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The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (Cambridge Companions to Religion) Paperback – 26 Oct 2011
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'… this book does not offer any startlingly new interpretations of Jesus, and is a far more reliable guide than many that do.' The Times Literary Supplement
'… for readers with a sufficient depth of interest … it will be an introduction to a very wide range of sources and ideas. Its essays go far beyond the scope of even the fullest 'reference books', in the usual sense of the term …'. Contemporary Review
'… the contributors … aim responsibly to inform non-specialists. Students will also benefit from perusing them. Theological libraries at all levels will want this work … This Companion will give pleasure to many …'. Theological Book Review
'The audacious claim of a 'Companion to Jesus' is tantalizingly realized by this volume.' Henry Wansbrough, Religion and Theology
'Speaking personally, this collection will draw me back time and again to wrestle with the issues raised. It can be read with profit by students and interested lay people alike and I commend it warmly.' Howard C. Bigg, Biblical Studies
'Here is a … consistent attempt to take the historicality of Jesus seriously and to integrate it with orthodox Christian tradition.' The Heythrop Journal
This Companion incorporates the most up-to-date historical work on Jesus the Jew with the 'bigger issues' of critical method, the story of Christian faith and study, and Jesus in a global church and in the encounter with Judaism and Islam.See all Product description
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Luckily the second half of the book was on better defined subjects, and the essays there were excellent.
The book is also less useful than some others in the series as there is a Bibliography for the entire book rather than the Suggestions for Future Reading at the end of each chapter that are usually so helpful.
Don't make this the first book you read about how recent Theology looks at Jesus, but for those with some previous knowledge of the subject it contains many good things to think about.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
It is divided into two parts. Part One (pp. 11-120) consists of seven chapters. The idea is to dissect the gospels to discover who Jesus of Nazareth was, predominantly historically speaking. Ch. 6 ("Crucifixiton") provides an extremely plausible and coherent explanation of why Jesus was executed, and even attempts to understand his intention. Ch. 7 ("Resurrection") stresses the importance of taking the event of Jesus' Resurrection seriously. The idea is that even if you rejects its reality, you need to realize that the four accounts of Jesus' life exist merely because the writes of these accounts took Jesus' Resurrection as a given fact. It therefore makes no sense to attempt to extract the historical Jesus from the Christian accounts. Chapters 1 to 5 are equally fascinating and place Jesus firmly in his first century Jewish context.
Part Two (pp. 121-280) is more difficult and complex. It contains "critical and theological reflection" (p. 2) on Jesus. Ch. 9 ("Quests for the histoical Jesus") warns, via Martin Kähler, that "the Quest was in the end a subjective exercise, in which scholars created fifth gospels that had more to do with themselves than with the gospel proper" (p. 145). Ch. 10 ("The quest for the real Jesus") meditates on Mark 8:27 - "Who do people say that I am?". The concept is that there has always been more than one possible answer - it depends on what you believe in. The point therefore is historical research will always generate a different answer from the those of the believers.
Ch. 11 ("Many gospels, one Jesus?") is fascinating. While all four accounts do not agree in all factual details, "what a plurality of gospel offers is a complex repitition and multiple elaboration that intensifies and complicates" (p. 182). Each author represents his own early Christian group and slightly different perspectives are in fact quite understandable.
Ch. 12 ("The Christ of the Old and New Testament") discusses the seemingly inappropriate application of the title Messiah to Jesus, because this title means something completely different in the Old Testament. On the otherhand, it argues strongly that this concept was fluid and upon interpretation because of the convoluted context of Jewish history.
From Ch. 13, the books get even harder and deeper. Ch. 13 ("Jesus in Christian doctrine") ostensibly is about the Nicene creed, the Arian heresy, and Christology, it actually warns that theological inadequacy will lead to, quoting Karl Barth, "the rebellious establishment of some very private worldview as a kind of papacy" (p. 217). Ch 14 ("A history of faith in Jesus") by Archbishop Williams warns "Jesus is not the terminus of Christian experience and prayer, and when he becomes so, something is lost and confused in the Chistian mind" (p. 234) - in other words, modern sentimentality and sensuality should not supplant the "primitive Christian seriousness about judgement and change" (ibid.).
The ultimate chapter ("The future of Jesus Chirst") is very deep. The concept is that Jesus can only be properly understood in the context of the parousia which has not yet come (!). I must admit I am a bit lost here.
So in summary: a comprehensive survey on Jesus. Five stars.