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Jesus the Magician Paperback – November, 1981


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Harpercollins (November 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006067413X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060674137
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Miles N. Fowler on July 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Whether you agree with him or not, Morton Smith has something to say. In this book you might learn not only about what Jesus contemporaries probably thought of him, but also about the concept of magic and how ancient people understood it. For example, why do magicians sometimes seem to cast a spell by a long and time-consuming procedure while at other times they do it with a single word? Smith answers this question. (Hint: why do computer programmers sometimes write code for hours while at other times they launch a program with one key stroke? Basically the same answer to both quetstions.)

My only major criticism of this book is that Smith never answers the question "what, if any, difference is there between religion and magic?" Even though he must have an answer to this, he never makes it clear.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Trejo on September 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is strong medicine -- yet if you know somebody who is doubting whether Jesus Christ was really a real human being, known to history as well as to legend -- then this book is the cure. Well -- sometimes the medicine seems more bitter than the disease -- but after the initial shock wears off, one can never again doubt that Jesus Christ was a real person (to whom legends have been attributed, as they are commonly attributed to all truly great persons in history). Jesus was real, and this is proved by Dr. Smith by his review of the writings of the ENEMIES of Jesus. There are a lot more than we like to admit -- and most of their writings are shocking to believers. But if a person is on the verge of disbelief in Jesus as a real, historical person, this will shock them back to reality. Jesus was hated. That's the proof that he lived.
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By Paul on October 11, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent read. Solid academically and yet an easy reading style. Aslan's *Zealot* and Ehrman's *How Jesus Became God" reflect concepts found in Smith's *Jesus the Magician*.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Frank A. Nemec Jr. on May 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
People write to express what they believe. They use language, vocabulary, phrases, idioms, and literary/cultural references their audience would easily understand. To read ancient literature with no attempt to understand this backdrop is to invite misunderstanding and misinterpretation. I began my journey of learning this backdrop with "Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insights from a Hebraic Perspective" by David Bivin & Roy Blizzard, Jr. From that launching pad, comparing the parables to typical rabbinic teachings and debates of that era transformed the parables from puzzling to clearly understandable.

Morton Smith does the same for many more otherwise confusing gospel passages. This portrayal of Jesus as a magician is either (1) an accurate portrayal of who Jesus really was; (2) an accurate portrayal of who the gospel diarists believed Jesus to be; or (3) a very strong attempt to lead a large audience of magic-believers into identifying with Jesus. I have no way to tell whether 2 or 3 is more likely.

In my view, the gospel diarists wrote to cover all the bases. Those who thought Jesus was a Zealot will find that idea in the gospels, but along with reasons the authors thought this was not true. For example, Pilate placed him on trial for that very accusation, but found him innocent.

Why would the diarists describe Jesus as a magician if they didn't believe that's who he was? They were first and foremost evangelists. A reader who thought of Jesus as a magician would instantly recognize that in the gospel accounts. The hope would be for them to become Christians.

The idea of Jesus as magician had never occurred to me before I read the book. The parallels are far too strong to dismiss.
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