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The HUMAN CHRIST: THE SEARCH FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS Hardcover – May 11, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

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One might think that the search for the historical Jesus--or the human Christ--is a recent phenomenon. The controversial work of the Jesus Seminar and its efforts to discover (or uncover) the "real" Jesus, the recent spate of books that include "the complete" sayings of Jesus; the ongoing efforts of theologians like John Shelby Spong to redefine the meaning of Christ for a new millennium: these are just among the latest efforts in a quest going back three hundred years to define Jesus, the man.

There is a delightfully rich cast of characters in Charlotte Allen's book The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus. Hermann Reimarus, father of German textual criticism of the Bible, who accused Jesus of deliberately deceiving his followers into thinking he was a miracle worker; Thomas Jefferson, who in 1804 decided to extract from the gospels what he considered the genuine sayings of Jesus (presaging the Jesus Seminar by some 190 years). Schweitzer, Hegel, Flaubert, Nietzsche, Scorsese--these figures and many others are shown searching for their historical Jesus, in a n informative, amiable style.

Allen argues that searchers for the "real" Jesus found what they wanted to find: liberals found a liberal Jesus; mystics a gnostic Jesus. Not surprisingly, Allen also details the passing fads over the 300-year search for the "real" Jesus--and how Jesus research usually spoke more directly to the present than the past.

If readers are interested in the ongoing premillennial controversy about Jesus the man--what he said; what he did, what it meant, and what it means--Allen's book is recommended reading. Those interested in finding out more about the men and women who quested for the human Christ will be well served by Allen's entertaining and informative volume. --Fraser Hall

From Publishers Weekly

Allen's wide-ranging survey analyzes the quest for the historical Jesus.The historical Jesus has occupied French theologian Ernest Renan, German theologians like D.F. Strauss, Rudolf Bultmann and Helmut Koester, British novelists like George Eliot and American New Testament scholars like Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar. In a breezy journalistic style, Lingua Franca contributing editor Allen blows through the last three centuries of historical Jesus scholarship to render the oft-quoted moral of the story: the Jesus-searchers of every era have found their own worldviews reflected comfortably in their portraits of Jesus. Allen opens her survey of these Jesus quests with an exploration of Jesus' Jewish world and the reception of Christianity in the Hellenic world. She then proceeds to explore the cultural contexts, from the 17th century to the 20th, in which the various Jesus quests arose. For example, in her examination of the work of the Jesus Seminar, she argues that "the non-eschatological Jesus of the New Quest is a congenial figure for many American academics who associate eschatology with snake-handling and polyester blends, or who fear that putting apocalyptic sayings into Jesus' mouth supports the political goals of the Christian coalition." In her zeal to vilify the New Quest, however, she makes insupportable generalizations such as the contention that the Jesus Seminar "implicitly claims to represent a consensus of current New Testament scholarship," a claim never made explicitly or implicitly by Funk and company. In the end, Allen prefers her Jesus as a Jew who is the divinized Christ of Catholic Christian orthodoxy. While the book might be helpful to some readers as an introduction to the quest for the historical Jesus, its superficial scholarship makes this a less than worthwhile contribution to the historical Jesus conversation.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (May 11, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684827255
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684827254
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on June 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Charlotte Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor at Lingua Franca. She wrote in the Introduction to this 1998 book, "I am not a biblical scholar, and this book is not an attempt to offer a theory of who the historical Jesus was, or whether he actually said or did those things attributed to him in the Gospels. Rather, it examines the way in which the image of Jesus has functioned as a vehicle for some of the best and worst ideas of Western civilization over the past 2,000 years." (Pg. 6) She adds, "The quest for the historical Jesus has produced surprisingly little genuine and uncontroverted new knowledge over the past three centuries about the man and his time... Despite these considerations, I do not believe that the search for the historical Jesus has been in vain. Indeed, it has come full circle in recognizing and exploring Jesus' Jewishness." (Pg. 6-7)

She admits, "One final word: As a Catholic, I am certain that my own theological presuppositions have colored my presentations of the people I have surveyed, just as their theological and ideological presuppositions have colored their presentations of Jesus... I have tried to write about the subjects of this text at least partly from their own point of view, with sympathy as well as critical detachment." (Pg. 7)

She observes, "The [18th-19th century] German Jesus-searchers in fact tended to INVENT biblical history... Partly because they were Protestants (most Catholics were disinclined to partipate in the quest for the historical Jesus, and the writings of Kant and his followers were on the Vatican's Index of Forbidden Books), and partly because they were rationalists, the German biblical scholars propounded various theories that incorporated their Protestant/rationalist/progressivist reading of history." (Pg.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Larry Fischer on May 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Somewhat overwhelmed by the detail. Allen did a lot of research.
Good reference for names and dates.
No person has created such a volume of literature than Jesus.
That says something. You decide.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By W. Jamison VINE VOICE on July 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This was a nice read. It certainly seems like many authors are trying to come to their own impressions of who Jesus was, though this book has as its main focus the history of the tradition of trying to figure out who Jesus was. It was also interesting to be reading this book when a news media highlight arose with the publication of Reza Aslan's new book Zealot which is also about who Jesus was. (I have not read that book yet but have ordered it). What made this interesting was a Fox News Spirited Debate piece where the interviewer made some of the most outrageous mistakes regarding who Reza was and questioned his bias as a follower of Islam writing about Jesus. It became obvious watching the patient Dr. Aslan explaining the difference between an academic work and a diatribe by someone with an agenda - to someone who was following a script that clearly had such an agenda! Notice also that when CA wrote her book there was no such Fox News debate piece, though she certainly comes to conclusions I can only imagine are similar to the ones Dr. Aslan describes - as I hope to see. In this respect, CA's book is refreshing since it remains objective and follows the complex trail with a factual explanation of all the pathways Christology took. There were some very interesting bits here and there and she recaps much of the literature, some of which I was familiar with enough to follow her easily. And now I have read Aslan's book Zealot and find both books go well together.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jack M Pyle on February 12, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow, nothing sacred to this girl! After you have read her book forget any reading of the historical Jesus. She has done it all for you and closed the (her) definitive book on the subject. Her book for me was far too dogmatic on any and all issues in the quest to understand Jesus. I did like, as Harold Bloom said, some of the gossipy tidbits she had in the book. But, just as she was so won’t to criticize one and all on their errant conclusions, I would say the same of her gossipy sections. How in the heck do we have a confirmation of fact on any juicy morsel of tales in the lives of her characters in the book than according to her, which we don’t have of Jesus in the New Testament?
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24 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 31, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is a rare treat. Allen combines scholarship, an excellent writing style, deep cultural insight, and fearlessnes to come to terms with the way Jesus has been understood in a huge variety of social contexts through time. Her survey of intellectual history, which debunks the debunkers from the Apostolic age to our own, has predictably raised the hackles of many. Why? Her final message urges intellectual humility, a trait not often found among those who tackle this huge subject. Few have done it so successfully.
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15 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Great step by step review of thought concerning who Jesus really was. Lofty thoughts of two thousand years of genius and creativity are made simple and discussed in a straight forward style. Ms. Allen always writes in layman's language but never in a condescending fassion. A wonderful addition to any Jesus library. A reference book that can be read like a novel. Well done.
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47 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have bought several copies of this book to hand out to every husky 12 year old male in my neighborhood. At 400 pages, this hefty book is a more than adequate replacement for a janitor's bucket when you need something to heave at an enemy's knees.

Warning - do not give this book to females, because they throw like girls.
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