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Comment: Rough Copy; This is for the reader who values content over aesthetics. Like a well worn baseball glove, it will serve you well, but don't try to give this as a gift. We Pack Carefully and Ship Daily! Purchase of this former Library book directly supports local librararies. Great way to show your visitors that not only are you well read but you actually have a library card.
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A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus: The Roots of the Problem and the Person, Vol. 1 Hardcover – November 1, 1991

4.5 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the A Marginal Jew Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This study inaugurates a new series that seeks to examine various topics (e.g., anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, theology) as they relate to the Bible. The series is intended for the general reader as well as for scholars. Here, Meier (New Testament studies, Catholic Univ. of America) adopts a two-tier approach: he delineates up-to-date research on the Jesus of history with discussions geared toward well-read general readers, and in his extensive notes he discusses technical matters of interest to doctoral students and scholars. Meier explains issues of method, definitions and sources, and then turns to the birth, years of development, and cultural background of Jesus. He distinguishes between "what I know about Jesus by research and what I hold by faith." His study is a necessary purchase for academic libraries.
- Cynthia Widmer, Downingtown, Pa.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Meier (Religion/Catholic Univ. of America), a Catholic priest, offers a vigorously honest, skeptical, and scholarly attempt to discover the historical Jesus. The author poses an intriguing hypothetical: ``suppose that a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, and an agnostic...hammered out a consensus document on who Jesus of Nazareth was.'' Meier tries to create such a ``consensus document'' by examining the fundamental facts of Jesus' life (while excluding those aspects of Jesus' biography that are premised on tenets of Christian belief, like the Resurrection). In this, the first volume of a two-part work, Meier carefully conducts an exegesis of the ``Roots of the Problem'' (the New Testament texts, which are not primarily historical works; the apocryphal gospels; and the fleeting references in the works of Josephus, Tacitus, and other pagan and Jewish writers that constitute the entire historical record of Jesus), and an analysis of the ``Roots of the Person'' (in which Meier brings hermeneutic tools to bear on the birth, development, and early years of Jesus). Meier points out Jesus' historical ``marginality''--his peripheral involvement in the society, history, and culture of his age--that ironically underscores the central position he has occupied in Western culture in the centuries since he died. Rife with scholarly terminology, and thus slow going for the nonspecialist--but, still, a superb examination of a fascinating historical problem. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Series: A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 484 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (November 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385264259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385264259
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
John Meier's "A Marginal Jew" is the leading study of the historical Jesus of our time. Notwithstanding three sizeable volumes the work is still incomplete, but this reputation is clearly well-deserved. The first volume only deals with the basic contours of his life, but it is the most intelligent discussion of these questions available. Meier, a Catholic priest, reminds us that the historical Jesus is not the real Jesus. For a start we have a radical shortage of information of information about all but a few people in classical times, and Jesus is not one of those lucky few. What he has presented is what a spectrum of theologians and historians would conclude about Jesus if they were forced to provide a basic consensus.
So Meier starts with the sources for Jesus' life, which basically consists of the Gospels. There is a long, thorough discussion of the reference to Jesus in Josephus, from which Meier agrees with most scholars is mostly genuine, with several obvious Christian interpolations. He then discusses other sources, which reveal a very meagre crop. There is Tacitus' reference to Christians, nothing of value in the Talmud, as well as a thorough deflation of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. Thomas consists of sayings, many of which resemble those in the Gospels. But Thomas' sayings are simpler, and many have concluded that they are more primitive and therefore earlier than the canonical gospels. Meier disagrees. He points that one reason Thomas' order of sayings does not resemble the synoptic gospels is because many of them were remembered orally, not because they proceeded them.
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Format: Hardcover
Every once in a while, public attention turns to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. A few years ago, it was the "Jesus Seminar." Lately, Dan Brown's book THE DA VINCI CODE sparked some interest, particularly among the conspiracy minded. The impression that many people have is that the conventional story about Jesus is wrong, and the more established churches don't want you to know it.

What many people haven't been told is that there is a large body of work in recent years which is supportive of the historical accuracy of the Gospels. One such work is John Meier's series A MARGINAL JEW. Meier is a Catholic priest who teaches at Notre Dame. In 1991 he came out with the first volume. It might not be the first book you want to read on the subject, but it's a work that anyone interested in the historical Jesus should tackle. Volume two and three are out, and a fourth and final volume is promised.

Meier's work is nothing if not comprehensive. Volume 1 describes the sources for the life of Jesus, the historicity of those sources, the chronology of Jesus' life, and his background (his family, what languages he spoke, whether he could read, and the like). Meier is particularly good on some of the supposed sources for Jesus' life, such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Peter. As he shows, careful analysis of these documents indicates that they are later than and rely upon the canonical Gospels. Contra people like Crossan, it is highly unlikely that they contain a separate Jesus tradition.

This book is also interesting for a couple of other reasons.
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Why even bother trying to learn about the historical Jesus? Why try where so many others have given up or gotten bogged down in disagreement? In his great, academic book, Fr. John Meier recalls Plato: "The unexamined life is not worth living." For the Christian, some things are sacred, but nothing about Yeshu the "marginal" Jew is forbidden in a proper historical examination. And Fr. Meier does just that in this, the first of three volumes. Was Jesus an illegitimate child? Could he read? Did he have brothers and sisters? Why was he "marginal"? What was his early life like?

The scarcity of the evidence can at first be discouraging, but Fr. Meier takes us through the centuries of scholarship and the best available modern evidence to paint us a picture of the young son of Mary and Joseph. Faithless and faithful alike may be unhappy with Meier's conclusions, but his arguments are well-researched and presented. You can read the text and skip the chapter endnotes for a decent academic presentation, or you can delve into the notes and branch off into the cutting edge discussion on the Jesus of history.

Most interesting to me was the fact that the book bears the Imprimatur of Bp. Sheridan, but does not have the Nihil Obstat, or the approval of the Church's censor office. Normally the two go together. Fr. Meier's message may not be popular among modern Christians, Catholic or otherwise, but he's not been censured either. It's a testimony the the impeccability of his scholarship and the validity of his message: The historical Jesus is not the Jesus of faith. He is also not the "real" Jesus, irrecoverable now after 2000 years. He is simply the Jesus that we can recover from "purely historical sources and arguments."
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