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When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral Choices Today
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When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral Choices Today

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  165 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
In this urgently relevant, wholly enlightening discussion of modern moral decisions, the Harvard theology professor Harvey Cox considers the significance of Jesus and his teachings today. As he did in his undergraduate class Jesus and the Moral Life—a course that grew so popular that the lectures were held in a theater often used for rock concerts—Cox examines contemporary
Paperback, 338 pages
Published August 16th 2006 by Mariner Books (first published 2004)
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Jan 11, 2012 Edward rated it really liked it
Jesus? Harvard? An unlikely connection, but a very interesting one. It's an account of twenty years of teaching a course, beginning in the early 80's, as a part of a "moral reasoning" division of the undergraduate curriculum. But the idea was not to present ethics in an philosophically impersonal and abstract way, but rather to show how moral decisions are made in a specific context, that of the life of the founder of one of the great monotheistic religions of the world. The course became a ...more
Dec 28, 2009 Lam rated it liked it
The author is a professor at Harvard, who for twenty years taught a course in which he and his students explored how the teachings of Jesus might be applied to contemporary ethical questions. I liked the author's overall perspective that Jesus was a rabbi who, in keeping with the tradition of Judaism, told stories to engage his listeners imagination as an essential part of coming to moral decisions. It was refreshing to read a book about Jesus that didn't pretend to have answers but rather ...more
Hansen Wendlandt
Once while studying in Cambridge, Mass, I tried out a course on 16th Century mystical Spanish poetry—that or some such silly specialization that gets taught in these sorts of places. In a distinct occupational weakness, the professor would spit every time he said words like “Teresa”. So, I left a little early and a little wet, aiming for a hopefully more interesting course on Science and Faith Dialogue. On the way past Widener Library, I turned a corner as nonchalant as anyone might turn a ...more
What if a university concentrated all its energy and resources into producing the best and brightest in every field, but the students’ moral decision-making proved lacking? Enter Harvey Cox at Harvard University, decades ago, to offer a course on moral reasoning based on the teachings of Jesus, the rabbi of Nazareth.

Whether the reader has a faith background or not, is familiar with the Old and New Testaments or not, and/or is connected to a religion or not, the author’s writing will challenge yo
Ron Charles
Dec 14, 2013 Ron Charles rated it really liked it
After Tom Wolfe's depressing depiction of college students as moral idiots, it's refreshing to hear a counter testimony from someone who's spent the past 40 years on a university campus. When Harvey Cox joined the Harvard faculty in 1965, the nation's most prestigious college had long since abandoned its Puritan roots in favor of the secular study of arts and sciences. But in the 1980s, the faculty felt troubled by the sense that they were giving students "virtually no preparation for how to app ...more
If you've ever wondered about the relevancy of Jesus' teachings for today's world/problems, this is an excellent introduction into the possible/probable meanings of his words. It includes a lot of historical/political context, as well, so you can understand what was going on at the time, what his words meant to the people who heard him during that time, and why they might have engendered the response that they did. This book won't attempt to convert you to a Christian life, but it will get you ...more
Jay Cowsill
Aug 23, 2013 Jay Cowsill rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Non-specialists interested in ethics.
A book on ethics rather than religion, When Jesus Came to Harvard summarizes theologian Harvey Cox’s experience of teaching a course entitled “Jesus and the Moral Life” at Harvard for nearly twenty years. Cox stresses that ethical living requires more than a capacity for moral reasoning: more crucially, it requires imagination and the ability to tell and share stories. He makes his point by presenting Jesus as a rabbi immersed in Jewish tradition. Cox reaffirms his lifelong commitment to fleshin ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Cox (The Secular City, Fire from Heaven) links a rabbi's 2,000-year-old teachings to today's vast ethical issues to illuminate how we can apply Jesus's philosophy to our own times. In Cox's eyes, for example, the Prodigal Son becomes a rebellious dropout. If this situation doesn't exactly ring true in your view, you may still find inspiration in this provocative, wise, and often humorous book, no matter your religious bent. As one critic points out, When Jesus Came to Harvard does not provide gu

Oct 09, 2010 Cball rated it really liked it
Shelves: religious
I was pleasantly surprised with this book. It wasn't preachy nor academic (two of my concerns whenever I pick up a book written about religion). Instead, the author works very hard to demonstrate the inter-connectedness of the Jewish and the Christian religions as well as other religions world-wide. Furthermore, he demonstrates how anyone and everyone can benefit from studying religion and applying (or attempting to apply) the lessons learned into their daily lives. Readers who are interested in ...more
Mar 01, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it
The following is an excerpt from the book, from the chapter entitled "Exiles from Eden":

"A careful reading suggest that their fatal mistake was their refusal to be content with being human, and therefore mortal. Mere paradise, crammed with all that fresh air and ripe fruit, even having each other as loving partners, was not good enough for them. They wanted to shake loose from aging, death, and the other inconvenient liabilities of earthliness. They longed for unlimited possibilities. They crave
So there hadn't been a course at Harvard with ""Jesus"" in the title since 1916 or so, when Harvey Cox got his new assignment...a survey course on what Jesus was about.
I love this book. He anticipates where a majority of the questions and problems are going to come from. He's thoughtfully, honestly preparing for numbers of students without any information on Jesus at all, save perhaps standard automatic concerns about fundamentalism from someone admitting to being Christian.
See if his answers r
John Fredrickson
This was a good book. The author is very unpretentious and communicates his points in a very realistic, grounded way.

The book itself exhibits a very 'human' approach to trying to understand the life and stories surrounding Jesus. It is very refreshing to step away from religious doctrine and dogma and to consider what the human being of the time may have been saying.
Jun 06, 2010 Terry rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
The author refelcts on 15 years of teaching "Jesus and the Moral Life" at Harvard University. These reflections constitute an insightful overview of the life and teachings of Jesus. Cox's fresh perspectives, imagination, and questioning stimulated his students and their responses, in turn, brought him new understanding and pushed him out of his comfort zone.
Mar 14, 2013 Cara rated it really liked it
I really really liked this book. I'd give it five stars if it started right in on the stories about Jesus and skipped all the Harvard intro. Most of the content was so interesting and helped me to really think about stories I've known forever.
Tommy Estlund
May 05, 2012 Tommy Estlund rated it it was amazing
Wow, I really enjoyed this book. It really spoke to a deeper understanding of who Jesus was as a man, which I find a wholly under discussed topic. Highly recommend this book to have a survey of Jesus' life in a historical and cultural context.
Mar 21, 2008 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Harvey Cox offers familiar text from the New Testament with interesting insights into its application for people seeking spiritual direction in the 21st century. His course at Harvard was wildly successful!!
Aug 29, 2015 Lisa rated it liked it
This book was ok and interesting. Harvey Cox taught a course at Harvard about how Jesus' life and teachings influence our moral choices today even if we are not Christian. It's more about morals and ethics than it is about Jesus.
Apr 27, 2010 Jb rated it it was amazing
Jesus is a curiosity to students of all religion and author taught a course re: his moral values. Cox learned from his students and adjusted his course over 15 years. Presumably the book chapters are drawn from the lectures and are very clear and straightforward. It's easy to remember the content.
Jan 28, 2016 JimZ rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Along with Garry Wills' book "What Jesus Meant," provides a refreshing look at both the topic matter and the experience of teaching it.
Feb 27, 2012 Jason rated it liked it
A Harvard course is apparently offered asking students to ponder practical moral questions with Bible stories as prompts.
Jul 24, 2013 Laurie rated it it was amazing
What a marvelous book. Gave me such perspective on the times as well as how we make moral choices and decisions in a secular world.
Patrick O'Hearn
Patrick O'Hearn rated it it was amazing
May 16, 2016
Andyh rated it it was amazing
Feb 21, 2011
Tia rated it it was amazing
Jun 09, 2014
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Jun 09, 2012
MJ rated it it was ok
Jul 28, 2008
Jen rated it liked it
Jul 14, 2014
Lisa rated it it was amazing
Jul 31, 2013
william l malcomson
william l malcomson rated it really liked it
Apr 21, 2014
Cherry rated it liked it
Oct 06, 2009
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Harvey Cox is Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard, where he has been teaching since 1965, both at HDS and in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. An American Baptist minister, he was the Protestant chaplain at Temple University and the director of religious activities at Oberlin College; an ecumenical fraternal worker in Berlin; and a professor at Andover Newton Theological School. His ...more
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