3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Even-handed and scrupulous introduction to the life of Jesus,
This review is from: The Historical Jesus For Dummies (Paperback)
'The Historical Jesus For Dummies' is an attempt to set out what is known from evidence of the existence of Christ. It isn't aimed at believers or non-believers as such, and the author has been careful to make no claims for or against traditional beliefs beyond her careful examination of the textual and archaeological evidence. As a result, the book is usable by anyone interested in the subject, regardless of their beliefs.
As any historian would when dealing with a disputed subject for a lay audience, Catherine Murphy begins by setting out the rules of historical evidence. She then moves from an examination of the gospel stories to a recreation, by way of context, of the world into which Jesus was born: the world of first-century Rome and Palestine. The Bible story is firmly situated in the power politics of the time and place, and both the Jewish and Roman contexts are explicated.
The author reviews the history of successive scholarly attempts to establish the provenance and authority of the Biblical texts and the impact of the most recent research. She shows how the story of Christ has been modified by subsequent commentators and in response to changing human needs. A final chapter even looks at representations of Christ in art.
I found this book admirable in its intention and achievement. As an up-to-date, even-handed single volume introduction to the subject that avoids debunking or proselytising it could hardly be bettered. In particular, I would have confidence in placing it in the hands of a questioning teenager. 'For Dummies' does not mean 'dumbed-down'.