23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels (Hardcover)
The great mystery of history is how the life and teachings of an obscure Jewish Rabbi inspired a world religion. Speaking as an historian, Michael Grant examines the life of Jesus, eschewing the spiritual, and puts forth the plausible opinion that Jesus's Ministry was based on the belief that the Kingdom of God --the end of the world as we know it -- was at hand. The Jews, or at least the elect of the Jews, would be liberated from oppression, the oppressive Gentiles would be punished, and God would rule. Jesus, he speculates, went knowingly to his death to further the imminent apocalypse.
Grant's views help explain Jesus's indifference toward worldly things. Why worry about possessions, religious laws, and rendering taxes unto Caesar when the end is near? This leads the author also to maintain that Jesus's Ministry was based on a mistake -- the end didn't come, and hasn't yet come -- and that he was "a total failure turned into enormous triumph" after his death. As a person, Jesus comes across as somewhat abrupt and intolerant, especially with his intellectually-challenged disciples.
These are pretty strong and controversial views but Grant maintains his historical detachment throughout. One can never be sure whether he is a believer or not. I thought the book would have been better had it included more background on the four gospels -- Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John -- which are almost the only sources Grant used to interpret the life of Jesus (he finally gets around to doing so briefly near the end of the book.) He perhaps presumes more familiarity with the Bible than some of us, including this reader, may have. But all in all this is a most interesting book and the interpretation of Jesus is very convincing.