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The Historical Jesus of the Gospels Paperback – April 13, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 869 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; Reprint edition (April 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802868886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802868886
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #296,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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."

About the Author

Craig S. Keener is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky. He is the author of many other books, including


(two volumes). Three of his books have won awards and together have sold over half a million copies.

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

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 16 customer reviews
The book is engaging, easy to read and full of interesting information.
Derek Murphy
Keener demonstrates how permeated the Gospels are with early Palestinian Jewish tradition which in turn makes the Gospel's historicity even more plausible.
Stevie Jake
Throughout the whole book, Keener rejects the liberal, Bultmanian tendency to deny most of Jesus' gospel sayings as merely symbolic.
Joseph M. Hennessey

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on January 10, 2010
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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27 of 36 people found the following review helpful By John A. Grubb on November 30, 2009
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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62 of 87 people found the following review helpful By Evan Powell on July 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When beliefs are at odds with available data, it is easier to ignore the data than it is to alter beliefs. Presuppositions, as Craig Keener argues, often determine the outcome of an inquiry. Nowhere is this more evident than in the enterprise of historical Jesus studies. All Jesus scholars approach the materials with their own varied notions of what is plausible and what is not. Keener is no different in this regard, nor should anyone expect him to be.

Keener readily acknowledges his own set of operating assumptions. He is a self-proclaimed born-again Christian, converted from the atheism of his youth. Thus, he approaches the evidence concerning the historical Jesus from a perspective of faith. Accordingly, born-again readers who seek academic arguments to validate their faith will receive Keener's book with enthusiasm, as many of the 5-star reviews on this page attest.

This book consists of 400 pages of main text, and a whopping 200 pages of endnotes in small font. The remaining 230 pages consist of bibliography and indices. Physically, it is an impressive, heavy volume that reinforces the sense of academic gravitas. This book is worth reading as all well-crafted works on the historical Jesus are worth reading. Exposure to a variety of perspectives including Keener's is immensely valuable.

For me, Keener's book is less satisfying than it might otherwise be due to its persistent apologetic undercurrent. Keener's theological orientation causes him to perceive the sources through an evangelical filter, which is understandable. However, the result is that he is often less critical of the texts than most scholars would normally be. For example, Paul offhandedly tells of the resurrected Jesus appearing to "more than 500 brothers at one time." (1 Cor 15:6).
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