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A Marginal Jew: v. 1: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (Anchor Bible) Hardcover – 31 Dec 1996

4.8 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell; New edition edition (31 Dec. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385264259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385264259
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 4.1 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 604,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
Unlike other hyped up works on the "historical Jesus", Meier's series makes no sensationalistic theses. Instead, it soberly weighs the available evidence and reaches measured, tentative conclusions after a detailed review of the background of biblical scholarship. Although this is not a best-seller formula, it does make for what is perhaps the best introduction available to historical Jesus scholarship. Perhaps its one weak point is that so much material is considered of interest to specialists and relegated to footnotes, that the reader finds himself going through each chapter twice: once in the body of the text, and once in the endnotes.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read innumerable books on the "historical Jesus", and Meier's "A Marginal Jew", of which this is the first volume, is undoubtedly one of the very best. As other reviewers have pointed out, Meier is extremely meticulous, and discusses all possibilities exhaustively. But at the same time Meier is a superb writer, and this is actually one of the most *readable* volumes about Jesus that I have come across. Meier doesn't presuppose that the reader have any particular beliefs. He distinguishes between what can be known through empirical study and what he, as a Catholic, believes on faith. There are illuminating sections on the question of whether Jesus was a "poor carpenter", whether he was literate, whether he had siblings (despite Catholic tradition on this question, Meier concludes unequivocally that he had four brothers and at least two sisters), whether he was of Davidic descent, the origins of the story of his virginal conception, etc. But in the course of discussing these questions, we learn a great deal about first century Galilee as well, and the culture that Jesus would have absorbed.

Meier's text is full of wry observations on the contrast between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of contemporary imagination. For example, as a carpenter, or "woodworker" (Greek "tekton"), his work as an adolescent "involved no little sweat and muscle power. The airy weakling often presented to us in pious paintings and Hollywood movies would hardly have survived the rigors of being Nazareth's tekton from his youth to his early thirties." (p. 281) In other words, Jesus would probably have been a strapping lad!
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Format: Hardcover
If you're willing to concentrate, this book, like the preceding volume, is highly worthwhile even for non-Christian readers who want to be maximally informed on an important world figure. It can be tough going because Meier is not writing primarily for lay readers, but anyone with a healthy interest in logic, history and the critical tools of historians can enjoy it. On the other hand, Meier's erudition and dry humor augment and humanize his exhaustive scholarship. I've found Meier's criteria for historicity to be useful in gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of scriptural material in general. I, too, and eagerly awaiting Volume 3.
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Format: Hardcover
There are 11 chapters in two parts, starting off with a discussion of why we should even bother, assessing the reliability and importance of sources, and differentiating what can be said from what can’t be said, before moving on to the actual person of Jesus, with the same process. Some, most probably the Evangelicals, will wonder why we need to do this at all, but not everyone is obsessed with the Bible as the only source of information on Jesus, or so infuriatingly certain about Jesus’ character on such little Biblical evidence.

Some bay feel put off by the size of the book, but as an example, Chapter 4 is 23 pages, but only 10 pages of that are the text, and the headings and sub-headings take up a fair bit of space, so less than half of the pages actually need to be read, and those that do need to be read are in short sections. The other pages are the notes that only need to be read if you wish to. It is not nearly as intimidating as it looks.

I found Meier’s style to be very readable. Yes, of course, some of the analysis and refutations of silly assertions can be a little convoluted at times, but these are few and far between. Taking this book in short bursts I read it in two days.

Some may question why Jesus’ marital status (single) needs to be analysed, but with people taking their impressions of Christianity from writers like Dan Brown and Prof Dawkins, rather than by the hard-core experience of trying it out for several years, there is a great deal of drivel being passed off as fact.
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Format: Hardcover
well if meieer goes to five volume we are in for a lot of reading . its not an easy read though with a lot of notes in each chapter.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent survey of the historicity of the ministry of Jesus complete with analyses of the proclamations and deeds of Christ. I noted with interest that Pope benedict XVI cites these books with partial approval in his book: "Jesus of Nazareth", noting however that one must recognise the limits of the historical-criticial approach; the answer to what really happended surely cannot be resolved through textual analysis alone. I take some issue with the (spinoza-esque) basic rule book approach adopted by the purveyors of this method of analysis. One example, which still irritates me, is Meier's rejection of the historicity of Jesus's walking on water, notwithstanding that this scene is recorded in all four gospels. He ends up concluding that this was most likely an inspirational narrative created by the post-Easter community. But, is it not more likely that, armed, as they were, with the tangible signs of Jesus's resurrection that they began to see the events in the ministry in new light. Thus, looking back and remembering that Jesus had indeed walked on the water, would they not have gone back through their scriptures and noted how it is Yahweh, who walks on the water, thereby further assisting them in understanding precisely who Jesus was post resurrection. After all, just before Jesus ascended, it is noted pithily that some still doubted. Was it not likely therefore that an examination of the ministry data lead them further (moved by the Spirit) to discover that Jesus was indeed True God and True Man. A similar analytical approach leads to Meier's rejection of the Wedding feast of Cana.

In short, this is a good book provided one absolutely realises the limited nature of such works engaged in seeking to find out what really happened.

Readers of these books should also read Pope Benedict's "Jesus of Nazareth" to arrive at a balanced perspective.
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