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  1. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant
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  2. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant

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"He comes as yet unknown into a hamlet of Lower Galilee. He is watched by the cold, hard eyes of peasants living long enough at a subsistence level to know exactly where the line is drawn between poverty and destitution. He looks like a beggar yet his eyes lack the proper cringe, his voice the proper whine, his walk the proper shuffle. He speaks about the rule of God and they listen as much from curiosity as anything else. They know all about rule and power, about kingdom and empire, but they know it in terms of tax and debt, malnutrition and sickness, agrarian oppression and demonic possession. What, they really want to know, can this kingdom of God do for a lame child, a blind parent, a demented soul screaming its tortured isolation among the graves that mark the edges of the village?"

–– from "The Gospel of Jesus," overture to The Historical Jesus

The Historical Jesus reveals the true Jesus––who he was, what he did, what he said. It opens with "The Gospel of Jesus," Crossan's studied determination of Jesus' actual words and actions stripped of any subsequent additions and placed in a capsule account of his life story. The Jesus who emerges is a savvy and courageous Jewish Mediterranean peasant, a radical social revolutionary, with a rhapsodic vision of economic, political, and religious egalitarianism and a social program for creating it.

The conventional wisdom of critical historical scholarship has long held that too little is known about the historical Jesus to say definitively much more than that he lived and had a tremendous impact on his followers. "There were always historians who said it could not be done because of historical problems," writes Crossan. "There were always theologians who said it should not be done because of theological objections. And there were always scholars who said the former when they meant the latter.'

With this ground–breaking work, John Dominic Crossan emphatically sweeps these notions aside. He demonstrates that Jesus is actually one of the best documented figures in ancient history; the challenge is the complexity of the sources. The vivid portrayal of Jesus that emerges from Crossan's unique methodology combines the complementary disciplines of social anthropology, Greco–Roman history, and the literary analysis of specific pronouncements, anecdotes, confessions and interpretations involving Jesus. All three levels cooperate equally and fully in an effective synthesis that provides the most definitive presentation of the historical Jesus yet attained.

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John Dominic Crossan
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant is but one of a long list of controversial works that J. D. Crossan has produced. To be honest, I struggled through the first half of this 500+ page study--Jesus is barely mentioned until chapter 11. Instead, Crossan spends the first ten chapters carefully laying the groundwork for his research. By the time I reached page 225, I had covered social relationships unique to the Mediterranean region, a variety of peasant responses to political and religious oppression (especially in Palestine during the first century C.E.), Jesus' philosophical and religious contemporaries (especially from the poorest in society). Crossan approaches his study of Jesus armed with anthropological, sociological, historical and literary tools, and focuses especially on where all of his tools converge.

Especially noteworthy is his approach to the documentary evidence of Jesus' words and deeds. He draws upon 200+ years of New... Read more
This is a very thorough textual analysis of primary documentation for the life of Jesus. It is also not a book for everyone. I would specify three possible types of reader, one of which should not read the book, another that doesn't need to, and those that will thoroughly enjoy the work.

The first is that reader for whom the New Testament (NT) is the be all and end all on Jesus and his message. This person will see any confusion in the sources of the NT as being purely a problem of their own lack of understanding; if the texts say something that is internally inconsistant, it must be that only God or his elect are able to understand and lesser individuals are to accept on belief alone even if it doesn't make sense. For this person, the book will only serve to anger you. That will raise your blood pressure, and you don't need that. I would advise you not to read the book for your own health and safety.

The second type of reader is that for whom the story of... Read more
I do not claim to understand all of the subtleties of Crossan's scholarly methods, but it is his insistence on peeling away layers and centuries of mythology to seek the truth beneath that taught me that one does not have to check one's brain at the church door. That in itself was a revelation to me. Regardless of whether history vindicates Crossan or not, this book represents a path of inquiry that should be pursued further. The superstitions of the Middle Ages don't work anymore. I began the book as a curious atheist and finished it as a prayerful Christian.
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