Marginal Jew: Rethinking Hardcover – Nov 1991
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From Library Journal
This study inaugurates a new series that seeks to examine various topics (e.g., anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, theology) as they relate to the Bible. The series is intended for the general reader as well as for scholars. Here, Meier (New Testament studies, Catholic Univ. of America) adopts a two-tier approach: he delineates up-to-date research on the Jesus of history with discussions geared toward well-read general readers, and in his extensive notes he discusses technical matters of interest to doctoral students and scholars. Meier explains issues of method, definitions and sources, and then turns to the birth, years of development, and cultural background of Jesus. He distinguishes between "what I know about Jesus by research and what I hold by faith." His study is a necessary purchase for academic libraries.
- Cynthia Widmer, Downingtown, Pa.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Meier (Religion/Catholic Univ. of America), a Catholic priest, offers a vigorously honest, skeptical, and scholarly attempt to discover the historical Jesus. The author poses an intriguing hypothetical: ``suppose that a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, and an agnostic...hammered out a consensus document on who Jesus of Nazareth was.'' Meier tries to create such a ``consensus document'' by examining the fundamental facts of Jesus' life (while excluding those aspects of Jesus' biography that are premised on tenets of Christian belief, like the Resurrection). In this, the first volume of a two-part work, Meier carefully conducts an exegesis of the ``Roots of the Problem'' (the New Testament texts, which are not primarily historical works; the apocryphal gospels; and the fleeting references in the works of Josephus, Tacitus, and other pagan and Jewish writers that constitute the entire historical record of Jesus), and an analysis of the ``Roots of the Person'' (in which Meier brings hermeneutic tools to bear on the birth, development, and early years of Jesus). Meier points out Jesus' historical ``marginality''--his peripheral involvement in the society, history, and culture of his age--that ironically underscores the central position he has occupied in Western culture in the centuries since he died. Rife with scholarly terminology, and thus slow going for the nonspecialist--but, still, a superb examination of a fascinating historical problem. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
So Meier starts with the sources for Jesus' life, which basically consists of the Gospels. There is a long, thorough discussion of the reference to Jesus in Josephus, from which Meier agrees with most scholars is mostly genuine, with several obvious Christian interpolations. He then discusses other sources, which reveal a very meagre crop. There is Tacitus' reference to Christians, nothing of value in the Talmud, as well as a thorough deflation of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. Thomas consists of sayings, many of which resemble those in the Gospels. But Thomas' sayings are simpler, and many have concluded that they are more primitive and therefore earlier than the canonical gospels. Meier disagrees. He points that one reason Thomas' order of sayings does not resemble the synoptic gospels is because many of them were remembered orally, not because they proceeded them.Read more ›
Although the reading is at times fascinating, Meier ultimately drowns the reader in a sea of detail. Most of these details do not progress Meier's argument regarding the specific topic being addressed. In speaking of detail, I am not even including the footnotes, which comprise between 30% and 40% of the book. However, Meier is excellent in distinguishing the various perspectives of the Gospel writers and the messages they attempt to deliver.
Having said this, I look forward to reading Volume 2 of the series. With the Gospels focused primarily on the last three years of Jesus' life, Meier has much more biblical information to analyze, compare, and contemplate. My favorite "historical Jesus" book remains "Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography" by Bruce Chilton. Chilton is willing to draw more daring and insightful conclusions than Meier, who seems content with a more cautious, traditional approach (maybe as a result of his Catholic background and faith).
In this volume it all started out so professionally. Meier introduced us to his "unpapal conclave", a metaphorical, rather than actual, group consisting of a Jew, a Catholic, a Protestant and an Agnostic who, for the purposes of Meier's literary fiction, were going to try and come to some consensus on what we could say with historical-critical reasonability about Jesus. I repeat at this point for those who have not understood this: there is no real group; it is Meier's fiction that his study would be what these, in theory, would be able to agree upon about the historical Jesus if they were to meet and discuss such matters in a historical context.
This book then splits into two parts, one detailing the background questions necessary to a discussion of the historical Jesus (sources and methods and the like) and the other detailing Jesus' own boyhood, socio-political background and familial status. Also included here is a chronology of Jesus' life. Meier's work here is extremely thorough. One intention of the book is to have copious endnotes which, it is suggested, are for serious scholars and doctoral students but which need not necessarily burden the general reader. Thus, the book can, in theory, be read on two levels. One wonders, though, who Meier is kidding. When one sees a reference to a note who is going to ignore it? Surely simple curiousity would make the reader go looking for the note?
But back to Meier's "unpapal conclave".Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This study inaugurates a new series that seeks to examine various topics (e.g., anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, theology) as they relate to the Bible. Read morePublished on July 16 2002
This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in the quest for the historical Jesus. This book is an introduction to Meier's series: A Marginal Jew. Read morePublished on March 28 2002 by J. Owens
He begins what was at the time a 2 volume book (now up to 4) with a lot on Methodology, which actually helps to describe the work of the Jesus Seminar and modern christological and... Read morePublished on Feb. 9 2002 by Richard G. Wilkes
John P. Meier, Catholic, theologian, writes a meticulous trilogy on the Historical Jesus in A MARGINAL JEW, Volume I is 432 pages, Volume II is 1118 pages and Vol. Read morePublished on Feb. 8 2002 by Professor Emeritus P. Bagnolo
I have read many books on the historical Jesus but this is by far the best historical Jesus book yet. It is very well written and contains solid scholarship. Read morePublished on June 5 2001 by sweet browe
This book maintains solid research and well thought out arguements, while being fun reading. Of all the modern books on the historical Jesus, this is both the most scholarly and... Read morePublished on April 27 2001 by IsleofGough
This book is a pleasure to read. Meier is such an extraodinary guide to what we know about (or figure out about) the historical Jesus. So when do we get volume III?Published on Nov. 28 1999
From the beginning to the end, this book will enthrall those who are attempting to understand Jesus and his times. I could not put the book down until I completed it. Read morePublished on Oct. 16 1999 by Joseph
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