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


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Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture + Who is Jesus?: An Introduction to Christology (Michael Glazier Books)
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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: #82,167 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
This is a very useful, well researched, largely descriptive survey of how Western culture has viewed Jesus Christ.
Nicholas Dujmovic
I recommend this book as a good historical study of Jesus and His impact on the cultures of the world.
Dr. Marc Axelrod

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 36 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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7 of 8 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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Keating on December 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
Over the last two thousand years man has struggled to understand the person of Jesus Christ. In this book, Master Historian, Jaroslav Pelikan, describes how various cultures have handled Jesus. It is truly a fascinating journey that taught me numerous things about Jesus, His church, and history that I did not know. Well worth reading if you are interested in this topic.

I do agree with a few other reviewers that some sections are hard to read, and that Pelikan jumps around a bit. My one critique is that the book becomes less interesting towards the last few chapters.

Despite these challenges, this book is well worth the effort. Simply put, Pelikan is a brilliant historian who possesses a depth of knowledge about this topic that few others can match.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Dujmovic VINE VOICE on July 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a very useful, well researched, largely descriptive survey of how Western culture has viewed Jesus Christ. It's not a work of theology, it's not an inspirational work--it is what it is, interesting with its limitations. There's much that Pelikan faithfully records that's nonsense, such as Thomas Jefferson's breathtakingly vain and obtuse pronouncements about what Jesus really said. There are also some staggering transitions, such as the discussion on Emerson that suddenly veers into Dostoyevsky's The Grand Inquisitor from The Brothers Karamazov (the greatest novel ever). It's worth a read, particularly in paperback, but understand that it won't bring you much closer at all to an answer to Jesus's own question, Who do men say that I am?
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