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The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem Paperback – January 30, 2007

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*Starred Review* Taking Mark, the earliest Gospel, as their guide, Borg and Crossan "retell a story everyone thinks they know too well and most do not seem to know at all." So doing, they offer an alternative passion of the Christ, the primary feature of which is not suffering (Latin passio) but passion understood Anglophonically as "consuming interest, dedicated enthusiasm, or concentrated commitment." Jesus' passion was the kingdom of God declared in terms of God's justice, they say, and the fact that such declaration was seen, despite Jesus' nonviolence, as a threat to the system of domination by Rome and its wealthy Jewish collaborators led to his suffering. Borg and Crossan parse Mark's reportage (so to speak) on the days from Palm Sunday to Easter to demonstrate the challenges Jesus made to Roman and Herodian-temple rule. They point up Jesus' insistence on justice, especially equitable distribution of necessities, and such too-little-noticed matters as Jesus' great popularity, attested by the crowds who hang on his words and his adversaries' fears of angering those crowds; so fearful are they that they must find a traitor, seize Jesus at night, and whisk him through the courts. Written with Crossan's scholarly scintillation rather than Borg's sometimes plodding earnestness, this is politically concerned analysis of Christianity at its best. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“If there is…one book for the redemption of Holy Week, this is it. A must read.” (Peter J. Gomes, Harvard University)

“[...] Borg and Crossan show one of the most careful and insightful readings of the Bible I’ve ever come across.” (Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christian)

“It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this volume[...]” (Barbara Brown Taylor, author of Leaving Church and Preaching Life)

“These controversial Jesus Seminar scholars provide lots to ponder.” (The Kansas City Star)

“Borg and Crossan brilliantly chronicle the tension that forced everyone to pledge allegiance -- either to Rome or to Jesus.” (Los Angeles Times)

“A readable and attractive reinterpretation of Jesus’ death and resurrection. . . .” (Houston Chronicle)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060872608
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060872601
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (223 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,106 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Stephen Spear on March 4, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are many reasons to read this book, but for the sake of brevity I will emphasize three. The authors rely upon the Gospel of Mark to tell the story of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem, and in the process explain why and how this gospel was written. For a long time I've held the belief that the gospels were simply a collection of orally circulated stories that the authors wished to preserve in writing. In order to provide some type of cohesive logic, they placed the stories within a loose narrative framework. Thanks to Borg and Crossan, I now understand that Mark wrote a carefully crafted, concisely written book that has a specific purpose --- to demonstrate for Christians that to follow Jesus means to follow him on THE WAY. For Jesus, the road to Jerusalem led to death and resurrection. Those who follow Jesus on this path will also be resurrected to new life. In short, this book greatly enhanced my understanding of Mark. Ever wonder why Jesus condemned a fig tree that bore no fruit out of season? Or why Jesus was so impressed with the woman who anoited his head with oil? Who exactly was in "the crowd" that called for Jesus' execution? Read this book to find out. My second reason for reading the book is the most obvious one. You will understand what happened in Jerusalem and why Jesus died. As Christians we are taught to believe that Jesus was somehow mindlessly fulfilling Biblical prophecy by going to Jerusalem, as if he had no say in the matter. The truth is that in an act of tremendous personal courage, Jesus chose to confront the powerful elite of the city --- the Roman imperialists and their temple collaborators --- and demand an end to oppression and injustice. This is why he was crucified.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Borg and Crossan, in this slim readable volume, set out a simple proposition: to understand Jesus and what was important to him, it is vital to understand the week leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. And the only way to really understand that week is to read what the Gospels actually say, not what we've been told they ought to say.

In some ways Borg and Crossan are biblical literalists. They try to sweep away traditional interpretations that have accrued to the Bible stories and instead try to read them in the context for which they were written. To do this they bring to bear a knowledge of biblical history that makes clear some parts of the Gospel story, which appear opaque to modern readers who don't know the milieu. Especially when Jesus is preaching in the temple, this explication really helps clear up common misunderstandings associated with Christian teaching.

There are times when the authors veer from the strictly literal, however. This is most apparent when they write about the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter. Since the Gospels slide over that day with only a fleeting mention, the authors fall back on legends of the Harrowing of Hell. There's nothing wrong with this in principle, but when the authors bring in references to the Gospel of Peter, which is little more than a late anti-Semitic forgery, they risk descending into silliness.

Also, many readers may object to the strongly political aspect of this book. Though the authors don't blow their noses on the spiritual importance of Jesus and his teachings, their emphasis in this writing lies on his anti-imperial politics.
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Format: Paperback
"Two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30. It was the beginning of the week of Passover." From the East came a peasant procession with Jesus of Nazareth riding on a donkey and cheered by his followers. From the West came the Roman governor of Idumea, Pontius Pilate, who had come up from Caesarea Maritima. That the two processions occurred on the same day is not recorded in the Bible and, in fact, the two processions may not have happened on the same day. However the Roman governor did travel from Caesarea Maritima for festivals such as Passover. Most of all, for Mark, the procession of Jesus was clearly counter to the procession of Pilate.

The inevitable confrontation may be described as the "domination system" which had developed in Jerusalem. Borg and Crossan explain that domination system is a shorthand for political oppression, economic exploitation, and religious legitimation. Jerusalem had become a society where only a few ruled, the monarch, the nobility, and the wealthy. A high percentage of the society's wealth came from agriculture. Structures of laws of land ownership, taxation, and indenture of labor, put between a half and two-thirds of all of the wealth into the coffers of the few. In ancient societies, these structures were legitimized by religious language: the monarch ruled by divine right and the social order was the will of God.

The day after Jesus made his procession into Jerusalem, he drove the moneychangers from the Temple and aroused the severe wrath of the temple priests. The next day, Tuesday, was a day of challenges. Jesus returns to Jerusalem. As he is walking Jesus is challenged by the chief priests, scribes, and elders who want to know the authority he has for committing his prophetic act in the Temple.
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