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The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Go Paperback – January 3, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (January 3, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060641665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060641665
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Finally, a passionately argued but fair response to the Jesus Seminar (The Five Gospels, LJ 2/15/94) from an established scholar. Johnson has a double purpose: to provide an outspoken but courteous critique of the output of this small minority of mostly second-line scholars and to address the confusion in the church over the relationship between history and faith. These scholars are joined by a large number of amateurs using the same clearly defective methodology to bypass the scholarly process for a highly effective public relations "culture war" in the news media and publishing industry. They commonly claim to have previously unknown or suppressed data, usually a nonliteral or symbolic interpretation of the Gospels to produce "history" and promote provocative conclusions that would force radical reinterpretation or rejection of traditional Christianity. This book should be in any religious collection to help provide balance to the current historical Jesus literature. It could well be supplemented by The Jesus Quest (InterVarsity, 1995), an excellent survey of the full range of "historical Jesus" literature. Highly recommended.?Eugene O. Bowser, Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Though Johnson insists that he is a quiet scholar reluctant to engage in public polemic, his entrance into this battle is anything but reticent. He launches an attack on presentation of recent historical Jesus research in the popular press directed more at the Jesus Seminar (a group of scholars that has been at the forefront of such research for more than a decade) than at the press itself (pictured as manipulated rather than manipulator). Behind Johnson's dismissive attitude toward the media and his ad hominem attack on Seminar founder Robert Funk lurk three serious questions for readers familiar with the work of Seminar participants, including Funk, John Dominic Crossan, and Burton Mack. The first concerns the place of scholarly debate on issues of public interest; the second, the limitations of history and historical method; and the third, the interrelationship of faith, history, and institution. Despite Johnson's protestations, scholarly work is most often a war of words, a battle of interpretations--and whether in classrooms, scholarly journals, or the popular press, scholars (like preachers) know that massaging the medium is more than half the battle. Steve Schroeder --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It is there that Johnson says one can find the real Jesus.
Virgil Brown
Johnson believes that historical criticism in general holds very limited possibilities and that the Jesus Seminar is particularly bad.
Tedd Steele
Anyone at all interested in contemporary studies concerning the Early Church must read this book - it's really that simple.
Eric Bergerud

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

129 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 4, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a former Biblical studies student (M. Div. from Yale Divinity School) turned philosopher, I read this book with the greatest of interest. The primary reason I forsook my OT and NT studies was a despair at how irrelevant and superficial and sceptical the entire discipline had become. Despite the constant hawking of new discoveries and new breakthroughs in Biblical studies, I felt myself as both a human being and a Christian completely alienated from the vast majority of scholars working on the Biblical materials. (I should add that I gave up Biblical studies before arriving at Yale, but I do believe that Brevard Childs is an exception to all of this. Had I not already been burned out, I would have profitted from having studied with him.)
Timothy Luke Johnson does an absolutely marvelous job of analyzing how and where things went wrong in NT studies. Had he just set out to criticize the Jesus Seminar (and easy undertaking--the vast majority of important NT scholars on both the left and right of the theological spectrum look askance at their efforts), it would have been an entertaining exercise in debunking. But what I didn't expect was a balanced and incisive analysis of where things went wrong in Biblical scholarship.
I do recommend this book as an important corrective to the misguided and rather silly efforts of Robert Funk and his cohorts, but even more I recommend it as an analysis of where things went wrong and as a guide to how we might get ourselves back on track. After having plowed through tedious and uninsightful works by Funk, Crossan, and Pagels in recent months, I found this book to be a complete breath of fresh air.
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67 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on October 19, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Real Jesus" is a book by Luke Timothy Johnson, a former Benedictine monk who currently teaches New Testament studies at Emory University. Although the author is a scholar, the book is strictly speaking not scholarly. Rather, the purpose of "The Real Jesus" is to stimulate debate about various topics, including the Jesus Seminar, the current state of Biblical studies, the mass media, and, of course, the figure of Jesus.

The main bulk of the book contains a criticism of the Jesus Seminar, a group representing the ultra-liberal portion of the scholarly (and theological) spectrum. The Seminar, led by John Dominic Crossan and Robert Funk, believes that most of the sayings attributed to Jesus weren't really spoken by him. Thus, the real Jesus was very different from the one we meet in the Gospels. The members of the Seminar also take a positive view of apocryphal texts, such as "the Gospel of Thomas" and "the Gospel of Peter", speculating that they might contain a more authentic picture of Jesus.

Apart from criticizing the ideas of the Jesus Seminar, Johnson also takes exception to their way of using the mass media. To Johnson, the Seminar is more a media phenomenon and less a scholarly enterprise. It's task is to change the perceptions of the public, not to influence their academic peers. (Ironically, this is the same kind of criticism natural scientists level at Christian creationists!)

Since Johnson is attacking the liberals regrouped around the Jesus Seminar, it's easy to assume that he is a conservative, even a fundamentalist. Actually, he is much more flexible. Thus he admits that the "historical" or "real" Jesus is very difficult to reconstruct.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
I had the privilege of having Luke Timothy Johnson as my professor in various Christian-themed courses when I was an undergraduate at Indiana University, and hope that I am counted among the 'wonderfully responsive classes of undergraduates at Indiana University' to which he refers in his preface. (p. xiii)
-The Jesus Seminar and Other Charlatans-
As the word 'charlatan' derives from the Italian cerretano, meaning an inhabitant of Cerreto, a village near Spoleto, Italy, famous for quacks, perhaps Johnson would not object to using the word in connection with the Jesus Seminar, a 'village' as it were of historical Jesus research quackery. Johnson finds the Jesus Seminar lacking in integrity in both method and conclusion -- he finds irritating 'its indulgence in cute and casual discourse'. (p. 15) He finds their hunger for media exposure damaging to the overall enterprise of scholarship, and is deeply distrustful of the intention of their research and conclusions. The manner of determining historicity (the use of a coloured-ball voting mechanism, etc.), the exaggeration of prominence of the group of scholars who comprise the Jesus Seminar (a small amount given the large number of scholars in the world), and the tendency to depart from the stated purposes of finding an historical Jesus without theological taint and bias make the project a dubious enterprise for Johnson. 'The Seminar has not consistently followed the very criteria it established.' (p. 26) Their tendency toward rejecting anything canonical (and often completely ignoring Pauline and other epistolary sources), and instead elevating non-canonical sources to prominence, strikes Johnson as being as non-objective as the Seminar's members tend to make accusation of the canon.
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