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Marginal Jew: Rethinking Hardcover – Nov 1991

4.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Bible; New edition edition (November 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385264259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385264259
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 4.1 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 794 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #680,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
John Meier's 1st book in a series of what is currently at three volumes is a good scholarly look at the Historical roots of Jesus. The scholarship in the book is impeccable. Meier gives an excellent survey and sketch of scholarship on each of the issue he addresses and then ends each point with his personal conclusions. The annotated footnotes problem make up at least a third of the length of the book. The biggest problem I had with this book is the overall delievery of the information, it reads like an encyclopedia. I would say easily that more than half of the book, particularly the first half, drones on and on about topics that really do nothing to advance the subject at hand. It is on this fact that I must first recommend Wright or Witherington over Meier, but at no offense to the scholarship. I'm a history/theology major and I have to read material presented like this all the time, though I can't lay that on a more general reader. This aside though, there are some gems in the book. The introduction and overall set up of the series found in chapter one are very good. His chapter on Josephus is good as well. For me the most interesting chapter in the book is chapter nine that looks at the languages, education and society that Jesus grew up and lived in; an often ignored piece in the history of Jesus. This book is great if one is seriously interested in deep scholarship on Jesus, Meier notes in his introduction that he's really writing it for the college graduate. But unfortunately this is also a huge fault of the book as far as reaching the general reader to whom I recommend Wright or Witherington first.
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Format: Hardcover
In this second volume of John Meier's "A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus" series Meier gets down to the meat of his subject. Here Meier tells us about Jesus relationship to John the Baptist (Mentor), his enunciation of the "kingdom of God" (Message) and his great deeds (Miracles).
The first two parts here I regard as solid stuff, building a picture of Jesus as an eschatologically minded individual following after John the Baptist who talks about God's domain on earth. This is a very (exclusively) Jewish Jesus. But then with the miracles Meier gets a bit silly. Apparently "what happened" with the miracles is, for Meier, an "unhistorical" question to ask; it is beyond history's bounds to investigate. Faith, of course, may have its opinions but that is not history and history is what Meier repeats that his study is about.
I think Meier cops out here. Its precisely the historian's business to say what they think happened and why. Meier, in effect, has his faith considerations which he intends to keep but not talk about. Maybe he finds caution a virtue. Funny, though, that Meier can write several hundred pages about things he claims not to be able to expedite! This is one place in this book where I sense that Meier is being too uptight about what "history" is. Meier seems to me to be at his best when he's doing history rather than talking about it.
However, that is but a little fault in a largely professional and standard volume on the historical Jesus.
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Format: Hardcover
John Meier's "A Marginal Jew" is the leading study of the historical Jesus of our time. Notwithstanding three sizeable volumes the work is still incomplete, but this reputation is clearly well-deserved. The first volume only deals with the basic contours of his life, but it is the most intelligent discussion of these questions available. Meier, a Catholic priest, reminds us that the historical Jesus is not the real Jesus. For a start we have a radical shortage of information of information about all but a few people in classical times, and Jesus is not one of those lucky few. What he has presented is what a spectrum of theologians and historians would conclude about Jesus if they were forced to provide a basic consensus.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Meier has attempted to add context to the early life of Jesus through information derived from the Gospels, the writings of Josephus and Tacitus, early Christian leaders, and surviving Jewish texts. He also attempts to establish approximate dates for Jesus' birth, mission, and death. A substantial amount of background information regarding peasant life in Galilee, Judea, Greece, and Rome allows the author draw general conclusions regarding the topics of virgin birth, illegitimate birth, place of birth, family members, occupation, perspective, and personality.
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).
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