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Jesus through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture
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Jesus through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  277 ratings  ·  25 reviews
Among the highly regarded works of intellectual history of the past decade. "An enlightening and often dramatic study . . . as stimulating as it is informative."--New York Times
Published February 19th 1987 by Harper Perennial (first published 1985)
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This is not a book of devotions or inspiration (and I imply no condescension towards those genres, having read many myself)but an intellectual history of theology, culture and the arts. Pelikan's command of the scholarship is superb, even, at the risk of gushing, awe-inspiring. I found myself making marginal notes all over the place to look up innumerable authors and texts whose work he cites, some famous and some I'd never heard of. Each chapter, roughly 12-15 pgs, covers a different image or c ...more
The other John
Yet another treasure snapped up at the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale. This book is a brief look at the perception of Jesus through the centuries by the "Christian" culture. While Jesus Himself has not changed over the centuries, the way His followers perceive Him has. Pelikan breaks the book up into 18 different roles that have at one point in history been the dominant perception of Jesus of Nazareth. In each chapter, Pelikan explains the concept, showcases those who held it an ...more
A fascinating account of how the image of Jesus shifts over time and place. I especially enjoyed the chapters on St. Francis of Assisi, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Thomas Jefferson.
Paul Patterson
Comprehensive yet succinct overview of Jesus images. Depending on the tradition the reader comes from these images will be attractive or repelling. My prejudice is to see Jesus in human, historical and ethical terms and as an exemplar of normative humanity and yet a mirror of God. These images and much more are found within the book. I was not drawn to either the scholastic images or the Platonic or mystic that seem more dependent onthe Perrenial Tradition than the Scriptural texts or Jewish con ...more
I recently finished Jesus Through the Centuries. It’s definitely unlike anything I’ve read before. Having been introduced to the name Jaroslav Pelikan in the pages of Christian History magazine, I cannot be grateful enough for the experience of finally reading one of his works.

Pelikan gives us a bird’s eye view of how the subject of Jesus has been treated by a variety of individuals over time. One will gain a greater appreciation for the early church fathers, particularly Augustine, as well as t
A magisterial analysis of the different emphases regarding Jesus of Nazareth's life and character throughout the ages and how cultures have been shaped by Jesus from the first century until now.

The author highlights Jesus in context, the meeting of Jesus and Greek philosophy, Constantinian and Augustinian views of Jesus, the development of the monastic life, renewal in the late Middle Ages, views of Jesus during the Renaissance, Reformation, the Enlightenment, and Romanticism, and Jesus as a Lib
I really can't say enough about this book. I know from talking to classmates that it's not for everyone, but I loved it. Pelikan does a exceptionally difficult task--looking at cultural history over a long period of time--so well that he makes it look easy. This isn't going to be the book for you if you're looking for highly technical discussions of theology or philosophy, or if you want in depth coverage of a particular time period, but if you're interested in a deftly interpreted overview of h ...more
Ryan Robinson
We used this book for a class of the same name (minus the subtitle). It is primarily focused on artistic representations but still does a great job of looking at the changes in how we've understood Jesus over the centuries. A very informative book.
More than just a great teacher... Otherwise he would never have been crucified... He was God and man... King, rabbi, priest, Savior, and Lord.

You cannot go your entire life without confronting the question of Christ. God be with you in your own journey.
Matt Root
I found this a surprisingly disappointing read, considering how much I respect Pelikan as a historian and writer. I wonder, if however, it disappoints more because it is dated and has been superseded by other works.
Tom Wamser
Very intelligent look at the way the image and concept of Jesus has impacted both the western and eastern Christendom in art, philosophy and politics, and the ways in which the emphasis has changed over time.
Wing Cheung
A true classic. Insightful and profound. Reading it a second time is certainly worth the while.
Do you think Jesus has always been the person whom christian profess to have a "deep, personal relationship" with? Think again! This book outlines how the person of Jesus has been viewed throughout history and how it has changed over time to meet the needs of the contemporary culture in every case.
Lindsey Reyes
Oct 10, 2007 Lindsey Reyes rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of religious history
I read this for a class, but would probably have read it in my downtime just as easily. Pelikan takes the reader through eras in western history and analyzes the popular view of Jesus in that specific time and place. He also works in paralells with art, saints, etc.
Very interesting to see how each culture has interpreted and emphasized different aspects of Jesus. To the Jew, Jesus becomes a Messianic Jew. To the Greek, he has more Grecian/Mediterranean features with more emphasis on his divinity. Etc.
Krys park
A thouroughly done cultural study firmly and convincingly placing the iconography of Jesus into a social, political context. It was great to read the way such a dominating message twists and combines thus remaining s

Pelikan's works, such as this one, simplify complex theological concepts into accessible reading. This book introduces readings to the evolving consideration of Jesus Christ across eras and cultures.
Marc L
Fascinerende caleidoscoop van soms erg conflicterende Jezusbeelden, over 20 eeuwen. Toch bedenkelijk dat elke eeuw een mooi afgerond geheel vormt.
This is an excellent history of Christology. I myself am not religious, but nevertheless enjoy studying religion from an historical perspective.
I wish Jaroslav Pelikan was still alive so I could write him a fan letter.
One of the very best books I've ever read
Claudia Joy
Jan 01, 2011 Claudia Joy is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Very expansive and well researched! Love it.
Absolutly wonderful
Aug 22, 2012 PWRL marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-new
Alvin Vassallo
Alvin Vassallo is currently reading it
Jan 21, 2015
Jacob Stubbs
Jacob Stubbs marked it as to-read
Jan 19, 2015
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Jan 19, 2015
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Jaroslav Jan Pelikan was born in Akron, Ohio, to a Slovak father and mother, Jaroslav Jan Pelikan Sr. and Anna Buzekova Pelikan. His father was pastor of Trinity Slovak Lutheran Church in Chicago, Illinois, and his paternal grandfather a bishop of the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches then known as the Slovak Lutheran Church in America.

According to family members, Pelikan's mother taught him
More about Jaroslav Pelikan...
The Christian Tradition 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition 100-600 Whose Bible Is It?: A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages The Christian Tradition 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom 600-1700 The Christian Tradition 3: The Growth of Medieval Theology 600-1300 Mary Through the Centuries: Her Place in the History of Culture

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“One example is the familiar parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), which in some ways might be better called the parable of the elder brother. For the point of the parable as a whole - a point frequently overlooked by Christian interpreters, in their eagerness to stress the uniqueness and particularity of the church as the prodigal younger son who has been restored to the father's favor - is in the closing words of the father to the elder brother, who stands for the people of Israel: 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.' The historic covenant between God and Israel was permanent, and it was into this covenant that other peoples too, were now being introduced. This parable of Jesus affirmed both the tradition of God's continuing relation with Israel and the innovation of God's new relation with the church - a twofold covenant.” 1 likes
“The apostle Paul often appears in Christian thought as the one chiefly responsible for the de-Judaization of the gospel and even for the transmutation of the person of Jesus from a rabbi in the Jewish sense to a divine being in the Greek sense. Such an interpretation of Paul became almost canonical in certain schools of biblical criticism during the nineteenth century, especially that of Ferdinand Christian Baur, who saw the controversy between Paul and Peter as a conflict between the party of Peter, with its 'Judaizing' distortion of the gospel into a new law, and the party of Paul, with its universal vision of the gospel as a message about Jesus for all humanity. Very often, of course, this description of the opposition between Peter and Paul and between law and gospel was cast in the language of the opposition between Roman Catholicism (which traced its succession to Peter as the first pope) and Protestantism (which arose from Luther's interpretation of the epistles of Paul). Luther's favorite among those epistles, the letter to the Romans, became the charter for this supposed declaration of independence from Judaism.” 1 likes
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