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Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 113 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195124743
ISBN-10: 019512474X
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

C.S. Lewis once noted that nowhere do the Gospels say, "Jesus laughed." He's probably laughing now, if he's got access to Bart Ehrman's Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. The title doesn't even hint at the yuks that Ehrman's prose delivers, but from its very first page, Jesus will tickle your funny bone and stimulate your brain. "At last count," Ehrman begins, "there were something like 8 zillion books written about Jesus .... It's not there aren't enough books about Jesus out there. It's that there aren't enough of the right kind of book. Very, very few, in fact. I'd say about one and a half."

The right kind of book, according to Ehrman, is one that portrays Jesus roughly as Albert Schweitzer did, as a first-century Jewish apocalypticist: "This is a shorthand way of saying that Jesus fully expected that the history of the world as we know it (well, as he knew it) was going to come to a screeching halt, that God was soon going to intervene in the affairs of this world, overthrow the forces of evil in a cosmic act of judgment, destroy huge masses of humanity, and abolish existing human political and religious institutions. All this would be a prelude to the arrival of a new order on earth, the Kingdom of God." Ehrman's is a historical-Jesus book, a very smart, humble, and humorous popular summary of Christian and secular evidence of Jesus' life, work, and legacy. He believes that apocalypticism is the true core of Jesus' message, and that comfortable middle-class complacency among scholars, clergy, and laypeople has forged a counterfeit, domesticated, "ethical" Jesus to cover up their befuddlement about his misprediction of the apocalypse. The book will frustrate many readers because it offers no real guidance regarding what one should do with Jesus' apocalypticism. Its project--to prove that Jesus was wrong about the apocalypse--may even appear destructive to some. Yet the argument is convincing enough to induce among careful readers a constructive experience of confusion. Jesus makes readers ask the very question it appears to ignore, in a newly humble way: how, then, should we live? A serious matter, but considering humanity's endless string of wrong answers and infinite capacity for self-delusion, worthy of some good belly laughs, as well. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

At the end of the millennium, there are as many views of the historical Jesus as there are scholars who writing about him. In his engaging study, Ehrman, associate professor of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, argues that Jesus can be best understood as a "first-century Jewish apocalypticist...who fully expected that the history of the world as he knew it was going to come to a screeching halt and that God was going to overthrow the forces of evil in a cosmic act of judgment." The author contends that this portrait of Jesus, first proclaimed by Albert Schweitzer in The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906), has been overlooked in the rush to draw Jesus in the images of whatever scholarly or popular movement is painting Him. Ehrman examines carefully noncanonical and canonical sources as he reconstructs the life of Jesus. He uses already established critical criteriaAindependent attestation, dissimilarity, contextual credibilityAto determine what elements of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life can be considered authentic. For example, according to the evidence, he asserts that we can seriously doubt that the virgin conception, Jesus' birth in Bethlehem and the story of wise men following a star are historical events. Ehrman then proceeds to provide a lucid overview of the turbulent political and religious times in which Jesus lived and worked. Finally, the author provides a detailed examination of Jesus' words and deeds to show that they present the work of a Jewish apocalyptic prophet who expected universal judgment and the coming Kingdom of God to occur within his own lifetime and that of his disciples. While Ehrman's provocative thesis will stir up controversy among scholars, his warm, inviting prose style and his easy-to-read historical and critical overviews make this the single best introduction to the study of the historical Jesus. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 31, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019512474X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195124743
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.7 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have read many books about the historical Jesus. Ehrman's Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium is by far the best. Although a popular account, Ehrman presents evidence and evaluates it logically. His main thesis is that Jesus believed that God would intervene, destroy all evil, and establish a Kingdom of God on earth (rather than in heaven), and that this would occur during his lifetime. Ehrman concludes that many of Jesus' sayings and deeds are best explained by Jesus' assumption that the present world would soon end. People must repent and prepare for the imminent judgment. One consequence of this belief is that Jesus was not a proponent of family values. Ehrman stresses that apocalypticism was an ideology that tried to make sense of the suffering of the Jewish people, giving them hope for the near future.
To me, Ehrman's arguments are far more persuasive than those of members of the Jesus Seminar who believe that Jesus was not an apocalypticist. Ehrman does not push unorthodox views, but presents consensus views of Bible scholars to the general public. Ehrman emphasizes Jesus' Jewish environment during the first century. He explains that Jesus was not unique except in his supposed resurrection. Christianity is based not on the actual resurrection of Jesus, but on belief in his resurrection. Written sources claim that healings and exorcisms were accomplished by other Jews in ancient times, and by Hebrew prophets. Ehrman also points out the diversity of Christian views during the first and second centuries. As any scholar taking a true historical approach must, he makes no evaluation of supernatural events. A special treat is Ehrman's sense of humor. A must read for those wishing to understand the historical Jesus, as opposed to a theological Jesus.
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Format: Paperback
A whole lot of non-academic books dealing with the "historical Jesus" have been published over the past 15 years. Each seems to be grinding an axe of some sort, despite their purported attempts to present an unbiased historian's interpretation of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. Some are obviously supporting the traditional Christian interpretation of Jesus as the Christ, the Lord and Savior. Some others paint Jesus as a social and political reformer, someone who was out to promote a secular vision similar to our modern "-isms" (e.g., socialism, universalism, feminism, pacifism, communism, or maybe even capitalism!), despite all the God talk.

Professor Ehrman, by contrast, tries to popularize what appears to be the modern academic consensus: that Jesus was one of many Jewish apocalyptic prophets who preached and gained a following in Roman Palestine. Like the others, Jesus was convinced that God was angry about the continuing sins of the Jews and about the Romans trampling upon the Holy Lands, and was about to come down from the sky and establish a righteous kingdom of His own. Not a kingdom in the heavens, but one right there in the hills of Galilee and on the streets of Jerusalem. There was going to be a mighty judgement when this happened: good people could stay and flourish, but the bad were gonna get cast into a pit of fire or something. It was all about ancient Judiasm, all about the fulfillment of scriptural prophecies. It had little to do with later Christian beliefs or Enlightenment-age theories about how the world should be run.

I personally found this book to be monumental. It's one of that handful of books that you read in your life that opens your eyes and puts a lot of puzzle pieces into place. HOWEVER . . . . .
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Format: Paperback
This is an effective, well-written, and concise presentation of who the person of Jesus of Nazareth who walked and preached in 1st century Palestine actually was. There are a lot of historical Jesus works out there and it is easy to get lost and the author makes a great point that many scholars simply mold Jesus into a person of their time and place: a 60's radical, a social reformer, a magician, etc. Ehrman asserts that traditional scholarship since the 19th century is correct: Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet who was expecting the present world to end in the very near future and be replaced by the kingdom of God. His healings, exorcisms, and exortations of radical, self-less love and care for the poor, destitute, and forgotten (the dregs of society), demonstrated that Jesus firmly held to the belief that God was a compassionate, just Judge who was going to turn the social, political, and religious order upside down in this new kingdom. This view is consistent with the traditional Jewish view of God, that primarly viewed Him as concerned with justice and righteousness that was most particularly demonstrated in an individual's/society's care for the widow and the orphan and fits nicely with the apocalyptic context of Jesus' day: people expected and believed God to radically alter history at any time. Jesus appears to have been non violent in this view, he didn't seek to effect the kingdom of God via a people's revolution but instead expected it to come about via a supernatural miracle of God. These arguments are well demonstrated and persuasive.
Caution, however, is called for in some of these assertions.
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