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on June 12, 2003
The renowned Christian book author, Philip Yancey, deserves "five gold stars" for his thought-provoking book, The Jesus I Never Knew. Yancey's training and experience as a journalist is evident in his exploration and historical detailed life analysis of the human being we call "Jesus." His book tells the story of this great Man who changed history, but that's not why he wrote it. As explained in Part One, "Who He Was," Jesus was the dividing point in Yancey's life. Although Jesus lived over 2,000 years ago, Yancey and Jesus have a very personal relationship. He states: "Nothing, not even the murder of God's own Son-can end the relationship between God and human beings." Yancey reminds us "too easily we forget what it cost Jesus to win for us all-ordinary people, not just priests-immediate access to God's presence. How important is that? Yancey states, "According to Jesus, what I think about Him and how I respond will determine my destiny for all eternity." I'd say it's the most important decision you could ever make.
As I read his book, I began to wonder, should this be a Wiley Publishing, Jesus For Dummies book? The Jesus we learned about while growing up, the typical Sunday school stereotype is a humble, soft-spoken, longhaired, modest Man. This is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords of all creation? This is the man that battled Satan? This is the man that hung on the cross by nails pounded into his flesh? Through extensive use of biblical references, Yancey explains how our preconceived ideas about Jesus' personality and looks may be misconceptions. Yancey also explains that Jesus purposefully walked through life and was comfortable meeting folks from every walk of life. Would you be comfortable associating with prostitutes, leprosy victims, and thieves? Jesus was, and still is. Yancey reminds us: "In God's kingdom there are no undesirables."
Yancey's work opens our eyes to the circumstances encompassing the birth of Jesus. He asks, "If Jesus came to reveal God to us, then what do I learn about God from that first Christmas?" How about a God that is a humble, approachable, courageous underdog? Yancey's questions regarding the birth cause us to ponder why God would send His Son to earth as a tiny infant human being. God could have sent Jesus to earth in a fire engulfed chariot surrounded by legions of angels, but He didn't. Yancey further explores the Jewish connection and how "Jesus failed to meet the expectations of Messiah the Jews were awaiting." Reading the book helps you to discover why God chose the Virgin Mary, and the challenging circumstances surrounding the birth of the Messiah. Although, it wasn't clear to me why God chose that time and place for the birth of Jesus.
Does Yancey create a paradigm shift in thinking? Yes. In the chapter, Mission: A Revolution of Grace, he asks: "Why do so few of the millions of prayers for physical healing get answered?" Humans afflicted with mental and physical woes daily ask, "Why me God?" When tragedy strikes my life, I ask God, "Why?" Yancey's response is simply, "I don't know." Yancey refers to a bible passage when Jesus is asked a similar question. Jesus responded, "...this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his [recipient's] life." In my youth, when something bad happened to my mom or dad, I would promise Jesus I would "be good" and "never do <something bad> ever again. I knew God was punishing me for my bad deeds. I would pray extra hard, maybe even kneel by the side of the bed. I never heard God tell me everything was going to be ok. I prayed and prayed for miracles but the angels never came down to help me. How can I believe in God if he doesn't help me when I need it? Yancey illustrates that: "Although faith may produce miracles, miracles do not necessarily produce faith." Why did Jesus perform only a few miracles? They "give us a glimpse of what the world was meant to be and instill hope that one day God will right its wrongs."
Yancey's book will open your eyes and mind to a new way of thinking. He will challenge your stereotypes and expose you to uncomfortable views. He supports his observations with evidence and builds his case like Lieutenant Columbo; except, Yancey doesn't bumble through the bible. Yancey is an expert communicator and articulates well his beliefs. I think you will find this book to be a good investment, monetarily and eternally.
Reviewer's note: The title for this book review is officially listed in The Top 100 Greatest Headlines Ever Written. I thought it was applicable to this review since Yancey helps readers to discover the gift they already have, the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
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on January 22, 2000
For years, through my twenties and thirties, I struggled with doubt. I had nagging fears of "What if I'm devoting my life to something that's not real? What if Christianity is a hoax and Jesus is a myth?" As time went on, those doubts began to fade-partly, I think, because I was honest with them.
It was the title of this book that caught me. I remembered those doubts from many years before. The phrase "The Jesus I Never Knew" kindled a new doubt in me. What if Jesus is real, and yet I never really knew Him? What if-to paraphrase either Philip Yancey or Brennan Manning (forgive me for not remembering which), my belief was not in the real Jesus, but in the preachers, Sunday School teachers, and `great cloud of witnesses' who explained Him to me?" It was, for me, a horrifying thought.
The Jesus I Never Knew rocked my world. As Yancey began to wipe away the ecclesiastical film from a Person that I find to be indeed my Savior, my faith changed, grew. I made sweeping changes in my life based on this Jesus I was meeting. I found myself challenged by this Man. I saw Jesus as I never saw Him before. What I saw necessitated a response; the One I encountered sparked faith in me like I had never known before.
One more thing about doubt. Herein lies Yancey's gift as a writer. He is honest about doubt, and he lets the reader be honest, too. Did this book change me? Did Jesus change me? Only read this book if you want your head, your world, and your faith as you know it messed up.
A final note: I am thankful to say that the Sunday School class I attend will begin a 14 week study next week on The Jesus I Never Knew. This will prove to be, I think, a very exciting time.
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on July 1, 2001
This is the first Philip Yancey book that I have read, and I must say that I am impressed. The main reason I like this book is the straight-forward, honest approach that the author uses to find out more about Jesus, Christianity, and the Church. An endeavor that I am currently undergoing myself.
For the book, the author did an enormous amount of research looking for the answers to the questions about Jesus that plagued him most. He looks at questions like: What was Jesus really like? How does the Church (and many Americans) view him now? How should we respond to His message? All valid questions that I think many people struggle with at some point. To answer these questions, Mr. Yancey follows the life of Jesus here on earth from start to finish, and gives his thoughts (and many others) and conclusions about Jesus.
He draws his material from many sources, but I like the fact that he always goes back to the Gospels as the "measuring stick" for everything. I also like his conclusion that after writing a book about Jesus, that he has even more questions than when he started. I feel the same way. It seems the more I learn about Jesus, the more I feel that I don't know or understand. Luckily, this book has helped answer some questions that I had about Jesus, and gave me some fresh insight into what Jesus was all about.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a deeper relationship with Jesus, and wants to find out more about Him. This book will probably challenge your current view and opinions about Jesus, which hopefully will wet your appetite to know Him better, like it has with me.
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But I still rate it at 5 stars.
I see a progression of thought in Yancey's works from "The Jesus I never Knew" to his later work "What's so amazing about Grace." If you only have time to read one Yancey book, I'd recommend "What's so amazing about Grace" high above this book.
"The Jeus I never knew" is full of anecdotes and great quotes and interesting stories. It's also filled with thoughtful insights that make you go "Wow, I never thought of that Bible verse in that light before."
For that reason, I give it five stars. Any book that gives you a deeper love of God (as this book does) is surely worth five stars.
But his more recent book "What's So Amazing About Grace" seems like it plumbs the depth of spirituality a bit more. Kind of like the comparison of Mark's Gospel and John's Gospel. Mark's writings are strong and clear, but John's message is so deeply metaphysical you fear you may never glean all the spiritual nuggets contained therein.
Not to irreverantly compare Yancey to John..., but Yancey's books are always a joy to read. I just preferred "What's so Amazing About Grace."
However, after borrowing and reading "The Jesus I Never Knew" I immediately bought my own copy. It is a good foundational item for every Christian's bookshelf.
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on February 26, 2001
Philip Yancey has always been my favorite writer. His works have some peculiar candid which are hardly found elsewhere. He is serious about his Christianity belief, and never hesitate to ask tough questions normal believers would rather skip till they get to heaven. It is in this process of seeking answers to these tough questions that Yancey painfully but yet firmly grows his faith.
I am always amazed by the courage and sincerity that Yancey put into each of his books exposing the troughs and peaks of his spiritual pilgrimage. Only by doing so is he so powerfully able to demonstrate to the world that Christianity is not a religion merely for the biased people who are raised in churches but rather universal truth that can be grasped by any serious seeker.
You got questions about your belief that you dare not ask? You ever wonder why those crazy Christians around you are talking Jesus and God all the time? Read this book and other books by Yancey. You will be plentifully rewarded if you do so. Highly recommended.
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on June 21, 2000
The title of this book fits for too many people. For so many, the Jesus of the Scriptures who Yancey describes is someone most of us really have never known (even if we've read the Bible before and have gone to church regularly). The reason Yancey gives in the book for this phenomenon is that the majority of our Christian churches today do not embody the characteristics that Jesus had. In a striking example from The Jesus I Never Knew, Yancey compares the differences in the types of people who were attracted to hanging out with Jesus (prostitutes, drunkards, and other types of outcasts) and the types of people who are attracted to most of today's Christian churches (almost entirely not members of those groups). And he observes that the fact people on the margins of society are not drawn to the church shows how far we are away from demonstrating the characteristics that Jesus demonstrated.
If you find that observation insightful, you will love the rest of this book and likely Yancey's other books too.
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on May 17, 2007
I usually enjoy Yancey's books because they stretch me beyond my comfort zone. However, "The Jesus I Never Knew" was highly subjective as Yancy launches a mild diatribe against his fundamentalist upbringing. Though he attempts to discover the Jesus found in the Gospels without the influence of man's ideas, his approach does the opposite. He relates how he compared the many movies made on the life of Jesus as part of his effort to understand what Jesus was really like. Though he quotes from many sources, demonstrating his abundant literary knowledge, some of his sources are highly suspect. For example, Yancy uses as authoritative information from John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar whose objectivity is extremely questionable. (See Luke Timothy Johnson's book The Real Jesus : The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels for insight on the Jesus Seminar.) Beyond his use of questionable sources, some of Yancy's writing hints at open theism.

Having stated these warnings, I must end by saying that Yancy redeems himself with the final chapter "The Difference He Makes." Perhaps because he has departed from the "thinking out loud" tone of the rest of the book and written a more objective analysis of where a proper understanding of Jesus Christ leads us, the last chapter is worth the price of the book.
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VINE VOICEon June 8, 2002
Yancey has a fine reputation as a Christian author, and this work adds to his credentials. The theme of this book is not simply Jesus Christ, but how the true Jesus of the Scriptures contrasts the traditional Jesus of history. Yancey weaves his own thoughts and experiences throughout this volume, a feature that makes his presentation even more appealing.
The author begins by describing the traditional Jesus, the Jesus he thought he knew. He then turns to the Bible and begins to unfold the authentic account of this historical God-Man. He describes in detail who Jesus was, why He came, and what He left behind Him. Yancey's words strike home to Christians, speaking prophetically to them and challenging them to follow anew the radical call of their Lord.
I have read several of Yancey's books, and have yet to be disappointed. This volume is well worth the money and the time required for reading. For a refreshing, Biblical presentation of the life of Jesus Christ and its centrality to the Christian faith, buy this book!
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on May 13, 2001
A century ago, a German theologian advised a friend to sell all he had and buy the works of the great British Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon. While that is still excellent advice, there is another writer whose works you would do well to passionately collect.
Philip Yancey's goal in this book was a simple one. He wanted to meet God's Son as He really was, not as this or that theologian or church interpreted Him. Yancey wanted to walk the paths of Israel with Jesus, to get to know Him, to listen to His words, to see how the people of that time reacted to Him and to wonder how he himself might have reacted to the life and teachings of Jesus.
Yancey succeeds wonderfully. This book is filled with pithy and profound observations that will have you meditating very hard. I don't agree with all of his conclusions but I think Yancey has done as good a job of introducing the reader to Jesus Christ as any modern writer I've ever read, certainly far more meaningfully than celebrated religious skeptics, some of them claiming to be Christian, who presume to believe they know what Jesus "really said" or "really meant."
And Yancey is a wonderful writer. I tend to jump around when I read, now reading this book and now that one, depending on my interests of the moment. But this book held my undivided attention for two days straight. I made a point of making time to read this, something I rarely ever do.
Buy this right now.
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on January 5, 2000
As I finished the last page of this book, I whispered a prayer of thanks for Philip Yancey. What a gift Mr. Yancey has given us, as if his message, this book, was sent on wings from Heaven to enlighten us and force us into a reality check. Indeed, my life has been changed by his honest, refreshing, revelationary examination of Jesus, the flesh-and-blood man that God humbled himself to become. Born and bred a Christian, I really didn't understand what being a Christian really meant--being, in all ways, Christ-like--until I digested, fully, who Christ really was and how, in Christ-like fashion, God expects us to live. To think, I have lived half of my life already and have just now realized all the Kingdom work I need to do. Buy this book. It will change your life, and how you live it, forever.
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