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Jesus the Jew Paperback – April 1, 1981

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

This now-classic book is a significant corrective to several recent developments in the study of the historical Jesus. In contrast to depictions of Jesus as a wandering Cynic teacher, Geza Vermes offers a portrait based on evidence of charismatic activity in first-century Galilee. Vermes shows how the major New Testament title of Jesus--prophet, Lord, Messiah, son of man, Son of God--can be understood in this historical context. The result is a description of Jesus that retains its power and its credibility.

About the Author

Geza Vermes was Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies at the University of Oxford, UK and was one of the world's greatest experts on the historical Jesus, Christian beginnings, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. With the publication of "Jesus the Jew" (1973) he introduced the idea of Jesus as a 1st century Jewish holy man to the general public. His book "The Dead Sea Scrolls in English" (1962) introduced the English reader to the Scrolls, going on to sell over half a million copies.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fortress Press; 1st Fortress Press ed edition (April 1, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800614437
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800614430
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #509,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza somewhere tells a cute story about a class she once taught, in which she had the doggonedest time persuading a fine old Catholic gentleman that Jesus was actually Jewish. Finally he admitted that she had convinced him. "But," he added at once, "the Blessed Mother for sure was not!"

Well, yes, she was, and so -- of course -- was Jesus himself. This volume, by Jewish scholar Geza Vermes, is probably the single work that did the most to drive this point home to the modern world.

There are naturally some difficulties with Vermes's work. One of these is that he relies on Talmudic writings that date, in their written form, from about 500 years later than Jesus; this objection he has dealt with in _Jesus and the World of Judaism_. Another is that he has provided no real reason why his charismatic Galilean hasid should ever have gotten himself crucified; this objection he tries to meet in _The Religion of Jesus the Jew_ (rather lamely and unconvincingly, to my mind; he suggests, at bottom, that Jesus just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time).

Then, too, some of his parallels (the main ones being Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the Circle-Drawer) have been questioned for various reasons. Some of these reasons seem cogent to me as well, and I do not think Vermes has provided a _complete_ picture of the historical Jesus.

Nevertheless this groundbreaking work is the one that (re)started the conversation in the first place. If Jesus is now recognized by many Jews and Christians alike as having been, as a matter of history, a faithful Jew who in all likelihood did not intend to found a new religion separate from Judaism, this work played a crucial role in bringing that common recognition about.
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Format: Paperback
Jesus the Jew is the first book in a trilogy written by Geza Vermes, Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies at Oxford. The other 2 books in the trilogy are: "Jesus and the World of Judaism" and "The Religion of Jesus the Jew". No doubt the titles of these books will be a bit off-putting to some readers, however I believe that Vermes has done an excellent job in presenting an objective account of the historical Jesus that should be read by all interested Jews and Christians alike.
Vermes takes the position that Jesus the historical figure may be best understood in terms of his Judaic origins. Vermes portrays him as a charismatic, Chassid, similar to a number of others that existed in Jesus' time. He argues that many of the titles given to Jesus or titles that Jesus ascribed to himself such as "Lord", "Son of Man" and "Son of God" may be best understood in terms of Jewish culture and Jewish writings of the time. In fact a great deal of the book is devoted to explaining these and other titles. An example is given where the title "my Son" (son of God) was at one point bestowed upon a Jewish charismatic named Hanina Ben Dosa who, like Jesus, also broke Pharisaic etiquette at times but nonetheless was a respected teacher and miracle worker. Upon this point, Vermes concludes that the notion of "Son of God" in the Gospels is not an original form of terminology but was already well founded in Palestinian Jewish Belief to denote teachers that were highly respected by their peers.

Many more examples such as the one mentioned above are given with regards to all titles bestowed upon Jesus in the Gospels.
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Format: Paperback
Modern Christological study and the quest for the historical Jesus owe a debt of gratitude to both Albert Schweitzer and Geza Vermes. Schweitzer showed us that Jesus' thinking was characterized by apocalyptic (eschatology), and Vermes taught us that if we would know Jesus we must understand him within his historical Jewish culture. It is to Vermes' credit, and an indication of the impact of his book, that in current Third Quest Jesus study we take his Jewishness and his Jewish background as basic to any legitimate interpretation of his nature, teaching, or mission.
Vermes sets Jesus within a context of the Judaism we know from early rabbinics, and examines various titles and practices ascribed to Jesus against this background. The result is a picture of Jesus as a Hasidic charismatic teacher/healer, in line with the phenomena and other personalities popular in his own day.
Vermes approaches many of the vexing issues by viewing them in this context. For example, he argues that the phrase "son of man" is a typical Jewish circumlocution (self-reference) meaning "I" or "man." He also points out that other Jewish Hasidic charismatics performed miracles.
As valuable and influential as his book has been, there are some fundamental problems with his work: 1) Vermes tends to rely too much on a historical reconstruction of Jesus based on later Jewish sources. 2) He tends to reduce the portrait of Jesus to what is common to Judaism, discounting the atypical or unique aspects of Jesus. For example, the Danielic use and influence of the "son of man" phrase in 2nd-Temple Judiasm or early Christianity is not given the weight it deserves.
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