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Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels Paperback – November, 1992

4.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Pub Co; 1st Collier Books ed edition (November 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0020852517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0020852513
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #898,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Michael Grant's book is so vivid, provides so many cultural details, and engages so much practical data, that it was like boarding a time machine to actually travel back to first-century Galilee to follow Jesus around and observe the life around him.

Grant analyzes aspects of contemporary Galilean, Judean, Aramean and Roman culture in the gospels and other literature, to draw a powerful detailed -- yet easly readable -- character profile of Jesus and his teachings. He probes the gospels, supplemented by contemporarty sources, to draw out a detailed view of the psychology and self-concept of Jesus.

This skilled critical writer establishes strongly the authenticity of some events and teachings commonly dismissed in some circles of thought. Highlighting some ignored aspects of the gospels, Grant's comparative approach to the 4 gospels easily portrays the overarching goal and purpopse of all Jesus' actions and teachings -- the urgency of ushering in the Kingdom of God. This guiding focus explains many aspects otherwise considered anomalies in the gospel accounts.

Grant compares Jesus to the themes, goals and character of the Qumran teachers, Galilean sages and Old Testament prophets. He provides an extensive analysis of Jesus' relationship to John the Baptist. He establishes the unique aspects of Jesus' teachings, as well as the similarities with the developing rabbinic forms of the time. Notable differences are Jesus' unique self-confidence, assurance of his unique relationship to God and his novel personal authority.

Grant pointed out aspects of the political and geographical setting, as well as cultural dynamics I have never seen dealt with in other texts.
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Format: Hardcover
The great mystery of history is how the life and teachings of an obscure Jewish Rabbi inspired a world religion. Speaking as an historian, Michael Grant examines the life of Jesus, eschewing the spiritual, and puts forth the plausible opinion that Jesus's Ministry was based on the belief that the Kingdom of God --the end of the world as we know it -- was at hand. The Jews, or at least the elect of the Jews, would be liberated from oppression, the oppressive Gentiles would be punished, and God would rule. Jesus, he speculates, went knowingly to his death to further the imminent apocalypse.

Grant's views help explain Jesus's indifference toward worldly things. Why worry about possessions, religious laws, and rendering taxes unto Caesar when the end is near? This leads the author also to maintain that Jesus's Ministry was based on a mistake -- the end didn't come, and hasn't yet come -- and that he was "a total failure turned into enormous triumph" after his death. As a person, Jesus comes across as somewhat abrupt and intolerant, especially with his intellectually-challenged disciples.

These are pretty strong and controversial views but Grant maintains his historical detachment throughout. One can never be sure whether he is a believer or not. I thought the book would have been better had it included more background on the four gospels -- Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John -- which are almost the only sources Grant used to interpret the life of Jesus (he finally gets around to doing so briefly near the end of the book.) He perhaps presumes more familiarity with the Bible than some of us, including this reader, may have. But all in all this is a most interesting book and the interpretation of Jesus is very convincing.

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Format: Paperback
Grant has managed to treat the life of Jesus as one would treat any historical figure. He has sidestepped centuries of interpretation and misinterpretation, and presents a portrait of Jesus based on the actual historical evidence. It is not the Jesus we are used to, and Grant's own interpretations challenge many common assumptions
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Format: Paperback
This is an excellent work by the great classical scholar Michael Grant, a champion of Western Civilization. Writing with a deep knowledge of the ancient world in which Jesus of Nazareth lived, Grant offers a convincing naturalistic portrait of him.

The greatest strength of Grant's book is its status as a serious and lengthy biography of Jesus written from the standpoint of an historian. Almost every other available biography of Jesus is written by a Christian theologian of some sort or another. Even liberal, skeptical, naturalistically-minded theologians or other Christian scholars harbor deep emotional bonds to Jesus, such that they occasionally describe him as "the Lord," or allow him at least an occasional miracle, or idealize him to perfection or near-perfection. Grant steers clear of this. Moreover, unlike many liberal Jesus scholars in more recent decades, Grant does not dubiously resort to the newly discovered Gospel of Thomas, or to other Gnostic gospels, as sources for his portrait of Jesus. Nor does Grant, when examining the resurrection story, deny the probability of an empty tomb, as most liberal Jesus scholars today do. Instead, he accepts the strong tradition that the tomb of Jesus was found empty on the third day. But he concludes very reasonably that someone or other "had taken the body" (p. 176).

One of the best parts of Grant's book, in my view, is a chapter titled "What Were the Miracles?" Other readers, I notice, have also found that chapter especially compelling. In it, Grant systematically analyzes the miracle stories of the gospels.
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