Religion A. N. Wilson Jesus: A Life

ISBN 13: 9780393326338

Jesus: A Life

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9780393326338: Jesus: A Life

"Extraordinarily entertaining....Learned, witty....Wilson [is] a gifted novelist and diligent biographer."―Newsday

What are the facts about the life of Jesus, as opposed to the myths, or unprovable tenets of faith surrounding the miracles, death, and resurrection? How and when did Christianity become a separate religion from the Judaism into which Jesus was born? To what extent was his power over contemporaries political rather than religious? A. N. Wilson's answers to these questions will fascinate readers of every shade of faith or skepticism.

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Review:

Noting that Matthew, Mark, and Luke "claim that the Eucharist was instituted during or after the traditional Jewish Passover meal," A.N. Wilson says that the stories concluding the synoptic gospels, "the arrest of Jesus, his trial, his execution, must be [works] of fiction, since it is unthinkable that the Jews would have broken their most sacred religious observances in order to put a man on trial."

In Jesus: A Life, A.N. Wilson spends most of his energy on such demythologizing. Like Renan, Schweitzer, and Crossan before him, this biographer strives to tell a story about the "historical reality" of Jesus' life. To that end, Wilson summarizes scads of contemporary biblical scholarship, sifts through loads of archeological evidence, liberally cites the Dead Sea Scrolls, and, most productively, attends his finely-tuned literary ear to the biblical texts.

You can take or leave Wilson's secondhand scholarship; that sort of thing is outdated before it gets printed. But you cannot deny the power of his original literary observations. He thinks the most trustworthy clues for answering the question of who Jesus really was are to be found in the Gospel passages that resist or rupture neat theological readings. "Almost in spite of the Christ of the theologians, Jesus has survived: a man doodling in the dust with his finger ...; a man who could liken the love of God to a fussy Jewish mother searching a house high and low for a lost coin...." This is trustworthy writing. For some readers it will be emotionally upsetting. But it's hard to imagine anyone for whom it wouldn't be ethically edifying. "We can accept some Church version of Jesus, or if it makes more appeal to us, we can accept a 'heretic' version; or we can make one up by ourselves," Wilson writes. "A patient and conscientious reading of the Gospels will always destroy any explanation which we devise. If it makes sense, it is wrong. That is the only reliable rule-of-thumb which we can use when testing the innumerable interpretations of Jesus' being and his place in human history." --Michael Joseph Gross

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