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The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,775 ratings  ·  47 reviews
"He comes as yet unknown into a hamlet of Lower Galilee. He is watched by the cold, hard eyes of peasants living long enough at a subsistence level to know exactly where the line is drawn between poverty and destitution. He looks like a beggar yet his eyes lack the proper cringe, his voice the proper whine, his walk the proper shuffle. He speaks about the rule of God and ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published February 26th 1993 by HarperOne (first published 1991)
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 ·  1,775 ratings  ·  47 reviews


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John Cloer
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
Pete daPixie
Aug 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical-jesus
As usual I've read the later publication 'Excavating Jesus-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
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Wade
Apr 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Helaine
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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Lydia
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Erik Graff
Oct 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lawrence
Mar 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
dogma...
Scott Gates
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
I read this book as a counterpoise to NT Wright’s magnificent Jesus and the Victory of God.

In very general terms, Crossan’s Jesus is deJudaized, Hellenistic, nonapocalyptic/noneschatological, a Cynic, and concerned with the establishment of the kingdom in the here and now; Wright’s Jesus is deeply Jewish, apocalyptic/eschatological, and concerned with the establishment of the kingdom in the here and now. Wright’s vision and his overwhelming scholarship are far more compelling than Crossan’s.
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Gabe
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book worthy of a long list of adjectives, foremost being: challenging, provocative, thorough, respectable, and rich. I recognize that my experience and understanding of this book are likely a result of a combination of personal circumstances, wishes, etc. I haven't read other reviews of this book yet, but I'll be surprised if most others don't find it dry, pretentious, heretical, or have a number of other negative responses. For me, although it was one of the most difficult reads ...more
Jared
Jan 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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Johnny
Oct 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
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
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Jacob
Dec 31, 2012 rated it liked it
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
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Anne Nelson
Jan 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.)
David
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
Linksbard
Dec 22, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Greg
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
I will begin by stating that I’m an unabashed fan of Crossan’s work. He is opinionated and controversial, but those opinions are based in exceptional logical proof and scholarship. His ability to analyze text and his historical understanding of the New Testament period are outstanding. I read everything that he writes, and have seen him lecture live. I may not always agree with what he writes (who can say that about anyone), but I am fully conscious of the fact that I could not win any debate ...more
Jerrodm
Wow...I went from reading Paul Johnson's Jesus: A Biography from a Believer (which I did NOT love, review here), to reading this book. I disliked Johnson's book because of its obvious decision not to apply any kind of critical analytic effort to the life of Jesus - instead, Johnson was content to recount a selection of stories from the four Gospels and to apply his own conjectures to "what kind of a person Jesus was". Not terribly convincing, and really poor scholarship as far as I'm concerned.

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Paula Montgomery
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The author, John Dominic Crossan, looks at Christ from many disciplines. He provides an avenue for really looking deeply at Jesus from many points of view. It gives one a perspective on what was going on at the time and helps in our understanding of something simple and complex at the same time.
Brendan Bell
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well done book

The book is very well researched and written. It is however not entirely convincing in making it seem that Jesus was a Jewish Cynic rather then an apocalyptic preacher or religious teacher
Kristin Stevens
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book if you have the patience for an academic treatise on Jesus. Life changing actually.
Daniel
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Some interesting ideas but I kept getting lost in his terminology and descriptions of his methods. Conclusions were very interesting, especially concerning class distinctions.
Don Moman
Dec 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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Shane Wagoner
Apr 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Matt
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Ben Tousey
May 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
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,
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Mike Porter
Jul 14, 2013 rated it liked it
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
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K.V. McMillan
Aug 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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Matthew O'Neil
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Sheryl
Aug 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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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 Tipperary, Ireland in 1934. He was educated in Ireland and the
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“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.” 4 likes
“The ecstatic vision and social program sought to rebuild a society upward from its grass roots but on principles of religious and economic egalitarianism, with free healing brought directly to the peasant homes and free sharing of whatever they had in return. The deliberate conjunction of magic and meal, miracle and table, free compassion and open commensality, was a challenge launched not just at Judaism’s strictest purity regulations, or even at the Mediterranean’s patriarchal combination of honor and shame, patronage and clientage, but at civilization’s eternal inclination to draw lines, invoke boundaries, establish hierarchies, and maintain discriminations.” 3 likes
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