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Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture Paperback – November 10, 1999
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Copyright 1985 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
"It is not sameness but kaleidescope variety that is its most conspicuous feature." Pelikan includes a great deal of evidence for both, though. Early Christians attempted to translate Jesus as "logos" to relate to Greek thinking. Modern Christians in India and China undertook a similar task of describing Jesus as the "fulfillment" of the deepest truths in those great cultures. (Work I have studied quite a bit.)
I give the book five stars, because it is brilliant, fascinating and informative. Nevertheless, Pelikan's position seems to soak up some of the subjectivm he chronicles.
It is important to distinguish between images that are arbitrary, and those that depend on a reality that can be referred to. One could write a book called "The Moon through the Centuries." But that would be a different kind of book from "Martians through the Centuries," because in the first case, we just need to look up to be corrected. Pelikan does not take sufficient account of the fact that Jesus is more like the first than the second case. Kaleidescope is a mosaic of splintered reflections.Read more ›
Pelikan gives us a bird's eye view of how the subject of Jesus has been treated by a variety of individuals over time. One will gain a greater appreciation for the early church fathers, particularly Augustine, as well as the influence of classic Greco-Roman culture in molding the popular image of Jesus in the early centuries of Christianity. How Jesus was viewed by both monks and mystics is also touched upon in this work. Regarding the former, Pelikan notes how early monasticism emerged as a reaction against unbiblical ideas that had infiltrated state-sponsored Christianity.
Later on, readers will discover that Erasmus, after being inundated with complex medieval theology, sought to draw people back to a more Bible-based view of the Messiah. To add to this, we find how Martin Luther guided his own countrymen to discover Jesus as a relatable figure through the pages of his German New Testament.
Readers are further made aware of how such otherwise great thinkers as Isaac Newton and Thomas Jefferson sought to water down biblical Christology during the Enlightenment period. Thankfully, a more biblical view of Jesus resurged through the Romantic poets, Russian authors such as Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and the German theologian Karl Barth.
In addition to the fascinating prose, classic art is presented throughout this text. Also, Scripture is alluded to in occasionally unfamiliar, though helpful, ways on a number of occasions. I must say this work strengthened my faith at a much deeper level than some of the recent bestsellers have. Though it may take a while to digest, I simply can't give enough praise for Jesus Through the Centuries.
In the first century, working from at least second-hand accounts, the writers of the Gospels portrayed a parable-slinging, question-asking rabbi very much in the Jewish tradition. A few centuries later, after Christianity conquered the Romans, Christ became "the Victor and King". Greek scholars saw in Him a Logos, a unifying cosmic principle under which the world operated, and by which it could be understood in turn. And so on. In 18 chapters that read like delicately-connected essays, Pelikan charts how Christ was viewed, seeing not only a reflection of varied cultures but an evolution to a truly universal figure, one in the end reaching and connecting even to those who don't believe in Him.
It's a brave and majestic aim, one I don't think Pelikan quite achieves. As the Age of Reason called into question Christ's divinity and miracles, Pelikan reaches to non-Christian figures like Thomas Jefferson, Hume, and later Gandhi for some kind words that feel like thin gruel after the soul-baring asseverations of Augustine and Dante.
"Jesus Through The Centuries" makes its best points without pressing. Take the cosmology of the early so-called Dark Ages, where seeds of reason were planted: "From the ascription of the creation of the universe to Jesus the Logos it also followed, by a necessary inference, that the Logos was not only the beginning but the end, the Goal of the cosmos.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a lovely book, the predecessor to JP’s similar book on Mary. In each case his focus is historical and cultural, not theological (though he is, of course, the dean of... Read morePublished 20 days ago by Richard B. Schwartz
Pelikan was a towering figure and writer. A great work.Published 10 months ago by William Blackburn
AN excellent book. I was however disappointed that it was only “mid” difficult in the level it expected of its readers. I wanted something deeper. Read morePublished on June 13, 2014 by E. Diemente
A first-rate, highly readable investigation into the impact of Jesus Christ on our culture, approached from different historical perspectives, with photographic images that... Read morePublished on February 2, 2014 by Martin Van Scoy
Pelikan does an excellent job looking at various views of Jesus' throughout the history of the Christian tradition. Read morePublished on April 13, 2013 by Revjbarker
One of the most compellingly scholarly works I have read on the history of Christian imagery and thought, definitely worth the time.Published on February 5, 2013 by Brandon Fain