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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The historical Jesus for ordinary readers
This is a great book for many kinds of readers interested in the historical Jesus as understood by one of the contemporary world's most noted scholars. It is an especially good introduction for those who are interested but have little prior reading in historical Jesus studies and little theological training. The question and answer format and the small...
Published on April 12, 2000 by Susan B. Curtis

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Read Also..........
I recommend you read Marcus Borg's book "Jesus: Uncovering the Life,......" if you want usable information...... This is rather bland and, by comparison, not as informative.
Published 14 months ago by Jean Hanson


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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The historical Jesus for ordinary readers, April 12, 2000
By 
Susan B. Curtis (Cumberland, Maine) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus (Paperback)
This is a great book for many kinds of readers interested in the historical Jesus as understood by one of the contemporary world's most noted scholars. It is an especially good introduction for those who are interested but have little prior reading in historical Jesus studies and little theological training. The question and answer format and the small "chunks" of text make it easy to approach, and the vocabulary is easier than most books of its kind. Even those who have already read some of Crossan's more scholarly books will enjoy this one. I particularly enjoyed the excerpts of actual letters, many of them quite eloquent, received by Crossan from countless readers of his earlier books. The last section of the book also offers material not included in other books, material at once more personal and more focused on the implications of historical Jesus studies for present-day life in the world and in Christian churches.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Precis of "Who Is Jesus?", June 17, 2006
This review is from: Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus (Paperback)
COMMENTARY: Dominic Crossan is an emeritus professor of biblical studies; in 1985 he helped found the Jesus Seminar group. Born in Ireland, he entered the Servite Order in the Roman Catholic Church in 1950 at the age of 16, then, in 1957, he was ordained a priest, but left the Order and the priesthood in 1969 to marry and to avoid conflicts of interest between institutional loyalties and scholarly honesty. This book was written to present important ideas developed more fully in "Jesus: a Revolutionary Biography", which was itself a briefer version of "The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant." Thus, to make a précis of material that has already been condensed and simplified by the author may serve only to whet curiosity, illustrating some of the ideas deserving of further reading. Each chapter begins with selections from letters written to the author by readers with a wide variety of responses to his writings. Also each of the nine chapters is written to answer a key question (given in caps below).

CHAPTER 1: The first chapter addresses 'WHY NOT JUST READ THE GOSPELS?' The assumption inherent in this question (that reading the Gospels is sufficient to understand who Jesus was and what Jesus did) is shown to run into difficulties: first, the four NT Gospels don't agree with one another on many details; second, there were a number of other Gospels written about Jesus that were used as references by the writers of the NT Gospels or appeared independently and circulated in the early churches along with the four. Examples of the former type are: the Q Gospel, a reference text that both Matthew and Luke refer to, and The Gospel of Thomas, a sayings of Jesus collection found in Egypt in 1945. Modern biblical scholars use cultural, historical and textual analyses in attempting to reconstruct a consistent picture of the historical Jesus. The very fact that so many Gospels and versions of Gospels were in circulation in early Christian communities suggests that a given version best met the needs and notions of a particular group; thus implying that each version was produced more to fit the author's purposes than to represent a scientifically factual or exhaustively verified historical record.

CHAPTER 2: Responds to the question: 'SON OF GOD; SON OF THE VIRGIN MARY?' The birth stories are considered to offer little light on the real person, Jesus, who walked the dusty roads of Galilee. Their value is other than literal historical fact (Mark. for instance skips over them and begins his Gospel at the time Jesus meets John the Baptist.) Crossan likens them to overtures to a musical, giving hints of the significance of what is to follow. The birth stories given by Luke and Matthew are radically different but represent each author's similar idea of Jesus' significance. Luke's version links John's birth to that of great heroes of Israel's past, but presents Jesus' birth as the even greater promise for the future. Matthew tells Jesus' birth using echoes of the story of Moses with the tacit message that Jesus was the new and greater Moses. Both use Israel's past to proclaim Jesus as Israel's future. The virgin birth was another way the Gospel writers emphasized the significance of Jesus; it meant that his birth was equal to the birth mode of other popular heroes, including Augustus himself, those born of women impregnated by gods (and in Jesus' case foreshadowed in Isaiah by selective translation of the Hebrew word for young woman). The Gospel writers were making the point that God was to be found in Jesus, the peasant of Galilee rather than in Augustus, the emperor of Rome. To say that Jesus was God or the Son of God is a statement of faith rather than a statement of biology; however, it is a fact that many have been able to find God in Jesus.

CHAPTER 3: WHAT DOES JOHN THE BAPTIST HAVE TO DO WITH JESUS? Crossan finds it reasonable to conclude that Jesus was a follower of John's but later broke away when his own convictions centered on God's present availability rather than his future intervention. From the reference to Joseph as a carpenter and the presumption that Jesus followed his father's occupation, it can be inferred that Jesus would have been associated with the lower classes of society. Crossan elaborates on the social structure of the time and points out that artisans were near the lowest rung on the social ladder, beneath peasant farmers and just above the outcasts (beggars, slaves, outlaws and the unclean).

CHAPTER 4: WHAT DID JESUS TEACH? One of the most common subjects of Jesus' teachings is the Kingdom of God (or Heaven, as Matthew would have it). But these phrases may be misleading; they are often (as with John the Baptist) associated with a future reality and with heaven rather than the earth. John preached the imminent overpowering intervention by God in the affairs of the earth. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God he meant what this world (here and now) would be like if God, rather than Caesar, sat on the imperial throne. How does God want the world run? God is waiting for us to bring about a divine social revolution. The word "Kingdom" itself has lost its suggestive utility in a world unfamiliar with the absolute political power that kings possessed in ancient times. Jesus intended the Kingdom of God to be the symbol of a way of life that transcended and called into question all forms of human rule and social custom -- it has overtones of high treason for the existing order. Thus Jesus attacked even such things as family values because in his time the family group was closed and authoritarian (patriarchal) whereas in God's Kingdom a new community of persons who do the will of God is our primary kinship -- a group that is open and accessible to all under God. The poor (destitute) are blessed because they no longer are able to participate in an unjust social system. Crossan points out that the parable of the mustard seed (whose seeds, once sprouted, grow like weeds and attract unwanted birds) can be interpreted as saying that the Kingdom of God is like a vegetative pest to those who own carefully cultivated gardens. In the parable of the reluctant dinner guests the kingdom is pictured as a new all-inclusive meal arrangement and Jesus lived this vision by holding an open table symbolizing oneness, equality and community.

CHAPTER 5: DID JESUS PERFORM MIRACLES? Crossan distinguishes between nature miracles, which were done for disciples or relatives, and healing miracles, which were mostly done for outsiders. The miracles that Jesus performed for his followers (stilling the waters, changing water to wine, etc.) were included to establish his authority; they attest to Jesus' special place irrespective of whether they are meant to be taken literally. The healing miracles, on the other hand, underscore the truth of "faith heals" by processes we do not fully understand. The stories may also have been chosen for the sufferer to symbolize the state of Jewish society -- in healing a "leper" of his illness, Jesus touched him, welcomed the excluded untouchable back into the community of God's people. Jesus was also reported to have exorcised demons (as any healer of his day would have been expected to do), but again, the legion of demons harbored in pigs and driven into the sea could quite likely have been an allegory for the end of occupation by the Roman legions. Crossan leaves open what God could do but feels we shouldn't discern the holy only in the unnatural. He makes the point that it is not the ancient people telling literal stories and we moderns being smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they were told symbolically and we are dumb enough to take them literally.

CHAPTER 6: DID JESUS INTEND TO START A NEW RELIGION? No! -- but Jesus did have a program; namely, to live a life under a God of radical justice in a kingdom of utter equality. His free healing and open eating were rebellions against the Jewish and Roman social orders; his life was lived on the borderline of covert and overt peasant resistance to the established order. Jesus empowered those around him to become involved in living a new life. In discussing the sending out of disciples on mission, Crossan comments that sending them two by two probably meant sending male/female pairs, evidence of the gender equality in Jesus' new approach. The admonitions not to carry purse, bag or sandals emphasized that they were to be dependent on the community of believers rather than proudly self-sufficient as the Cynic itinerant teachers. Itinerants and householder peasants were at the bottom of Roman and Jewish societies. The program Jesus promoted was designed to overcome the envy of the dispossessed and the fear that the peasants had for the homeless through the healing interaction that shared food and lodging brought about.

CHAPTER 7: WHO EXECUTED JESUS AND WHY? The Romans used crucifixion as a deterrent to rebellion. It was a painful and humiliating death that often (like death by burning or being eaten by wild animals) was not followed by burial since the victims dead on a cross were routinely left for carrion eaters. Thus, it meant personal annihilation. Crossan believes that the crowd that gathered to welcome Jesus as he entered Jerusalem and his action in starting a near riot in the temple courtyard marked him by the Romans as enough of a dangerous rebel to justify arresting him and crucifying him as an example to other potential troublemakers. Everything else known about Pilate makes it unlikely that he would behave as the Gospels describe -- letting the Jewish authorities have any say in the treatment of Roman prisoners. The passion narratives were written a half century after the events and thus include stories and justifications circulated over fifty years and reflect the situation of the early church in its conflict with the "bad" Jews who didn't follow Jesus like they, the "good" Jews did. Similarly, although meaningful for the early Jewish converts, the language of blood sacrifice which came from the ancient temple worship created an atonement theology that is alien to our world and implies an obscene caricature of the God that Jesus preached.

CHAPTER 8: WHAT HAPPENED ON EASTER SUNDAY? The real Easter story is not about the events of a single day; these stories, like others, were prompted by leadership struggles in the early church. Resurrection is only one of the metaphors used to express the sense of Jesus' continuing presence. For example, Paul never mentions an empty tomb. It is likely that the other apostles (e.g., Peter, John, etc.) may, like Paul, have had a vision or inner experience of Jesus continuing to be with them to empower them for the work of the Kingdom and the gospel writer's closest analogy employed a resurrection metaphor.

CHAPTER 9: HOW DO YOU GET FROM JESUS TO CHRIST? Jesus planted the vision of God's rule into the soil of his society. After his death, his power continued in his disciples and the evolving explanation of his influence brought in the expectations and experiences of believers tinged with wonder and divine interpretation. However, a consistent believer's faith that Jesus was the Christ must be true to the good news proclaimed by the historical Jesus and, thus, not be used to justify social or moral segregation of those who call themselves Christians; it must lead to integration of faith and action, not to divisive exclusions.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intro to Crossan, November 21, 2003
By 
Kaci K (WI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus (Paperback)
This is a question-and-answer format about what we can really know about Jesus from the historical perspective. Warning: if you aren't ready to have your faith shaken up, and are a hard and fast believer in the church, don't read this. If you are interested in exploring what the first century was really like and your idea of Jesus and Christianity doesn't fit with what your church is telling you, this book may provide an eye-opening, soul-searching experience for you. Those of you who are ready to search behind the stories of the Bible, give this book a try. It opens up a whole different way of thinking.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Symbolic Truth vs Literal Truth, August 7, 2005
By 
David Zimmerman (Baton Rouge, LA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus (Paperback)
Based on your faith tradition, many of you feel like you know the answer to the question posed by the authors of this short but fascinating book. For those who are seeking answers, or seeking to expand their knowledge of the history behind their faith, this book should be very helpful. Crossan is one of the founders of the Jesus Seminar movement--a group of religious historians who have worked for years to understand the historical underpinnings of the Christian scriptures, otherwise known as the New Testament. He began his religious life by serving 20 years as a Roman Catholic monk.

A condensation of Crossan's more exhaustive and scholarly works, the book is formatted in easy to digest chapters, each divided into sections--the first being excerpts from letters to Crossan about his previous works, and the section being Crossan's answers to a series of short questions suggested by the letters.

Crossan's conclusion is that most of the New Testament lacks the historical confirmation to be taken as "literal truth". Considered as "symbolic truth", the New Testament stories about the birth, life, teachings and death of Jesus offer as powerful message today as they did to the people of Jesus's time. Crossan summarizes with two phrases--"common eating" (a place for everyone at the table) and "free healing" (care for all the sick, no matter their "social station"). This is how Jesus portrayed the "Kingdom of God" (rather than the kingdom of Caesar) on earth. These ideas were revolutionary and even seditious in the very structured world of the 1st century in the Roman-ruled land that is now Israel.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in religious matters. I'm sure it's more palatable for non-Christians like myself, or others without a strong commitment to a particular Christian dogma, but many of the letters in the book were from "committed Christians" who felt the book deepened their understanding of their faith, so I think anyone could get something out of it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free Healing And Shared Eating, May 26, 2002
By 
Peter Kenney (Birmingham, Alabama, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus (Paperback)
This book provides a brief compilation of Crossan's lifelong study of the historical Jesus and the origins of Christianity. Its greatest strength lies in the clarity of the text which may be due mostly to the collaboration of Richard G. Watts. The format is helpful as the book is divided into nine chapters organized around such topics as the miracles attributed to Jesus and the events on Easter Sunday. Within each chapter the authors attempt to answer specific questions. Jesus is described as an eloquent but illiterate peasant who lives in an occupied land. He offers an alternative vision of a community of equals before God and each other. Free healing and shared eating are the hallmarks of the new society. Jesus invites women, children, lepers and the destitute to join him in this experiment and then to take the message to others in an effort to create a Kingdom of God here and now on this earth.
Jesus was executed brutally by the Romans but his power was still experienced by his followers after his death. The Kingdom of God of Jesus did not act as broker between its believers and God. Jesus prevented that from happening by keeping himself constantly on the move and sending forth his followers only as itinerant missionaries. Such an organizational structure or lack of structure contrasted sharply with the design of the rival contemporary factions within Judaism as well as the Christian religion which evolved later from the Jesus movement.
The reader may find some of Crossan's theories farfetched but nobody can fault him for not being original in his thinking.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Introduction to the Crossan School, March 12, 2006
This review is from: Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus (Paperback)
From time to time, each ideology or movement must go undergo some revolution for it to remain vibrant. Christianity is undergoing a drastic change now, and one of the leaders of this change is John Dominic Crossan. The intellectuals' journey to the essence of the historical Jesus has many adherents, but none as controversial as Crossan. This book is a good introduction to Crossan's scholarship. I say introduction because it only reveals the outer layers of Crossan's complex and erudite thinking.

This short book is perfect for anyone who does not have the time or the patience to read Crossan's other larger books about the historical Jesus. This book also serves as a good framework for any subsequent Sunday School lessons. For those new to Crossan, be prepared to have your Christian reasoning challenged.

Some people, including myself, have a very difficult time believing that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried in a mass grave with his body devoured by dogs. The historical record would claim to support this because the historical record is based on probabilities. But, if Crossan is right about the fate of Jesus, then the birth of Christianity is all the more remarkable, because the followers of Jesus must have been incredibly motivated and diligent to make this movement stick after the crucifixion.

Crossan raises difficult questions, and I for one am glad that he does, because the answers are not what people want to hear, and the history of civilization shows if we do not challenge old thinking, then there can be no progress made.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking book, January 7, 2001
By 
"doug_angela" (San Antonio, TX USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus (Paperback)
After reading reviews of several of Crossan's books, I decided to start with this one, since I wasn't sure of my ability to plow through a complicated, highly scholarly text. Now that I've read it, I want to read more.
At several points in my reading of this book (which I had trouble putting down) I found myself saying "Yes, I agree" or "I don't like that he says that." He explains his personal beliefs and the cultural, literary, and historical evidence that led him to those beliefs in a way that does not offend me, even when I disagree.
My spouse is reading it now, and I look forward to lively discussions. The book is full of food for thought.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All you ever wanted to know about Jesus but were afraid to ask..., July 19, 2005
This review is from: Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus (Paperback)
John Dominic Crossan's incredibly accessible book succinctly sums up his views of the Historical Jesus in question and answer form. For those who find Crossan's other seminal works on the Historical Jesus just a bit too heavy and erudite to get through, this is the answer to their prayers. It provides all of Crossan's historical conclusions without asking the reader to verse themselves in Crossan's complex scientific method (they can read "The Historical Jesus" and "Jesus, A Revolutionary Biography" for that.) If you are looking for an easy intro into Crossan's take on the historical Jesus, this will whet your whistle. It's the beginnning of a wonderful journey that might make you question your beliefs, but may in the end renew your faith in a way you never thought possible. It did for me.
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25 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Intro, March 21, 2004
This review is from: Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus (Paperback)
So for those of you interested, this is a great crash course in Crossan's material. The information easy to read, and Crossan is, as always, engaging. I strongly encourage you to attend one of Dr. Crossan's lectures if you can. He has this great irish accent, and damn, the man knows what he's talking about. This book gives you a taste of the vast pools of insight Crossan has. Don't be surprised if you go along saying "I never thought of that."
To those who denigrate the Jesus Seminar, I would say its purpose is not to destroy christianity, but to voice a generally suppressed opinion. And if Christianity can be destroyed by a bunch of academics who thought it would be nice to find out what everyone agrees on, maybe Christianity isn't worthy of survival. For my part, although my faith was never in trouble, my ability to pursue it through the christian edifice was in doubt, and it was the Jesus Seminar that allowed me to do so. Thank you, Jesus Seminar.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dubious Disciple Book Review, October 8, 2011
This review is from: Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus (Paperback)
This is a short, very readable book (now fifteen years old) that does an excellent job of introducing the Historical Jesus; Crossan's take in particular. Labeled by liberal Christian Marcus Borg as the "premier Jesus scholar in the world today," Crossan's picture of Jesus is controversial and base ... which is precisely what you would expect of research into the "historical Jesus." It's about the flesh-and-blood man who walked the earth, not the legends that grew about him. A series of contrived questions meant to introduce the topic and the scholarship of Crossan and Watts steer the reader through the life and death of Jesus; how he lived, what he taught, what he really hoped to accomplish.

According to Crossan, Jesus was not really born of a virgin, performed no nature miracles, and never rose from the dead. Probably, he was never buried to begin with, as that would be uncommon for a crucifixion victim. Jesus was a social revolutionary with a humanitarian vision of a "Kingdom of God," which, by Crossan's definition, is how Jesus imagined "the way a kingdom on this earth would be established if God were in control." This vision left Jesus in conflict with the Roman Empire, and eventually led to his arrest and sentence. By the Romans, of course, not the Jews.

Crossan insists that his book is not meant to be about Christ, but only about Jesus. Faith is not about Jesus, or about any historical reconstruction of his life, but about Christ. "Jesus"is the historical person; "Christ" affirms who he is for believers, and Christian faith is always faith in the historical Jesus as a manifestation of God to us. As Crossan explains, faith cannot ignore or bypass the historical facts, but faith goes beyond the facts to wrestle with the meaning.
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Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus
Who Is Jesus?: Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus by John Dominic Crossan (Paperback - June 1, 1999)
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