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
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.
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).
Most recent customer reviews
This second volume of Meier's proposed trilogy follows Jesus from young adulthood into the early days of his ministry as an itinerant evangelist and wonder-worker in rural,... Read morePublished on July 16 2002
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 studies John the Baptist, Jesus' message, and Jesus' miracles. Meier goes through every passage and extracts history from them. Read morePublished on March 28 2002 by J. Owens
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
Excellent continuation - my sole criticism is he seems intent on bringing in EVERY bit of scholarship (rather like German theology professors) that has ever been written, which can... Read morePublished on Feb. 9 2002 by Richard G. Wilkes
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
When this volume was first written it was intended to be the first of three under the rubric "A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus". Read morePublished on Dec 21 2001 by peculiar
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