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Book Title: Jesus :|
The author of the book: Michael Grant
ISBN 13: 9781407220314
Format files: PDF, Epub, DOCx, TXT
The size of the: 846 KB
Edition: PHoenix Press
Date of issue: January 1st 2009
Reader ratings: 4.2
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2009-06 - Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels. Author, Michael Grant. 264 pages. 1977.
I picked this book up for free at a local library give away last year. I finally got around to reading it. I picked it up because I was familiar with the writer’s work on the Roman Army and wanted to see what he brought to the table on this topic.
This book review has been one of the most difficult I have written. Partly because this book was very good, thought provoking, and I thought the author did a very good job of meeting his objective. The topic (Jesus Christ) and the narrow approach (looking only at the Gospels) of this book make it a difficult subject to actually write about. While much has been written about Jesus Christ by many people from many different approaches; I have found that too often we think we know what Jesus said and what he meant. But truthfully it too often turns out that it is usually only what others have said about him or what others have said he meant. This is especially true in the religious circles. And there has been so much that in a real sense the historical Jesus has been lost in the imagery.
Imagery which has been piled on by both the religious proponents and the secular pro/opponents. Peeling back this imagery, these attributions and viewing the historical man and his actions in the context of his times and locale is quite difficult. The greatest reason for this difficulty is the work of his followers themselves. They have so changed the world in his name that getting a real sense of the pre-Christian society in the Roman Near East or even of the society he preached, walked, and lived in is extremely difficult. And Jesus Christ was a product of his time and of his locality. Much of what he said, preached, and much of what he did followed norms for holy men in and around Galilee in that era.
Comparing his words and actions with contemporaries and near contemporaries you can easily fail to see the radical and revolutionary aspect of what he was doing. Many other holy men preached about the end times, the coming of the kingdom, repentance, and some even could have worked miracles. But only Jesus affirmed that he, and he alone was initiating the Kingdom of God. This was a radical statement and it is in that statement or rather the evaluation of that statement that I diverge from the author of this book in regards to his evaluation.
From a historians perspective yes, this part of the mission statement has not come to pass. But if you correctly understand Jesus’ admonishments to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s because earthly things matter not in the light of the impending Kingdom but fail to see the that the kingdom of God was truly established when Jesus descended in death and rendered death itself obsolete you have missed the key aspect. I suppose though that this is the difference between a historians approach and a theological approach. Not at odds necessarily but each could be viewed as incomplete on its own.
Separating the theological, and focusing only on Jesus in the Gospels, and in a historical context the image of Jesus is surprising. He is not the meek and mild image beloved of greeting cards but rather a sharp tongued fiery personality who has no time for compromising or wheeling and dealing. The Kingdom is too important for anything else and the time for the Kingdom is at hand! He can easily move among those whom Judaism of that time views as unclean, undesirable, or scandalous because he has no such earthly ties or restrictions and views such as folly in the face of the Kingdom. He comes across as charismatic with a courage bordering on suicidal, which can in fact be seen as the truth. He new he was going to die if he continued as he was doing and he did not flinch; rather he narrowed and sharpened his rhetoric and actions. Tossing aside theology, Jesus stands as the single greatest example of the humanist ideal. He, through his preaching, his example, his charisma and courage shows us all what a single person is capable of … changing the world.
It perhaps the narrowing of the topic to the Gospels which has made this the most difficult review to write. There is a gap between the life and death of Jesus, the writing of the Epistles and other letters, the separation of Christianity from Judaism into its own faith group, the writing of the Gospels, the growth and formalization of the Church, the standardization of the canon. The author alludes this several times in the text. The intervening periods of time and the experiences of Jesus’ followers does have an impact on what is written, subtracted, added, omitted, and nuanced in these scriptures. Essentially it must be remembered that although the author is approaching these texts from the point of view of a historian and treating the texts therefore as historical source documents he also correctly states that they are primarily a spiritual text. The accuracy/validity of the history is always secondary to the spiritual/theological. To believe otherwise is to not understand the very thing Jesus was actually preaching about … the imminence of the Kingdom and therefore the unimportance of earthly things and attachments. In his own words, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Read information about the authorMichael Grant was an English classisist, numismatist, and author of numerous popular books on ancient history. His 1956 translation of Tacitus’s Annals of Imperial Rome remains a standard of the work. He once described himself as "one of the very few freelances in the field of ancient history: a rare phenomenon". As a popularizer, his hallmarks were his prolific output and his unwillingness to oversimplify or talk down to his readership.
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