- Publisher: Watts; Third impression edition (1947)
- ASIN: B00005W8UO
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,273,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The life of Jesus Hardcover – 1947
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Joseph Ernest Renan 1823-1892 was a French expert of Middle East ancient languages and civilizations, philosopher and writer, devoted to his native province of Brittany. He is best known for his influential historical works on early Christianity and his political theories, especially concerning nationalism and national identity. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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"For the historian, the life of Jesus finishes with his last sigh. But such was the impression he had left in the heart of his disciples and of a few devoted women that during some weeks more it was as if he were living and consoling them. Had his body been taken away, or did enthusiasm, always credulous, create afterwards the group of narratives by which it was sought to establish faith in the resurrection? In the absence of opposing documents, this can never be ascertained. Let us say, however, that the strong imagination of Mary Magdalene played an important part in this circumstance. Divine power of love! Sacred moments in which the passion of one possessed gave the world a resuscitated God! (pg. 215)
"In him was condensed all that was good and elevated in our nature. He was not sinless; he has conquered the same passions we combat; no angel of God comforted him, except his good conscience; no Satan tempted him, except that which each one bears in his heart. In the same way that many of his great qualities are lost to us, through the fault of the disciples, it is also probable that many of his faults have been concealed." (pg. 227)
This is not a book if you're looking for faith. Writing from a perspective that denies the divine leaves only attempts at explanations that often miss the point of the history he's trying to describe. But such is the power of faith that the reality of Jesus as the Christ is known even as you read only about Jesus as a man.
I will not say I agree with all his points of views but he defends them well and since most hypothesis regarding history as well as theology are more speculative than definitive, as long as the hypothesis conforms to the known facts or that which can be proven, the hypothesis becomes no less plausible or possible than any other.
I believe that all Christians will be enriched by this book which does not force you to accept Renan's stance on the supernatural aspects of Jesus but those who are firm in faith and belief may also "choose" to see this as another dimension that reinforces the "Greatness" of the human side of Jesus, the Christ with the divine aspect firmly rooted in conventional history and theology. I think this book can exist in concert with our common beliefs as it takes nothing away from Jesus and his mission while here on earth.
What were his origins? What was the environment in which he grew up and worked? What and where did he preach? How did his following develop? Why was he arrested and put on trial? What happened during his final days?
Anyone interested in learning answers to these questions will do well to study this outstanding book. Renan was a French scholar of exceptional genius, who knew Greek and Hebrew, studied in depth all available sources, and, in the 1860s, lived and travelled throughout the places where Jesus lived and worked. This is a work of passion and insight, driven by a deep desire to find, understand and describe the truth regarding Jesus and his world-changing life.
Renan opens with a lengthy introduction containing a thorough and brilliant discussion about the source materials. He then proceeds to what is known or reasonably surmised about Jesus's life. He not only describes the social and religious environment of the time, in particular the role and functioning of local Jewish synagogues, but also includes beautiful descriptions of the physical environment of Galilee. It was there that Jesus began his preaching, from village to village. As the story proceeds to its tragic, almost unbearable climax in Jerusalem, Renan maintains his commitment to weigh all the evidence and to stay close to his best judgment of what really occurred. He closes with deep and moving reflections about the true meaning of Jesus's work and beliefs to later generations - emphasizing that Jesus preached no creed or set of specific doctrines: "Jesus was not a founder of dogmas... he introduced into the world a new spirit."
Writing in the nineteenth century, Renan was passionate about the science of historical understanding, but not corrupted by the timidity and political orthodoxies of today's academic writers. He does not hesitate to make bold statements about major issues including the essence of Jesus's teachings, the explanation of miracles, the mindset of followers who "believed in the reality of the ideal", and the power structure of the Jewish priesthood of the time. "A great life", he writes, "is an organic whole which cannot be rendered by the simple agglomeration of small facts."
It's ironic that Renan was condemned, and more recently praised, for allegedly attacking Christianity. In fact, his book is a moving testament and tribute to the life and spirit of Jesus, as expressed in his original teaching and in his supreme act of self sacrifice.