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153 of 169 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Renew Your Faith!
Dr. Crossan's hugely popular book has come to represent the much larger war of words between "conservative" and "liberal" Christians and the scholars who argue their respective viewpoints. As a lapsed Catholic and former altar boy struggling for twenty years with my beliefs, I have only one thing to say about this allegedly "non-Christian"...
Published on March 16, 2004 by leosullivan13

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55 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a lot of pieces are missing
"You can only amputate the sick to a certain degree; if you amputate too much, you will kill the patient" says Dale Allison, another Jesus scholar, reacting to scholars in the line of Crossan and Marcus Borg, who have stripped the historical Jesus of his apocalipticism and jewishness, thus ignoring tons of ancient evidence. That Jesus was, for example, an apocalyptic...
Published on May 11, 2003 by Amazon Customer


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153 of 169 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Renew Your Faith!, March 16, 2004
Dr. Crossan's hugely popular book has come to represent the much larger war of words between "conservative" and "liberal" Christians and the scholars who argue their respective viewpoints. As a lapsed Catholic and former altar boy struggling for twenty years with my beliefs, I have only one thing to say about this allegedly "non-Christian" book: It completely renewed my faith. It took away all the miracles, all the divine interventions and all the dogma of worshipping someone just because our traditions say we should. Yet what remained was the portrait of a humble man whose brilliance and humanity was two thousand years ahead of his time. Armed with nothing more than intelligence, love and the radical but essential truth that we're all in it together, this completely human Jesus changed the world solely through his divine message alone. I take it on faith that THAT Jesus is someone whose message is worth living and dying for. Thank you Dr. Crossan for restoring my faith as never before and for elevating Jesus of Nazareth to a height far higher and far more noble than my tradition ever dared to.
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61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good springboard to your own Jesus studies, October 24, 1997
Judaica scholar Jacob Nuesner says we create God--and Jesus--after our own image. I think he's right in respect to Crossan and "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography." While I agree with Crossan's politics, I think he makes a mistake to so thoroughly secularize and 20th-Century-ize Jesus, as if he weren't a passionately religious 1st-Century Jew. I also think, however, that the passionate Judaism of Jesus would naturally translate into the kind of social activism and "radical egalitarianism" that Crossan describes in his book. Most valuable are Crossan's description of 1st-Century Mediterranean culture (and its phobia of body-, family-, culture-, and class-contamination), and his interpretation of the parables of Jesus (consistent, for a change, with Jesus's other more direct, less metaphorical, radical teachings). It's good to read this book along with "The Historical Figure of Jesus," by E.P. Sanders. In contrast to Crossan's strictly rationale, secular setting, Sanders describes a 1st-Century Mediterranean world where most people believe in religion and magic.
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55 of 64 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a lot of pieces are missing, May 11, 2003
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"You can only amputate the sick to a certain degree; if you amputate too much, you will kill the patient" says Dale Allison, another Jesus scholar, reacting to scholars in the line of Crossan and Marcus Borg, who have stripped the historical Jesus of his apocalipticism and jewishness, thus ignoring tons of ancient evidence. That Jesus was, for example, an apocalyptic prophet and an observant Jew is supported in the earliest layers of tradition, such as the Q gospel (50s CE), Mark (60s) and Paul (50s). This is not a problem for Crossan, who says that the apocaliptic material (the belief that the world was about to end) was added to the gospels by the early church soon after Jesus died. Of more historical value (at least for him) are documents like the late Epistle of Barbanas (100s), the Didache (70s), the Secret gospel of Mark (the earliest copy dating from the middle ages), the Gospel of Thomas (150s) and - how odd - the reliefs made in stone in the 3rd or 4th century that depict Jesus as a greek philospher. How far can you press your hypothesis in one direction?
Key to Crossan's method is the concept of multiple attestation. If one complex (for example, the relationship between children and the Kingdom of God) appears indeppendently in more than one source, then that complex goes back to the historical Jesus. I would have no problem with this if Crossan were consistent about his own methods. Other multiple attested complexes and events, such as there being a group of twelve apostles, or the passion narrative, or the words of Jesus at the last supper, or the so-called nature miracles, he simply says "they are inventions". On the other hand, some sayings appearing in only one source ("I will destroy this house...", in the gospel of Thomas) he considers authentic.
Despite the evidence, in multiple independent sources, that there was a last supper (Paul, Mark, John) Crossan calls it an invention just because it isnt mentioned in a 1st century text known as Didache. If it isnt in the Didahce, then it never happened. (!)
This doesnt mean that Crossan is always far from the historical Jesus. The idea of a free exchange of food and miracles at the very roots of the Jesus movement, open commensality and radical egalitarianism must be very close to what actually happened. But as one reviewer put it, many, many pieces of the puzzle are missing... or have been ignored on purpose.
For more on the subject, I strongly recommend N.T. Wright's Jesus and the Victory of God.
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67 of 81 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Holy Grail of New Testament Scholarship, December 27, 2000
By 
George R Dekle "Bob Dekle" (Lake City, FL United States) - See all my reviews
The historical Jesus seems to have become the Holy Grail of New Testament scholarship. He is sought just as fervently and proves just as elusive. This book is actually Crossan's second quest for the historical Jesus. His first was "The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant." That book was long, meandering, and not terribly interesting. This second book is a distillation of the theories presented in the earlier book, and it has two virtues its predecessor lacked: brevity and lucidity. Crossan brings a prodigious level of scholarship to the task of finding the historical Jesus, and a reading of this book will give the student fresh insight into Jesus' nature, personality, and teachings. It will not, however, give an accurate picture of the historical Jesus. Crossan commits the same error that almost all previous questers after the historical Jesus have fallen into: He finds the Jesus he set out to look for. What, then, is an accurate picture of the historical Jesus? That is a question we must all answer for ourselves. This book, and others like it, can give us pieces of the puzzle, but the proper assembly of those pieces is up to us.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, January 13, 2000
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This is perhaps the easiest book to understand Crossan's insights of the Historical Jesus. He uses the same frame of reference of previous works (Antrhopology, History, Literature), but unlike his other books this is readable, and one can appreciate his insight into the life of Jesus, whether we agree or disagree with his conclusions. In my case, "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography",was a helpful introduction to other Crossan's major works.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars consistently thought provoking, October 10, 2000
In this popular version of his more scholarly The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan attempts to pare Christ's life down to only those events for which we have the best evidence from: the Gospels; Gnostic Gospels; Roman history; archaeology; and anthropology. This makes for fascinating reading and he wields the various sources masterfully, but it leads to a Jesus whose centrality to world history seems to make little sense.
Crossan presents his arguments for what is most likely and most unlikely to have occurred and what it all means. For instance, he traces the various translation possibilities in the term leper and looks at the Jewish kosher laws and concludes that healing the unclean may simply have meant being willing to break bread with them. Likewise, by examining Roman criminal law practices and burial traditions for convicts, he argues that none of the disciples could possibly have known what happened to the body of Christ after the crucifixion and that he must have been left to the dogs. Ultimately, by imposing such textual rigor, Crossan leaves us with a Jesus stripped of miracles, which is fine, but also one who is, oddly, stripped of godliness. Instead, he presents him as merely a radical egalitarian Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. This may also be the case, but how then do we explain his followers' belief in the miracles and in Christ's divinity? And how do we explain his subsequent influence on the course of human history?
I disagreed with many of the interpretations and with this broader deChristifying of Jesus, but found Crossan's arguments to be consistently thought provoking. It is quite an enjoyable read.
GRADE: B
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a profound and important book in my life, September 1, 2010
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About fifteen years ago in a search for faith, among the books I read, this one had the deepest impact on my life. I did not know Dominic Crossan before reading "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography" but I owe him a deep debt of gratitude for helping me get past the "Sunday school", caucasian, idealized version of Jesus, and understand the miracle and working of the Holy Spirit that a person born of a working or peasant class in a tiny and insignificant backwater country could transform world history, transform people's lives now, two thousand years later. Crossan made the life and meaning of Jesus real to me and touched my heart in a way I had never known. For me it was a moment of Grace that still informs and directs my life.
I have since read several more books by Dom Crossan and am always enlightened by his scholarship and understanding of the world of Rome and Palestine, and the deep faith that is revealed in his work.
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THINK a little!, December 11, 2001
By 
Charles Cho (San Diego, CA United States) - See all my reviews
Tom Hinkle's review below is long on criticism of Crossan's work but offers absolutely zero evidence to contradict anything Crossan says. Hinkle seems offended that Crossan does not give Jesus a special place. Crossan's work is a work of history, not of faith. Any reasonable historian, looking at the evidence, would conclude similar things to Crossan. Take the crucifixion. The Romans used this form of execution as pure terror, and part of the terror was in the utter destruction of the body. Of the THOUSANDS crucified, only one skeleton of a man that was actually crucified has been discovered. Why? Because all the others were eaten by wild dogs. It is a leap to think that somehow everything ended up different for Jesus, complete with an elaborate tomb in a beautiful garden, especially in light of scripture's own rendition that all the disciples had run away in fear.
You do not have to agree with Crossan. You might be completely uninterested in what he has to say, and that is fine. If you believe, your faith is your own, and one historian's take on the life of Jesus is not an assault on your belief. But roundly dismissing a work of history, without offering countering historical arguments, is nonsensical. For those interested in A historical view of Jesus, this is an excellent book. Even for people who are believing Christians, Crossan's work may be of interest, because he paints a vivid historical picture of the times during which Jesus lived, summarizing the work of Josephus well for non-specialists. But take the book for what it is, not what it is not.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believe it or not, January 10, 2000
One who feels he has cornered the market on religious truth will not take kindly to having anyone disagree with his interpretation of the Bible. Such a person is poorly equipped to review a this book.
A book about belief has value if the ideas resonate with the reader and provide insight into our place in the world.
There's no way anyone can know exactly who Jesus was, what he said and what he did. Everything we have on Jesus has been colored by interpretation. Crossan takes a historical approach, and this will be refreshing to people who are tired of interpretations that simply except every passage as truth but twist the meaning to reflect their wishes.
"A fool believes every word, but the reasonable man looks for proof" - Proverbs 14:15. You can't look for proof if you don't read many sources and judge for yourself.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Revolutionary Scholar..., July 7, 2001
By 
David Desveaux (New Waterford, Nova Scotia, Canada) - See all my reviews
Crossan's "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography" is a stripped down, compact version of the more complex (and equally engaging) "Historical Jesus". Dr. Crossan employs a triple perspective of Cross-Cultural Anthropology, A Macro Historical Analysis of First Century Judea, and a micro textual analysis of both biblical and extra-biblical texts to get at what we can really know about Jesus as an historical individual. Methodologically, Crossan looks at the likelihood of the sayings and events in Jesus' life through their support in various independent sources. The conclusions that Crossan reaches, via this perspective and methodology, are essentially that Jesus was a radical egalitarian who was crucified for insurrection against Rome as a social threat to the Empire's tyranny in Judea. There was no virgin birth, no three wisemen, and no burial. Jesus' most likely fate was that he was left out on the cross (like so many other Jews in that place and time) to be eaten by stray animals. The myths that later surrounded Jesus were the result of decades of story telling as the new cult moved west into other parts of the Roman Empire. While Crossan's historical conclusions- though shocking to some- are probably true, there are two main gaps in his study. First, he tends to negate the fact that Jesus was probably a Torah observant Jew whose "egalitarianism" would have clashed with his religious beliefs in some areas. While I do think that Jesus was a radical revolutionary, we cannot assume that he would have been completely without some of the biases that were an integral part of his- and any other- social background. Secondly, Crossan skips a lot in his assumption that there actually was a historical Jesus. Scholars, like G.A Wells for instance, have demonstrated the strong possibility that Jesus may not have even existed. Crossan would benefit if he addressed some of these issues and defended his case. In the end, however, Crossan emerges as probably the foremost New Testament scholar of today, or any other time. This bold and masterful study is a true example of Crossan's world class scholarship. While he has encountered much attack from conservative theologians, he has helped many (including myself) redefine their Christian faith. However, if you have a tendency to think of the historical and theological Jesus as one in the same, this book will unsettle you. However, even in this instance, I cannot recommend it too highly. After all, reading a book on the historical Jesus would be a waste of time if it merely doggedly confirms everything in scripture. Challenge yourself and your faith and read this book. Other scholars, incidentally, that I highly recommend you check out are Helmut Koester, Amy-Jill Levine, G.A Wells, Marcus Borg, L. Michael White, Paul Meier, and Richard Horsely. These are some of many greats, but they'll get you started...
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Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography
Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography by John Dominic Crossan (Paperback - October 1, 2009)
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