- 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: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jesus the Jew Paperback – April 1, 1981
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Nor is everything herein merely out of date. Vermes's discussions of -- for example -- the "Son of Man" sayings and the nature of Galilean piety are still cited in the literature, and not always for the purpose of refuting them. Whether complete or not, Vermes's account contains a great deal of truth.
At some point anyone trying to cope with the vast array of "Jesus scholarship" of the last three or four decades should get around to reading this absolutely seminal work. _Jesus and the World of Judaism_ is unfortunately out of print as of this writing, but _The Religion of Jesus the Jew_ is also recommended.
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. It is easy to see how such titles may have been adopted, misunderstood and finally corrupted by the gentile church to serve its own end. Many Christian readers may be shocked by the implications of Vermes' investigation, however it is important to remember after all that Jesus was Jewish and therefore certain elements of the Gospels would no doubt adopt some Jewish precepts.
All in all, Vermes has shown himself to be a Scholar of impeccable caliber and should be more widely read in Judeo-Christian circles. His book is at times a little dry and hard to read, but it is worth it for the wealth of information that it contains on the subject of Jesus the Jew.