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Knowing Jesus [Paperback]

James Alison
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Dec 1998
A new edition of an analysis of the influence of Jesus in the world today, written by the author of LIVING IN THE END TIMES and THE JOY OF BEING WRONG. It is suitable for use in group work and contains questions at the end of each chapter for individual study or group discussion.

Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: SPCK Publishing; 2nd Revised edition edition (10 Dec 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0281052220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281052226
  • Product Dimensions: 21.2 x 13.8 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 268,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and challenging read 18 Aug 2002
This book, though not big, is not an easy-swallowed work, rather it demands being read and thought through very carefully. Just as with any really good theological text, it challenges the reader to re-consider again and again his/her most fundamental beliefs and ways of doing even obvious things.
James Alison disturbs the reader with a simple, but unusual for a Roman Catholic author, question: What does it mean to know Jesus? Looking for a non-superstitious answer he explores the experience of the apostles, the experience of the death and resurrection of Christ. Alison says that the resurrection gave them an awareness of a non-resentful and non-violent God, forgiving and therefore enabling us to overcome our fear of failure (whatever it may be) and to follow someone who ended in failure. Then, following (i.e. imitating) Jesus is a practical learning of not being violent, i.e. casting out no one, especially in the name of God. Even more, it is a discovery of oneself as someone who is hopelessly contaminated by violence. This discovery, together with the very particular picture of God given us by Jesus, brings a liberating understanding of being forgiven and enabled to forgive and to bring peace, love, and creativity, rather than to participate in rivalry, hypocrisy and hatred. Alison is convinced that the experience of a real (radical, in his words) 'knowing Jesus' must have public consequences of change in ways of relating.
My own experience is that Alison's writings provide an excellent source of learning to be a sincere and determined Christian. If you are encouraged to read this intelligent book, do not overlook the very good foreword by Rowan Williams and the questions after each chapter - they are no less challenging than the text itself. If you find Alison's style somewhat heavy going at the first reading, start with the last chapter - a more practical one, and then jump back to the beginning. This book is worth spending time on.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An easy read but with great depth 2 Sep 2008
This is a clear, concise and well written book, one which I was able to read straight off, unlike many others in this area. Alison does not presume that his readers are PhD theologians! He takes a conversational approach; ensuring that there is as little room for misunderstanding as possible. I would say that this is a challenging book on many different levels and in many different ways not just for Christians and their understanding of Jesus but, reading between the lines, for society as a whole. The use of questions at the end of chapters is particularly useful to take one deeper into an understanding of his thoughts and to help us develop our own.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deepening belief 1 Jan 2010
By emptor
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Those who seek to strengthen the foundations of their Christian faith could find in this book a spiritual and mental work-out that makes them sleeker and fitter. No superficial, slick, syrupy treatment here; rather some good, meaty writing from the pen of James Alison, a serious academic, whose pilgrimage is clearly no delusory blind walk in the dark but a journey on which he has noted landmarks and signposts that other travellers might well find helpful.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fine - however, a little slow in arriving 20 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great book - so easy to read and yet at the same time challenging. Have found it a great help and have subsequently passed it on to others
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coming to Understand "the Intelligence of the Victim" 15 Mar 2009
By M. L. Asselin - Published on
In this moving and challenging little book, KNOWING JESUS, the Catholic theologian James Alison delves into a topic most often associated with evangelical Protestant Christianity: having a personal relationship with Jesus. This early work by Alison, at the time of publication a priest of the Dominican Order, exhibits the influence of René Girard, an anthropological philosopher who is particularly well known for his work on "violence and the sacred" and the need for sacrificial victims. At the heart of KNOWING JESUS is the idea of "the intelligence of the victim."

In Jesus' context, Alison explains "the intelligence of the victim" as Jesus' self-understanding of his role as victim, and his freely given self-offering in sacrifice. This "intelligence of the victim" only becomes apparent to the disciples of Jesus after their experience of the crucified and resurrected Christ--and even then it took some time for it to sink in. As we ourselves apprehend "the intelligence of the victim" we can experience the freely offered grace of God's forgiveness and at the same time extricate ourselves from the role of victimizer, as participant in the violence of the world that led to Christ's death and that causes so much pain and destruction to this day. It is through "the intelligence of the victim" that we are boldly empowered to relate to people on a whole new level.

Through "the intelligence of the victim," we come to "know Jesus." We directly experience the crucified and resurrected Christ in the eucharist, in which we remember Jesus' establishment of the New Israel, the newly understood community of God's people that knows no national or ethnic bounds. "The real presence of Jesus in the eucharist is the real presence of the crucified and risen Lord, giving himself, founding the new Israel, making possible the conversion of the people who participate" (p. 85).

In KNOWING JESUS, Alison neither disparages nor rejects the emotional experience that some people have being in a personal relationship with the Lord. But he suggests that such experiences are really beside the point. Jesus does not see himself as an end, but as a conduit to the Father. It is through Jesus--as crucified and risen Lord--that we come to know who the Father really is (pp. 106, 108-109).

Alison's writing can be bracingly direct, colloquial, and even include pop cultural references; at many other times, it can be turgid and opaque. The transition between his lively and direct writing style and his denser prose seems to mirror his careening between more directly theological concerns and others that lean philosophical in nature. It's quite a ride; especially without a background in Girard, one is not always sure where one is headed. Aware of the reader's possible confusion, Alison periodically "checks in" with his reader to make sure that the reader knows where they've been and where they're going. Nonetheless, KNOWING JESUS is challenging spiritual reading.

For Christians, especially Catholic Christians, it is well worth the time to read and digest this book. I believe it will make you see things in a different light, the light of "the intelligence of the victim," and maybe change your heart and so your life.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff 5 Feb 2010
By DJWOD - Published on
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Alison has a simple yet profound way of looking at the Scriptures. Knowing Jesus goes to the basics of what is the "base" from which you view Jesus Christ - the book is about how Jesus viewed Himself and empowered others to do the same.
He is a wonderful author that moves me outside the box (which is where Jesus is)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Insights...a must read! 23 July 2013
By Kevin Hibner - Published on
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Alison is amazing! This gifted theologian takes us out of our limited 'images of God' and shows us a deeper awareness of the Divine. In doing so, he makes us examine the question of, "What does it mean to be a human made in the image of God?" His insights will enable theology to move in a more expansive direction. His theological work is one of inclusion - that all beings are in relationship - and that 'oneness' is his key point in drawing our attention to the question of violence. If we are serious about surviving as a species this work will contribute to the well-being of life on this planet. Highly recommended!
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Theologian 30 Dec 2013
By Thomas J Hostomsky - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are seriously interested in the BIG questions of life, if you want to know how to read the Bible, if you want to know Jesus, start here.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 28 Jun 2013
By Chris Banners - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Love this book! So inspirational, I come back to it again and again. Highly recommended for any open-minded Christian (or non-Christian for that matter)!
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