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The First Coming : How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity Hardcover – September 12, 1986

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Far from believing that he was founding a new religion, Jesus of Nazareth, according to Sheehan, a Loyola theologian, preached the end of religion and the living presence of God among men and women. "This controversial and important book rethinks the origins and meaning of Christianity," reported PW.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Sheehan, professor of philosophy at Loyola, argues that Jesus dispensed with literal gods and formal religions, preaching a Kingdom of God within. He did not regard himself as divine but was made Savior and Son of God by the church. To recover His Kingdom, we must realize that "God has disappeared into justice and mercy"; ours is "the worldly task of human liberation." Sheehan follows an argument long present in liberal theology, though one new wrinkle is his emphasis on Simon Peter's role in the misinterpretation of Jesus. Those interested in the ongoing efforts to reinterpret Jesus for the 20th century will want to read this scholarly book. Recommended for large public and academic libraries. BOMC and Quality Paperback alternate. C. Robert Nixon, M.L.S., West Lafayette, Ind.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 287 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (September 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394511980
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394511986
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Kingsley on August 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A very interesting thesis: Jesus was not "God Junior", sent to tell the world to prepare for Armageddon and His eventual return on a celestial throne. Instead, Jesus was an enlightened man who said "The kingdom of God is at hand (meaning right here right now) for anyone who behaves with mercy and justice". Furthermore, that Jesus proposed the end of temple- and heaven-oriented religious practice, to be replaced with a change in the of hearts of men.

The previous reviewer thought the idea was not so very new, but to me it's novel to the point of being revolutionary.

Sheehan's second point is that Jesus' followers fundamentally misunderstood him, directing their fervor onto the man rather than on his message. This led to the development of Christianity and Christian mythology (miracles, Easter resurrection, messiah-hood, the expectation of a Second Coming, etc). Christian history subsequent to the death of Jesus is much better documented than Jesus' actual life and sayings, and Sheehan does a good job summarizing it all.

Be forewarned: this book is a tough read. It requires two bookmarks, because Sheehan has extensive notes at the back, which must be read in parallel with the main text. Plus, he uses very heavy, academic vocabulary. Here are some of the words I had to look up: casuistry, epigones, exegesis, hermeneutic, hypostasis, kerygma, ontological, otiose, parousia, prescind, prolepsis, reify, soteriological, teleology, tutelary, valence. Not your daily-conversation type language, unless you're a biblical scholar. The book is crammed with references and footnotes to other scholarly works (and to the Bible itself of course). Sheehan places himself in the camp that says all that is, is known only as interpretation.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on March 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There has always been speculation on how an obscure Jewish sage who lived 2,000 years ago became the object of a religion that has changed mankind more than any social movement in history. Even more interesting is how little we actually know for sure - his parentage, city of birth, actual teaching or why he was killed. Without any external historical references, we are left with only the New Testament, a series of writings composed from 40-65 years after Jesus's death, none by eye witnesses.
Sheehan has attempted to explain how a Jewish peasant evolved into God within a century. He starts, like many Bibical critics, noting the discrepancy between date of composition and order of presentation in the New Testament. Paul's letters came first, then Mark, Matthew, Luke/Acts and finally John. One can easily trace the growth in stature following this line of evidence.
Paul knew nothing of the physical man. He never believed in a physical resurrection, preaching that some raised did not have a physical body like us but a spiritual one. No mention of God's son or being a God.
Mark (next) starts with the adult man. Luke and Matthew, written some 80 years after his birth contained the Nativity and early life. John, completed toward the end of the century opens with the stirring "In the Beginning was the Word". We are at the beginning of the Universe and there is Jesus and God as one.
We follow the evolutionary streams as words are changed, ideas added, ancient prophecies are quoted out of context and at last Jesus is judged God by a political convocation. Interesting, Sheehan finds all the talk of a coming Kingdom as the kernel of the teachings. This is Jesus's revolutionary message - that the kingdom of God is internal and can exist now, not some mystical future. That's a stretch but still a good read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John Philoponus on March 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"This doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was the main teaching of Jesus, and which plays so small a part in the Christian creeds, is certainly one of the most revolutionary doctrines that ever stirred and changed human thought."

H. G. Wells

Thy Kingdom Comes:

Leo Tolstoy came to the conclusion that, "The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity by contributing to the establishment of the kingdom of God, which can only be done by the recognition and profession of the truth by every man."

The Kingdom of Heaven (or the Kingdom of God, Hebrew; malkhut hashamayim, Greek; basileia tou theou) is a key concept in both Judaism and Christianity. It refers to the reign or sovereignty of God over all things, as opposed to the reign of earthly or satanic powers. (Wikipedia)

At the time of Jesus, the Essenes, who did not participate in Temple worship in Jerusalem, but exceeded other Jews in the pursuit of virtue, believed they were living on the edge of time, preparing for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

"The kingdom of God is never something that we bring into being, but something that we are receiving. ...The challenge is to know what time it is: what the kingdom is, how it comes, and where we should find it right now," writes Michael S. Horton, in Christianity Today, Jan. 06. He quotes the Epistle to Diognetus, a second century letter which offered a self-portrait of the early Christian community, "For Christians are distinguished from the rest of men neither by country nor by language nor by customs. ... They pass their days on earth, but they have their citizenship in heaven.
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