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The Birth of Christianity : Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus Paperback – March 3, 1999
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His search for the historical Jesus, however, takes place in the larger context of the life of the church. Among the goals of The Birth of Christianity is to teach readers how our habits of worship have created false gods. To that end, Crossan attempts to unearth the religion's earliest forms. What did Christianity look like, Crossan asks, between the crucifixion and the conversion of Paul? And what might Christianity look like today had Saul never set off toward Damascus?
Crossan's conclusions don't come from newly discovered documents; they come from freshly-minted academic methodologies. He uses anthropology, history, and archaeology to construct his arguments about the essential nature of both Jesus' religion and Paul's. The 25-cent summary of his conclusion is that Jesus did not recognize the dualism between spirit and flesh that formed the basis of Paul's apocalyptic Christianity. In other words, Jesus was more Jewish than Paul.
The ramifications of this argument are huge. Crossan says much of Christian worship--and many of the world's injustices--are based on the dualistic Christ that Paul preached. Though Crossan doesn't bully readers into accepting his conclusions, he does press hard for them to situate their own beliefs in relation to his interpretations of Jesus and Paul. At every point in the evolution of his argument, he asks readers questions such as "How do you understand a human being?" and "What is the character of your God?" Then he proceeds to answer these questions himself. Finally, he tells readers what he thinks these answers mean.
It's an incredibly civilized style of argument--both spiritually and intellectually respectful and always rhetorically engaging. Though The Birth of Christianity weighs in at almost 600 pages of text, you'll probably want to read every word. And after that, you'll probably be hungry for more. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
This work, a follow up to The Historical Jesus examines Christian beginnings in an archaeological and anthropological context with a careful discussion of the roles of oral tradition, literary developments, community tradition, and gender roles. A very interesting set of chapters concerns the ability and role of memory in oral tradition. He makes it plainly clear that absent an accurate, recorded history of even the simplest event, the original story cannot but evolve and change as it is re-remembered, re-told, re-imagined. As in other cases, these acknowledgments are extremely helpful but not as persuasive as they might appear to be. In ancient cultures where oral tradition was the only way of transmitting stories among illiterate peasants, memory was emphasized and specific memorization of even long texts and stories occurred regularly.Read more ›
While I commend Crossan for his scholarship, I feel strongly that he needs to edit and refine his material for the lay-reader. Much of these book is a dialogue between the author and his scholarly colleagues in theological circles, especially the Jesus Seminar. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with such a dialogue, but the book shouldn't be marketed for the general public, except possibly as a reference source.
The author needs to compare his writing and editorial style to recent books by Dr. Marcus Borg.
Terms, historical personalities and theological works need to be clearly defined, with plenty of transition review between sections and chapters.
Crossan deserves a wide audience, especially among lay-persons.
This book is simply too advanced, and belongs primarily theology collections.
Exploring that thesis, Crossan stimulates the reader to rethink one's ideas on history and Christianity. Along the way, he challenges modern intellect by bringing into play current images and words like reconstruction and interactivity. Crosssan compares the process of reconstructing history with looking down a well at your reflection. When you see your reflection, you cannot know the character of the water in the well, you must disturb it to do so. Disturbing the surface of the water distorts ones reflection. So the process of historical reconstruction goes on, using current science and knowledge to reconstruct the past and drawing from ancient interaction, lessons that increase our understanding of the human condition. As a Real Estate professional, I especially identified with Crossans description of the convergence of the Roman culture that treated land as an exploitable commodity with first century Judaism that looked at land as a Gift from God. As a recent visitor to Israel, I witnessed to current manifestations of the same forces. Crossan's description of Roman commercialism and it's effect on Jewish peasants in the area of the Galilee in the early first century was, for me, a fascinating and illuminating experience.
From a firm, multi-discipline foundation, Crossan examines the Q Gospel, The Gospel of Thomas and the synoptic Gospels.Read more ›
Crossan calls the tradition of Jesus' sayings the "Life Tradition." Much of Crossan's exploration of this tradition is based upon his understanding of Jesus as an ethical eschatological prophet rather than an apocalyptic eschatological prophet.
The second tradition Crossan labels the "Death Tradition." Crossan's assertion here is that the stories of Jesus' passion - and particularity those of his resurrection - were developed by the early Jerusalem Christian community. Perhaps after being inspired by visions of a spiritual Christ, members of this community became fascinated with the idea of the vindication of the righteous. Crossan explains that this idea is strongly Biblical and is also a part of other ancient stories. From this community the story of Christ's passion and resurrection was developed. Crossan describes this process as prophecy historized, rather than history remembered. He argues that if Christ's passion and resurrection as portrayed in the Gospels is historical one would expect to have more early records of it.
Much of Crossan's work, particularly his investigation of the Death Tradition relies upon Crossan's "Cross Gospel". This Cross Gospel according to Crossan is an early pre-Markan tradition which is imbedded in the Gospel of Peter.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A brilliantly argued book, but -- in the tradition of so many academics -- he almost seems to be deliberately trying to make his conclusions as opaque as possible. Read morePublished 7 months ago by David J. Williams
This is one of many books being written on understanding the take off of Christianity from the life of Jesus. Read morePublished 8 months ago by John Hudson
I'm afraid most of the references to theologians and theology were lost on me. Mostly written for those familiar with the history of theological thought. Read morePublished 8 months ago by JUDITH A HENDRIX
One of the best books I’ve read on early Christianity.
This is a big, academic volume in which Crossan delves into topics like the accuracy of oral memory, the... Read more
A respected, knowledgeable, sceptical scholar using his intellect, education, research and feeling for his subject giving his studied opinion of the dark period ("lost... Read morePublished 12 months ago by ShoreRoadMan
Recounting of the beginning of our faith by John Crossan, an exception writer in our time. How did Christianity emerged in the period following Jesus' death? Read morePublished 13 months ago by Walker Shaw