"This book is about the lost years of earliest Christianity, about the 30s and 40s of the first century, about those dark decades immediately after the execution of Jesus. . . . The obscurity of the 30s and 40s can be emphasized by the comparative brilliancy of the 50s. From that later decade we have the letters of Paul. . . . From them, above all else, we receive the temptation to gloss speedily over the 30s or 40s and move swiftly to those better-documented 50s. . . . Before there was Paul the apostle in the early 50s, there was Paul the persecutor in the early 30s. What was there for him to persecute?"
-from The Birth of Christianity
In this long-awaited companion to his landmark The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan, the world's foremost expert on the historical Jesus, explores the lost years of earliest Christianity, those immediately following the execution of Jesus. He establishes the contextual setting by an interdisciplinary combination of anthropological, historical, and archaeological approaches. He identifies the textual sources by a literary analysis of the earliest discernible layers within our present gospels, both inside and outside the New Testament. Context and text come together to challenge long-standing assumptions about the role of Paul and the meaning of resurrection, and to forge an eloquent and powerful new understanding of the birth of the Christian church.
John Dominic Crossan, one of the most influential figures in biblical scholarship, combines innovative scholarship with compelling insight in illuminating the mysteries of the origins of Christianity. Crossan's meticulous research into the anthropological milieu within which Christianity arose, and his study of the emergence of early Christian communities, form the basis for his stunning and original theory. Separating history from theology and redaction, he presents a vivid account of early Christianity's interaction with the world around it, and of the new traditions and communities established as Jesus' companions continued their movement after his death.
With ancient traditional Judaism under increasing pressure from both Roman commercial exploitation and Greek cultural domination, the Kingdom-of-God movement of Jesus and his followers establish radical but non-violent resistance in the Lower Galilee of the late 20s. As early Jewish and Greek-influenced schools of thought present competing visions of the nature of the spirit and the flesh, it is the message brought by Jesus during his life that creates the spiritual center of the early church.
The Resurrection, while essential to the story of Christ as told through the centuries, is understood in a different light when presented in the setting of a Mediterranean culture in which events such as apparitions by the dead and ecstatic visions were far from unusual. While the eschatological teachings of Paul play a large role in the growth and development of the church, they are seen to follow, rather than define, the moment of its birth.
Ground-breaking and brilliantly crafted, *The Birth of Christianity* is an indispensable addition to our understanding of the origins of the Christian faith.
John Dominic Crossan is the author of The Historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, Who Killed Jesus?, and Who Is Jesus? He chairs the Historical Jesus section of the Society of Biblical Literature and was codirector of the Jesus Seminar. John Dominic Crossan, the world's foremost expert and best-selling author on the historical Jesus, presents a fascinating and essential inquiry into the rise of Christianity in the years preceding and immediately following the Crucifixion. Crossan's interdisciplinary approach sheds new light on the cultural and theological context in which the Christian church arose, and raises essential questions about the role of St. Paul and the significance of the Resurrection.
"Christianity arose out of the interaction of the historical Jesus and his first companions. It was not invented by Paul. That is the stunning hypothesis of Crossan's The Birth of Christianity. Like the master craftsman he is, Crossan has forged a picture of the earliest Christianity-of the dark years, the 30s and 40s[B.C.E.]-in debate with other scholars and in the combination of social science theory, Galilean archeology, close textual analysis, and historical reconstruction. No one controls the issues, the data, and the options as well as Crossan. His reconstruction is essential reading for anyone serious about Christian origins and its fate in the third millennium."
-Robert W. Funk, chair, The Jesus Seminar, and author of The Acts of Jesus
Praise for earlier work by John Dominic Crossan:"[John Dominic Crossan is] excellent and timely in drawing on aspects of social anthropological theory to elucidate the thought processes and human relationships behind the extant sources. He and his colleagues in American biblical studies have done a great service in recent years in bringing these perspectives to bear on the origins of Christianity ... Mr. Crossan paints his Jesus with great warmth and power."
-The New York Times