A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume I The Roots of the Problem and the Person John P. Meier

The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library
Publication date:
01 Nov 1991
Yale University Press
496 pages: 235 x 156mm
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In this definitive book on the real, historical Jesus, one of our foremost biblical scholars meticulously sifts the evidence of 2,000 years to portray neither a rural magician nor a figure of obvious power, but a marginal Jew.

"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, Library Journal

"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."?Kirkus Reviews