying that its critics don't have a right to their opinions of it, of Jesus, and of the teachings of Jesus. I'm just saying they're not the only voices that should be allowed to be heard.
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