Hot Best Seller

Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography

Availability: Ready to download

Jesus is a magisterial distillation of Crossan's lifelongwork on the gospels & Jesus. It's the controversial, bestselling account of what we know about the life of Jesus. This book is considered a revolutionary biography.


Compare

Jesus is a magisterial distillation of Crossan's lifelongwork on the gospels & Jesus. It's the controversial, bestselling account of what we know about the life of Jesus. This book is considered a revolutionary biography.

30 review for Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    A fascinating textual analysis of the historic Jesus in the context of his times, accessible to the non-scholar. I think, however, that Crossan is somewhat inconsistent in regard to which texts he accepts as, uh, gospel.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    Crossan does a textual analysis of canonical gospels, non canonical gospels and other extrabiblical texts using fields of study such as medical anthropology, cultural anthropology, and biblical archaeology to create a reconstruction of the historical Jesus. What i appreciate most about this work, aside from this meticulous textual analysis, is his placing the happenings of scripture related to Jesus' birth, ministry, and death in their historical socio-cultural context. He constantly refers to Crossan does a textual analysis of canonical gospels, non canonical gospels and other extrabiblical texts using fields of study such as medical anthropology, cultural anthropology, and biblical archaeology to create a reconstruction of the historical Jesus. What i appreciate most about this work, aside from this meticulous textual analysis, is his placing the happenings of scripture related to Jesus' birth, ministry, and death in their historical socio-cultural context. He constantly refers to Jesus as a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. He reminds us of patriarchy, patronage/clientage, and imperial oppression of 1st century Palestine. He reminds of us of this so that we can understand how politically and socially subversive Jesus' message and life-style was--challenging cultural norms, hierarchies, and social boundaries with a lived message of radical egalitarianism, open commensality, and free healing. Crossan was able to paint Jesus as a radically human radical with a mindfulness of religious belief in his divinity. In other words, he was both bold and humble, respectful of Christian reverence for Jesus while maintaining the integrity of his work. Recommended only for the open-minded

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lew

    Crossan has been accused of trying to make Jesus into an IRA militant. What he does is try to place a flesh and blood man in a dust and blood place. As the Christian religion becomes more and more gnostic, an Irish Catholic priest, a scholar with a very Irish temperament--well, what do you know?--wants to bring the 'Him' that was into a close embrace. Dostoevsky would approve, I think. Crossan points out that the Roman Empire in which Jesus lived and died was very much a society of patronage. Crossan has been accused of trying to make Jesus into an IRA militant. What he does is try to place a flesh and blood man in a dust and blood place. As the Christian religion becomes more and more gnostic, an Irish Catholic priest, a scholar with a very Irish temperament--well, what do you know?--wants to bring the 'Him' that was into a close embrace. Dostoevsky would approve, I think. Crossan points out that the Roman Empire in which Jesus lived and died was very much a society of patronage. You couldn't make it without a sponsor or, at least, a sugar-daddy. Jesus made himself the patron of those who most often lacked one--women, children, beggars, whores, the sick, mentally troubled and despised. Hell, even tax collectors. This is the most affecting account of the man, Jesus, I've read outside the Gospel of Mark or Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor. Not bad for a scholarly work.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    John Dominic Crossan approached his exploration of Jesus through three lenses. First was the lens of cross-cultural anthropology – what were these cultures usually like? Second was 1st world Hebrew culture itself. And third was the early texts we have about Jesus. Well, the texts that Crossan decides are early and only the parts he's decided to include after he's eliminated 90-95% of their material. He uses his selection of evidence from these three spheres to make a case about who he thinks John Dominic Crossan approached his exploration of Jesus through three lenses. First was the lens of cross-cultural anthropology – what were these cultures usually like? Second was 1st world Hebrew culture itself. And third was the early texts we have about Jesus. Well, the texts that Crossan decides are early and only the parts he's decided to include after he's eliminated 90-95% of their material. He uses his selection of evidence from these three spheres to make a case about who he thinks Jesus was. Crossan is a good writer. Some of his information, especially the anthropological information, gave me new insights on Jesus. But his argument was less than convincing. I'm wondering if I should read the academic version of his material; perhaps this version leaves out the data that would make his case stronger. He may expect a popular audience to be less demanding. But it's hard for me to accept that – wouldn't you put your best examples in your smaller, popularized book? Here were the largest holes I saw: 1) The dating scheme: Crossan never specifically dates the texts, but what he does share is weird. He tells stories from 2nd-century texts and then suggests that the canonical gospels may be dependent on them. He speaks of the Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas as very early, and the somewhat manufactured “Q Gospel” of being two stages, one early and one very very early. Once you hypothesize a gospel based on similarities between two other texts, claim to date this hypothetical gospel, and then further split it up into two parts based on an “earlier” section that has all the things you want to be true about Jesus and a “not so early” section that contains the things you don't want to be true, then you're not dealing with history anymore. You're just making stuff fit your case. 2) His self-selection of evidence: Crossan says he only chose things repeated by two or more independent sources (generally not counting Mark/Matthew/Luke as independent). He makes a big deal of the fact that journalists won't go with a story unless they have two independent sources (not always true), and he says historians should do the same. Being able to throw out so much material helps his case, because the less solid material he has the more room his theories have to grow on their own. But he often contradicts himself by counting favorable material as valid even if if comes from only one source. For example, he uses a lot of Josephus's account that appears nowhere else, and he derives a huge amount from Jesus being a carpenter even though that only appears in one gospel. He claims that the Gospel of Peter is an independent source (perhaps the only historian who believes that?), and says the writer of the Epistle of Barnabus didn't have knowledge of the gospels, yet at times refuses to count John and Mark as sources independent from each other. Other times he categorically denies that something is historical even though it appears both in multiple gospels and Paul's letters, or from other multiple sources, but doesn't fit his idea of Jesus. 3) Crossan underestimates oral cultures. Even when the material fits his criteria and he chooses to accept it, he selectively decides what to accept. He states that: “When today we read his words in fixed and frozen texts we must recognize that the oral memory of his first audiences could have retained, at best, only the striking image, the startling analogy, the forceful conjunction, and, for example, the plot summary of a parable that might have taken an hour or more to tell and perform.” Do you know people who memorize all the words of a song? Dozens or even hundreds of songs? Who can recite memorable scenes from a movie word-for-word even when they've only seen it once, and who can recite nearly every line from a movie that they've seen over and over again? And we don't even live in an oral culture. Isn't it possible that disciples who listened to Jesus speak to different audiences over and over again just might be able to retain more than a "striking image” or “startling analogy”? Does Crossan really believe that ancient storytellers only remembered plot summaries, and failed to get the significant details the same way every time? Or course there will be variations, and some people will make personal changes to make a point, but the ability of humans to repeat oral communication is far greater than Crossan assumes, especially within an oral culture. 4) Crossan makes some decisions based not on sources but on his preheld beliefs, like “I presume that Jesus, who did not and could not cure that disease or any other one, healed the poor man's illness by refusing to accept the disease's ritual uncleanness and social ostracization” and “I do not think anyone, at anytime, anywhere, brings dead people back to life." He also rejects any incident in which Jesus fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy, even the ones that would have been relatively easy for Jesus to have chosen to fulfill. Crossan can have those beliefs, but you can't really call those assumptions a fair treatment of the written material. After the suspicious dating, selective use of the “multiple source” criteria, the elimination of all miracles and healings and fulfillments of prophecy, and the reduction of all stories, parables, and events down to the sentence or two that fit Crossan's case, I'm not sure that more than 1-2% of the Bible would fit Crossan's about Jesus. It would be interesting to see his Jesus Seminar votes. 5) An issue outside of the selective elimination of text is Crossan's reliance on cultural generalizations. The cultural insights that he adapts from cultural anthropology are one of the best contributions of the book. They helped me understand some things better than I had before. But you can't use that stuff to make conclusive arguments about individuals. Just about everyone, including Crossan, thinks that Jesus was unique. So to say that “people in cultures like this tend to act in this way most of the time”, when you're not even specifically talking about Jewish culture, and then claiming that therefore Jesus HAD to have acted in that way, is just ridiculous. One example is the following passage, which comes after Crossan made the argument from cross-cultural anthropology that carpenters, as artisans, were the lowest of the peasants in most cultures: “If Jesus was a carpenter, therefore, he belonged to the Artisan class, that group pushed into the dangerous space between Peasants and Degradeds or Expendables....Furthermore, since between 95 and 97 percent of the Jewish state was illiterate at the time of Jesus, it must be presumed that Jesus also was illiterate, that he knew, like the the vast majority of his contemporaries in his oral culture, the foundational narratives, basic stories, and general expectations of his tradition but not the exact texts, precise citations, or intricate arguments of its scribal elites.” So because most people were illiterate (and his degree of certainty on the literacy level of the Jewish state is remarkable!), and because Jesus was probably peasant lower class (based on his occupation in a single source), therefore Jesus MUST not have been able to read, and therefore he can't have known precise texts? In history some poor people did learn to read, and even some illiterate people memorize enormous amounts of religious text. To say someone, especially someone with as unique an influence as Jesus, can't have known religious texts based on that series of logical jumps is tenuous. But Crossan goes on to use that argument to deny as historical every passage where Jesus reads, shows intimate knowledge of scripture, or purposely fulfills any prophecy. He instead says that all of his high-class, learned followers made up those stories by “searching the Scriptures” in the 5-10 years after his death. (I wonder what the cross-cultural precedents are for illiterate, unknowledgable, impoverished, powerless religious men attracting a cadre of literate, wealthy, educated followers who get more devout after their leader's death than they were before.) On top of that, he then goes on to deny that the two educated followers of Jesus named in the Bible were actually real, because doing so is helps his case that the resurrection isn't real! Crossan's hypothetical educated Jesus-followers are more believable to him than the ones we actually have texts about. Sorry JD, I don't buy it. So what does this process lead to? Crossan comes to the following conclusions: Whenever the disciples traveled in twos, it's actually a disciple and an unmarried woman traveling together. This is based off of the anonymity of one of the disciples traveling to Emmaus (“One named and clearly male, one unnamed and probably female”), Paul saying he had the right to take a believing wife, and Crossan's hope that Jesus was a perfect example of equality who in every way transcended his culture. “The twelve” didn't exist because they're not mentioned in Thomas (which is mainly composed of sayings by Jesus) or the Didache (which is teaching and church instruction, not historical action). Sure, they're in the title to the Didache, but Crossan assumes that was added later. In this case, the fact that the twelve are separately attested in all the gospels and Paul is insufficient. Jesus is a “peasant Jewish cynic” even though there's no cultural model for this. Jesus doesn't wear the dress or carry the characteristic tools of a cynic, teach the individualism of a cynic, or have the hopes (or lack thereof) of the cynic, and may not even have had any knowledge of the cynics because there's no evidence of them ever present in rural Hebrew culture, but Crossan explains away these issues by assuming that Jesus's differences just go to show you what a peasant Jewish cynic would look like. I guess if you make up a term, you can have it mean whatever you want it to mean. Crossan never states what was so attractive about Jesus the Cynic that he managed to build such a mass movement of followers, especially considering that every favorable characteristic of Jesus, in Crossan's eyes, was ruined within the first two generations of his disciples. Jesus only went to Jerusalem once. Crossan first assumes the Mark/Matthew/Luke account of the temple incident at the end of Jesus's ministry must describe the same incident as John's account at the beginning of Jesus's ministry, then says that anyone who believes Jesus went to Jerusalem repeatedly must explain why he only did the action at the temple once and not every year, then determines therefore that Jesus must have only gone to Jerusalem once! The circular logic is astounding. The resurrection was a “searching the scriptures” response to Jesus's death by his well-educated disciples. This is a real stretch – Crossan claims Jesus couldn't have known more than some loose ideas from the scriptures himself, but that his disciples were well-educated Scribal geniuses. Crossan's theory has Jesus's followers making leaps back and forth across the Bible, going on treasure hunts across texts (for instance, connecting two passages solely because they're both in Isaiah, although they're 54 chapters apart), and then uniting four or five texts at the same time to cause them to mean something that no one had ever said they meant before so that they could create a new nonhistorical event based on this novel combination. And they did all this in the 5 to 10 years after Jesus died, during which they weren't disappointed at all but devoured his teachings and made complicated theology to explain his death without hesitation. James, Jesus's brother, is implicitly a sellout because he stayed in one place instead of practicing the itinerant ministry that Jesus modeled, and probably took money for healings. (Crossan bases this off of the fact that James was in Jerusalem and had some sort of influence by his death, though he was executed by the authorities.) All nature miracles, feeding miracles, and post-resurrection appearances were invented to defend the leadership of the disciples over the masses and Peter's primacy at the top, especially over John, Thomas, and Mary. Crossan states this even as he admits that Mark spends most of his gospel building a case against the disciples in general and John actually elevates “the disciple who Jesus loved” over Peter at times and gives Mary a special status as the first to meet and tell about the resurrected Christ. He starts this argument with Luke 24:13-46, solely because Simon is mentioned in verse 34 (though less prominently than the unknown “Cleopas”). He also claims that John 20:1-18 denigrates Mary, even as it gives her a favored and intimate interaction with the resurrected Christ. He explains it as a ploy to suppress the tradition that Mary went to the tomb and saw the risen Jesus first. But...according to Crossan, Jesus was eaten by dogs and was never buried (he was too poor to bury and those rich followers of Jesus were made up – don't think about those learned scribes that searched the scriptures right now), and the resurrection was a metaphor. So Jesus's followers MADE UP the story about Mary meeting the resurrected Christ first, then suppressed it later in order to suppress women? Jesus healed while in a trance. The woman in Mark 14:3-9 is the real author of Mark. We could go on and on from there. Perhaps the longer version of the book makes a better argument, but I suspect that it just makes a more convoluted case to follow. I feel disappointed because Crossan's intelligence and writing ability really should produce a 4-star book, but I can't give this book more than 2 stars. If I was going off of writing quality and entertainment value alone, I might feel tempted to lean towards 3 stars, if I was going off of quality of content alone, I might be tempted to lean towards just one. But actually, I think I'm all-around satisfied with declaring it a 2-star book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    A shorter and more popularly written update of the author's "Historical Jesus - the Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant." Crossan displays impressing scholarship in placing Jesus firmly in the cultural environment of his time and place. The book is often illuminating, often controversial, and always thought-provoking. However I have qualms about this or any other attempt to discover the historical Jesus - to present a factual biography of him - how he lived, what he taught. There is just not A shorter and more popularly written update of the author's "Historical Jesus - the Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant." Crossan displays impressing scholarship in placing Jesus firmly in the cultural environment of his time and place. The book is often illuminating, often controversial, and always thought-provoking. However I have qualms about this or any other attempt to discover the historical Jesus - to present a factual biography of him - how he lived, what he taught. There is just not enough factual evidence for this and no one can see Jesus with fresh eyes, can be unbiased, free of pre-conceptions. Besides, ever since Paul began writing letters, it has not been the man Jesus who has been important to the Christian faith, to the development of theology, but rather the resurrected Christ, the Incarnate God. However, Crossan knows this material well and constructs an interesting possibility of what Jesus may have been like - a Jesus more acceptable to modern susceptibilities - one without the supernatural, other-worldly aspects no longer believable. He sees Jesus as a radical social reformer - one who no longer believes, as the Baptist did, in an imminent, apocalyptic divine intervention but rather in a "reign of God" inaugurated by simply acting as if the Kingdom was already present - creating a new social order of living acceptance of all - dispensing with the social rules that divide us, cut us off from each other, dispensing with the purity laws, the social conventions, that limit whom we can befriend, with whom we can share a meal - replacing them with a radical commitment to the equality of all people, Jew and Gentile, male and female - all in a direct relationship to God, without an intervening priesthood. Moreover, the book is quite impressive in its insights into the culture of the period (e.g., the importance of the client-patron relationship) - and quite wonderful in the exegesis of particular Biblical pericopes (e.g. suggesting that the "suffer little children" is an admonition to care for abandoned infants). The big improbability is Crossan's belief that there is a connection, a "tension" between the man Jesus and the Christ, and that changing the image of "Jesus then" will inevitably change that of "Christ now". Am skeptical of this. Doubt whether any new theory about the historical Jesus will have the slightest effect on changing traditional Christology. Has not worked in the past. Jesus, the ethical teacher of the Enlightenment - Jesus, the great example of moral compassion of early 20th century liberalism - never inspired much devotion or changed the faith of the church. My strong suspicion is that the purpose of this current search for the "historical Jesus" is to provide comfort to those modern Christians who are having trouble affirming the old theology, doing so by giving them a Jesus they can intellectually accept - one they believe in - giving them a way to still consider themselves Christians. The search is more a religious quest than a historical one - a construction rather than a recovery.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    I appreciated parts of this book--it's insistence that "kingdom" is a poor translation of the Greek "basileia," it's reference to Pliny for the note that the important thing about mustard seeds is that they'll take over your whole garden if you're not careful, it's reference to Livy for a story similar to the one of Salome asking for the head of John the Baptist. Mostly, however, it struck me as a cherry-picking to support the rather obsessive point that Jesus' real message was an egalitarian I appreciated parts of this book--it's insistence that "kingdom" is a poor translation of the Greek "basileia," it's reference to Pliny for the note that the important thing about mustard seeds is that they'll take over your whole garden if you're not careful, it's reference to Livy for a story similar to the one of Salome asking for the head of John the Baptist. Mostly, however, it struck me as a cherry-picking to support the rather obsessive point that Jesus' real message was an egalitarian political one--the radical overthrow of the privileged by the poor. Crossan seems trapped in the sixties and in his Irishness, seeing everything in terms of class struggle, domination, victimization, power, and colonial rule. Even when he quotes an author (Thomas Carney) who asserts (twice in the passage quoted) that modern understandings of class do little to illuminate ancient culture--that understanding the client-patron system is far more useful--he seems not to notice. Most of his modern citations are from books published in the mid-1970's. Based on two Biblical passages (one, really, since one is based on the other) he asserts unreservedly that Jesus was a tekton--a step lower than a peasant (he claims), and was certainly illiterate. He says that 97% of people in Judea were illiterate. Most historians who have studied the problem in depth guess a number closer to 85%. (This is a very vexed question and not black or white, as he assumes--what, exactly, is literacy? Does signing your name make you literate? Being able to puzzle out a few words? Reading the newspaper? Or only reading Henry James? Was Paul, who dictated his letters, literate? Socrates? Constantine? What's your proof?) I guess that's what irritated me the most. All black and white. No shades of gray. No sympathetic understanding of what it might have felt like to live under a patron-client system. Only ideology and a fierce defensiveness against his (many) critics.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Pete daPixie

    Having recently read 'Excavating Jesus' by this same author, I'm really getting into John Dominic Crossan. Jesus:A Revolutionary Biography is the biography of a Revolutionary, that is lifted from the mists of history and is found buried under layers of exegesis. As all the Christian layers are peeled away, Crossan paints a vivid portrait of this first century Galilean peasant, whose ministry of open commensality and social healing appears far more powerful and understandable than the N.T.'s Having recently read 'Excavating Jesus' by this same author, I'm really getting into John Dominic Crossan. Jesus:A Revolutionary Biography is the biography of a Revolutionary, that is lifted from the mists of history and is found buried under layers of exegesis. As all the Christian layers are peeled away, Crossan paints a vivid portrait of this first century Galilean peasant, whose ministry of open commensality and social healing appears far more powerful and understandable than the N.T.'s miracle working 'Son of God'. A Jewish Cynic, four hundred years after Diogenes of Sinope is exploding social taboos and standing with the dispossessed, spiritually unclean agrarian classes against the landowning exploitation and Roman imperialism. When Jesus is stripped of the myths of Bethlehem, water walking and Easter we see a historical Jesus...'they were hippies in a world of Augustan yuppies' writes Crossan, 'a religious and economic egalitarianism that negated alike and at once the hierarchical and patronal normalcies of Jewish religion and Roman power. And, lest he himself be interpreted as simply a new broker of a new God, he moved on constantly, settling down neither at Nazareth nor at Capernaum. He was neither broker nor mediator but, somewhat paradoxically, the announcer that neither should exist between humanity and divinity or between humanity and itself. Miracle and parable, healing and eating were calculated to force individuals into unmediated physical and spiritual contact with God and unmediated physical and spiritual contact with one another. He announced, in other words, the unmediated or brokerless Kingdom of God'. Happy Easter.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nicolas Shump

    For 3/4 of this book, Crossan strikes me as a typical lapsed believer who has to explain away everything that doesn't fit with his theory/reading of Jesus. Perhaps he gives reasons in some of his other writings, but Crossan has a zealous, if not obsessive disdain for anything supernatural. This is fine for an atheist or agnostic, but when he talks about Christianity or faith in the last chapters, I had to ask what type of God does he believe in? His cross-cultural method is solid, but he does not For 3/4 of this book, Crossan strikes me as a typical lapsed believer who has to explain away everything that doesn't fit with his theory/reading of Jesus. Perhaps he gives reasons in some of his other writings, but Crossan has a zealous, if not obsessive disdain for anything supernatural. This is fine for an atheist or agnostic, but when he talks about Christianity or faith in the last chapters, I had to ask what type of God does he believe in? His cross-cultural method is solid, but he does not subject these alternate sources to the same scrutiny that he does for the canonical gospels. He never tells you why The Gospel of Thomas or the Q Gospel, if he does exist as a "gospel", are better than the four Gospels in The New Testament. His methodology here is sloppy, if not random. I find his explanation for how the Gospels were constructed to be more more implausible than just accepting them as mostly accurate accounts of some of the life and teachings of jesus. If this is what the Jesus Seminar is all about, I'm not terribly impressed.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lee Harmon

    Crossan is one of the premier Jesus scholars of today, and this book is quintessential Crossan. It’s a condensed, recently reprinted, more readable version of his 1994 masterpiece, The Historical Jesus. Crossan’s research is controversial, more focused on the real life of a first-century sage (Jesus) than in the messianic God-man Christianity turned him into. I believe Crossan’s most irritating position (to conservative Christians) is his insistence that Jesus never rose from the tomb … because Crossan is one of the premier Jesus scholars of today, and this book is quintessential Crossan. It’s a condensed, recently reprinted, more readable version of his 1994 masterpiece, The Historical Jesus. Crossan’s research is controversial, more focused on the real life of a first-century sage (Jesus) than in the messianic God-man Christianity turned him into. I believe Crossan’s most irritating position (to conservative Christians) is his insistence that Jesus never rose from the tomb … because he was never entombed in the first place. Jesus’ body was probably pulled from the cross and eaten by dogs, with his remains dumped in a shallow grave, like the majority of other Roman crucifixion victims. Nevertheless, Crossan’s portrayal of Jesus is warm and powerful. This little 200-page book is for people who want a quick introduction to Crossan’s research without tomes or tangents.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Trey

    What if you took out all the magic or stuff that requires you to suspend disbelief that happens with Jesus? This book lays out what Jesus was really about minus all the hoop-la. Smart and makes you feel good about religion (or at least the ideas that often get obscured by crazy people who say they are religious).

  11. 5 out of 5

    karl and mandy brown

    Onions are to cooks what history is to authors. Onions, like history, have many layers. Cooks fry onions in a buttery batter to add texture and flavor. Likewise, authors will paint pictures of historical events to improve the audience's reading experience. But, while the overall presentation may be improved, the original crispiness of the onion may be lost. I think this is the case with Jesus A Revolutionary Biography: the subject matter was very provocative and well presented, but it seemed Onions are to cooks what history is to authors. Onions, like history, have many layers. Cooks fry onions in a buttery batter to add texture and flavor. Likewise, authors will paint pictures of historical events to improve the audience's reading experience. But, while the overall presentation may be improved, the original crispiness of the onion may be lost. I think this is the case with Jesus A Revolutionary Biography: the subject matter was very provocative and well presented, but it seemed like the author John Dominic Crossan added too many assertions - too many unsubstantiated claims - for me to conclude that this presentation is a truly historical account of Jesus's life. It just felt, at times, he was being too intentionally provocative with some of his claims. The areas I think Crossan did well were his accounts of Jesus's birth stories; John the Baptist; and the greater, social context in which Jesus lived. The parts that were lacking for me were his accounts of the Passion, his ambivalence regarding the Eleven or Twelve apostles, the time immediately following the crucifixion, and his humanist perspective. Prior to reading Jesus A Revolutionary Biography I had not been able to see mythology in the Gospel accounts. I had heard people talk about it, but it has been too well-ingrained in my brain that they were true, historical accounts of Jesus's life. In response to someone claiming the Gospel of John was a spiritual romance, [Author: C.S. Lewis] wrote in "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism" (in Christian Reflections), "I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this." But now, I can see where parts of the Gospels can be interpreted as mythical creations. Crossan referenced other stories that were circulating in Jesus's culture about Caesar's birth account or about the bad ruler who whimsically executed his prisoners. Of course, I can't know for sure what the first century Christians were thinking, but knowing that these other stories existed, I can see how they would want to leverage off of them to give themselves a sense of credibility or validity that their leader - that their story - can fit in the larger (i.e. Mediterranean) picture of world history. Jesus had in their experience the same amount of grandeur Caesar had for the Romans' experience. What better way is there to convey that grandeur than by recreating that story within their own tradition? I had previously thought of the Jordan River as simply the location where John baptized. But reading about the accounts of other Jewish rebels from the same time period (approx. 100 BC to 100 AD), it seems that the Jordan was more than just a place on a map. The Jordan is where Moses and Joshua crossed into the Promised Land. Crossan presented well how Jewish peasants, under Roman occupation, would want to recreate their scenarios of old to gain freedom. It wasn't that John baptized in the Jordan, it's that John baptized in the Jordan. The other kudos I want to give to Crossan before my criticism begins are his references to other period literature. I appreciated his references to Josephus and Philo and to other Roman authors. I appreciated how he put them in context, too. For example, while Josephus was Jewish, he was also hired by the Romans (or indentured to? an elite slave?). One can see how that would skew his accounts of historical events. Crossan's interpretation of the Passion was lacking primarily in presentation. It is a significant claim, I would say, to say that all four accounts (M, M, L, & J) are prophecy historicized rather than history remembered. He attempted to make his point by bringing in the Essenes and their biblical scholarship, but it was difficult for me to connect all his dots. I think it would have helped if he had shown more examples of Old Testament literature the first century Christians would have used and elaborated on the Epistle of Barnabas more. Somewhat related, I wish he had explained in more detail why he thought the prophecy about the virgin birth from Isaiah 7 was taken out of context. Crossan's accounts of the Eleven or Twelve left me a little confused. On page 108, he makes the claim that the Twelve was created after Jesus's death as a means for demonstrating a new Israel, or a new order (there were 12 tribes, now there are 12 disciples/apostles). Jesus didn't actually have 12 guys following around with him as he toured through Israel, he claimed. But later, when Crossan was talking about the time surrounding Jesus's death and appearances, he makes effort to show how Paul didn't think of himself as one of the Twelve, how Luke didn't see Paul as a candidate to replace Judas (pgs 166-9), or how there were political struggles for who was first among the apostles. While Crossan made an interesting assertion there about the fictional nature of the Twelve, I think this area needs a little more follow-through. Crossan's last chapter felt too out of context - too much of a departure from the theme of the book. It was not about the historical Jesus, and Crossan didn't really go into the impact of the historical Jesus. I guess maybe he did, but the last chapter was more about the political struggles after Jesus's death than his impact... unless the impact of his death was a void that needed to be filled. Throughout the book, Crossan gives very little credit to the supernatural. He side-steps Jesus's healing miracles by claiming not that the diseases were cured but that people's perceptions of the diseases had changed. If this were the case, why do the Gospels read so clearly that an individual changed after healing and not the community? Also, Jesus was not resurrected, but people imagined that he appeared after his death. True, God of the Gaps is not a good explanation for all cases, but to completely ignore God's presence, I think, is equally inadequate. Overall, Jesus A Revolutionary Biography was worth the read. It challenged my perceptions; and it presented new, relevant information that I would not have considered otherwise. I appreciated how he supported his claims about the Gospels' relationship to mythology by citing other literature from the time period (whereas C.S. Lewis's argument is based solely on his authority). My palate is wetted to looking more into period literature (esp The Didache, The Gospel of Thomas, The Epistle of Barnabas, the works of Josephus, and the historical Constantine). So how shall I compare this work? It was like a lettuce wrap from PF Chang's: light at crispy with some substance, but it wasn't quite the main course. 3 stars!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    John Dominic Crossan’s “Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography” is the distillation for the general public of his more scholarly book “The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant.” My understanding is that The Historical Jesus is widely read in theology programs. In these books, Crossan critically analyzes New Testament scripture through the understanding of parables, Jewish messianic expectations based on the Hebrew Bible, and what is historically known about first century C.E. John Dominic Crossan’s “Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography” is the distillation for the general public of his more scholarly book “The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant.” My understanding is that The Historical Jesus is widely read in theology programs. In these books, Crossan critically analyzes New Testament scripture through the understanding of parables, Jewish messianic expectations based on the Hebrew Bible, and what is historically known about first century C.E. Palestine and modern anthropology. The biblical stories of Jesus’ birth are intended to convey the importance of Jesus rather than any factual recounting of his birth. The version found in the gospel of Luke is intended to show that Jesus is even more important than John the Baptist, whereas the birth story found in Matthew is intended to tie Jesus to, and show him to be more important than, Moses. Placing Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, as opposed to Nazareth where he almost certainly was born, was done to tie him to Bethlehem native King David and thus show him to be a fulfillment of Jewish prophecy. A line in both Luke and Matthew on the naming of Jesus is plagiarized directly from Isaiah 7:14. Jesus was lower class in a society with extreme wealth inequality in which the vast majority were poor peasants. Being a poor peasant, Jesus almost certainly was illiterate. Attributing divine birth was common of the era, especially for Roman emperors. What was unusual was that anyone would attribute divine birth to a peasant like Jesus. Jewish society in first century Palestine suffered severe oppression under Roman occupation and Jews hoped for a prophesied messiah to free them. Because defeat of the Romans militarily was an impossibility, Jews often placed hope in charismatic religious leaders promising divine justice, especially during the tumultuous times following the death of Herod (who died around the time of Jesus’ birth). John the Baptist was an apocalyptic preacher announcing the imminent arrival of an avenging God and had such a large following, Jesus among them, that Roman authorities feared an eventual revolt, so they executed him. John the Baptist was among the first of many such rebellious faith leaders that Rome executed during the first century. Jesus took over as a Galilean faith leader following John the Baptist’s execution and followed in his predecessor’s footsteps, but eventually began to develop his own messianic message. With Jesus’ supposed divinity, the bible struggles to explain why Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist rather than the other way around. In the phrase “blessed are the poor,” the Greek original shows that “poor” is a mistranslation. The word used should be “destitute.” The phrase was not referring broadly to the poor, as all Jewish peasants - the vast majority of the population - were poor, but actually more specifically to the homeless beggars on the street. In an oppressed, unjust society like first century Palestine, only those that play no role in society, the destitute, are not in some way complicit in the injustice and are therefore “blessed.” The poor peasants, on the other hand, participated in the unjust society by working the fields on behalf of the wealthy elite (presumably this was not to cast blame on the peasants but to elevate the social status of the destitute). The phrase “Kingdom of God” is not meant to refer to some afterlife, but rather Jewish theocratic society following the removal of Roman occupation. It was envisioned by Jesus as a society that is just, equal and classless. Jesus not only preached this, but practiced it by associating with all types in society, including the sick and destitute, both groups that were stigmatized and shunned in first century Palestine. In fact, Crossan argues, Jesus’ healing miracles were not the healing of physical sickness, but rather the removing of the social stigma associated with sickness by associating with and touching them (for example the leper outcasts). The profound radicalism of Jesus was that, in a society with rigid social hierarchies, he made no social distinction between, and promoted equality among, gentile and Jew, female and male, slave and free, healthy and ill, and rich and poor. This is what made Jesus so different in first century Palestine and Jewish and Roman society generally. The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is not a factual story but a symbolic story of bringing Jewish society back to life from the dead by giving people control over their own lives and destinies. First century Mediterranean society was based significantly on a patron / client relationship. Keeping with this structure, faith healers would often establish themselves in a village and their top attendants would serve as gate keepers, charging money to those who came to be healed. But this hierarchical system from a centralized place of power was not in keeping with Jesus’ radical egalitarianism, so he kept moving from one village to another, going directly to the people to heal and preach for free rather than forcing people to come to him, money in hand. Further, there were not specifically twelve apostles. That number was later invented in the gospels to tie Jesus to the twelve sons of Jacob from the Hebrew Bible. The story of Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey and specific details of the last supper - the breaking of bread and sharing wine as his body and blood - are also likely fictional and used as a parable. Jesus overturning the money changing tables and driving out the merchants at the Temple, however, is very likely true as it is what led to his execution. Jesus was crucified for causing a disruption at the Temple during Passover because Roman authorities were already on edge about possible uprisings or riots with so many Jews in Jerusalem for the celebration of Jewish liberation from imperial (Egyptian) oppression. The story in Mark of Pilate releasing Barabbas instead of Jesus at the request of angry Jews is not factual but symbolic. Since Mark was written just after the end of the Roman-Jewish war in 70 C.E. and Barabbas was not a criminal (as believed from a mistranslation), but in fact an imprisoned armed rebel, the story is intended to scold Jews for choosing armed rebellion over a peaceful savior, which ended with the Roman destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Early writing of Jesus’ passion (not in bible) emphasizes Jesus’ return at the day of judgement but make no mention of the resurrection, which was added later. Jesus’ passion story, Crossan argues, is based on a description in Leviticus 16:7-10 and 21-22 of a goat ritual on the Jewish Day of Atonement and the story of Carabas from Philo of Alexandria’s “Against Flaccus,” written around 39 C.E. It is likely that, like all other peasants crucified by the Romans, Jesus’ body was left on the cross to be consumed by birds or brought down and buried by soldiers in a shallow grave to be consumed by birds and wild dogs. The story of a burial in the cave tomb was likely invented for those who considered him divine to avoid the horror and dishonor of his actual demise. The nature miracles (as opposed to healing miracles) and the risen Christ apparition stories following his crucifixion are intended to convey both that there is nothing without Jesus and everything with Jesus and to establish disciple leadership of the Christian community in the decades following the crucifixion. There appears to have been conflict within the Christian community about who would lead it following Jesus’ crucifixion and these stories were an effort to establish a church hierarchy, something that violated Jesus’ vision for radical egalitarianism. In fact, by the time Constantine decriminalized Christianity in 313 CE and became the church’s patron, the church’s hierarchical structure and wealth from state sponsorship would be entirely unrecognizable to Jesus and his vision for radical egalitarianism. In broad brushes, this book reinforces my understanding of the historical Jesus and the function of the bible as a collection of stories that are more symbolic parables than factual narratives. On the specifics, I’m aware there are alternative explanations on the meaning of the parables so I don’t necessarily accept all of the author’s interpretations, such as the meaning behind the stories of healing miracles. There is such a dearth of sources on the historical Jesus that we will never know with high confidence what he did or said. And while the book is meant to be a distillation of a more academic text for the general public, it can’t quite shake the scholarly writing style. That said, I do believe it is one of the better books on the subject with its analysis of the historical Jesus.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shane Wagoner

    The expertise of John Dominic Crossan's "The Historical Jesus" is condensed into an easy to read trade book. Unfortunately, the more blunt Crossan's scholarship get, the more apparent the fundamental flaw with his thesis is. He does a satisfactory job of explaining Jesus's death within his framework but it's clear he's stretching. Not to mention the fundamental problem remains! As Bart D. Ehrman said so well, "How many Cynic Philosophers were crucified?" Jesus and his community's persecution is The expertise of John Dominic Crossan's "The Historical Jesus" is condensed into an easy to read trade book. Unfortunately, the more blunt Crossan's scholarship get, the more apparent the fundamental flaw with his thesis is. He does a satisfactory job of explaining Jesus's death within his framework but it's clear he's stretching. Not to mention the fundamental problem remains! As Bart D. Ehrman said so well, "How many Cynic Philosophers were crucified?" Jesus and his community's persecution is simply not warranted by their behavior. Sharing was not illegal, even in imperial Rome! It doesn't help that all the examples that Crossan cites of Roman intervention against non-violent religious groups were all apocalyptic rituals, not communities! I'm just not convinced that his section on John the Baptist's execution would apply to Jesus either. Overall, I reject many of his central ideas about Jesus but Crossan's book is still packed with a treasure trove of genius and wisdom from one of the greatest scholars of our time. And who know, maybe by the time I've finished his other stuff, I'll change my mind!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas

    Because it’s Easter I have decided to review this book for my FB friends. This book does a good job of using cross cultural anthropology. What was the social economic status of Jesus? Could Jesus read or write? What is the life expectancy in Judea in ancient times? How much money is 30 Shekels of silver? What do Roman’s do with a body after a standard crucifixion? The average skeletal remains of Jewish men in ancient times were 5’4”; was Jesus 5’4”? “Forgive our debts, and give us our daily Because it’s Easter I have decided to review this book for my FB friends. This book does a good job of using cross cultural anthropology. What was the social economic status of Jesus? Could Jesus read or write? What is the life expectancy in Judea in ancient times? How much money is 30 Shekels of silver? What do Roman’s do with a body after a standard crucifixion? The average skeletal remains of Jewish men in ancient times were 5’4”; was Jesus 5’4”? “Forgive our debts, and give us our daily bread”. Was Jesus really talking about the poor and repression of the Roman Empire? “Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God, that which is God’s”. What do we give God? Everything. Therefore what do we give Caesar? Nothing. Hahaha, you will have to read to find out, and or formulate your own opinion. Happy Easter:)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I'm not totally sure what to make of this book... it attempts to discern all that can be known about Jesus from a historical and anthropological background. Some of Crossan's findings are difficult to read, from a Christian perspective. Nonetheless, the book was challenging and put forth some interesting explanations of the reasons Jesus did the things he is recorded to have done and what that would have meant to a first generation world. Although I disagree with the book that Jesus was not the I'm not totally sure what to make of this book... it attempts to discern all that can be known about Jesus from a historical and anthropological background. Some of Crossan's findings are difficult to read, from a Christian perspective. Nonetheless, the book was challenging and put forth some interesting explanations of the reasons Jesus did the things he is recorded to have done and what that would have meant to a first generation world. Although I disagree with the book that Jesus was not the son of God and did not have real power over nature or to heal physical illness, I did appreciate considering why and how the things he did were recorded in the way that they were in the gospels.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary Gail O'Dea

    Another exciting biography of the historical Jesus by theologian John Dominic Crosson, professor Emeritus of biblical studies at De Paul. Using scripture, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and history contemporaneous -- or almost -- with Jesus (e.g. Flavius Josephus), Crosson describes an incredible figure. Perhaps this would disappoint some who need the Resurrection to be concrete and who eschew scripture as metaphor. For me, however, the historical Jesus is far more exciting, demanding, Another exciting biography of the historical Jesus by theologian John Dominic Crosson, professor Emeritus of biblical studies at De Paul. Using scripture, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and history contemporaneous -- or almost -- with Jesus (e.g. Flavius Josephus), Crosson describes an incredible figure. Perhaps this would disappoint some who need the Resurrection to be concrete and who eschew scripture as metaphor. For me, however, the historical Jesus is far more exciting, demanding, challenging, radically relational, spiritually profound than the man-made Christ metaphor. I want to read more Crosson!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    Crossan is comfortably rational and excitingly opinionated. While many of his theses are debatable, the picture he presents of Jesus in this popular book is both plausible and relevant. I would like to think he is correct about his dating of the texts, about the lack of supernaturalism in the early community and about the social mission of Jesus, but my very modern prejudices in favor with these opinions give me pause. What Crossan has done, it seems, is to have constructed a story about Jesus Crossan is comfortably rational and excitingly opinionated. While many of his theses are debatable, the picture he presents of Jesus in this popular book is both plausible and relevant. I would like to think he is correct about his dating of the texts, about the lack of supernaturalism in the early community and about the social mission of Jesus, but my very modern prejudices in favor with these opinions give me pause. What Crossan has done, it seems, is to have constructed a story about Jesus and the early church with which he is satisfied both personally and professionally and then to have shared the process of the evolution of his own beliefs via his many books.

  18. 4 out of 5

    J.T. Oldfield

    From my review: I’ve heard some people say that this book is indeed revolutionary, and some say it’s not. But nobody can say that Crossan doesn’t present anything new. He roots around in texts, scholarship, and archaeology to present a persuasive account of who this Jesus of Nazareth guy really was. Did he live? Yes. Was some sort of preacher or healer? Yes. Did he get his disruptive-ass crucified? Yes. Other than that… Let’s just say that Crossan and Thomas Jefferson would’ve gotten along From my review: I’ve heard some people say that this book is indeed revolutionary, and some say it’s not. But nobody can say that Crossan doesn’t present anything new. He roots around in texts, scholarship, and archaeology to present a persuasive account of who this Jesus of Nazareth guy really was. Did he live? Yes. Was some sort of preacher or healer? Yes. Did he get his disruptive-ass crucified? Yes. Other than that… Let’s just say that Crossan and Thomas Jefferson would’ve gotten along smashingly. Read the rest of my review here: http://bibliofreakblog.com/nonfiction...

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zach Callaway

    Crossan's reconstruction of the "Historical Jesus" is incredibly fascinating and forces a lot of questions about the nature of the Gospel accounts. I did occasionally feel like his beliefs and background forced him to go beyond the scope of a historian (especially towards the end), but for the most part this book does an amazing job of recreating the ancient Greco-Roman world and putting Biblical accounts into context. It's the book that introduced me to the academic study of religion.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Reading Crossan again after many years, for some reason ... it really must be interesting to base your entire career on a category mistake. "What if Napoleon wasn't what literally every first-hand documentary source says about him, but instead a completely abstract typical Corsican peasant who never conquered Europe or did anything of interest? What would this non-existent 'historical Napoleon' have been like? Let's find out!"

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    this was a really interesting book, and though i disagreed with his interpretation, it was insightful and thought provoking. my biggest issue is that i felt he tried to intimidate his readers by assaulting them with a use of sources that they could not possibly compete with - his use of sources was selective, intentionally ambiguous and occasionally not presented a contextually accurate/fair manner.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chad Gibbons

    This is a condensed version of Crossan's life's work in New Testament studies. This book would be helpful for anyone trying trying to understand where Crossan is coming. Crossan's a bit of a loose cannon, but he's very influential. About 75% of the things he writes here are pretty far out there, but there is no doubt he's a talented scholar.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    If you are interested in Theology this book is for you. It is not for the faint hearted fundamentalist, but it will open your mind to the possibilities of Christianity. Don't worry, I haven't lost my mind.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Just started it, so far so good. The preface said it is a less academic of his "Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant" so I might pick that one up instead, but I am going to see if this one really draws me in.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chanita.Shannon

    Bound to disturb some people and stimulate others..." (from Library Journal) "This Jesus is a Jewish peasant, with a direct sense of God's immediacy, who shatters all social restraints." (from New York Times Book Review) From Mom's bookshelf

  26. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Tafoya

    This is one of the most insightful books on the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It is not for the "Jesus-died-for-your-sins" crowd, but for those who are genuinely interested in his life. If you are into magical thinking, this may not be the book for you.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marjorie

    Crossan, co-founder of the Jesus Seminar, reinterprets parts of Jesus' message based on a reconstruction of the historical and social context in which Jesus was situated.

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Ellison

    A good survey by one of the founders of the "Jesus Seminar" on the historical and cultural milieu surrounding Jesus and his times.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Johnson

    A whole new way of looking Jesus and where Christianity has taken him vs. the historical figure.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marcel Côté

    Weak tea honestly. But then, I don't really give a damn about Jesus, I'm more interested in understanding the historical context going back to the Maccabees and forward to the destruction of the Temple so as to grasp how this turbulent era produced someone like Jesus and why his movement, of all those competing at the time, had such enduring success. I don't think Crossan gives enough credit to the idea that Jesus may have been part of a network well established in Jewish society, with roots and Weak tea honestly. But then, I don't really give a damn about Jesus, I'm more interested in understanding the historical context going back to the Maccabees and forward to the destruction of the Temple so as to grasp how this turbulent era produced someone like Jesus and why his movement, of all those competing at the time, had such enduring success. I don't think Crossan gives enough credit to the idea that Jesus may have been part of a network well established in Jewish society, with roots and traditions of its own, but instead has him appear out of nowhere as an illiterate, itinerant peasant teacher and pacifist social revolutionary. All well and good, and probably true (except for the illiterate part) but he relies, in the end, too much on Christian sources (the Gospels themselves, and the Gospel of Thomas) and generic speculations from cultural anthropology that would have worked as well in medieval Britain, without telling us anything at all about the Enochian movement within Judaism, and very little about the Essenes, which may very well have helped to spawn Jesus. For this, I've moved on now to works such as Beyond the Essene Hypothesis by Gabriele Boccaccini, The History of the Second Temple Period by Paolo Sacchi, The Apocalyptic Imagination by John J. Collins, and The Lost Prophet: The Book of Enoch by Margaret Barker, all of which look promising. After ingesting detailed background like this, I may finally be able to return to the Gospels with some deep understanding of the context in which they were written, and Jesus lived, but Crossan didn't really bring it for me.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.