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The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant Paperback – February 26, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (February 26, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060616296
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060616298
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This monumental work by a leading biblical scholar combines history, literary analysis, and social anthropology into a comprehensive picture of the historical Jesus. Crossan clearly addresses textual problems of the tradition, its chronology, and its attestation in a well-documented and succinct manner. The Jesus who emerges from the inclusive (rather than the exclusive) strain of Judaism resembles a magician more than a prophet, a messianic claimant, a bandit leader, or a nonviolent protestor. He preaches "a religious and economic egalitarianism" through "miracle and parable, healing and eating . . . calculated to force individuals into unmediated physical and spiritual contact with God . . . and one another." Essential for all academic and large public libraries.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Adds color to the interpretation of faith." -- -- Martin Marty, author of A Cry of Absence

"Crossan's Jesus isn't gentle, meek, or mild. Crossan's Jesus is an illiterate peasant, both healer and social revolutionary--a Jesus without the Lord's Prayer, the Last Supper, the Virgin Birth, or the Sermon on the Mount." -- Associated Press

"Elegant . . .masterful. There is nothing like [Crossan's book] for thoroughness, readability, fairness, and clarity." -- -- Harvey Cox, author of The Secular City andMany Mansions

"Every couple of years someone tries to prove that Jesus was a Zealot who carried a dagger, or that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and the French monarchy are their descendents, or that Jesus was a member of a mushroom-munching cult. Crossan in is neither of those camps. It may not be an orthodox portrait, but he's not doing it for sensation or headlines. He is a very honest literary critic and he has worked very quietly for a lot of years. What he's doing adds color to the interpretation of faith rather than being a displacement of it." -- Martin Marty, University of Chicago

"Lively and idiosyncratic in the great tradition of the historical Jesus genre begun by Schweitzer." -- -- The Christian Science Monitor

"Lively and idiosyncratic in the great tradition of the historical Jesus genre begun by Schweitzer.... Crossan leads the reader on a meandering bumpy ride through the back streets of Judea as he searches for a rabble-rousing peasant named Jesus and his ragtag followers." -- Christian Science Monitor

"The most important scholarly book about Jesus in decades." -- -- Marcus Borg, author of Jesus: A New Vision

"[Crossan] argues that Jesus. . .became a wisdom teacher using Zen-like aphorisms and puzzling parables to challenge social conventions." -- -- The New York Times

"[Crossan] argues that Jesus...became a wisdom teacher using Zen-like aphorisms and puzzling parables to challenge social conventions." -- New York Times

"Adds color to the interpretation of faith." -- Martin Marty, author of A Cry of Absence

"The most important scholarly book about Jesus in decades." -- Marcus Borg, author of Jesus: A New Vision


More About the Author

John D. Crossan is generally acknowledged to be the premier historical Jesus scholar in the world. His books include The Historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, and Who Killed Jesus? He recently appeared in the PBS special "From Jesus to Christ."

Customer Reviews

This book is a challenging read.
Tom NorCal
This may make sense for naturalists or deists even, but not for theists.
K. Ross
This is a detailed, well researched book.
Bobby Linville

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 111 people found the following review helpful By John Dewey Remy on September 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant is but one of a long list of controversial works that J. D. Crossan has produced. To be honest, I struggled through the first half of this 500+ page study--Jesus is barely mentioned until chapter 11. Instead, Crossan spends the first ten chapters carefully laying the groundwork for his research. By the time I reached page 225, I had covered social relationships unique to the Mediterranean region, a variety of peasant responses to political and religious oppression (especially in Palestine during the first century C.E.), Jesus' philosophical and religious contemporaries (especially from the poorest in society). Crossan approaches his study of Jesus armed with anthropological, sociological, historical and literary tools, and focuses especially on where all of his tools converge.

Especially noteworthy is his approach to the documentary evidence of Jesus' words and deeds. He draws upon 200+ years of New Testament exegesis and Christian Biblical studies to create "An Inventory of the Jesus Tradition by Chronological Stratification and Independent Attestation." I was probably more excited by this Appendix than by most of the book. The first stratum (30-60 C.E.) contains: several Pauline epistles; non-canonical gospels and fragments, including the Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of the Hebrews; and finally sources now embedded in the canonical Gospels, including the Sayings Gospel Q, the Miracles Collection and the Cross Gospel. The Gospel of Mark, which I had always considered one of the oldest sources, falls into the second stratum (60-80 C.E.), and Matthew, Luke, and John fall in the third stratum (80-120 C.E.) (along with many other documents/fragments in these strata).
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Atheen M. Wilson on August 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a very thorough textual analysis of primary documentation for the life of Jesus. It is also not a book for everyone. I would specify three possible types of reader, one of which should not read the book, another that doesn't need to, and those that will thoroughly enjoy the work.

The first is that reader for whom the New Testament (NT) is the be all and end all on Jesus and his message. This person will see any confusion in the sources of the NT as being purely a problem of their own lack of understanding; if the texts say something that is internally inconsistant, it must be that only God or his elect are able to understand and lesser individuals are to accept on belief alone even if it doesn't make sense. For this person, the book will only serve to anger you. That will raise your blood pressure, and you don't need that. I would advise you not to read the book for your own health and safety.

The second type of reader is that for whom the story of Jesus as you learned it in Sunday school is your primary religious referent, and you rarely ever delve much into the actual NT. In short, you believe because you like the story as presented to you and the precepts it teaches as you were taught them, and you don't care if it's true or not. My advice for this reader is that you don't really need to read the book, but if you do, it won't upset you in the slightest. You might actually enjoy learning some new things you didn't know before about the history of the period.

The final category of reader is one who is passionately fond of history and enjoys a good textual criticism done by people who know how to do it well: ie.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 1, 1999
Format: Paperback
I do not claim to understand all of the subtleties of Crossan's scholarly methods, but it is his insistence on peeling away layers and centuries of mythology to seek the truth beneath that taught me that one does not have to check one's brain at the church door. That in itself was a revelation to me. Regardless of whether history vindicates Crossan or not, this book represents a path of inquiry that should be pursued further. The superstitions of the Middle Ages don't work anymore. I began the book as a curious atheist and finished it as a prayerful Christian.
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59 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on January 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
When I read a book that I don't understand, I try to determine if it's the author's fault or my ignorance and mental deficiencies. In the case of "The Historical Jesus" it's mostly the author's fault.

First of all, the cover misdescribes the book as "the first comprehensive determination of who Jesus was, what he did, what he said." But Jesus is barely mentioned until page 227. Before that, in Chapter 8, for example, the author embarks on a long essay on magic and Elijah that is hundreds of years removed from Jesus. In 500 pages the author says practically nothing about who Jesus "was, what he did, and what he said." This is a book about Mediterranean society of the first century of the Christian era rather than Jesus. Parts are interesting and enlightening which is why Crossan gets three stars from me; parts are relevant; parts are incomprehensible.

Second, is the issue of an index -- or lack thereof. Crossan has eighteen pages at the end of the book in appendices filled with mysterious numbers and references that bear no relationship whatsoever to a conventional index. Crossan reveals at page 421 that, in his opinion, Jesus was a "Jewish peasant cynic." Well, that's interesting, please explain. What's his definition of a cynic and how does he arrive at that conclusion? Perhaps it was divine inspiration because there's no index to lead you back to additional information. Thumbing through the book I finally found on page 74, a brief, incomplete, and confusing description of cynicism. That's all folks. You'd think that if an author was going to conclude that Jesus was a cynic, he'd give us a bit more background on the subject. OK, maybe I can figure out what a cynic is. but what's a peasant cynic? And what in the world is a "Jewish peasant cynic?
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