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Authentic Gospel Of Jesus [Hardcover]

Geza Vermes
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 25 2003
There can be no doubt that Jesus - "a religious genius" as Geza Vermes describes him, lived and taught in Palestine some 2000 years ago. The influence he has had is incalculable. How can we distinguish between the doctrines shaped by the needs of the burgeoning Chritian Church and the original views laid out by Jesus himself? In this work, Vermes subjects all the sayings of Jesus to an informed scrutiny. The result is a book which scrapes aside the accretions of centuries, attempting to come close to the true Jesus.

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About the Author

Geza Vermes was born in Hungary in 1924. From 1957 to 1991 he taught in at the Universities of Newcastle and Oxford. Professor Vermes is the author of The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (1997) and The Changing Faces of Jesus (2000). He lives in Oxford. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
Narratives and commands occur in those Gospel passages which quote direct speech by Jesus when reporting episodes in his life. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good Feb. 2 2006
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Prof. Vermes produces an excellent review of the sayings attributed to Jesus in the gospels. Breaking them down themeatically, Vermes considers the context and possible 'authentitcity' of Jesus' words. From this, he attempts, as in previous books, to construct a personality around the figure of Jesus away from High Christology's deity. A valid attempt (though I personally contend some of his conclusions), and one marked by Prof. Vermes's excellent scholarship.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating read and valuable reference work Dec 31 2007
By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Here Geza Vermes has collected, thematically classified and succinctly commented on every word attributed to Jesus in the Gospels of Luke, Mark & Matthew. To a lesser extent he refers to the Gospel of John and rarely also to the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. To understand the evidence within the historical framework and for purposes of comparison, he draws on the intertestamental records of Judaism: the Apocrypha, Pseudo-Epigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, the work of Philo of Alexandria and Flavius Josephus plus the legal and interpretative rabbinic literature.

The aim is to rediscover the core message preached and practiced by Jesus, whose statements are grouped into nine chapters by literary category: narratives & commands, controversy stories, words of wisdom, parables, scripture quotes, prayers, Son of Man sayings, Statements about the Kingdom of God, and Eschatological Rules of Behaviour. The commentary following these quotations endeavors to separate the different levels of superimposed meaning with the goal of establishing their primary settings and significance.

In the final chapter Vermes attempts to formulate the principles that establish parameters for the authenticity of these words. He probes beneath the layers produced by evangelists, the early church and 2000 years of Christianity in order to discover the true meaning of the original teachings. The work culminates in the Epilogue in which the author attempts to outline the essence of the message and personality of the real Jesus based on the words judged most likely to be genuine.

The section titled The Religion of Jesus reveals that there was nothing abstract, theoretical or speculative about it. Jesus tried to teach his listeners how to draw close to God through concrete action and behaviour.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Scholarship Arguing a Credible Thesis Aug. 20 2008
By Bhikshu
Format:Hardcover
Christianity as practiced by the great majority of its adherents is frankly nonsense, a melange of superstition and prescientific fable. Hence it's no surprise that this book displeases flat-earth Roman Catholics like B. Hill.

But the real tragedy is that the organized delusions of mainstream Christianity can make us throw out the baby with the bath water. True, there is no convincing proof that anyone named Jesus of Nazareth ever existed. But the message attributed to this apocryphal messiah is profoundly true. It is in fact the same message brought by every other great teacher of humanity before and since the supposed lifetime of Jesus.

It scarcely matters whether the words of Jesus were truly uttered by a historical personage or whether they combine the teachings of several Anashei haElohim, "Men of God," who lived in Galilee during that era. With impeccable scholarship Geza Vermes demonstrates the high probability of the latter view, as against the patent absurdity of mainstream Christian dogma.
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1 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Another "Life of Jesus", Please. Dec 27 2003
Format:Hardcover
Mr. Vermes gladly embraces all the worst methods of the notorious "Jesus Seminar", methods which are overwhelmingly rejected by the vast majority of New Testament scholars.
The method essentially consists in this: If the authors of the Gospel agree with my agenda then what they say is true. If they disagree, then they or someone else must have added something in. Sigh.
As well, for years Vermes has been trying to slot Jesus in with someone called "Honni the Circle-Drawer". This is beyond absurdity. In fact, all the books Vermes has "dedicated" to Jesus are absurd. They all simply wreak of agenda-politics.
Is this what passes for scholarship at Oxford University? God help us.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  24 reviews
101 of 105 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at the words of Jesus Dec 16 2005
By call me The Avi - Published on Amazon.com
I recently purchased this book, and found it to be a very interesting read. Geza Vermes is both an erudite and compelling author, and I found his view of Jesus (both as a man and the founder of a world religion) enlightening and thought-provoking. I found it surprising that another reviewer found his work to contain a "hidden academic bias." A look at Mr. Vermes resume' (contained on the first page of the book) clearly shows that he was a professor of Jewish Studies in England for over 30 years, so there's really nothing hidden about it. And, it's his academic background which gives his conclusions such great authority. While some may disagree with those conclusions, Mr. Vermes clearly tells us which texts he used as his sources, and draws no conclusions which he cannot back up using those same texts. He leaves no doubt that his scholarship is solid. He places Jesus firmly in the context of his time, and shows where his message and the later work of his disciples diverged. Nevertheless, his respect for his subject is obvious -- the "Authentic Gospel" follows Mr. Vermes four previous books about Jesus, and his stated purpose here of separating the true words of Jesus from later false additions is an admirable one. As a reader, I didn't agree with all of his conclusions, but Mr. Vermes certainly did his best to raise levels of reasonable doubt, so to speak. Whether one agrees or disagrees with him, the book is enlightening, and will cause you to think more about Jesus, what his message truly is, and how later thinkers may have diluted or misineterpreted it. It's an enjoyable read, and I intend to purchase more of Mr. Vermes books in the future.
70 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Words of Christ In Red Jan. 27 2007
By Etienne ROLLAND-PIEGUE - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Many Bibles printed in the US are red letter editions. They have the words of Christ printed in red. Some people believe that these words are more important than the words in black. Others point out that every word in the Bible matters and that although the Epistles in the New Testament do not contain the words Jesus spoke during his earthly ministry, what Paul wrote are still the words of Christ.

Historians approach the issue from a different angle. For them, analyzing the teachings that Jesus left is the only way to portray his true figure. The words of wisdom that Jesus spoke were remembered by his disciples and were passed on until the writing of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The sentences placed on his lips may not have been the exact words that he uttered (Jesus spoke in Aramaic, whereas the Gospels were written in Greek), but they are most likely to reflect the genuine message preached and practiced by him. Upon close scrutiny, it is possible to distinguish the sayings that can be attributed to the historical Jesus and those that may reflect later additions or commentary. The approach here is philological, exegetical and historical as opposed to theological.

The Authentic Gospel of Jesus applies such a method of analysis to those words in red. Every saying attributed to Jesus in the three Synoptic Gospels is given close scrutiny in this book. Geza Vermes divide these statements into nine categories: narratives and commands, controversy stories, words of wisdom, parables, biblical quotations, prayers, son of Man sayings, sayings about the Kingdom of God, and eschatological rules of behavior. The succinct commentary attached to each quotation attempts to distinguish the diverse levels of superimposed meanings with a view to establish, if possible, their primary setting and significance in the life of Jesus.

The book is presented as a companion volume to The Changing Faces of Jesus, a previous book that the author wrote to take stock of years of scholarship on texts written at or around the time the Gospels were composed. The author compares this previous essay to "an archaeological excavation performed on literary sources", in which he digs through the layers of interpretation that obfuscate the true figure of the historical Jesus. The dig started with the top layer, the most recent of apostolic commentary contained in the Gospel of John or the epistles of Paul, and descended as it were to the authentic Jesus as revealed through the Synoptic Gospels, combined with what we know from the Jewish world in which he lived.

This new volume is more like a museum display of all the items that were found as a result from this excavation. Each item is displayed in an individual showcase and classified into files and categories. People may or may not agree with the interpretation given by the curator, but the exhibition helps give new depth and significance to those words printed in red.
52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Religious Truth to Historical Fact March 5 2006
By Hrafnkell Haraldsson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Geza Vermes had done us an immense favor by way of five excellent volumes on Jesus. The Authentic Gospel of Jesus is his fifth and it is a treatment without peer. While E.P. Sanders and Bart Ehrman both offer excellent short introductory volumes, Vermes book is unsurpassed in its unique approach to the subject matter. Rather than writing a biography of his subject, he has taken all words and ideas attributed to him and examined them for authenticity in order to discover the personality, religion and outlook of the historical figure of Jesus.

It is a perilous task he undertakes. Believers place primacy on faith, not on reasoned arguments and on religious truth rather than historical fact, and one does not have to search very far to find works by Vermes and others roundly condemned for challenging this faith merely by their questioning the inerrancy of the Gospels. Nevertheless, Geza Vermes has performed the task with brilliance. Contained within this book is every saying attributed to Jesus found in the Synoptic Gospels. He has divided them into categories by subject matter, for instance, prayers, parables and words of wisdom. He then subjects each saying to close scrutiny by placing it into the context of 1st century Jewish custom, law and thought as well as historical chronology. He also compares the forms found in Matthew, Mark and Luke and to the doctrines and beliefs of evolving Christianity, whether Jewish or the Gentile.

Some people have criticized Vermes' use of the Talmud and other rabbinic literature in comparing Jesus' utterances to those of later rabbis, but as he has pointed out, this is a useful way to determine how closely Jesus' words fit into Jewish thought since this material preserves older teachings dating from the time of Jesus or even earlier. Nor is this material "medieval" as has sometimes been charged; it dates from 200-500 CE.

Finally, if the writings of the Apostolic Fathers and other later Christian writers can be used to shed light on the early days of the Church (and they have been) why then should Jewish sources be ignored, particularly in light of the fact that Jesus was himself a Jew. In his lifetime, there was no Church, no doctrine, no dogma, no Christian theology, and indeed, no Christianity. As the Gospels date from a time when all these things had come into being, it is absolutely critical that they be subjected to the sort of scrutiny Vermes brings to bear.

Obviously, this is not the book for someone who is married to the idea of Gospel inerrancy, but for everyone else, it is a must have.
35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and Provocative Nov. 22 2009
By Robert Muirhead - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The Authentic Gospel of Jesus", by Geza Vermes is certainly not a book for the general reader who just wants to learn about the historical evidence for Jesus and his teachings. However, those who do persist will be rewarded when they get to the final Chapter and the Epilogue, especially by Vermes' though-provoking claims.

Vermes goes to some lengths to choose and validate his source documents. These are primarily the Gospels. However, he disregards the Gospel of St John because it is a much later work than the Gospels of Sts Matthew, Mark and Juke, and was written for a Hellenistic audience. Even among the three other Gospels, he regards that of St Mark as having primacy. The reasons for these choices of sources are well set out and seem to be justified on scholarly grounds.

All the words attributed to Jesus are grouped into nine categories - sayings and commands, controversial claims, proverbs, parables, teachings with quotes from the Old Testament, prayers, Semitic sayings, the Kingdom of God, rules of conduct.

Each saying is interpreted in an historical, primarily Judaic, context and its authenticity is examined so as to winnow out later accretions - of which there have been many. Even once the authentic sayings have been identified, it is futile to claim that the actual words in the Gospels represent his verbatim sayings.

The first 9 chapters of the book are quite scholarly, even pedantic, and this leads to certain obsessions with fine points of theological detail and the minute assembly of sources to justify Vermes' interpretations.

There is a "Reflections" section at the end of each chapter that gives the author's thoughts on the content of the chapter as a whole. This is more accessible and readable for general readers and is quite useful for the non-specialist.

The final chapter and the Epilogue is a summation of the book in which Vermes draws general conclusions from his material. This was the best part of the book for me because it is easy to read and the key messages are set out very clearly. Some of Vermes' messages are quite surprising to nominal Christians like me.

For example, many of the sayings of Jesus make sense only if the Kingdom of God was expected to arrive in his lifetime. Since this did not occur, changes were made to the Gospels by later editors to justify the delay. Another surprising finding for me was the powerful case Vermes makes to show that the kingdom of God was for Jews only. Gentiles would be excluded.

The religion of Jesus as summarised by Vermes is almost unrecognisable when compared with modern Christianity. Vermes then floats the idea of a second reformation to fundamentally re-assess the doctrine of the Church.

Not surprisingly, these are provocative claims and many Christians will reject them out of hand. But I will leave the last word to Vermes: "Look for what Jesus himself taught instead of being satisfied with what has been taught about him".
77 of 88 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary! Jan. 6 2005
By Thomas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a wonderful book, all the individual sayings of Jesus in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) are studied one by one in the context of the Judaism of the time, and comparisons are made with the Qumran texts, the Gospel of Thomas, and the Old Testament. The figure of the historical Jesus that emerges is a very credible one: Jesus had an eschatological hope of an imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. After his death, the disciples' experience of his resurrection led to the awaiting of his second coming, the Parousia, with a Final Judgment. Vermes, writing from a Jewish perspective, sees Jesus as the greatest of all Jewish prophets.
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