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In this popular version of his more scholarly The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan attempts to pare Christ's life down to only those events for which we have the best evidence from: the Gospels; Gnostic Gospels; Roman history; archaeology; and anthropology. This makes for fascinating reading and he wields the various sources masterfully, but it leads to a Jesus whose centrality to world history seems to make little sense.

Crossan presents his arguments for what is most likely and most unlikely to have occurred and what it all means.  For instance, he traces the various translation possibilities in the term leper and looks at the Jewish kosher laws and concludes that healing the unclean may simply have meant being willing to break bread with them.  Likewise, by examining Roman criminal law practices and burial traditions for convicts, he argues that none of the disciples could possibly have known what happened to the body of Christ after the crucifixion and that he must have been left to the dogs.  Ultimately, by imposing such textual rigor, Crossan leaves us with a Jesus stripped of miracles, which is fine, but also one who is, oddly, stripped of godliness.  Instead, he presents him as merely a radical egalitarian Mediterranean Jewish Peasant.  This may also be the case, but how then do we explain his followers' belief in the miracles and in Christ's divinity?  And how do we explain his subsequent influence on the course of human history?

I disagreed with many of the interpretations and with this broader deChristifying of Jesus, but found Crossan's arguments to be consistently thought provoking.  It is quite an enjoyable read, even if dubious.


Grade: (B)


See also:

John Crossan Links:
    -John Dominic Crossan :  Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, DePaul University, Chicago
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "crossan, john dominic"
    -DEBATE : Jesus at 2000 E-mail Debate : During the Lenten season of 1996, Harper San Francisco publishing company sponsored an e-mail debate which explored the significance of the historical Jesus
for Christian faith. The seven-week debate took place between John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, both members of the Jesus Seminar, and Luke Timothy Johnson, the Seminar's foremost critic
    -ESSAY : SIMPLE CHOICES? : A RESPONSE TO JOHN DOMINIC CROSSAN (William (Bill) Loader,  Professor of New Testament,  Murdoch University)
    -ARCHIVES : "john dominic crossan" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW : of JESUS A Revolutionary Biography. By John Dominic Crossan (Leslie Houlden, NY Times Book Review)

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: The Quest for the Historical Jesus (Mervyn Bendle, 10/07/20, Quadrant)
    -From Jesus to Christ: the First Christians (from the excellent Frontline series)
    -XTalk : The Historical Jesus and Early Christian Origins (Crosstalk2) : Homepage of the Moderated Internet Discussion Group for the Academic Study of  the Historical Jesus and the Rise of Christianity
    -The Gnostic Society Library: The Nag Hammadi Library
    -Jesus in Archaeology & History
    -ESSAY : A Role Model for Jesus : In the Dead Sea Scrolls, a scholar sees new messianic precedent (Jeff Sharlet, Chronicle of Higher Education)
    -ESSAY : Peering Past Faith to Glimpse the Jesus of History (PETER STEINFELS, NY Times, December 23, 1991)
    -ESSAY: The Search for a No-Frills Jesus  (Charlotte Allen, The Atlantic)
    -REVIEW : of THE CHANGING FACES OF JESUS By Geza Vermes (Charlotte Allen, Washington Post)
    -REVIEWS : of The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth. By Ben Witherington III and The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels. By Luke Timothy Johnson (Richard B. Hays, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. Edited by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and The Jesus Seminar (Richard B. Hays, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus. By Thomas Cahill (Francis Martin, First Things)
    -America :  The national Catholic weekly magazine