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TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 11, 2014
Jesus: A Pilgrimage begins with an introduction that clearly lays out what the book is and more importantly, what the book is not. I point this out because, I generally go in with preconceived notions of what I expect or want from a book. Fr. Martin is quick to point out that this book is not a theological discussion on who Jesus is, nor is it a Bible commentary. This book, however, is a look at Jesus, as we see Him in the Gospels, through the viewpoint of Fr. Martin's education, experience, and a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. If we keep this in mind when reading the book, we can give it a proper review.

Each chapter is laid out in the same format. Fr. Martin first mentions the place he is going to visit. He then describes the journey there. Details from this include the actual process of travelling to the location, scenery along the way, and bits of the culture and environment he encountered. Then, comes the heart of each chapter - his reflections. Mixed with theology, history, tradition, and Fr. Martin's wisdom and wit, we put ourselves in the exact moment and location of Jesus and try and picture what it must have been like for both Jesus and those around Him. We then end with the Scripture passage which served as the basis for the site Fr. Martin visited.

The most interesting chapter in this book to me was entitled, "Nazareth." In this chapter Fr. Martin talks about the "Hidden Life" of Jesus. This term refers to the period of Jesus' life, age 12-30, that is absent in the Bible. Fr. Martin, like many, are drawn to this period of Jesus' life because they imagine it is a lot like our lives. "None of us is going to be preaching and performing miracles - at least not as Jesus did - but all of us live everyday lives, as Jesus did in Nazareth, being taught and cared for by our parents, loving and squabbling with our families, playing with our friends, learning what it means to be an adult, and in time earning a living." I never thought of Jesus in this light, but it does make sense. In this chapter, I also learned about just how small and poor Nazareth was. Knowing this, it really puts into perspective the disparaging remarks people make regarding Nazareth. It also shows you the environment Jesus grew up in, and influenced his parables.

Fr. Martin is an excellent storyteller. He does a fine job painting pictures of the places he visited, and he draws out details in the Gospels that one could easily miss. There were, however, parts of this book that I didn't enjoy. The beginning annoyed me a little when he waffled about wanting to go to the Holy Land. (Really what Christian, wouldn't want to see the place of Jesus?!) I also got bored in the beginning reading about the trek to get to each of their destinations, and would think to myself, "Hurry up and get there." However, I eventually accepted that that was the nature of this book as a personal pilgrimage. It would be incomplete to ignore the journey and focus solely on the destination. Those complaints aside, I still enjoyed the book. It was quite interesting to see Jesus, the Gospel passages, and the modern day Holy Land through the eyes of Fr. Martin.

This book was provided to me for free by Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.
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VINE VOICEon March 15, 2014
It's difficult to fit this marvelous book comfortably into any one genre. Some of it is personal memoir of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land the author made with a fellow-Jesuit (for example, the author's search for a site, the Bay of Parables, whose location stumps everyone except a German Benedictine). Part of it is exegesis, with an exploration of the sometimes hidden meaning of the New Testament's original Greek (did you know, for example, that the Greek word, existasthai, for "to be amazed" that Mark uses to describe those who have just witnessed one of Jesus's healings means "to stand outside oneself," to be so amazed that one's yanked out of one's intellectual skin? Part of it is pastoral/devotional reflection on events recorded in scripture. (In reflecting on the Eucharist, for example, Martin muses on how Jesus moved his "body" from place to place to give himself to others, and how we're called to do likewise--to go where we can feed people.)

In the hands of a less skilled and less insightful author, combining these three genres between a single volume could be a train wreck. But Martin pulls off the job seamlessly. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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on March 19, 2014
I've read several of Fr. Martin's books and this one is possibly the best one of all. I've always wanted to visit Israel and take in the sites and reading this book, I feel like I'm there with him. He writes with such humor, wit and insight that it is hard to put this book down. Like the author says, this isn't a theology book, but a book about his travels seen through the lens of his faith (as a Catholic and Jesuit priest) - but his writing is "down to earth" and accessible. He isn't writing it just for Catholics or Christians necessarily, so I think anyone with an interest in the Jesus of history and/or Jesus of faith will find something to like here. I've never met Fr. Martin but I think he would be an excellent teacher and a fun person to travel with - and all of that comes out in this book. I just wish he could write books more quickly so we didn't have to wait so long between them - ha ha!
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on March 18, 2014
I have laughed out loud, been moved to contemplative prayer on aspects of Jesus' life and brought to tears, and I'm not completely finished with this book. I have read several of Father Jim's books, and he continues in this one to write in easy to read but informative prose. I find it hard to put down. The book weaves his joyful enthusiasm for the Gospel with his personal travel to the Holy Land with a brother Jesuit. I felt like I was there with him in the crowded, noisy Church of the Nativity, riding with the cab driver in Bethlehem and also at the peaceful Bay of Parables. Father Jim is down to earth, intelligent, inspiring and funny and this book reflects all of that. If you don't have a copy, what are you waiting for?
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on March 18, 2014
I've never left a rating on amazon before but am writing one now since Fr. Martin just requested via twitter for some feedback and felt i should contribute.
I am over halfway through the audiobook version (which the author reads) and it is no less wonderful than all of his other books. His way of weaving in the life/teaching of Jesus with his trip to the holy land is perfectly done. This might sound cheesy but he really makes you feel like you are there with him on his journey (which i feel saves me from taking the trip myself). In particular, his retelling of gospel stories not only breathes new life into them but also leads you to see them from several different perspectives. (Which is exactly what a great teacher does!) It's clear why Fr Martin has been so successful in spreading the good news. His genuine, down-to-earth, accessible writing style makes this book (as well as his others) a joy to read. I thank him for continuing to write!!
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VINE VOICEon March 26, 2014
<a href="" style="float: left; padding-right: 20px;"><img alt="Jesus: A Pilgrimage" border="0" src="" ></a><a href="">Jesus: A Pilgrimage</a> by <a href="">James J. Martin</a>

My rating: <a href="">5 of 5 stars</a>

I am a fan of Father James Martin's books, especially <a href="" rel="nofollow">A Jesuit Off-Broadway</a>. When Scott chose this book for our next religious book discussion at <a href="" rel="nofollow">A Good Story is Hard to Find</a> podcast, I was excited, having been interested since I first saw it mentioned at Amazon.

This is a much thicker and more substantive book than I expected. The bibliography alone makes one step back and realize there is more hard-core scholarship than in any of his previous books. Yet it is written in Father Martin's trademark style, interspersing personal experience with the main book text. It is accessible and interesting. It isn't dumbed down and isn't too scholarly. It's juuuuust right.

Martin's goal is to help us consider our answer to Christ's question to his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"

This means we must consider what it means to be "fully human and fully divine." Martin does a very good job of presenting a lot of contextual information for understanding Jesus' life and ministry through this lens. As we travel through the gospels, so to speak, he intertwines the various stops (recruiting the disciples, healing demoniacs, etc.) with his own pilgrimage to Israel. He then stops to place everything in the context of our own lives and is extremely generous in sharing his own life changing experiences, whether flattering or not. I especially appreciate Martin's openness in sharing the spiritual experiences he had, most notably that in the Church of the Resurrection.

I especially appreciate the way that Father Martin approaches questions from all angles. For example, when considering Christ's healings of "demoniacs," Martin isn't afraid to discuss the idea of psychological or physiological illness as a cause. This will be welcome to those who like to get down to examining facts. However, he always does this in a thoughtful, thorough, Christian way that leaves no doubt we are reading about the Messiah and that miracles can (and do) happen.

Each chapter ends with Martin's deeper thoughts on how our own lives can be enriched with the aid of what Christ has shown us about this part of his life. This is where the rubber meets the road for most of us and Martin brings great sensitivity and understanding to these pages. In fact, I was enduring great inner turmoil about something when I read Martin's thoughts of what it means to take up your cross daily. The whole section spoke to me strongly, but nothing more than "wait for the resurrection" which I sorely needed to hear that very day.

This is the sort of book that used to be much more common. To Know Christ Jesus by Francis Sheed and Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen are just a couple of the older books I've read like this.  We have been sorely in need of a new one and I'm so pleased that James Martin wrote this book which is truly a treasure for reading and rereading. I'm beginning to feel that this book might be a "must have" for Christians who want a more rounded, personal experience of Christ. Or for those who don't understand the "Christian thing" and would like some general context of their own.

I also have a feeling that a lot of readers are going to come away wanting to visit the Holy Land. Not me, but I appreciate Father Martin's descriptions as it helps me "feel" the place a bit better. And, to be fair, I've never especially felt the need to go to Rome or anywhere else on pilgrimage, for that matter.

However, what it did was help me feel a deeper familiarity, connection, friendship dare I say, with Jesus when I encounter Him in the gospels. It made me think of Father Martin's story about his spiritual director showing him a green tree and reminding him it would be red in autumn, without anyone ever seeing the gradual change. That's what happened to me. A step closer. All to the credit of this book, which is doing it without "wows" or "aha" moments. Truly that is a credit to this work.

I also received the audiobook for review. I was eagerly anticipating this but was surprised to find that Father Martin's reading was extremely plain and without nuance or subtlety. In a sense, it was like a father reading to his children who is unused to reading aloud. I'm used to authors reading their work who are extremely good at it, such as Father Robert Barron or Neil Gaiman (yes, I know that is an unusual pair to put together but both are excellent at reading aloud).

That said, once I adjusted to Martin's style, or lack thereof, it actually worked fine for this book. In a sense, it took out any of his own personality and allowed the text to speak for itself. Which is actually just as it should be for a book like this. With that in mind, I can recommend the audiobook.
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on March 25, 2014
James Martin discusses the life of Jesus, as told in the gospels. He reveals which events in the life of Jesus are covered in each of the gospels and compares how each gospel presents those events. The book provides cultural insight into life in Israel in the first century. For me, this added a richness to my understanding the gospels.

The pilgrimage portion of the title comes from James Martin's first visit to the Holy Land. He shares his experiences in visiting many of the places that Jesus visited in the gospels. He shares his emotions visiting many of these places. The author's experiences in the Holy Land adds to a richer understanding of the life of Jesus and provides some insight into what is involved in planning a pilgrimage to follow the foot steps of Jesus.

The book is well written and deeply engaging. The author's writing style is easy to read. Once I started reading the book, I couldn't put it down.

This is an excellent book for someone seeking a deeper understanding of the life of Jesus and the events described in the gospels. This book would also be a great book to read when planning a religious visit to the Holy Land. The book makes me want to visit the Holy Land. I recommend "Jesus: A Pilgrimage." This book has become one of my favorites.
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on March 18, 2014
I found this book to be both an easy read and a difficult one! There were aspects of the book (such as the descriptions of the scenery etc) that were quick to read but other parts - how those scenes relate to the Gospels and how we might incorporate the teachings into our lives today that took a bit more thought and time to fully "consume". Overall I loved this book and believe that I learned a great deal from it. Additionally, I think the visual imagery Fr. Jim included will help me a great deal in my prayer life.
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Father Martin tells a great and personal story -- And he sure does pray a lot.

A former GE financial analyst and Wharton grad, he is now an editor-at-large of America magazine, a popular media commentator, and a religious commentator for Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. Father Martin (along with his fellow Jesuit, George) travels through Israel and Jordan and areas in between and gives their perspectives on the locations they visit, faith, and prayer, and he adds in lighthearted moments.

His pilgrimage has 'produced good fruit' for us in the form of this book. In addition to the spiritual travelogue and educated discussions on things like Greek phrases, I enjoyed his zingers, such as "After a series of improbable detours that took us to the desert... to a lonely monastery, and 'to the edge of heat stroke'"

In Bethlehem they visit a site that Catholics find holy, but Russian Orthodox adherents say that the site is a few blocks away; in instances like these, I enjoyed his travel realities and discussions on faith. Speaking of reality, there are instances of travel when stresses develop between friends no matter how close people are, such as the time Father Martin and George - and an empty listerine bottle - glowered at each other at the River Jordan in a "suddenly seemingly smaller" car (Note to File: do not splash a guy with water in the polluted Jordan River).

I also relished his insights into "baggage" (and how a baked good can trigger a memory) as he recalls his college years - a time that he felt was a period of unholy sillyness. But on the trip, he realizes that his time at Penn was not devoid of spirituality ("sometimes we close the door to our past, thinking that we have progressed.") Additionally, at a dreamy Capernaum, Father Martin asks why Jesus moved to Capernaum and not Jerusalem? (maybe he liked the beach?); and he shares the lesson of Bartimaeus ben Timaeus (which reminded me of a Kotzker Rebbe query on preaching and ministering to a person: and the importance of personally knowing the person and study partner.) All in all, no matter your religious beliefs, this book gives a piquant perspective on travel, history, and faith
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on March 20, 2014
So easy to read. Easy style with accessible theological material. Fr. Martin said he wanted to combine the story of the historical Jesus with the Christ of faith and he has achieved that very well. Nice to be able to pick a particular place/theme by chapter heading.
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