The author looks at the gospels with an historian's eye, in search of the authentic Jesus. He seeks to separate those portions of the gospels that ...Show synopsisThe author looks at the gospels with an historian's eye, in search of the authentic Jesus. He seeks to separate those portions of the gospels that refer to the true career and teachings of Jesus, from the subsequent additions or inventions by the evangelists. The gospels are studied in the same way as other ancient historical sources, endeavouring to reconstruct what really happened and to uncover the truth of the historical Jesus. The picture of Jesus that emerges is in some respects unfamiliar.Hide synopsis
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Prof. Michael Grant was an eminent historian on
Ancient Roman and Greek History. In this context, he analyzed and put together the writings of the time on each subject, Roman Emperors, Roman Army, etc. He followed the same technique with the writings of the time on the subject of Jesus Christ. He does his usual masterly writing. You see Christ's primary focus, the Kingdom of God, more clearly than ever before. Great job! Highly recommended to all.
This is an interesting read. Grant early on talks about the difficulty of stating with any specificity much about Jesus' "mission" with so little historical data to draw from. He then employs a particularly annoying tactic used recently by a British author whose name thankfully eludes me, who wrote a "biography" of Paul.
The tactic is to take snippets out of context, wax philosophical about them, write intelligently about their own opinions, and then wrap it up with another "fact" taken out of context. Historians should avoid including their own opinions. How can Grant say on one page "we really can't tell what Jesus (or Peter or John) was trying to accomplish here" and on the next state authoritatively that his opinion of what Jesus intended should be considered factual.
He doesn't so much review the Gospels as attempt a revisionist vivisection of them. His citations are too limited if he really is trying to get observances from other sources. He briefly mentions Eusebius, who wrote of relatives of Jesus still living in Cesarea Philipi in the 300 A.D.'s when Eusebius wrote "The History of the Church". I would think Grant would rely more on this source, since he seems to want the reader to believe that most of the New Testament was written LONG after Jesus' death, and that a great deal of what was written was added and mythologized at a later date.
His style also is one which omits much which would either directly refute or successfully disarm some of his claims. He refers to the Sadducees as "scribes", which the Bible does as well, but he reduces them in doing so to a back story, when in fact the Sadduccess and the Pharisees made up the Sanhedrin, which was the early Jerusalem equivelant of our Supreme Court. Hardly a small group of guys hanging out trying to trap a backward prophet from a little hick town.
He totally misrepresents Jesus self identifying of His Divinity, His perpetual prayer to His Father, and His complete submission to His Father's will. When he says Jesus, born into human flesh, is thereby restricted to human weaknesses and limitations, he totally separates Jesus, to the reader, from any concept that Jesus, as the Messiah, would have been understood by the people to be deity, and therefore straight from God.
My recommendation is that Grant take his spectacles of self importance off and try to see Jesus through eyes that are opened to The Lord of Heaven and Earth. Man, trying to restrict God , to a plane that God created, is a little foolish. And Mr. Grant was very foolish to try to take on God.
This book should be a standard in any theological discussion regarding the personage of Jesus. Grant did a wonderful job of identifying the factual aspects surrounding the times and powers at work in the first century AD. On the plus side, he states things not only as they must have happened, but provided much of the rationale behind WHY they had to happen that way. I was especially taken with his dissection of the Gospels as far as the influence of the evangelists writing to a post-revolution (the Second Jewish Revolt, 70 AD) audience, many of them now Gentiles, or Gentile-Christians, as opposed to Jewish-Christians. He is also very strict about keeping the focus of Jesus' "ministry" on the imminent Kingdom of God, rather than any strictly Messianic mission.
If I have any serious criticism, it would be that Hugh J. Schonfield's Passover Plot did a better job of describing the relative relationships of power brokers, geography, and planning (to meet Scriptural antecedents), but then Schonfield has his own problems. It was good to read them both back to back, filling in each other's weak points.
Of course this is a great book, and Grant has proven himself as an early Roman specialist. He did a great job, and the book is highly recommended for the serious student of the historical Jesus and his times, and how they were depicted by the writers of the "accepted" Gospels.
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