Few biographical works spark passions as intensely as do interpretations of the life of Jesus. In this highly accessible book, Bart Ehrman reviews the latest textual and archeological research into Jesus's life and the history of first-century Palestine, and draws a fascinating, controversial portrait of the man and his teachings. Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenniumseeks to show general readers what historians have long known about the Gospels and the man who stands behind them. Through a careful evaluation of the New Testament Gospels and other surviving sources, including the more recently discovered Gospels of Thomas and Peter, Ehrman proposes that Jesus can be best understood as an apocalyptic prophet, a man convinced that the world would end dramatically within his lifetime, and that a new kingdom would be created on earth--a just and peaceful kingdom ruled by a benevolent God. According to Ehrman, Jesus's belief in a coming apocalypse and his expectation of an utter reversal in the world's social organization underscores not only the radicalism of his teachings, but also sheds light on both the appeal of his message to society's outcasts and the threat he posed to the established leadership in Jerusalem.
At the end of the millennium, there are as many views of the historical Jesus as there are scholars who writing about him. In his engaging study, Ehrman, associate professor of religious studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, argues that Jesus can be best understood as a "first-century Jewish apocalypticist...who fully expected that the history of the world as he knew it was going to come to a screeching halt and that God was going to overthrow the forces of evil in a cosmic act of judgment." The author contends that this portrait of Jesus, first proclaimed by Albert Schweitzer in The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906), has been overlooked in the rush to draw Jesus in the images of whatever scholarly or popular movement is painting Him. Ehrman examines carefully noncanonical and canonical sources as he reconstructs the life of Jesus. He uses already established critical criteria�independent attestation, dissimilarity, contextual credibility�to determine what elements of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life can be considered authentic. For example, according to the evidence, he asserts that we can seriously doubt that the virgin conception, Jesus' birth in Bethlehem and the story of wise men following a star are historical events. Ehrman then proceeds to provide a lucid overview of the turbulent political and religious times in which Jesus lived and worked. Finally, the author provides a detailed examination of Jesus' words and deeds to show that they present the work of a Jewish apocalyptic prophet who expected universal judgment and the coming Kingdom of God to occur within his own lifetime and that of his disciples. While Ehrman's provocative thesis will stir up controversy among scholars, his warm, inviting prose style and his easy-to-read historical and critical overviews make this the single best introduction to the study of the historical Jesus. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
September 23, 1999
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