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Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture Paperback – November 10, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (November 10, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300079877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300079876
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,165 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Writing for the general reader, eminent church historian Pelikan proposes that, while the figure of Jesus provides the chief continuity in the history of Christianity, each age has depicted him in accordance with its own character. He demonstrates this in 18 brief yet magisterial essays, each describing an image of Jesus and its significance for a period in the history of the church. The gospels present Jesus as a rabbi; understanding Jesus as lord first produced tension between Christianity and the Roman Empire and later fostered the development of a Christian empire; an ascetical understanding of Jesus underlay monasticism; incarnational theology was a factor in the Renaissance, etc. History Book Club main selection. Terrance Callan, NT Studies Dept., Athenaeum of Ohio, Cincinnati
Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

A celebratory study of Jesus' impact on Western art, thought and culture over the last 2,000 years. -- New York Times Book Review

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Well worth reading if you are interested in this topic.
D. Keating
I would also highly recommend the Illustrated Jesus Through the Centuries, as well.
Revjbarker
This image o Christ inspired St. Benedict and Bernard of Clairveaux.
Dr. Marc Axelrod

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By David Marshall on January 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is not a devotional work, it is an insightful and valuable slice of intellectual history. Pelikan is a Christian, but distances himself from those he describes. I think the combination of sympathy and critical distance helps the reader have his own conversation with the persons described. Pelikan bites off more than he can chew. How can there be room in one readable, coherent and reasonably short book for Augustine and Blake, Renan and Ricci, Constantine and Gandhi? But Pelikan pulls it off pretty well, summarizing the history with interesting anecdotes, and making reasonable comments. Not all of which I think are correct, though.

"It is not sameness but kaleidescope variety that is its most conspicuous feature." Pelikan includes a great deal of evidence for both, though. Early Christians attempted to translate Jesus as "logos" to relate to Greek thinking. Modern Christians in India and China undertook a similar task of describing Jesus as the "fulfillment" of the deepest truths in those great cultures. (Work I have studied quite a bit.)

I give the book five stars, because it is brilliant, fascinating and informative. Nevertheless, Pelikan's position seems to soak up some of the subjectivm he chronicles.

It is important to distinguish between images that are arbitrary, and those that depend on a reality that can be referred to. One could write a book called "The Moon through the Centuries." But that would be a different kind of book from "Martians through the Centuries," because in the first case, we just need to look up to be corrected. Pelikan does not take sufficient account of the fact that Jesus is more like the first than the second case. Kaleidescope is a mosaic of splintered reflections.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gregory MacDougall on April 26, 2012
Format: Paperback
Somehow or another I bought this in 1989 as a first edition paperback and it got buried in one of my bookshelves. During this past Lent, I rediscovered it and began reading it. The reader should read all the reviews of this book because they are all valid. My background is that I am a bit of an intellectual and these kinds of books generally intrigue me. As stated in a previous review, I found the text sometimes engaging and sometimes-to-often irritating. In other words, don't think about reading this book unless you have passed a 300 level course on European history or philo/religious type courses. If you don't know what I mean by that, don't even attempt to read the book! Now having gotten that off my chest, there are several chapters that are awe inspiring. These include some discussions on Jesus in the first few centuries and during the middle ages (ch. 9, The Monk Who Rules the World). The last several chapters are quite engaging and even at times enlightening with really good transitions. What I mean by that is that he does a really good job in detailing how, for example, Jesus is viewed as a teacher of common sense in the period of enlightenment (ch. 15), only to evolve (no pun intended) away from that logic-rational phase into Jesus as the poet of the spirit (ch. 16). The last two chapters caught me off guard and I really appreciated the insight.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
The eighteen chapters of this book roughly correspond to the 20 centuries of the history of the catholic church. One can use Pelikan's images to reflect on the meanings of Christ to the peoples of history and reflect on their meaning in present times. The images Pelikan give are all applicable today and can be helpful in understanding our relationships to God now. For example: how we as Christians can conduct a "just" war when we have an image of Jesus as "The Prince of Peace." Or, how we can better understand the middle East peace process with our image of Jesus as our rabbi. Or, how we can approach our busy, packed lives using the image of Christ as the perfect monk. This is a useful book to persons with varied educational backgrounds in theology or with just a desire to be able to relate the historical Jesus to their every day lives.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Slokes VINE VOICE on December 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Jaroslav Pelikan's 1985 overview of Christianity's founding figure, Jesus Christ, as seen through the centuries after His birth and death is a remarkable, readable account of just how varied the face of Christ has been depending on those doing the viewing.

In the first century, working from at least second-hand accounts, the writers of the Gospels portrayed a parable-slinging, question-asking rabbi very much in the Jewish tradition. A few centuries later, after Christianity conquered the Romans, Christ became "the Victor and King". Greek scholars saw in Him a Logos, a unifying cosmic principle under which the world operated, and by which it could be understood in turn. And so on. In 18 chapters that read like delicately-connected essays, Pelikan charts how Christ was viewed, seeing not only a reflection of varied cultures but an evolution to a truly universal figure, one in the end reaching and connecting even to those who don't believe in Him.

It's a brave and majestic aim, one I don't think Pelikan quite achieves. As the Age of Reason called into question Christ's divinity and miracles, Pelikan reaches to non-Christian figures like Thomas Jefferson, Hume, and later Gandhi for some kind words that feel like thin gruel after the soul-baring asseverations of Augustine and Dante.

"Jesus Through The Centuries" makes its best points without pressing. Take the cosmology of the early so-called Dark Ages, where seeds of reason were planted: "From the ascription of the creation of the universe to Jesus the Logos it also followed, by a necessary inference, that the Logos was not only the beginning but the end, the Goal of the cosmos.
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