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Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  352 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
Beginning with the Gospels, interpretations of the life of Jesus have flourished for nearly two millennia, yet a clear and coherent picture of Jesus as a man has remained elusive. In Rabbi Jesus, the noted biblical scholar Bruce Chilton places Jesus within the context of his times to present a fresh, historically accurate, and revolutionary examination of the man who found ...more
Paperback, 354 pages
Published February 26th 2002 by Image (first published 2000)
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Jul 10, 2008 Kay rated it it was amazing
This book is fascinating. The author explores the Biblical and other historical evidence of Jesus' life and posits the theory that many of his sayings need to be interpreted more closely in light of rabbinical teachings at the time, especially those of the charismatic leader John the Baptist. I hope I do not mischaracterize the book in saying that what I took away from it was that Jesus was indeed a transformative figure, but not necessarily in the way that Christians typically understand.

I lik
May 22, 2016 Thomas rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, religion
I read this on the heels of Reza Aslan's Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth and it was great fun to consider Chilton's account next to Aslan's. Chilton paints Jesus as a Jewish mystic, an Old Testament prophet who is deeply disturbed by the corruption wrought by the high priest of the Temple and his Roman overlords. The importance of the Temple and the law cannot be overestimated in either account. But Chilton argues that the means by which Jesus intends to reform the establishment ...more
Jul 17, 2007 Mary-Ellen rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Chilton's book on Mary Magdalene so much that I immediately bought and read Rabbi Jesus. Another interesting read. Much political context is included, basically adding an element that was not given to me in my Catholic education. On some level, the book on Mary was easier to read, but noone ever said Jesus of Nazareth was easy to understand. Certainly a portrait of a man, someone you could have met, was made. For anyone who likes to read about history and people, this is provocative. N ...more
Jon Stout
May 12, 2016 Jon Stout rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: scholars and skeptics
Recommended to Jon by: Bishop John Shelby Spong
Shelves: religion
In preparation for hearing Bruce Chilton speak, as part of the Spong Lecture Series (which I attend every year), I read his book, which is the most detailed reconstruction of the life of Jesus that I have so far seen. The main thrust is to place Jesus squarely within the context of first century Judaism. While the book is necessarily speculative, given the limitations of the sources, Chilton takes the approach of developing as much context as possible, so that any surmises are sensible understan ...more
Jay B.
Dec 11, 2009 Jay B. rated it it was amazing
This compact book is filled with an extraordinary set of insights, engagingly told & supported by inspired scholarship.

When the traditional Gospel accounts are supplemented with their missing Judaic context, a fresh Jesus emerges - he is a 1st century Palestinian, a devout Jew, steeped in the Torah.

As one Catholic priest told a mutual friend: After giving an informed sermon, the priest was approached by a disturbed parishoner who exclaimed, "Father, are you telling me that Jesus had a Jewi
Oct 13, 2007 Kenny rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those open to pondering Jesus
Shelves: religion, history
The author, an ordained cleric, nevertheless doubts the supernatural powers and authority of Jesus of Nazareth, and attempts (somewhat unsuccessfully) to explain away most of Jesus' miracles and radically new teachings, couching him as an itinerant, illiterate preacher with a knack for knocking off Jewish teachings and re-tooling them as his own. While unconvincing in that respect, the book is priceless as an inside view of the times that Jesus came of age. Chilton's vivid description of Jerusal ...more
Mary Gail O'Dea
Apr 02, 2011 Mary Gail O'Dea rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book by Bruce Chilton about the historical Jesus. It is so exciting that fairly recent archaeology and cultural anthropology studies have made Jesus so much more accessible. No, he was not born in Bethlehem; no he did not arrive via Virgin Birth; yes, he was illiterate; no he did not die for our sins; yes, he was a Jew who hoped to change the rituals of sacrifice for the Temple and had no intention of forming a new religion; yes, he and Mary Magdalene, his primary disciple, and he may ...more
Jul 02, 2008 Barry is currently reading it
Fascinating take on who the person Jesus may have been. All the more remarkable because it's written by a priest, who debunks many of the unrealistic, commonly-held conceptions of Jesus. In fact, the real person was just like anyone else: flawed, angry, motivated, and complex. Unlike any other study of Jesus I've come across.
Kim Berkey
Sep 04, 2008 Kim Berkey rated it really liked it
Main claim: Christ was a Merkabah mystic; plenty that I disagree with, but it's a very accessible book, and the closing statements are breathtaking in their poignant view of suffering and its role in Christianity.
Mark Matzeder
Aug 12, 2015 Mark Matzeder rated it liked it
Once in a great while I encounter an idea which resonates to my innermost core. These constructs are that little piece of jigsaw with the sky, the bit of cloud, and ray if insight that fit perfectly into a corner of my psyche where I have labored long and scrutinized all possibilities to fill that empty spot.
My modus is finding those parts by accident. I am a firm believer in Serendipity.
And synchronicity.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tells me I am an intuitive thinker. I knew that. Being
Nicholas Sangiacomo
Aug 15, 2016 Nicholas Sangiacomo rated it liked it
It was hard for me not to give this book five stars, because I was absolutely riveted and could not put it down. Right before I started it, I peeked at reviews, many of which docked the book points because it wasn't necessarily thorough or upfront about his sources and such. And I really wanted to not take points off the book due to that reason, because I think that type of white-glove handling of potentially academic works robs them of their appeal to a wider audience.

However, this book feels f
Lee Harmon
Nov 11, 2011 Lee Harmon rated it really liked it
Definitely one of my favorite authors. I believe he's the one who called my most-studied scripture, Revelation, a “perfectly rancid book." But I forgive him; I think that quote sets the tone for his book about the practical, historical Jesus in 180-degree contrast to the bloody warrior image some Jews & Christians wished of their Messiah.

Chilton is a great story-teller, and his writing immerses us in the world of Jesus. Temple procedures and the Roman Empire come alive. Chilton knows his stu
Dec 17, 2014 Colleen rated it it was ok
I wish I had realized I had read Mary Magdalene: A Biography, also by Chilton; I could have saved myself the effort of reading this one.

Chilton starts with the basic premise that Jesus was a mamzer, a term not quite synonymous with bastard. Here, he uses it to mean that Jesus' purity as a Jew was suspect, because no one knew for certain who his father was, though Chilton puts forth the theory that it was, in fact, Joseph. From this, he builds a story where Jesus, the perpetual outcast, creates a
Oct 04, 2008 C.P. rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ages 13+
Recommended to C.P. by: Jonathan Percival
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 23, 2014 Angie rated it did not like it
I honestly consider it an academic travesty that this book can be sold as anything other than a fiction novel; the fact that readers will see Chilton's credentials and accept this as a scholarly treatment of Jesus's life is incredibly worrisome. Chilton has a theory about Jesus; he writes the entire book as though this theory is not just fact but the most logical conclusion anybody could come up with. The thing is, he fills in blanks in Jesus's life that we literally at this point of scholarship ...more
Kristi Duarte
May 25, 2016 Kristi Duarte rated it liked it
Shelves: research
I've read a lot of books about Jesus as research for a book of fiction I'm writing. For someone like me, with a non-religious background and a fair share of knowledge about the more probable "facts" about Jesus' life, this book did not have a lot of new information. Also, as some people have pointed out, the fictional sections do get a bit annoying, especially when the author says "because of this, we know that for sure." We know nothing for a fact about Jesus, and we need to accept that. We can ...more
Damon Davis
Dec 18, 2012 Damon Davis rated it it was ok
Not a very good book. The problem is really not the assertions he makes as much as the lack of sources and evidence he fails to produce in support. Books such as The Jesus Dynasty are much better reads in this regard. The novel like presentation was great Approach but does not make up for the absence of explaining his conclusions about Jesus. For example of Jesus does not return home after his incident in the temple at 12, other than saying trust me I've figured this all out he doesn't even atte ...more
Linda  Branham Greenwell
I really enjoyed this book the first time I read it and wanted to reread it before I read Zealot
If you are unable to look at the history of Jesus and only see the biblical version of him - you will NOT like this book. Bruce Chilton uses real history and then facts plus imagination to come to some interesting conclusions about the life of the historical Jesus. So many people want to take the real life Jesus out of their understanding of him. But looking at the times in which he lived the Jewish l
Apr 18, 2009 Christopher rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
"Jesus' kabbalah of crucifixion, the discovery of who we are in the midst of our pain, offers the vision that death's change is not simply degradation and despair. It is not the end of us, but the end of who we think we are. To lose one's live is to save it, Jesus said. Death is our hardest lesson, but it is also the gateway into the true, divine source of human identity...

"Jesus' force resides in his vulnerability not only on the cross but throughout his life. He entices each of us to meet him
Nov 26, 2013 Tokoro added it
Recommended to Tokoro by: Uncle
This was given as a gift from one of my uncles for high school graduation. I found his points interesting, especially the chapter on the first biblical suggestion of a mobile temple in alignment with Israel as a priest and gateway for the nations, as Ezekiel's vision of a chariot and Jesus' appropriation of this influence upon himself, his rabbinical teaching and his identity. It could correspond with understanding of the followers of the Way of him as the Jewish messiah of promise. Ultimately t ...more
Aug 08, 2012 Ryan rated it it was ok
In Rabbi Jesus, Chilton paints a vivid portrait of a very Jewish interpretation of the historical Jesus. There is a high amount of imagination in Chilton's biography, and he appears to be rather sold on the, in my opinion, dubious methodology of the Quest for the Historical Jesus (including a religious dedication to Enlightenment ideals of history at the expense of Christian hermeneutics). Still, there is a great deal of history employed in painting Chilton's biography, and he offers an entertai ...more
Apr 08, 2012 Michael rated it really liked it
This is a very good read. Chilton treats Jesus as an historical figure, but works hard to create a narrative that immerses Jesus in his Galilean heritage. From his earliest experiences as the illegimate son of Mary, through his tutelage under John the Baptist through to his own rabbinic teachings, particularly around feasting and the kingdom of god. This is a highly readable book that gives clear insight into Jesus' life and mission.
Very interesting, but not "scholarly" in the sense that it's much more like storytelling than research. That makes me a little nervous [and accounts for the addition of the 'fiction' shelf].

Anyway, Chilton fills in the years from 12 to 30 of Jesus' life and "re-imagines" his ministry as a 20-year journey begun as an adolescent with John the Baptist and continuing and evolving through his 20s. Good.
Oct 19, 2008 casey rated it it was ok
This book was okay. I think the author was grasping to much into what he thought was going on. There were a lot of ideas that he has about Jesus that I really didn't think were acurate, especially since the author really doesn't have any proof of what he is writing about. Wasn't a bad book though.
Tony Ross
Feb 14, 2008 Tony Ross rated it liked it
The author attempts to take a look at the historical Jesus, as if the historical Jesus and the Jesus of the Bible are mutually exclusive entities. It is written well, but I must admit that some of the author's arguments refuting the divinity of Jesus are a little thin. The book does an outstanding job of "drawing a picture" of the times, the people, and the landscape of the day.
Aug 31, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm giving Rabbi Jesus 4 stars because it was entertaining to read. The story itself was very lively and really easy to get into and read. However, the actual facts in the book are another thing. I felt like the whole book was spent with Chilton backing up his story with quotes and scripture that to me, didn't quite fit. I was also curious how reached his conclusions, they seemed far fetched.
Oct 05, 2008 Robert rated it liked it
Recommended to Robert by: Paul Gardner
An interesting reminder that Jesus lived in a world with real history, politics, people and geography and dealt with all of these. It also reminds us that Jesus was Jewish in all respects. The author did not convince me that this is more than "historical fiction", but did give me some new things to think about. Worth reading.
Feb 09, 2008 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want to read this again sometime; it took me a little bit to catch up with the world Chilton describes. The book's arguments about Jesus's spiritual beliefs and practices and the various competing approaches of others, as well as its discussion of the politics of the time and place, were fascinating.
Aug 25, 2007 Jim rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the historical Jesus
Chilton's historical reconstruction of Jesus is highly imaginative and sure to strike many readings the wrong way. However, it is at nearly every point historically plausible even if one might think that aspects of it are unlikely. It is safe to say that Chilton's portrait is different from what you have read before.
Jun 22, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sages, nonfiction
Jesus is pictured here as he probably looked, short of stature, dark skinned and of all things Jewish! I am tired of the European and Americanized versions of his appearance in paintings and sculpture. I agree with another reviewer that you should keep your skeptic hat on but enjoy the book.
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