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Jesus for the Nonreligious Hardcover – 5 Apr 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco; 1 edition (5 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060762071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060762070
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 877,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal (Anglican) bishop of Newark for twenty-four years. Since then he has taught at Harvard, Drew, the University of the Pacific, and the Berkeley Graduate Theological Union. Selling over a million copies, his books include The Sins of Scripture, Eternal Life: A New Vision, Jesus for the Non-Religious, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, and his autobiography, Here I Stand. His weekly online column reaches thousands of subscribers all over the world. He lives with his wife, Christine, in Morris Plains, New Jersey.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Vernon on 25 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
I was lent this book by a friend, and I had finished it within 5 days, having put aside other reading books to enjoy this one. It gave a great intellectual frisson, even a shock. This is a modern theological book that demolishes traditional religion, `rescuing Jesus from the church', as the dust cover proclaims it!

The detailed scholarship of analysing the gospels was most impressive and persuasive. Basically, Spong is arguing that much of what we read there is a literary construct, rather than an eye-witness account. Certainly he regards Jesus as an historical figure, born in Nazareth, and dying on the cross in Jersusalem. But he argues that the Bethlehem birth is a fiction, Joseph probably did not exist, the attendant stories about the Magi, slaughter of the innocents and so forth are made up, or built on Old Testament scriptures. The miracle stories are fiction (or embellishments). He has no truck with people walking on water or turning water into wine.

He carefully demonstrates how many gospel passages are built on previous Jewish texts and liturgies. He explains how Mark's account of the death of Jesus is split into neat literary 3-hour periods, and infused with Jewish traditions of the Paschal Lamb. He argues that the crucifixion probably did not occur at Passover. Many of the words supposedly spoken by Jesus (given that no disciple was there to witness the private interviews with the High Priest and so on) are quotations from Isaiah, Zechariah, Psalm 22 and so forth.

For instance, it is undeniable that close textual analysis shows that Mark lifted passages from Psalm 22 to write his account of the Crucifixion, for the Psalmist writes: `They divide my garments among them and for my raiment they cast lots.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By W. H. Emerson on 19 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
Jesus for the Non-Religious by John Selby Spong
reviewed by Walter Emerson

Having read the book I still do not understand why the author gave it the title he did. He systematically demolishes all the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, from the Nativity (Mary was no virgin, Jesus was not born in Bethlehem) to the Resurrection (no empty tomb) and Ascension (no lift-off). For most thinking Christians the `facts' presented in the Gospels, that is all the supernatural goings on, are and were just impossible. He is pushing there at an open door. But we have to reconcile that admission with our repetition of the Creeds, Sunday after Sunday, when most of what we say `we believe' we don't in fact believe. Some of us try to rationalise it by saying to ourselves that the first-century Christians were locked into their culture to believe that all these myths had to be true, either because they had been `foretold' or because it was unthinkable to believe in a prophet or messiah unless he had a solid portfolio of miracles on his c.v. Human experience and understanding has moved on since then; we don't have to believe in miracles to accept the extraordinary nature of Jesus. We repeat these ancient creeds, not because they are factually and historically correct but because they helped the early Christians in expressing their belief in the essential natures of God and Christ: a belief which we have in common with them.

A large part of Bishop Spong's book is devoted to explaining how the myths came about and their essential Jewishness.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Philip Jones on 21 April 2007
Format: Hardcover
This highly accessible and rewarding book is Jack Spong at his most direct and most engaging. In a series of short tightly-written chapters he strips away the interpretive mythology surrounding Jesus of Nazareth, clearly identifies the Jewish religious and liturgical background out of which those interpretations came, and leaves us with a portrait of the man in whom God's love was to be seen so uniquely.

Spong is the first to admit that in this book he revisits themes he has explored in greater depth in his previous books - especially 'Liberating the Gospels' - but the reader can sense that in this latest work Spong is offering us a chance to step back and review the bigger picture, and to observe how his more detailed theological insights from previous studies come together into a coherent whole.

The book has extensive textual notes which flesh out the supporting arguments behind some of his propositions, together with an extensive bibliography which will guide any dedicated reader into the deepest waters of biblical scholarship and progressive Christianity.

I commend this book highly as the latest part of the journey on which Jack Spong leads his readers towards the authentic Jesus and an authentic Christian faith.

Philip Jones
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By calmly on 2 Mar. 2008
Format: Paperback
Over the years Bishop Spong has been working out his progressive Christian theology. Of the books I have read by him, this seems to me to be his best effort to date.

I had previously read by him:
Resurrection: Myth or Reality? : A Bishop's Search for the Origins of Christianity
Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers In Exile
A New Christianity for a New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying & How a New Faith is Being Born

My recommendation would be, if you haven't read any of these books, to only read "Jesus for the Non-Religious" - or at least to begin with it after which the others may only be of interest to you if you wish to trace the development of Spong's thought.

The biggest step that Spong has made in this book is in his speculation of how the story of Jesus that eventually appeared in the Gospels might have been built up in Jewish discussions, probably in good part in synagogues, of who Jesus had been and what his life and death had meant. In these discussions, the impact of Jesus was understood to a significant degree in terms of Old Testament texts, leading to the four New Testament Gospel accounts. Explaining in this way, Spong is able to make sense of how the myths arose and what the original images of Jesus were. Spong then can present a Jesus more relevant to our times, free of reliance on supernaturalism, by emphasizing how the life and death could nevertheless reveal the love of God in a Jesus who led people past boundaries: "tribal", of "prejudice and stereotype", and "religious".

Spong presents compelling reasons for the acknowledgement of the reason for the origin and for the power of Christian myth.
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