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A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume I: The Roots of the Problem and the Person (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library) Hardcover – November 1, 1991


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A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume I: The Roots of the Problem and the Person (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library) + A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume IV: Law and Love (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library) (v. 4)
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Product Details

  • Series: The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (November 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300140185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300140187
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 5 customer reviews
This book, while scholarly, is extremely fun to read.
Guy Barnhart
This book introduces a multiple-volume series that is one of the best attempts at analyzing what a critical historian would say can be known about Jesus of Nazareth.
Tom Dykstra
For each question, the author provides a detailed analysis of each of the leading schools of thought.
Adam R. Salisbury

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Guy Barnhart on March 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have just finished reading Meier's fantastic first volume. I picked it up at my university library after hearing many great things about it and thought I would check it out.

This book, while scholarly, is extremely fun to read. Meier does not beat around the bush, but is extremely forward in his methodology and the meat of each chapter. He carefully examines all points, and even discusses some of the fringe scholar's findings, such as Barbara Thiering. It never gets dull as we uncover findings about this marginal Jew that influenced the world.

From my reading I did not feel like his Catholic background contributed to any flaws in the text. If you happen to be Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox he addresses subjects that would be important to them though. Such as Mary's perpetual virginity, which he discusses lucidly and with poise. Obviously it is a much later idea that was not held universally for the first four hundred years of Christianity, and therefore not essential for the Church.

But my one complaint is that the "footnotes" are endnotes, and it got annoying of having to flip back and forth while reading. Other than that this is a finely researched book, and is essential reading for anyone who wants to learn about Jesus, theist or naturalist. Especially if they desire to be informed on where mainstream Biblical Criticism is, because often the representatives of the "New Atheist" movement (Dawkins, etc) are poorly informed when it comes to Biblical Scholarship or Theology. And Meier's contribution is essential reading.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Adam R. Salisbury on July 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Mr. Meier very thoroughly introduces the reader to issues surrounding the historical evidence of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. The book begins by explaining the goal of the book and the methodology that he will employ. The first three chapters serve as a preview of how this author attempts to catalogue in detail all of the possible approaches to the material. After providing a basis for his methodology, Mr. Meier goes on to ask, "What can we know about the historical Jesus?" Where did he come from, what kind of education did he have, what language(s?) did he speak, when was he born, when was he crucified, did he really have brothers and sisters? These are just a few of the preliminary questions that the author explores. For each question, the author provides a detailed analysis of each of the leading schools of thought. For example, when trying to determine which day of the week the Last Supper was held, the author explores the pros and cons of not less than four distinct theories, comparing them against modern and ancient calendar systems including a detailed analysis of the Jewish religious customs of fixing a date for Passover.
This is not a book for those seeking enlightenment. Rather, it is a book for those who want to know what evidence exists outside of faith.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Tom Dykstra on March 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book introduces a multiple-volume series that is one of the best attempts at analyzing what a critical historian would say can be known about Jesus of Nazareth. This first volume includes the following topics: an introduction to the quest for the historical Jesus and why one might bother with it; an assessment of the biblical and extra-biblical sources; an attempt at establishing objective criteria for determining historicity; and an attempt to establish a chronology of Jesus' life by looking at the infancy narratives, the crucifixion narratives, and what we know of the social environment that would be experienced by a Jew growing up in early first century Palestine.

For the most part Meier does an excellent job of explaining issues in language accessible to the non-specialist, and for the specialist he cites scholarly literature on the subject. But the reader not already familiar with this literature should be aware of some limitations of his presentation.

Perhaps most important is to realize that the historical conclusions he reaches are often much like a house of cards. The lower-level cards are assumptions that may be shaky at best. Everything built upon them seems solid, so the final edifice looks solid, but the whole is only as solid as the foundational assumptions.

For example, Meier lists a well-thought-out list of criteria that he intends to use for assessing historicity, the top 3 of which are: 1. Embarrassment (something about Jesus found in an ancient source that would be embarrassing to the early church is likely to be historical); 2. Discontinuity (something that has no obvious source other than Jesus is probably historical); and 3. Multiple attestation (something attested in multiple sources is probably historical).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brian J. Hendricks on August 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Schweitzer, Vermes, Sanders, Wright, and now Meier. All of these scholars have tried to pinpoint the ever elusive historical Jesus. One may ask: Why even bother to write another massive tome in this most interesting of subjects? There is of course, always the need to further academic understanding of this important topic. This is exactly what Meier does.

In this first volume he lays down the foundation for what will eventually be his five-volume magnum opus. Volume one does not disappoint in the least. This is probably the most accessible of what will eventually be the completed series. One of the nice things about this first volume is its accessibility. The book is unique in the fact that most that embark upon this quest lean toward a more liberal or conservative/apologetic stance on the issue as to who the historical Jesus really was. The thing about Meier is that he really tries to steer clear of taking either side and tries to remain historically objective (as much as one can possibly be when dealing with a figure such as this one). This is especially seen with his remarks on the Josephus texts and the background of James. His objective approach is especially noticed when he mentions that when the series ends, it will end with the crucifixion and will not attempt to discover whatever evidence there may be for historical proof of the Resurrection.

I highly commend this work for persons of faith, people that are interested in this issue, or for someone that has recently found themselves hearing that Jesus never existed and for those that just want to know more. Meier does not disappoint. This should be one of the foundational texts for academic historical Jesus research for some time to come.

Quite a rewarding and engaging text!
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A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume I: The Roots of the Problem and the Person (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library)
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