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The Historical Figure of Jesus [Paperback]

By E. P. Sanders (Author)
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Item description for The Historical Figure of Jesus by E. P. Sanders...

Presenting a cogent and balanced view of Jesus as a person, a theologian examines different interpretations of Jesus's aims and teachings, discussing the disciples' role in Christianity's success

Publishers Description
"Provocative and readable...A remarkable achievement."--Jaroslav Pelikan, Yale Univ.

"No one in our generation is more broadly and deeply prepared than Sanders to tackle the daunting array of problems confronting the historical Jesus. This book will become the standard against which future reconstruction of the historical Jesus of Nazareth will be compared."--David Dungan, Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville.

"For Professor Sanders, Jesus is a well-authenticated figure about whom we know a surprisingly large amount. He is particularly succesful in unraveling the complex business of New Testament chronology. -- He then takes us step by step through Jesus' career, pausing to look in detail at the more notable problems, such as the miracles, Jesus' followers, his opponents, his last week in Jerusalem, his trial, execution and the Resurrection. -- I shall keep this valuable book handy on my shelves, and use its expertise and logic to confute irrtating sceptics." --Paul Johnson in the Sunday Telegraph

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Historical Figure of Jesus by E. P. Sanders has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 107
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/1995 page 16
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/1998 page 79
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 81

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Pages   352
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 7.75"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2000
Publisher   Penguin (Non-Classics)
Age  18
ISBN  0140144994  
ISBN13  9780140144994  
UPC  051488014959  

Availability  3 units.
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More About E. P. Sanders

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E.P. Sanders is a Professor of Religion at Duke University.

E. P. Sanders has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Very Short Introductions

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Jesus > Historical Jesus
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Biographies > Biography
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > New Testament > Study
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > General
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism

Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > New Testament Studies > Jesus Studies

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Historical Figure of Jesus?

Historical Figure of Jesus  Apr 5, 2008
I am using this text as a source for my Education for Ministry (EFM) class. I have not read the entire book. What I have read is very interesting.
Best book on Jesus  Mar 31, 2008
In my opinion it is THE best book on Jesus of Nazareth. There is no bias toward or untoward christain faith.
It is strictly academic and also popular book about historical figure of Jesus.
If your faith, dear reader, would weaken after reading this book, it would mean that knowlege of your religion was not thorough.
This is superb book in every respect. It will make you think about nothing else for a while - just Jesus and first century Palestine. So beware!
Pitch-Perfect Introduction  Dec 6, 2007
E.P. Sanders is the giant in contemporary American Jesus scholarship. Unlike the anti-intellectual sensationalist bigot John Shelby Spong, you will not find anything "NEW!" or "CONTROVERSIAL!". Sander's, while certainly a liberal, is first and foremost a historian. And he methodically goes over the criteria in examining the Gospels and reconstructing the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth. He focuses particularly on the Canonical Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and Q). He finds these to be the most reliable in investigating who Jesus was and where he stood in the stream of Palestinian Judaism.

Unlike the other popular liberal scholar, (and member of the controversial Jesus Seminar) John Dominic Crossan, he does not think Thomas has any particular value in investigating Jesus. I would say Sanders has more in common with Marcus Borg than Crossan, although I think the latter two tend to adapt First-Century Jesus to the fleeting philosophies of today and try to make Jesus "appealing" to the modern mind (Borg especially falls into this). Sanders (like the centrist Catholic scholar John P. Meier) presents Jesus fully, warts and all.

This book was a joy to read. It is especially geared towards those who are interested in Jesus, but not so much Christianity and those Christians who are looking to further illumine the figure they worship by learning about this Jewish Peasant in the historical circumstances in which he dwelled. It is much more accessible than his scholarly treatment "Jesus and Judaism". The technical introduction that is in the aforementioned text is absent, in this book Sanders is focused on the non-scholar reader.

Sander's is probably my favorite scholar (although Meier and Wright follow closely behind) and I particularly enjoy the way he addresses the controversies with the Jewish leaders and his crucifixion (and the responsibility for it). The chapter on the Resurrection is also fantastic, whether you believe in it or not. Sanders does not come down on a position because it is outside the historians realm of inquiry, but nevertheless I liked what he had to say about it.

Out of all popular books about the historical Jesus that plague the market, Sanders is a breath of fresh air. Of course it does not get nearly the amount of press as James Cameron's "Jesus Family Tomb" (or Gnostic revival; Holy Blood, Holy Grail, etc) but when did meticulous scholarship become fun and exciting to the sensationalist media and the masses?

If anyone is looking for a great introduction to contemporary New Testament scholarship, look no further for such a balanced treat! It is perfect as an introduction.
Interesting but perhaps a rigid perspective  Sep 21, 2007
I would totally agree with the earlier comment that "The author thinks there has to be a rational explanation for everything, and if there isn't, then it must be disregarded as untrue - it did not happen".

There is a key problem in this book of the over rigidity in applying his frame of reference.

As a historian, he is obsessed with the chronological order of events. Consequently he draws completely invalid conclusions based on absence of, or gaps in, chronological order.

Associated with this he does not allow the Gospel authors to select their material according to their themes and also to post rationalise their selection of material. This includes integrating their material into Old Testament sources. As a researcher in social science, this is not an omission by the Gospel writers but a quite normal approach. All research is by necessity highly selective and related to the purpose or themes at hand. Plus we integrate our `primary' sources into our `secondary' sources to add or elaborate meaning. Therefore one can draw no real conclusions based on this approach.

He is also I am afraid highly ethnocentric. His cultural frame of reference is modern North America. He really does make many serious errors when interpreting culture from outside this limited frame of reference. Frequently he assumes that this or that could not have happened, when in fact it was normal, even in western society, upto a few years ago. He similarly has little understanding of number or names outside the modern American context.

(If I take his arguments and apply them to myself, as I come from a different cultural background and don't conform to his stereotypes, I can conclusively prove I don't exist. Therefore do I conclude, following the direction of the good professor, that I am just an interpolation?)

The book is interesting but as a work of social science it does not really stand up. I certainly would not recommend it as an academic text.
A good read, but better for Bible studies than academia.  Apr 23, 2007
The Historical Figure of Jesus is an excellent but conservative depiction of Jesus' ministry within his historical setting. Sanders' construction of first century Judea is both believable and well researched; it breathes a historical reality into the synoptic gospels that would benefit anyone studying the New Testament. Sanders strikes a masterful balance by seeking historical truth without unduly attacking the theological "truth" in which the authors of the gospels were more interested.

On the other hand, Sanders' textual methods seem inadequate to me. He dismisses all of the non-canonical gospels and most of John, choosing only the synoptics as sufficiently reliable sources. Throwing out non-cannonical gospels is problematic because many of them, especially Thomas, have many old and authentic Jesus sayings still crystallized inside of later embellishments. All gospel materials are like this, and even the canonical synoptic gospels include late-dated layers of editing, many of which are almost certainly not authentic Jesus sayings. Sanders makes no effort to discern what might be authentic or inauthentic in the synoptics, but chooses to take the whole as equally valid. In particular, he never mentions Q (a very early sayings source that both Matthew and Luke incorporated into their gospels), and takes Q material from Matthew and Luke on equal ground with p-Matthew and p-Luke material.

Sanders says: "It is my own view that we cannot recover Jesus' view merely by picking and choosing among the sayings... I do not think that a historical reconstruction should depend on the notion that we can definitely establish what Jesus did not say" (176). This view seems sensible at first, but in preserving all the material of the synoptics and throwing out all other gospels, he is already picking and choosing among sayings; he is just doing it in a deeply arbitrary fashion. I would hypothesize that Sanders had a religious motive for preserving the canonical texts so thoroughly.

Despite Sanders' odd textual methods, I still liked his book a lot. I would recommend his book strongly for giving a rational and historical context to Bible study, but perhaps not for an academic setting.

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