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Who Killed Jesus? [Paperback]

John Dominic Crossan
2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Aug 1996
The death of Jesus is one of the most hotly debated questions in Christianity today. In his massive and highly publicized The Death of the Messiah, Raymond Brown -- while clearly rejecting anti-Semitism -- never questions the essential historicity of the passion stories. Yet it is these stories, in which the Jews decide Jesus' execution, that have fueled centuries of Christian anti-Semitism. Now, in his most controversial book, John Dominic Crossan shows that this traditional understanding of the Gospels as historical fact is not only wrong but dangerous. Drawing on the best of biblical, anthropological, sociological and historical research, he demonstrates definitively that it was the Roman government that tried and executed Jesus as a social agitator. Crossan also candidly addresses such key theological questions as Did Jesus die for our sins? and Is our faith in vain if there was no bodily resurrection? Ultimately, however, Crossan's radical reexamination shows that the belief that the Jews killed Jesus is an early Christian myth (directed against rival Jewish groups) that must be eradicated from authentic Christian faith.

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Who Killed Jesus? + The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem
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Product details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Collins; 1 edition (3 Aug 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060614803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060614805
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 766,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


With his work on Jesus, Crossan joins the ranks of the truly great biblical scholars of the twentieth century. --Robert W. Funk, editor of The Five Gospels and founder of the Jesus Seminar

Crossan paints his Jesus with great warmth and power. He achieves a portrait that both takes in the contemporary background yet accounts for Jesus' distinctiveness. --New York Times Book Review

This is an extremely interesting, erudite, informative, must-read for anyone interested in the New Testament. Read it. --National Catholic Reporter

About the Author

John Dominic Crossan, professor emeritus at DePaul University, is widely regarded as the foremost historical Jesus scholar of our time. He is the author of several bestselling books, including The Historical Jesus and Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. He lives in Minneola, Florida.

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brother of Jesus who was called the Christ." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

2.2 out of 5 stars
2.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You can't understand European history without it 5 July 1998
By A Customer
A riveting and much needed book! Analyzes religious propaganda which was included in the New Testament by the early Christian church in which the Jews are blamed for the execution of Jesus. Crossan shows how that this did not really matter at the time, because Christianity was just a bunch of disconnected movements without much power. But after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, these passages were used in programs of Jewish extermination. The Nazi Holocaust was built on this Christian foundation.
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8 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why write this book? 22 July 1997
By A Customer
John Dominic Crossan multiplies his works by mutating one scholarly volume into several "popular" spinoffs, including the present work. The problem with "Who Killed Jesus?" is that, despite its title, which promises an enthralling true-life mystery, the book fails as a "popular" work. Crossan proposes in his introduction to answer another scholarly work, which he finds too sympathetic to the theory of historical origin for the Gospels, by pointing out that many of the incidents involving the death and resurrection of Jesus are really adaptations of Old Testament prophecy. Such an "answer" is perfectly suited to an essay in a scholarly journal, but certainly not to a monograph intended for the "masses". Moreover, as in most Crossan texts, the author quotes long, undigested passages from his sources, which is quite tedious to the general reader. As to the content of the volume, the case for the composition of the gospels based on Old Testament prophecy has been made succinctly, and quite disturbingly, by other modern, liberal NT scholars, (even though they cannot explain how, if the prophecies are the source of fictions about Jesus, they are more clearly "plagiarized" in Matthew than in Mark, although Matthew is agreed to be the later author), but in the present volume, this thesis is mired in polimics and is further bogged down in Crossan's premise that an early version of the second-century Gospel of Peter fragment is the source of the canonical gospel narratives. I ask again: "Why write this book?"
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5 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad assumptions, unwarrented conclusions 25 Aug 1999
By A Customer
My education at UCLA wasn't all that good. Much of what the professors taught as "stable, reliable, scientific facts" have subsiquently turned out to be incorrect. The one thing I did learn was a love for logic. I learned how to spot fallacious reasoning, unwarrented jumps (nonsequitors), and best of all ***unsubstantiated asumptions***. This book is really a collection of the last two items. I was truly disapointed by the number of suspect assumptions made by the author, and the enormous conclusions derived from these assumptions. Basically, to accept his argument, you must accept the proposition that (A) the gospels are only propoganda for Christianity, and (B) therefore contain little factual value. If you do not accept (A) or (B) the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. Moreover, to love this work, you must believe that a historical fact should be erased from the record if it is dangerous to any one group of people. This is the historical revisionist argument wrapped in sympathy.
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1 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Christianity is not to blame for anti-Semitism 4 May 1999
By A Customer
Crossan is missing the point. No one killed Jesus. He chose to give His life on the cross. To tie Christianity with anti-Semitism is ludicrous. I can not believe that one man would dedicate so much time to such heresy.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Argument of Power and Honesty 20 Feb 2000
By Albert M. Zaccor - Published on Amazon.com
I am not a scholar in theological or Christian studies. I am a specialist in Eastern Europe. I came to this book seeking an explanation for the origins of Christian Anti-Semitism. I got far more than I bargained for: a satisfying and profound answer to my questions on Anti-Semitism, and a powerful analysis of the origins and meaning of the central story in the Christian drama. This is simply one of the finest books I have ever read. I recommend it to the general reader as an introduction to the world of historical Jesus research. It has certainly opened up a whole new world for me. I have read two more of Crossan's books, and find myself coming back to this one over and over again. The author's autobiographical epilogue is a work of great rhetorical power and integrity and can stand by itself as a work of genius. Reading it is worth the price of the whole book. I regularly recommend this book to believing and non-believing friends alike. The moral conclusions to be drawn from this book are too important not to share.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but slow-going at times 27 Jan 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Although Crossan says he aimed at writing a "popular" book, his task of showing the gospel roots of anti-semitism is too ambitious. While he starts out strongly, his bent for detail and covering all the angles will lose many readers, especially those unfamiliar with modern biblical scholarship. I don't think one can read Crossan carefully and not conclude he is honest and sincere in coming to his views about Jesus. His Christianity will seem heretical to most fundamentalists who refuse to look at the Gospels as anything less than the absolute historical truth. However, for those seeking thoughtful questions and possible answers on an important topic--how the gospels depict Jews in relation to Jesus' death and how much of that treatment is (1) real history or (2)creative application of old testament biblical prophecy presented as history--this book will provide much of substance. It takes some work to get the whole message of this "popular" book, but it is worth the effort.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book 28 Jan 2005
By Michael Mcarthur - Published on Amazon.com
Some of the other reviews need to be ignored by people unfamiliar with the topic. To say, as one of the reviewers did, that Christianity has never claimed that the Jews killed Christ is either ignorant or naive. As I don't know the person, I cannot comment either way. The Gospels are an infamous source of anti-semetism and anyone who has studied theology in an academic setting knows this to be fact.

As for the book being "another angle on Mel Gibson's film," well of course the Gibson film is flawed in many resepcts, particularily historicity. And Crossan's book is an "angle" on the Bible, not a film.

The book is exceptional and I would recommend it without hesitation.
28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who Killed Jesus? 6 July 2000
By William R. Bunge - Published on Amazon.com
Just finished reading a wonderful book: "Who Killed Jesus?" by John Dominic Crossan (1996,Harper, San Francisco). Crossan is a former Catholic priest. At the time the book was published he was professor emeritus of religious studies at DePaul University in Chicago, and co-director of the Jesus Seminar. In his book Crossan develops several theses: 1. The followers of Jesus constituted one among the diverse group of Jews extant at the time of Jesus, such as the Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots,etc., with the difference that they carried Jesus' message to the Gentiles. 2. The Gospels are not a true biographical relation of the life of Jesus. They are "prophesy historicized" rather than "history remembered." 3. By the way in which they were written, the Gospels place the blame for Jesus' death on the Jews and exonerates the Romans. Therefore, the seeds of anti-Semitism are imbedded in the Gospels. 4. Christianity didn't really take off until Constantin converted, which gave Christians the powers with which they would persecute dissenters. The book draws not only on the four canonical Gospels, but also on the Gospels of Peter and of Thomas, and on the writings of Tacitus, the Jewish historian Josephus, and others. This is a very important book. You'll enjoy it.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An extended book review 2 Oct 2006
By Dr. James Gardner - Published on Amazon.com
John Dominic Crossan's 1995 book is written in response to Raymond Brown's 1994 book The Death of the Messiah. Crossan systematically takes Brown's positions apart, one by one, closely examining the gospels with a special focus on the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Peter (which appears in an appendix). Crossan demonstrates what is most likely historical and what is literary, and his analyses are very impressive. His focus on the death of Jesus provides ample opportunity to accumulate some formidible information about this facet of the life of Jesus.

Despite the obvious scholarship and Crossan's easy to read writing style, the book never gets beyond the "Brown said, I say..." level of exposition. Moreover, Crossan has an annoying habit of opening up a topic and then telling the reader to "stay tuned" because he is really going to discuss it later.

There is value in this book, but not as much if Crossan had simply written his own book instead of trying to critique Brown's book. To get the full value from this book, one has to read Brown's original book.
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