"Jesus Through the Centuries" by Jaroslav Pelikan

Jesus Through the Centuries His Place in the History of Culture Jaroslav Pelikan

Publication date:
10 Nov 1999
Yale University Press
304 pages: 210 x 140mm
20 b-w illus.

“A rich and expansive description of Jesus’ impact on the general history of culture. . . . Believers and skeptics alike will find it a sweeping visual and conceptual panorama.”—John Koenig, front page, New York Times Book Review

Called "a book of uncommon brilliance" by Commonweal, Jesus Through the Centuries is an original and compelling study of the impact of Jesus on cultural, political, social, and economic history. Noted historian and theologian Jaroslav Pelikan reveals how the image of Jesus created by each successive epoch—from rabbi in the first century to liberator in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—is a key to understanding the temper and values of that age.

"An enlightening and often dramatic story . . . as stimulating as it is informative.”—John Gross, New York Times

“A gracious little masterpiece.”—Thomas D'Evelyn, Christian Science Monitor

Jaroslav Pelikan was Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University. He was the author of more than thirty books, including The Christian Tradition, widely acknowledged as the foremost history of its kind.

An enlightening and often dramatic story. . . . As a succinct account of the image of Christ before faith began to falter, in the indubitably Christian centuries, it is as stimulating as it is informative."—John Gross, New York Times

"Mr Pelikan, who is the Sterling Professor of History at Yale University, writes for a broad readership. What he offers us in Jesus Through the Centuries is a rich and expansive description of Jesus' impact on 'the general history of culture. . . . Jesus Through the Centuries seems to me unique among current publications in bridging scholarly and popular discourse on the prophet from Nazareth over the past 2,000 years. Believers and skeptics alike will find it a sweeping visual and conceptual panorama. Mr. Pelikan is particularly adept at discerning the political implications in various Jesus images."—John Koenig, front page, New York Times Book Review

"Pelikan here draws on his commanding grasp of Christian history not to try his own hand at one more 'life' of Jesus, but to lay before us the principal images that have appeared, sometimes recurrently, from the 1st century to the 20th. Starting with 'The Rabbi' and moving with precision and balance through 18 well-crafted chapters, he uses stained glass and statuary, hymns and doggerel, creeds and exposes, to carry the reader finally to 'The Man Who Belongs to the World.' The final chapter demonstrates conclusively that if imaging Jesus ever was the monopoly of the 'Christian West,' it surely is no longer."—Harvey Cox, front page, Washington Post Book World

"Celebratory study of Jesus' impact on Western art, thought and culture over the last 2,000 years."—New York Times Book Review

"Writing for the general reader, eminent church historian Pelikan proposes that, while the figure of Jesus provides the chief continuity in the history of Christianity, each age has depicted him in accordance with its own character."—Library Journal

"[Pelikan] offers an elegantly written and handsomely illustrated account of the changing ways in which, over the last 19 centuries, men and women have seen Jesus, and worshipped him as 'the Christ.'"—Peter Fuller, New Society

"Jaroslav Pelikan is encyclopedic in learning and universal in sympathy. . . . To read this study of Jesus is to receive a humane education, and few will fail to make some new discoveries about the richly varied story of reactions to him."—J.L. Houlden, Theology

"This book, from one of the foremost historians of Christian culture, is a delight to read."—Churchman

Winner of the 1986 Logos Bookstores Award given by the Association of Logos Bookstores

"Jaroslav Pelikan has one of the most seminal minds in this generation.  Nowhere is this more evident than in his most recent volume, Jesus Through the Centuries. It is not a doctrinal study nor a volume on the life of Christ but, rather, an analysis of some eighteen images of Jesus as he has been perceived through the centuries, images running from the Rabbi to the man who belongs to the world.  Pelikan shows the enormous influence of Jesus on human culture, illustrating this through history, literature, philosophy, and art.  It is a book that could only have been written by a mature scholar, but it can be read with profit and joy by anyone interested in the place of Jesus in the formation and development of culture from the first century until today.  It is highly recommended."—James I McCord, Chancellor, Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton

"Like a master jeweler working with hard but valuable material, Jaroslav Pelikan has given distinctive shape to a great subject.  He has chiseled eighteen surfaces, each with a different image of Jesus Christ affecting human culture.  The result is an often glittering intellectual history that illuminates important chapters of human sensibility with flashes of light and color from Eastern as well as Western Christianity. Jesus Through the Centuries invites us to go beyond narrow scholarship in our study of that historical record and to reexamine what we are in the light of what Jesus was."—James H. Billington, author of Icon and the Axe and Fire in the Minds of Men

"With learned insight and readable style, Pelikan traces the cultural incarnations of Jesus through nineteen centuries. . . .He concludes that Jesus now belongs to the whole of humanity, far beyond the reach of the organized Church and ecclesial theology.  And I agree."—Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., President, University of Notre Dame

"Jesus Through the Centuries reflects the deep faith and spirituality of the noted historian and theologian Jaroslav Pelikan expressed with Apostolic simplicity and clarity.  It expresses sound scriptural doctrine and profound cultural history of the last 2,000 years which can also serve as a blueprint for examining the images of Jesus through the study of politics, society, and economic events in history.  Through its contents, the book evinces a profound understanding between tradition and innovation through each particular age marked by intellectual vigor, theological substance, humanity and warmth.  Even more, Professor Pelikan emits an historical faith that is unabashedly Christocentric, straightforward and poetic, which will make the book appeal to a wide audience because of its rich humanism, and its informed use of references to writers and philosophers from St.  Gregory of Nyssa to Albert Schweitzer.  His book should be read by not only historians and theologians, but by all Christians who wish to seek ways of coming closer to one another through an understanding of Christ down through the ages."—His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America