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A Life of Jesus

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  359 ratings  ·  46 reviews
A simple and powerful retelling of the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of a Japanese novelist.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 1st 1978 by Paulist Press (first published 1973)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Apr 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who like to explore their faith
Recommended to Mark by: can't recall
'All the same, and I have said it again and again, my own position remains what i have already set forth in drawing a distinction between a fact and a truth in the Bible. In this case too, the Bethlehem nativity might not be a fact, but for me it is the truth'

This paragraph comes on the final page of this life of Christ by Shusaku Endo a japanese catholic novelist or maybe that is a catholic japanese novelist or maybe again a japanese novelist who happened to be a catholic. I belabour the point
Dhanaraj Rajan
I am confused between three and four stars for this book.

The reason: If you see it as a simple biography of a religious leader/a great spiritual figure written by a secular person, this can be rated with four stars. If you, like myself a believer, read it as a spiritual nourishment, you may rate it with three stars.

Here, Shusaku Endo the novelist shines more. He is trying to get into the skin of the disciples and is more interested in giving a coherent narration of the life of Jesus. That seems
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
A Worthy Read

First published in 1973.

Shusaku Endo was a rare thing - a Christian from Japan. He also grew up mostly away from Japan (in China) and spent a considerable amount of his young adult life in France. When he was in Japan, he was different because of his religion. When he was in France, he was different because of his ethnicity.

This re-telling of the Jesus' life emphasizes this idea of being an outsider. Jesus is never want people want him to be. John the Baptist's followers want him to
Charlie Canning
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
While there are many things to like about Endo Shusaku's A Life of Jesus, the one that stands out is the great love the author has for his subject matter. In the final series of chapters on the passion and death of Christ, Endo writes: "This third act is the climax to the entire Bible, and for a scribbler of novels like me in Japan this particular drama never goes stale, no matter how many times I read it. I never get away from the opinion that the scenes in the passion and death of Jesus, ...more
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
He had some interesting takes on Jesus, I had not heard or thought of before. In general, he is fairly liberal, skeptical of miracles, but also takes a fair amount of the text of the gospels literally. While he does engage in some speculation, he does so drawing upon texts and what is said and not said in them. He shows great familiarity of the four gospels and paints an interesting picture of Jesus drawing upon them and comparing them.
Ben Smitthimedhin
Endo's A Life of Jesus is aesthetically pleasing, yet reads like a Jefferson Bible because of its distortion of Jesus' life. The book was meant for a Japanese audience, and I was looking forward to how Endo would recontextualize the Gospel. But his biography is disrespectful to the testimonies of the early church because it mixes the research for the historical Jesus with a half-hearted invitation for Japanese readers to believe, which is unconvincing. Examples:

"Jesus could not accomplish the
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A narrative nonfiction account of the life of Jesus written by a Japanese novelist, Shusaku Endo's A Life of Jesus grounds the Gospel accounts within the political turmoil of the era and hones in on subversive message of Jesus from the perspective of the ruling class.

While not discrediting his divinity, Endo downplays a lot of the miracles associated with Jesus in favor of exploring his personal interactions and dialogues with a vast cross-section early first-century life.

The highlight of this
Zen Cho
Picked this up as a possible gift for a Christian friend and read it because I might as well. I found it quite interesting, though maybe being a Christian Westerner would have made it more surprising? Dunno. Sometimes he gets a bit repetitive about e.g. transformation of Jesus' disciples from no-good cowards into fearless leaders of the church, but he is trying to make a point after all.
Andrew Hall
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A unique, original, rapturous vision of the life and love of Jesus Christ. It is just one novelist's perspective in his fiftieth year of life, but it is an accumulation of his life experience pursuing the Christ. May it inspire us to pursue Him with such fervor also.
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A truly wonderful book that re-tells the story of the Christ of the Gospels in the language of simple poetic prose, deemphasizing the miraculous in favor of the parables he used to teach his followers and the simplicity with which he lived his life. What emerges is a portrait of a teacher who saw love and compassion as the most important lessons one could learn and qualities one could have and share, and by writing about Jesus in this way, Endo brings us much closer to him than those who have ...more
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
I read this book for two reasons. One was that its a popular book from a Japanese author about Jesus. This is significant for many reasons. One being that Japan is less than 1% Christian. This book is older now, but Endo wrote it as a help to Japanese people to understand and empathize with Jesus from their cultural perspective, so I really read it for that insight. Im quite familiar with the life of Jesus, but living in Korea, I dont know enough about what Korean culture specifically, or Asian ...more
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
How did the cowardly disciples come by their sturdy faith after Jesus died? How did a man so ineffectual in this world, who had upset the dreams of his own disciples, come then to be divinized by these same disciples? These two questions forever entangle people who read the Bible, yet the biblical scholars, with their theories of form-criticism or of reductionism, hardly so much as allude to these questions. (159)

Endo, the great Japanese novelist, writes his perspective into the life of Jesus.
May 18, 2016 rated it liked it
After reading Endo's "Silence" I wanted to see what he might have to say about the life of Jesus. For those who are unfamiliar with Endo, he is one of Japan's best known novelists of the 20th century. That he is a Christian writing in and for a culture that has for centuries been resistant to Christianity is an interesting and important piece of his story. This book which was first published in 1973 now feels a bit dated. Endo's references to Bultmann and Bornkamm contribute to that sense in a ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Endo's descriptions of the Galilean countryside and the topography of Israel are engrossing. His portrayal of the loneliness of Jesus and his deep compassion towards the outcast and forgotten were beautiful. He downplays Jesus's miracles, and he is selective and very speculative in his portrayal, but all that is forgivable. His discussions of popular scholarship are mostly believable and on point. The final chapters are really where the book shines. It has definitely left me with a deeper ...more
May 01, 2015 rated it liked it
According to Endo, the four most dreadful things are fires, earthquakes, thunderbolts and fathers. His task then was to present Jesus in terms the Japanese could better understand. I don't know how well he executed his task, but from my perspective, this was a difficult account to read. I liked it, but it was truly a foreign way of looking at the story of Jesus and thus difficult for me to understand. I'm not sure I'd recommend this book unless you are in some sort of theology or spiritual ...more
Aug 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology
Originally written in Japanese the translation and style I'm told is accurate. But I'm disappointed reading it in English for it tell me plenty about the context of Jesus and the stories but fails to make anything live for me. Richard Schuchert, the translator, tells us that Endo felt that Christianity failed to reach Japanese successfully because it presented an authoritative father figure. While the book is Endo's presentation of the maternal characteristics of God the manner of presentation ...more
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
A good intro to Jesus as seen through the gospels for the newcomer, and a good review for the church-attending Christian. The book goes through the life of Jesus, mostly summarizing the gospels and providing some historical context, some scholarly research, and some speculative details (which the author identifies as his own). I thought that this would be more of a novel-style narrative since there author is a novelist but it read more like a history.
Jun 09, 2009 marked it as to-read
i was doing a search on the book 'jesus i never knew' in japanese. i had forgotten that yancey talked about Endo in that book. Endo had a fascinating life and also happens to write very well respected books with Christian themes in a country where only 1 percent has the same faith.

i found this link and the 2nd page made me cry;
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Endo's writing is a clear light, his thoughts expressed with an earnest love I find almost entirely lacking in most historical recreations. He seems... almost grateful to be contemplating his subject, to be genuinely seeking; perhaps this is what leaves him able to be open to the illuminations he finds.
Keith Mantell
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A thought-provoking read. The description of the Bible lands brings them to life. The analysis, whilst not proof, does give an interpretation of the motives of the disciples and their apparent transformation from fearful followers to people who traveled the empire and risked death to proclaim their message.
May 29, 2012 rated it it was ok
On the strength of Endo's powerful novel Silence I picked up his biography of Jesus, thinking that he would synthesize the gospel accounts and scholarly research into a compelling literary narrative. Just didn't happen for me. It read more like a tedious slog through competing theories about this and that--often about things quite tangential to the "Life of Jesus." Disappointed.
Mar 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Kristine by: Dick
Japanese novelist Endo's rendering of the life of Jesus written to appeal to a Japanese audience drawn to an image of God as a comforting mother and not a stern father. Interesting historical and psychological examination.
Dec 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
An Eastern perspective on the life of Christ. A fascinating book that offers a different perspective than what I'm used to.
Zacaro Caro
Dec 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Due to the translation I had a hard time reading this. But the context of Jesus in this book is very enlightening.
Kody Masteller
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Endo is a master of words. This book captures Christs humanity and suffering. A blessing to my life. ...more
Steve Hunt
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good read. I think the book does better when not going into historical criticism. The personal aspects of Jesus' life work better.
Dec 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
I thought it was pleasant retelling of the story of Jesus.
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
not a super fast read, but has some excellent perspectives and observations. worth it
Jan 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
A beautiful, literary, odd 'life of Jesus.' Endo is one of Japan's most revered writers, and it is fascinating to read his retelling and interpretation of Jesus' life.
Tyler K
Jan 09, 2016 rated it liked it
It was an interesting take on Jesus' life. While I don't agree with a lot of Endo's theology, there were some good nuggets - though not nearly enough to really recommend this book.
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Shusaku Endo (遠藤 周作), born in Tokyo in 1923, was raised by his mother and an aunt in Kobe where he converted to Roman Catholicism at the age of eleven. At Tokyo's Keio University he majored in French literature, graduating BA in 1949, before furthering his studies in French Catholic literature at the University of Lyon in France between 1950 and 1953. A major theme running through his books, which ...more

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“How did the cowardly disciples come by their sturdy faith after Jesus died? How did a man so ineffectual in this world, who had upset the dreams of his own disciples, come then to be divinized by these same disciples? These two questions forever entangle people who read the Bible, yet the biblical scholars, with their theories of form-criticism or of reductionism, hardly so much as allude to these questions.” 0 likes
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