The Historical Figure of Jesus

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 1994-09-01
  • Publisher: Allen Lane

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Everyone has his own picture of Jesus - few historical figures have been so overlaid with centuries of mythmaking. But is it possible for us to discover what he was like from the historical evidence? Professor Sanders, author of Paul and Palestinian Judaism and Jesus and Judaism, has placed the study of the relationship between Judaism and early Christianity on a new basis: one that is historical and descriptive rather than theological and antagonistic. In this book he uses a clear and logical approach, carefully distinguishing the 'certain' from the 'less certain' and the 'improbable' to present a fresh and dramatic account of Jesus as a person.
Since scholars first began to analyse the gospels using the tools of critical study, Jesus has proved a tantalizing puzzle. There is enough evidence to offer the hope of a full explanation of who he was and what he did, but on examination it turns out to be difficult and sometimes contradictory.
In the first part of this study Professor Sanders proposes that we can have excellent knowledge about Jesus on a general level where he fits into the history and religious movements of first-century Palestine, the main themes of his teaching, some of his principal activities, and the people who followed him.
More specific questions, such as 'What precisely was he like?', 'What are the nuances of his teaching?' and 'What were his aims', can be answered with less certainty. The second part of the book identifies the range of possible answers and weighs the evidence in favour of each.
Historical research into the life and career of Jesus cannot fully explain the emergence and phenomenal spread of the new religion of Christianity. The author discusses how the disciples decided to put together the reports of Jesus' life which we now have as the gospels, and their desire to present his person in the teachings of what became a powerful religion that spread from the Jews to the Gentiles and throughout the world.
Although we must acknowledge that in some respects Jesus remains an enigma, this account also demonstrates that we know more about the historical figure of Jesus than we ever realized.

Author Biography

E. P. Sanders moved to Duke University as Arts and Sciences Professor of Religion in 1990.

Table of Contents

Map of Palestine in the Time of Jesus
List of Abbreviations
Chronological Table
Introductionp. 1
An Outline of Jesus' Lifep. 10
Political Settingp. 15
Judaism as a Religionp. 33
External Sourcesp. 49
The Problems of the Primary Sourcesp. 57
Two Contextsp. 78
The Setting and Method of Jesus' Ministryp. 98
The Beginning of Jesus' Ministryp. 112
Miraclesp. 132
The Coming of the Kingdomp. 169
The Kingdom: Israel, Gentiles and Individualsp. 189
The Kingdom: Reversal of Values and Ethical Perfectionismp. 196
Contention and Opposition in Galileep. 205
Jesus' View of His Role in God's Planp. 238
Jesus' Last Weekp. 249
Epilogue: The Resurrectionp. 276
Appendix I: Chronologyp. 282
Appendix II: Jesus' Disciplesp. 291
Notesp. 292
Index of Passagesp. 315
Index of Names and Subjectsp. 329
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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