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Jesus of Nazareth Paperback – November 29, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


• "Verhoeven turns out to be a member of the Jesus Seminar, a collection mostly of scholars devoted to reconstructing the historical Jesus, and much of what he has to say is shrewd and learned." --Adam Gopnik, New Yorker
• "Jesus goes from being a follower of John the Baptist to inspired exorcist to peace-loving proclaimer of the Kingdom of God to a messianic rebel forced by the authorities and Romans into a radicalized corner to fight for his developing and somewhat desperate beliefs. Rather than forcing himself to throw out major portions of the story to make his sense of Jesus fit a given thesis, Verhoeven manages to pull together all the major threads and make narrative sense of it all." --Christopher Napolitano, Playboy
• "Verhoeven has written an excellent book." --Paul Schrader, Film Comment

About the Author

After receiving advanced degrees in math and physics, PAUL VERHOEVEN began to make movies, eventually moving from his native Holland to Los Angeles in 1985, where he also became the only non-theologian admitted into the Jesus Seminar, a group of seventy-seven eminent scholars in theology, philosophy, linguistics, and biblical history. Verhoeven is the director of successful films such as Turkish Delight, The Fourth Man, RoboCop, Basic Instinct, and Starship Troopers.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press; Reprint edition (November 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609803485
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609803483
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #572,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Evan Powell on June 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is not everyday that a Hollywood movie director writes a serious book on the life of Jesus. Odder still is when the filmmaker in question is responsible for a string of edgy, violent, and sexually provocative films like Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls. Many people will have an understandable propensity to prejudge and dismiss Verhoeven's work if they are aware of his film background. But as it turns out, Verhoeven has an impressive command of the New Testament materials. He is well-versed in the theories of academia, and is as qualified as anyone to write an informed interpretation of Jesus. And he brings to the task the refreshing perspective of an observer unconcerned with the career ramifications of his proposals. He writes with an interpretive freedom that few professional scholars dare to risk. And this, in itself, makes his work unique and well worth the time to read.

Verhoeven is a rational pragmatist. He starts with the premise that Jesus was a human being who lived under the same laws of nature we are all familiar with. Accordingly, it is not within Verhoeven's world view to allow the possibility that Jesus walked on water, or raised the dead, or miraculously fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. When he encounters stories of the miraculous in the gospels, his instinct is to ask how the stories could have originated, and what historical reality might lie behind them. This line of inquiry invariably leads to speculations that cannot be proven one way or another. But in my view, Verhoeven proposes original solutions to a number of textual problems. Some of his proposals are quite viable. Others might best be described as not entirely implausible.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dubious Disciple on January 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Question: What happens when an accomplished film maker delves into the realm of historical Jesus scholarship?

Answer: Fresh insight.

Paul Verhoeven is the only non-theologian admitted to the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars dedicated to uncovering the historical Jesus. While his book will not be recognized for the depth of research that goes into the books of more noted scholars, it's still an interesting read.

Verhoeven digs into the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist, the sin of riches, exorcisms, and much more to paint Jesus in human terms. Jesus is not an ideal for Verhoeven, but a living, breathing person, with fears and failures alongside his accomplishments. Jesus is a hunted criminal who masterfully escapes the long arm of the law...until an apostate disciple masquerading as a Zealot (not likely one of the twelve, nor even named Judas, according to Verhoeven) leads the authorities to him.

After Jesus' crucifixion, his disciples believed he returned from the dead. But if the whole of the Jesus story were wrapped up in this miracle of overcoming death, Christianity could not have survived for 2,000 years. Jesus created powerful parables and devised a new code of ethics; regardless of his false understanding that the kingdom of God was imminent, he indeed transformed the world. Verhoeven closes his book with this paradox: Jesus' mistaken view of reality led to the most significant ethical revival in the past two thousand years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bradley Dent on September 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
Superbly written and researched, this book really surprised me in its depth and its effect on me as a reader. It definitely reinforces factual accounts of Jesus of Nazareth without all the Harry Potter magic mumbo jumbo that is written into Christian mythology, without diminishing the holiness of my believe in Jesus as the inheritor and prophet God intended. The author also does a great job in bringing in significant material about the Gnostic books of the Bible and other sources that reinforce the negative impact that Paul had in scripting in lots of bigotry and Roman reactivity into the current versions of the holy Bibles, most of which are badly represented or incorrect.
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36 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Linzi on May 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Jesus Seminar is a group of historical Jesus scholars that comes together to discuss and debate the authenticity of the words and deeds attributed to Jesus. Paul Verhoeven, a member of the Seminar but notably not an academic, follows in the footsteps of the general skepticism of the group. They're generally disaffected and anti-establishment, sometimes anti-church, theological liberals. The Jesus that gets formulated in their discourse can be said to have been made in their own image: with the 'dogma' stripped away, Jesus is a challenging radical who lived fast and died young. And as cynically as I am describing the Jesus Seminar, it really is a good group, academically honest and full of interesting interpretations of the socio-political aspects which form the matrix of Jesus' living situation.

Verhoeven both follows and deviates from the general approach of the Seminar. His Jesus is also demystified. But he inserts some really unprofessional snippiness about miracles being impossible, and strips away a lot of the religious aspects of Jesus' ministry because they would've been influenced by later doctrine. Which is of course true, but Verhoeven rather throws the baby out with the bathwater: in his attempt to disentangle the historical Jesus from Christian doctrine later, he inadvertently also removes Jesus' Jewish religiosity. I find this unforgivable - it was odd and such an apparent gap in scholarship for Verhoeven to write about Jesus without writing about Judaism, the Kingdom of God as it would have been conceptualized in Jewish terms, or any messianic expectations. Better scholars who work with "Jesus the Jew" (Sanders, Levine, or Crossan, to begin with) emphasize that Jesus must be read within, rather than against, Judaism.
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