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The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus & the Truth of the Traditional Gospels

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  347 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
The Real Jesus—the first book to challenge the findings of the Jesus Seminar, the controversial group of two hundred scholars who claim Jesus only said 18 percent of what the Gospels attribute to him—"is at the center of the newest round in what has been called the Jesus Wars" (Peter Steinfels, New York Times). Drawing on the best biblical and historical scholarship, respe ...more
Paperback, 182 pages
Published January 3rd 1997 by HarperOne (first published 1996)
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Skylar Burris
Sep 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Chirstians, particularly those on both extremes: liberals and fundamentalists
Shelves: christianity
The primary point Luke Timothy Johnson seems to be making in this book is that the "real Jesus" is not the "historical Jesus" at all – for the "historical Jesus" is impossible to reliably reconstruct and has influenced absolutely no one living today. The "real Jesus" is, rather, the living Jesus, Jesus as actually experienced and understood by those whose lives and communities His presence transforms. The author makes a convincing argument against the Jesus Seminar, highlighting its spurious met ...more
Adam Ross
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology, history
I read this book in a single day. One might say I devoured it. Johnson is a New Testament scholar in the Roman Catholic tradition, and he is a well-respected one as well. In this book, he takes on the Jesus Seminar for being insufficiently historical and much too confident in their claims about discovering the "historical Jesus."

Principally the book is about the limits of historical research, a matter handled ably by Johnson. The thing about Johnson that is so confounding is that he opposes fund
Jun 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity
An excellent book from Luke Johnson, professor New Testament at Emory University. In this short work, Johnson does an excellent job of explaining how misguided understandings of history, contemporary culture, and poor scholarship has guided the "search for the historical Jesus". He also has an excellent chapter on the limitations of historical study - bringing a solid understanding of what historical study can and cannot do to our understanding of what the limited collection of documents in the ...more
Tim Soper
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed "The Real Jesus" but unless you are an active observer of the debate over the Jesus Seminar from 20 years ago, I suspect that this book might bore you. Additionally, even though it is a relatively short book at 178 pages, it is not a light or easy read. Based on this being a couple decade old debate and the scholarly quality of writing, I suspect the layman to run out of steam mid-book. The unfortunate consequence of bailing early is that the final chapter reads at breakneck pace and t ...more
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: new-testament
This is a good book for a quick introduction to and (somewhat) conservative appraisal of historical Jesus scholarship. Johnson quickly and effectively deflates some of the buzz surrounding the Jesus Seminar (though the Seminar has been repeatedly deflated since the publication of this book), narrates in broad strokes the history of critical biblical scholarship, debunks a number of would-be historical reconstructions of Jesus, and presents in sketch form the consensus reconstruction of most New ...more
Kevin Larsen
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was recommended this book in a Comparative Religion course from The Great Courses. The author, Luke Timothy Johnson, teaches the Great World Religions: Christianity course there which I took as well.

Anyone reading this book should be advised that it's a conservative reaction to the Jesus Seminar and other strong liberal views of the historical Jesus. A lot of the book is written in anger of them. It would be a better book without the anger, but that was the impetus for the author to write it i
Benjamin Sauers
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed this book. LTJ dishes out criticism to both the conservative evangelical and liberal understanding of "the real Jesus". For me, LTJ's perspectives were refreshing and freeing. His argument, that the Bible and Jesus can only be properly understood theologically through the community of the Church, is quite convincing. Highly recommended!
Rocky Woolery
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this is an older book, much of the material is still pertinent tos scholarship of today. Johnson is not afraid to point out where scholarship has come up short in trying to paint a picture of the real Jesus.
Rose Anderson
Jun 04, 2017 rated it liked it
A book that disputes much of the research on the historical Jesus and advises a more realistic approach for research. The author's arguments are well laid out.
Michael Havens
Mar 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those who like Biblical Studies
Luke Timothy Johnson, former Benedictine monk and priest, and now Biblical scholar, takes on a critical analysis of the assumptions and scholarship of the Jesus Seminar.
Who or what is the Jesus Seminar? If you are not familiar with them or the media frenzy their research elicited surprise by many and serious questions and disdain by many within the Biblical scholarship world. The sad fact was, as Professor Johnson points out in this book, that the media not only did not make critical questions a
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Concise, and easy to read. This book can be divided into two sections. The first looks at the development and the cultural impact of the Historical Jesus controversy, in particular the Jesus Seminar. The next section is really the argument LT Johnson wishes to make concerning the "real Jesus" and that is the divide between history and faith.

For the rest of the review I will focus on the latter half of LT's book rather then discuss the first. LT's argument is simple. The real Jesus is not to be f
Aug 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
THE REAL JESUS is scholar Luke Timothy Johnson's critical response to several writers in the historical Jesus fad that grew quite large in the late 1980s and 1990s. Generously published in 1996 by HarperSanFrancisco, the same publisher of so many of the books Johnson criticises, the work is a necessary counterpoint to any book asserting to reach a historical understanding of Jesus.

Johnson does not stand against works exploring the historic nature of Jesus. He himself has worked in that field, an
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bible
An excellent takedown of the Jesus Seminar sham and a valuable exploration on the uses and limits of history in reading Scripture and exploring Jesus. Accessible to non-scholars, this is intended for a broad audience.
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Excellent work from a top flight New Testament scholar that came out in the hey-day of the Jesus seminar and the what has now become continuous ebb of works on the historical Jesus. Johnson's book is an excellent primer on the popular histories of Jesus that came before him (though extremely polemical) and the reasons in media, academy, and church that create a climate that not only spawns so many so-called historical reconstructions of Jesus but also such loud fanfare and acclaim.
Johnson's ant
Apr 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a really great book. He actually ends up dealing more with methodology than with Jesus specifically. I can see many inerrantists squirming in their seats as they read his arguments, but it would be a shame if that caused them to miss the thrust of this book. He does an excellent job, first, of dismantling the Jesus Seminar and exposing their agenda. He also shows how their (re)visions of Jesus are predetermined by their presuppositions and values. In other words, they find the Jesus they ...more
Feb 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Revelatory analysis of where the Historical Jesus studies of the Jesus Seminar goes wrong; the Gospels and the New Testament writings were never about history (in the sense of what really happened) or story the facts about Jesus. They were written to convey an experience of a living presence felt by a community of people. Cutting up the Gospels and letters that make up the New Testament to try to determine which really happened not only strips them of all meaning, but putting the "real" parts ba ...more
Brian Maiers
Apr 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This great little book serves three purposes. It gives a good rebuttal to the excesses of the claims of the Jesus Seminar (This part of the book is a bit out dated because the JS isn't really taken seriously--partially because of books like this; however, habits like their still exist in the academy). The book also gives a good introduction to critical issues and what can be known as historical bedrock about Jesus and the New Testament. The most important part of the book, however, is the call t ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
A wonderful book challenging assertions on liberal and conservative fronts that unfortunately stumbles in the final chapter. His proposal to return to a literary model of interpretation is somewhat troublesome and is an attempt to circumvent what he feels uncomfortable with. His thoughts are perfectly legitimate but the literary interpretation has some troubling underbellies which he fails to adequately address. While he fails in the final chapter, his thoughts and methodologies until that point ...more
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
A look at the Historical Jesus movement and it's attempt to fashion Christ and the New Testament by the Historically Critical method. Johnson is scholarly in his approach and as such a bit heavy. He does an effective job of examining the criticism in light of the scriptures and refutes their "modern" conclusions. At some points it was difficult to stay with, but overall worth the read.
Christine Sunderland
Jan 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A readable and excellent review of the poor scholarship shown by the Jesus Seminar and others intent on sensational debunking and high sales. Also, and more importantly, Johnson spends equal time analyzing the limits of what we can "know" about those first centuries, the limits to history, and an understanding what Christianity can and does validly claim.
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A scholarly refutation of the long-unchallenged "findings" of the Jesus Seminar. Point by point, Johnson descimates the oft-heralded "truths" trumpeted by the Seminar and their media allies. It is little surprise he didn't get asked to appear in an eighth of the print and electronic media as the Seminar members, but his book speaks for itself.
Brent Wilson
Aug 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion
A needed rebuttal/response to the Jesus Seminar. Quickly dated however, since the Jesus Seminar has died out. Johnson's anti-historical Jesus stance is difficult to sustain. I prefer a traditional scholar like N T Wright, who connects the best historical Jesus scholarship to our current demands on faith and church.
Aug 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I did the teaching comapny audioCDs. 32 lectures by this benedictine monk. Excellent lecture series. Each lecture 30mins. Written text included. Can do the paperback instead. I chose the audiotapes, i spend a lot of time in my car.
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent refutation of the excesses of the Jesus Seminar.
Aaron Carlberg
There is has a lot of books out lately about what the REAL JESUS was like, did he exists, etc. This is a good book to read to get another historical perspective.
Kevin de Ataíde
Aug 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Repudiating the Jesus Seminar and the plague of books trying to create their own individual Jesus to suit their requirements.
Apr 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religiosity
A timely response to the Jesus Seminar folks from an established Biblical scholar. It was so good to read something scholarly that defended the Christ and his divinity.
Mary Grey
Aug 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic scholarlt work on the academic attempt to marginalize and recreate Jesus. Written by a world renowned scholar, it's also onlt 100 and some pages, so it's great for a lay person!
Feb 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school, 2014
Johnson is not afraid to air his unpopular opinions, and his incisive writing style and sharp mind make his points actually compelling. Probably the best book on the historical Jesus I've read.
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He is the R. W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Candler School of Theology and a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University. Professor Johnson's research interests encompass the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts of early Christianity (particularly moral discourse), Luke-Acts, the Pastoral Letters, and the Letter of James.

He has taug
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