25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2007
How can non-Christian monotheists, or atheists, appreciate the character of Jesus the Man? While this question may be considered as blasphemous by Christian believers, it is a pity that this schism should leave Jesus hidden behind theological curtains.
In the troubled land of Israel under Roman rule, many a sect flourished. The Priesthood was corrupt, the Edomite kings of the Herod dynasty were cruel, and people seeked redemption in many different forms. Josephus and Philo of Alexandria both tell us of sects that flourished in this era, as do the findings in such archaeological sites as Qumran.
Joseph Klausner took upon himslef the ungrateful task of describing in vivid lines and with great sympathy the character of Jesus of Nazareth. Ungrateful, since most Christians would reject the depiction of Jesus as (a perhaps extraordinary) flesh-and-bones. Ungrateful, since most religious Jews would detest the positive lines in which Klausner paints his "Reb Jesus", in whose name they were persecuted for almost two millenia.
Jesus, in Klausner's pen, is a religious reformist, a man of great moral integrity, acting within the framework of the Jewish people. He is a man of simple (should I say simplistic?) and vivid visions, who is intimately acquainted with the agricultural lifestyle and nature, from which he draws many of his allegories.
Despite the impossibility of the task, Klausner achieves a decent result. The book's main weakness is due to Klausner's weakness for a good story and for Romanticism. This is evident in the opening of the book, where Klausner describes in vivid colours the contemporary view of the Nazareth area and conjectures as to the character expected from someone who grew up in such a place. It is evident also in the conjectures he intertwines with the more historically-based facts.
It makes for a good, interesting reading, although many Christians may find his point of departure disagreeable.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Joseph Klausner (1874-1958) was a Jewish historian and professor of Hebrew Literature at Hebrew University. In 1922, he wrote (in the newly-revived language of Hebrew) this famous study of the life of Jesus.
Rejecting the gospel attributed to John ("The Fourth Gospel is not a religio-historical but a religio-philosophical book"), he argues, "Jesus was born, lived and died in Israel and was a Jew in every respect." He explains, "throughout the gospels there is not one item of ethical teaching which can not be paralleled either in the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, or in the Talmudic and Midrashic literature of the period near to the time of Jesus."
He rejects Jesus' reported involvement with the Essenes: "Jesus' object was not to form a community of solitaries, nor, as we shall see later, did he consistently practice monasticism and asceticism." Concerning Jesus' reported healings, he says, "it is clear that many nervous cases and hysterical women were completely cured through Jesus' amazing, hypnotic personal influence."
Why did Jesus die? "Obsessed by his idea that he was the Messiah, Jesus meditated on the three methods by which, according to the current view, the Messiah would declare himself.... But there is but one way to reach such an end: rebellion against the Romans." Thus, "He was delivered up to Pilate as a false Messiah, and as such he was crucified by Pilate."
And after Jesus' death? "There can be no question but that some of the ardent Galileans saw their lord and Messiah in a vision. That the vision was spiritual and not material is evident from the way Paul compares his own vision with those seen by Peter and James and the other apostles."
This book is absolutely essential reading for anyone intersted in the historical Jesus, Jewish-Christian dialogue, or similar subjects.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 19, 2012
This is a real research work, with the list of references, attacks at the opponents etc. It is difficult to read, but still very interesting. I haven't managed to read the whole thing, but the first half, which is mostly the discussion of the existing historical sources, is fascinating.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2009
Joseph Klausner's _Jesus of Nazareth_ is still the study to read. A previous reviewer notes that Christians may not appreciate a flesh and bones view of Jesus. That does not matter in the least and a confessional study of the Christian Jesus, the mythological Jesus, is practically worthless and the majority of the well-known authors' works fall into that category. We would know next to nothing about Jesus under Christian circumstances.
The most important section of the book is Klausner's treatment of rabbinic sources that are misused and often misunderstood regarding subjects like Ben Pantere, Miriam Maggad'la the hairdresser and illegitimate birth, Bilaam, boiling in filth, and others regarding Jesus in the literature of Tannaim, Amoraim, and later. Klausner sorts through all these claims and shows where Jesus is truly referred to and where he is not. It is a much better argued and balanced than the recent _Jesus in the Talmud_ by Schafer whose goal is not what it should be.
Some books are seen as dated and _Jesus of Nazareth_ certainly is not new. I am not new either, but not as old as the book. Perhaps you have noticed what one of my professors spoke of as the "dumbing down" that has taken place in education over recent decades. You may also recognize the sensationalism and marketing that seems to drive book sales too often. This is not such a book and comes from a time of careful scholarship for the sake of scholarship. Old school? Absolutely.
Before reading current work on the historical Jesus, I invite you check two older studies in the order listed then Klausner before the new stuff. You'll often read dedications and introductions which mention the giants whose shoulders the author stands. These are the giant shoulders, Reimarus (in _Fragments_), Wrede, Schweitzer (Quest of the Historical Jesus_), Klausner in historical Jesus studies over 200 years.