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The Jesus I Never Knew Hardcover – September 9, 1995

4.6 out of 5 stars 479 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An old adage says, "God created man in His own image and man has been returning the favor ever since." Philip Yancey realized that despite a lifetime attending Sunday school topped off by a Bible college education, he really had no idea who Jesus was. In fact, he found himself further and further removed from the person of Jesus, distracted instead by flannel-graph figures and intellectual inspection. He determined to use his journalistic talents to approach Jesus, in the context of time, within the framework of history.

In The Jesus I Never Knew, Yancey explores the life of Jesus, as he explains, "'from below,' to grasp as best I can what it must have been like to observe in person the extraordinary events unfolding in Galilee and Judea" as Jesus traveled and taught. Yancey examines three fundamental questions: who Jesus was, why he came, and what he left behind. Step by step, scene by scene, Yancey probes the culture into which Jesus was born and grew to adulthood; his character and mission; his teachings and miracles; his legacy--not just as history has told it, but as he himself intended it to be.

Yancey is not alone in his examination of the "real" Jesus. Publishing today is replete with writers committed to setting the story "straight,quot; joining countless others who, over the past 2,000 years, have determined to discover the truth about Jesus. But where others would deconstruct and discount, Yancey disarms and discloses. We become colleagues with him as he examines the accounts of the life of Jesus. And among the things that we discover is that Jesus himself leaves us few options: either he was who he said he was or he was nuts.

Philip Yancey was awarded the Gold Medallion Christian Book of the Year award for this book in 1996 by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. It's not the first, nor the last, award Yancey has won for his writing. But the writing is not necessarily the great gift of this book. Yancey allows the reader to discover, along with him, The Jesus I Never Knew. --Patricia Klein

From the Publisher

Andrew Lloyd Webber cast him as a rock-n-roll rebel in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, many Christians see him as a handsome European-looking man, and social justice groups place him next to Ghandi in his defense of the downtrodden. But, says Philip Yancey, the real Jesus would have left most people scratching their heads along with the disciples and asking, "Who is this guy?"

This is exactly the question Yancey asks in his new book The Jesus I Never Knew. Yancey's search for the real Jesus collides with the calm, cool, collected, and "loving hippie" notions of Jesus he saw in modern American culture. Instead, he finds a Galilean Jew born into apparent scandal making the most daring of claims: that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

The Jesus I Never Knew developed out of a class Yancey led at LaSalle Street Church in Chicago, but finding the real Jesus has been Yancey's passion since childhood.

Yancey saw Him as a cardboard cut-out in Sunday School and a "cosmic Christ" in Bible college. Today he sees a world that marks its calendar around Jesus' birth and uses His name to intensify a curse. (Wouldn't it be odd to center a calendar around Napoleon's birth or to scream "Thomas Jefferson" in a shocking situation?).

"And yet," says Yancey, "I am not writing a book about Jesus because he is a great man who changed history. I am not tempted to write about Julius Caesar or the Chinese emperor who built the great wall. I am drawn to Jesus, irresistibly, because he has positioned himself at the dividing point of life-my life."

The Jesus I Never Knew looks at who Jesus was, why he came, and what he left behind. More than historical speculation or doctrinal recitation, Yancey asks the questions out of a personal desire to truly know Jesus.

"The Jesus I Knew has to be the greatest book I've read on the subject." Mark O. Hatfield, U.S. Senator, Oregon

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 290 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1st edition (1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310385709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310385707
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (479 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The renowned Christian book author, Philip Yancey, deserves "five gold stars" for his thought-provoking book, The Jesus I Never Knew. Yancey's training and experience as a journalist is evident in his exploration and historical detailed life analysis of the human being we call "Jesus." His book tells the story of this great Man who changed history, but that's not why he wrote it. As explained in Part One, "Who He Was," Jesus was the dividing point in Yancey's life. Although Jesus lived over 2,000 years ago, Yancey and Jesus have a very personal relationship. He states: "Nothing, not even the murder of God's own Son-can end the relationship between God and human beings." Yancey reminds us "too easily we forget what it cost Jesus to win for us all-ordinary people, not just priests-immediate access to God's presence. How important is that? Yancey states, "According to Jesus, what I think about Him and how I respond will determine my destiny for all eternity." I'd say it's the most important decision you could ever make.
As I read his book, I began to wonder, should this be a Wiley Publishing, Jesus For Dummies book? The Jesus we learned about while growing up, the typical Sunday school stereotype is a humble, soft-spoken, longhaired, modest Man. This is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords of all creation? This is the man that battled Satan? This is the man that hung on the cross by nails pounded into his flesh? Through extensive use of biblical references, Yancey explains how our preconceived ideas about Jesus' personality and looks may be misconceptions. Yancey also explains that Jesus purposefully walked through life and was comfortable meeting folks from every walk of life. Would you be comfortable associating with prostitutes, leprosy victims, and thieves? Jesus was, and still is.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first Philip Yancey book that I have read, and I must say that I am impressed. The main reason I like this book is the straight-forward, honest approach that the author uses to find out more about Jesus, Christianity, and the Church. An endeavor that I am currently undergoing myself.
For the book, the author did an enormous amount of research looking for the answers to the questions about Jesus that plagued him most. He looks at questions like: What was Jesus really like? How does the Church (and many Americans) view him now? How should we respond to His message? All valid questions that I think many people struggle with at some point. To answer these questions, Mr. Yancey follows the life of Jesus here on earth from start to finish, and gives his thoughts (and many others) and conclusions about Jesus.
He draws his material from many sources, but I like the fact that he always goes back to the Gospels as the "measuring stick" for everything. I also like his conclusion that after writing a book about Jesus, that he has even more questions than when he started. I feel the same way. It seems the more I learn about Jesus, the more I feel that I don't know or understand. Luckily, this book has helped answer some questions that I had about Jesus, and gave me some fresh insight into what Jesus was all about.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a deeper relationship with Jesus, and wants to find out more about Him. This book will probably challenge your current view and opinions about Jesus, which hopefully will wet your appetite to know Him better, like it has with me.
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Format: Hardcover
For years, through my twenties and thirties, I struggled with doubt. I had nagging fears of "What if I'm devoting my life to something that's not real? What if Christianity is a hoax and Jesus is a myth?" As time went on, those doubts began to fade-partly, I think, because I was honest with them.
It was the title of this book that caught me. I remembered those doubts from many years before. The phrase "The Jesus I Never Knew" kindled a new doubt in me. What if Jesus is real, and yet I never really knew Him? What if-to paraphrase either Philip Yancey or Brennan Manning (forgive me for not remembering which), my belief was not in the real Jesus, but in the preachers, Sunday School teachers, and `great cloud of witnesses' who explained Him to me?" It was, for me, a horrifying thought.
The Jesus I Never Knew rocked my world. As Yancey began to wipe away the ecclesiastical film from a Person that I find to be indeed my Savior, my faith changed, grew. I made sweeping changes in my life based on this Jesus I was meeting. I found myself challenged by this Man. I saw Jesus as I never saw Him before. What I saw necessitated a response; the One I encountered sparked faith in me like I had never known before.
One more thing about doubt. Herein lies Yancey's gift as a writer. He is honest about doubt, and he lets the reader be honest, too. Did this book change me? Did Jesus change me? Only read this book if you want your head, your world, and your faith as you know it messed up.
A final note: I am thankful to say that the Sunday School class I attend will begin a 14 week study next week on The Jesus I Never Knew. This will prove to be, I think, a very exciting time.
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