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The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  1,397 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
Crossan, an adventurous New Testament interpreter, tellingly structures his book like a musical score. The music of its meaning comes only as the reader tries its parts--stories, critical quotes, speculative analysis, historical detail. Sources range from Kafka to Peter Beagle, Chesterton to Emily Dickinson, literary critics to biblical scholars, tho the writings of Borges ...more
Hardcover, 541 pages
Published January 1st 1992 by Harper SanFrancisco (NYC) (first published 1991)
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John Cloer
Apr 13, 2013 John Cloer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As one who was raised as a fundamentalist christian, I can say this book was instrumental in changing the course of my life. Just as I was finding my way out of the church I heard the author, John Dominic Crossan, speaking on Fresh Air (NPR). As soon as I heard him I knew I had to read this book. This book is dense, but I was a religious studies major so I could swing with it. I imagine many laypersons would struggle a bit. The author has said that a layperson's version of this book would be, Je ...more
Pete daPixie
Sep 14, 2009 Pete daPixie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical-jesus
As usual I've read the later publication 'Beneath the Stones', before dropping backwards into 1991 to tackle this one.
J.D.C. has a well researched and thoroughly historical picture of a Mediterranian Jewish Peasant in first century Palastine. Prof Crossan casts his net back into anthropological models of agrarian societies and their class divisions. For the first two hundred pages here, there is no mention of Jesus of Nazareth. However, I think this first half of the book is the more enjoyable.
Mar 06, 2011 Helaine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some points, among others, I took away from the book:

"Resort to prophesy is a universal response of beaten men." p. 104

Jesus' invocation of the Kingdom of God was not as an apocalyptic event. "Insofar as that perfect verb [eggiken], common to the Sayings Gospel Q and Mark, reflects the message of Jesus, it states that the Kingdom is at hand or near in the sense not of promise but of presence and that its power is made visible in the commonality of shared miracle and shared meal." p. 345

Jesus mis
Erik Graff
Jan 28, 2014 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Erik by: Michael Miley
Shelves: religion
Crossan is one of the more rewarding popular interpreters of the Christian scriptures. Unlike most serious biblical scholarship, his books, while eminently serious, are lively and well-written. Most appreciated, other than his liberal political take on the figure of Jesus, is his bringing insights into the field from other disciplines: sociology, anthropology, economics, literary theory etc.
Feb 20, 2015 Lydia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Finished and loved it. I love his consistent emphasis on the call for justice for all. It is amazing to me that such a scholarly text can still end up so evangelical. Many people object to Crossan, but I think his honest, straightforward willingness to admit his agenda and his assumptions is a fresh approach to scholarly criticism of biblical texts.
Apr 15, 2008 Lawrence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Crossan is hotly debated within the hardline Christian academic community..

He should be read, though...a dynamic take on a subject that sometimes is left in too much
Carl Williams
Slow going, but well worth it. The first half of the book is an in-depth details review of the literature (through the early 90s when it was written) followed, in its second half, with the application to the texts and understanding of Jesus' message and motivation with the context of the first century CE peasant understanding. Not for the faint of heart.
Sep 20, 2010 Wade rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, religion
This dense and meaty book seeks to provide a historical context to events in Galilee and Judea during the first century C.E. The objective is to better understand not only who Jesus was, but the background and impact of the revolutionary message he brought to his fellow Mediterranean Jewish peasants (and ultimately to us). To find the Historical Jesus, Crossan argues that we must utilize scientific methodology (archeology, historical record, etc) while holding an appreciation for the theological ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Jared rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I had a bookshelf for "books that helped shape my religious views," this would be on there.

Crossan offers an alternative view of Jesus of Nazareth--not as a religious figure or the de facto son of God--but as a historical and political figure. Crossan discusses the politics of the 1st Century Roman Empire, and what it meant to be a Jew living in Judaea at that time.

Throughout the course of the book, Crossan hypothesizes that Jesus was initially a follower of John the Baptist, that he was neve
Oct 26, 2007 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
when i read this i loved it. you gotta go out and read about the historical jesus.

but be aware that most historians writing about the historical jesus are actually christians too, in the sense that they carry the baggage and biases of judeo-christian culture and history. looking back, this is especially apparent with this author. but any source that exposes you to the gospel of thomas, Q, and other gospels that didnt make the bible, is worth a read if you havent been exposed to these gospels alr
Feb 09, 2013 Jacob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is solid and presents good information (albeit not organized as well as it could be), interesting questions, and some decent arguments. However, Crossan doesn't deal with counter arguments and often doesn't support positions he takes.

This is not a good introduction to historical Jesus scholarship; it presumes a good amount of background information (e.g. it doesn't explain Markan priority or Q) and goes against the large scholarly consensus on some important points (e.g. Jesus's apocaly
Dec 13, 2008 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tough stuff, but worth it. Once you get a hang of Crossan, you come to love him. He sets the stage for Jesus in every possible way -- examining every aspect (market conditions, anthropology, social conflicts, science, etc...) of what it meant to exist in the dawning of the common era. Of the ten or so books that I read for my grad class on Jesus, this was the best.
Anne Nelson
Jan 13, 2011 Anne Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating account that combines thorough historical research with archeology and solid Biblical scholarship. A lot of tenets of orthodox Christianity fall by the historical wayside, but one is left with a compelling story of a great teacher struggling against social intolerance and a brutal occupation. (I read it the week I was in Jerusalem.)
Aug 07, 2011 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A scholarly, historical analysis of the life of a simple peasant from the Mediterranean, it explodes all the myths and gives an accurate portrait of someone--if he ever truly existed--who could not possibly have been what the religious crowd believes.
frankly, the hoops academia sets itself up to jump through in the name of "objectivity" are just silly. artifice at its blindest. the entire first 200 pages amount to defense of his "methodology." ugh, and unfortunately detracts from erstwise interesting stuff.
Don Moman
Dec 03, 2014 Don Moman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, philosophy
This book is essential reading for anyone who has an interest in Jesus, whether you are already invested, curious, or hostile, there's something in here that will deepen your understanding of Jesus as a historical figure.

The first 200 pages doesn't discuss Jesus at all. Rather, Crossan uses comparative archaeology and anthropology to show what life was like for first century Jewish peasants under Roman rule with a focus on the avenues of resistance to the power of Rome and the Jewish aristocracy
Dipa  Raditya
Dec 13, 2013 Dipa Raditya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dulu pernah ada pertanyaan apakah benar Yesus adalah sosok yang berdaging, benar-benar ada secara autentik dalam sejarah, dan kalau benar-benar ada seperti apakah kisah hidupnya. Yesus (Isa/Yehoshua) adalah sosok paling prominen dan tonggak keimanan bagi salah satu agama tertua di dunia , Kristiani. Bagi orang Islam, Yesus adalah seorang nabi yang mulia. John Dominic Crossan yang tergabung dan juga salah satu dedengkot dalam studi tentang Yesus Sejarah (Historical Jesus) mendirikan sebuah paguyu ...more
Aug 11, 2016 Angie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While sometimes his rubric could be hard to follow, and while I'm sure there are plenty of scholars who will disagree with his conclusions, it remains that Crossan has formulated a logical and coherent methodology for identifying what Jesus *most likely* said versus what is attributed to him by later editors/authors.

His discussion of the societal norms and boundaries (for instance his discussion of illness/reference of Mary Douglas) that existed at that time period were also very enlightening an
Shane Wagoner
Sep 27, 2014 Shane Wagoner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rarely does one get to witness a master at work the way one does when reading this gem. Admittedly, I had immense difficulties getting through the first through sections which, despite a few interesting segments (such as exposition on Cynic Philosophy and Apocolypticism), were primarily set-up. However, after extensively analyzing the culture and history into which Jesus was thrust, Crossan dives into part three. In the third section, Crossan uses textual criticism to determine what sayings most ...more
Sep 24, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty awesome. For example, "the poor" had two possible translations in New Testament Greek. One meant the working poor, and the other meant the destitute/beggars. The one used in the early Greek versions of the Gospels is the destitute. How cool is that nugget of knowledge that I just dropped? Pretty cool. This book is full of stuff like that, even if a few of his interpretations are a little dubious. In one instance, he dismisses "and he was angry" at the tail of one of Jesus's parables becau ...more
Ben Tousey
May 26, 2014 Ben Tousey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jesus
This is a rather intense book. The author goes into great, almost boring detail about what life was like for Palestine in the days of Jesus. He uses the papyrus from Egypt, quoting some of the most mundane statistics, like how much a grain tax might cost to an Egyptian farmer.

There's a good reason for this. The Egyptians were treated very similar to the Palestinians, and we just don't have a lot of documentation from Palestine. Most of those people were illiterate, and those who could write, did
Mike Porter
This is a challenge to read which is why I gave it 3 stars. It appears to be written for a bible scholar rather than lay readers. The author's vocabulary sent me to the dictionary frequently but still could not find definitions for some words. They must be scholar lingo.

Still, it is a very comprehensive treatment of the context of the times in which Jesus lived, and for that I really liked reading it. I gained a real appreciation for those times. Further, the book exposes the reader to what doc
K.V. McMillan
Aug 22, 2013 K.V. McMillan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology-thought
I found this wonderful volume at a fairly young age and as a non-Christian was impressed with the author's ability to turn a critical, historian's eye upon his own deeply held beliefs.
Mister Crossan's ability to weed through what he believes is the fact and fiction of Christian faith and present it in a logical form, including the self-revelations of his personal beliefs, for everyone to understand is unequaled.
Though to this day, I am still not a Christian but this one volume did impress upon
Matthew O'Neil
Nov 11, 2014 Matthew O'Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is definitely a scholarly piece, but well worth the read. It took me about 200 pages to finally start finding stuff about Jesus, let alone new information that identifies the myth from historic. Not that it was useless information; all was relevant to understanding the life and culture in first century Palestine and the surrounding cultures. However, I feel it would've been better suited mixed in with the discussion of the historic Jesus rather than separated from him. I feel it would have ...more
Aug 10, 2012 Sheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book puts Jesus into historical context - when, where and how he lived. It also zeros in on exactly what he said. BUT, this is an academic book - not a book for the commercial market. At the time I read it(for a class at my church), I called it academic abuse. If you have ever wanted to know what theologians REALLY know about Jesus and how they know it, this is the book for you.

Be warned, large parts of this book concern the methodology involved. Its a difficult slog. I found it worthwhile
Sep 22, 2013 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Uncomfortable reading at first, but, in the end, an appreciated re-acquaintance with Jesus. The book made Jesus more real to me. I feel I understand Him, and what He was about, better now. My faith is strengthened, not lessened, by knowing more about who Jesus was, and what He taught and how He wants us to live. (I wound up somewhat annoyed at how much Jesus has been distorted by the Church, and by how much His teachings are ignored by His followers.)
Cathy Wilcox
Aug 09, 2015 Cathy Wilcox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This scholarly work challenged me. It was very informative and often referenced texts with which I was unfamiliar. I accepted the author's conclusions at face value and found his arguments logical and balanced. In my opinion, understanding that all religions, including my own, are part truth and part mythology is an important step toward letting go of the details that often generate arguments and moving toward a more profound understanding.
This monumental work by a leading biblical scholar combines history, literary analysis, and social anthropology into a comprehensive picture of the historical Jesus. Crossan clearly addresses textual problems of the tradition, its chronology, and its attestation in a well-documented and succinct manner..."
(from Library Journal)
Ethan Everhart
Astoundingly dense text that covers the historical, anthropological, and historiographical contexts incredibly well. Some of the prose is wonderful. This is a great book for anyone interested in the topic; I just didn't get as much out of it as some because I couldn't give it the time and close reading it requires.
Michael Miley
Apr 24, 2008 Michael Miley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book I was looking for when I asked the question: Who was Jesus, really? Crossan goes at it with a scientifically-minded historical method, laying down one layer at a time, exploring what we know from economics, history, political analysis, anthropology, and textual biblical criticism of the time of Jesus. A really good book. More on this book later.
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John Dominic Crossan is generally regarded as the leading historical Jesus scholar in the world. He is the author of several bestselling books, including The Historical Jesus, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, The Birth of Christianity, and Who Killed Jesus? He lives in Clermont, Florida.

John Dominic Crossan was born in Nenagh County in Tipperary, Ireland, in 1934. He was educated in Ireland and
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“[C]ontemporary Jesus research is still involved in textual looting, in attacks on the mound of Jesus tradition that do not begin from any overall stratigraphy, do not explain why this or that item was chosen for emphasis over some other one, and give the distinct impression that the researcher knew the result before beginning the search.” 1 likes
“The past is recorded almost exclusively in the voices of elites and males, in the viewpoints of the wealthy and the powerful, in the visions of the literate and the educated.” 0 likes
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