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The Gospel of Jesus: A Historical Search for the Original Good News [Paperback]

By James M. Robinson (Author)
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Item description for The Gospel of Jesus: A Historical Search for the Original Good News by James M. Robinson...

An examination of the preachings of Jesus as they may have been delivered to his original audience draws on ancient sources to evaluate Christ's life, Jewish faith, and beliefs about God in order to differentiate his original teachings from those endorsed by the church, in an account that also explores how Jesus's original gospels are relevant to today's world. Reprint. 15,000 first printing.

Publishers Description

We all know the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but what was the gospel of Jesus? That is, what was the original "good news" the first disciples heard from Jesus? What did Jesus really say that started the dramatic movement in Galilee that grew to become the largest religion in the world?

Jesus's original gospel has been lost from sight, hidden behind the version preferred by the church. We have put him on a pedestal, rather than walked in his footsteps. In The Gospel of Jesus, James M. Robinson, the preeminent expert on the earliest sources of information about Jesus, provides the primary texts in all their unvarnished honesty to get to the true historical message of Jesus -- what Robinson calls "a brittle, upsetting, comforting, challenging gospel." The Gospel of Jesusdraws on a combination of the most ancient and authentic texts to reveal what Jesus really said and to illuminate what he may still have to say to us today.

Robinson addresses such provocative questions as:

  • What can we know about Jesus's childhood
  • and youth?
  • What was his family like?
  • What sort of education did he receive?
  • How observant a Jew was he?
  • What do we know about his sex life?
  • What do we know about his relation to Mary Magdalene?
  • What was John the Baptist's impact on him?
  • What message did Jesus really preach?
  • What do we know about his crucifixion?
  • Why did his followers believe so fervently in his resurrection?

Drawing on the earliest Gospel, Mark, plus the source for Matthew and Luke, known as "Q," as well as from Jewish sources such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the ancient extra-biblical Gnostic texts discovered at Nag Hammadi, Robinson not only reconstructs the good news Jesus preached and practiced two thousand years ago, but shows how relevant his message still is -- and how we can apply it to our lives today. The Gospel of Jesus offers one of the most authentic and stirring accounts ever written of the message preached by the figure whose followers today number more than two billion.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: HarperOne
Pages   238
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.96" Width: 5.44" Height: 0.63"
Weight:   0.41 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 14, 2014
Publisher   Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN  006085829X  
ISBN13  9780060858292  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Jesus > Historical Jesus
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > New Testament > Study
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Christology
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Gospel of Jesus: A Historical Search for the Original Good News?

An Author Versus Publisher's Publicist  Jan 30, 2009
Normally I would award five stars to a work so scholarly and challenging. But thanks to the efforts of the publisher's publicist, many readers are going to feel somewhat disappointed. The publicist assures that in this book, Robinson will "address such provocative questions as: "What can we know about Jesus's [sic] childhood and youth? What was his family like? What sort of education did he receive? How observant a Jew was he? What do we know about his sex life? What do we know about his relationship to Mary Magdalene?" The answers for all these questions, except His religious observance or non-observance, seem to be "virtually nothing." True, Robinson does concentrate on an additional question posed by the publicist, namely "What message did Jesus really preach?" In fact, this is the burden of his entire book, and to answer this question, Professor Robinson draws extensively on his reconstruction of "Document Q". This is a controversial if brilliant example of Biblical scholarship. I am 95% in agreement with it, but I know there are other experts who would (a) not rate "Q" so highly and (b) not treat it with the same degree of overwhelming importance as Robinson does. If I have been a little hard on Robinson's magnum opus, thanks to its publicist, you can also blame the publisher for failing to provide an Index, surely a sine qua non for a Biblical thesis such as this.
Very poor scholarship--let me explain  Oct 23, 2007
Someone really needs to tell Robinson that it is not possible to quote from a piece of literature that does not exist. Apparently this escaped his notice since all he does is quote from a text he appears to have conjured up from hot air and an lot of speculation.

For example, he says "This whole discussion of John and Jesus in the Sayings Gospel Q" (p 126) and then he's off again, quoting from a text that doesn't exist. That's right. No single fragment ever found, and not a single mention of any such document anywhere, at any time, in the ancient world. But that is no problem for Robinson! No, apparently he can guess what this possible document might have said and then quote from that!!! I've never read anything like it in my life.

Even more painful scholarship: "The Gospel of Thomas presents a version closer to what Jesus actually said" (p 68). Well, that would be a little hard for the Gospel of Thomas to do since recent scholarship has proved it was written about a hundred years after the earlier gospels. Perrin has shown that it derives from the Diatessaron, which would make the dating of the papyrus (about 200 AD) understandable.

But Robinson's not just wrong each and every time he types something about Christianity. He can't even get the basic facts of ancient society right. Here he is again in yet another painful mistake: "It is estimated that in the Roman Empire 10 to 15 percent of the population was literate" (p 63). That's a fact that is hotly debated--as he should know, even for the Roman Empire--but has no relevance to the situation among the Jews, who had been ordered to set up schools and teach basic literacy about 100 years before Christ.

Yet Robinson thinks he has insight that tells him that "the real Jesus was not only in his way otherworldly--he was worlds apart from us" (p 11). Actually, it's Robinson that seems otherworldly, living in a fairy tale land of made up documents and bad scholarship.
The Gospel According to James M. Robinson (A Better Title)  Oct 1, 2006
The Gospel of Jesus is an interesting read. They author, James Robinson, has quite the resume and yet the book lacks solid research. The book grants that Jesus existed but then tries to deny everything that made Him important. The author strives to make scripture support his ideas even though they depend on contorted interpretations of Scripture. Robinson is very involved in the "Sayings Gospel Q", that is the supposed original document that Luke and Matthew took there books from. This "Sayings Gospel Q" is taken from the words that Jesus actually spoke Himself, not things that were said about Him. The problem is that this original document "The Sayings Gospel Q", which Robinson compiled, fits what the author wants it too. If you simply want to take parts of the Bible and say they are true and that others are not, why would you accept any of the Bible as true? There are many claims that Robinson makes like Jesus never claimed to be divine, but a quick look at John chapter 8 shows that Jesus did claim that using the title "I AM" just as God did in Exodus. The problem is that Robinson does not put any stock in the Gospel of John, only Mark and parts of Matthew and Luke. Showing once again that it is easy to make claims about things when you only use the verses that support your thesis and ignore all the others that could undermine your thesis.
The book argues that Jesus was a young guy with no ambition until he was converted by John the Baptist and then took John's message and changed it. There is no explanation given for the miracles of Jesus either. Miracles are talked about in the book but are not explained. There are even miracles in Robinson's Sayings Gospel Q, but they are not explained.
The other overriding theme to this book is that the Biblical Gospels all tell different stories and some get them right and some do not. It is Robinson's belief that the authors of the Gospels changed many of the facts simply borrowed from one another to come up with their own stories. According to Robinson, the Gospels are full of contradictions and those contradictions come from the fact the authors borrowed from each other and embellished their own stories.
The Gospels in fact do not contradict each other. They were each written for a different audience and therefore put different emphasis on different things. A modern example of this would be a news event. Say a car company announces a new type of vehicle, trade publications are going to report the story with a certain view. The New York Times might report the same story, but it will not be written the same way as Car and Driver which will be different again from Consumer Reports. Does that make the story false because there were different accounts of the same story? Of course not. This is the same for the Gospel accounts. There is a very short amount of time that transpired between when Jesus walked the earth and when the Gospels were written, between 30 and 70 years. That is like someone writing about World War II today. There are still enough people around that lived through it to make sure that the facts are accurate. This is the same for the Gospels.
Robinson presents himself as a scholar and has the resume to back it up. The problem is that this book does not approach the subject with subjectivity or adequate documentation.
As far as the resurrection of Jesus, Robinson's main thought is that Jesus did not have a bodily resurrection but it was the resurrection of his teaching within the hearts of his followers. I am not entirely sure what this means, but is seems that this is the way of saying that Jesus was a good person but nothing else, that Jesus was not the Son of God but simply a person worthy of learning from. The problem is that if Jesus was not the Son of God then by his own words he was either a liar or a lunatic. So either we can take Jesus at his word (his whole word), or he is not credible in any respect. This book is not one that I would recommend on any level.
An interesting academic exercise: extra-Biblical-based Christianity  May 4, 2006
What if you took a document that no one has seen, no one has a copy of and may in fact have never actually existed. Then you use that document, giving it priority over other, better documented sources to redefine a major religion. That is essentially what we see in "The Gospel of Jesus", by James M Robinson. Dr Robinson is an expert in the field of early Christian documents, Dead Sea scrolls and Q aka the Sayings Gospel Q. Q is a hypothetical (although quite plausible) source that the writers of Matthew and Luke may have accessed when writing their respective gospels. The idea is basically that material they have in common with Mark came from Mark, but material they have in common with each other but not with Mark came from Q. Like I said... quite plausible.

But that is not what this book is about. Rather, the Dr Robinson makes the assumption that the Saying Gospel Q is real and seemingly that it has been fully reconstructed and then goes on to apply its content to Christian thought. What did Jesus really teach? What was he really like? What was his relationship with John The Baptist? Was he divine? What about the miracles, virgin birth and resurrection?

Finally, there is a short discussion of how the reader should react to this "new" gospel.

This is not a forum for debate so I will only mention a few issues that I have with the presentation of material. The reader should keep in mind that Q is hypothetical, even though Dr Robinson repeatedly refers to it as though he had an original copy on his desk. After four decades of work on it, I am sure it is 'real' enough to him. But should it be quoted and included in endnotes along with the other gospels?

Be aware that Q is given precedence over all other writings. Where Luke or Matthew contain differences from Q+Mark, it is explained away as a later addition inserted to support developing Christian thought.

And, to me, at least, it seems that ideas are introducted that are not supported in the four gospels,Q, or any other document, like the idea the Jesus was a convert of John.

It seems to me that Q is the authors "baby" and he doesn't like any competition. And it be sure, I am not calling his baby 'ugly'.

This book is easy to read, though, not filled with a lot of word studies or technical references. It is simply Dr Robinsons understanding of the earliest days of the faith, his "Authentic Teaching of Jesus". Some people will find the ideas here agreeable with their beliefs while others will find Robinsons gospel to be severly watered-down. Just read it with your eyes and mind open.

Jesus the Unitarian  Apr 17, 2006
This is a book that is very strongly influenced by the Jesus Seminar and the Gospel of Thomas. Written in a simplified manner, it discusses the 'true mission' of Jesus, drawing on the 'Q' document as a gospel. He discusses various aspects of Jesus, such as Jesus was probably illiterate, Paul was more learned than Jesus because he drew on the OT & greek writers more than he did, the miracles are wrongly emphasized to make theological points, son of man REALLY should be son of humanity (human being), Nazareth in Aramaic is really Nazara, etc. But despite this latest disputed view of the gospel taken as objectivity, he draws some good distinctions about the message of Jesus verses the story about Jesus. He just does this so, SO slowly, unraveling the myth of Jesus to get to how his message can impact your life, that I almost abandoned the book. Perhaps not to offend the potential believer reading his book? The author knows this because in the last chapter he begins with "First let me express appreciation to those of you who have gotten this far - you are really here! Not everyone made it - you are the hardy ones."

The author tries to strike a balance between the evangical Christian and the agostic secular Christian in his dissection of Jesus. This made me feel at times like...does he know who he is writing for? I get by the end the author must be a Unitarian, and Jesus was one too!

Because the Jesus Seminar without even mentioning it, had a strong impact on the book and it is taken as definative, I feel a bit deceived. For example the author tosses out at one point that the gospel writers drew inspiration from the OT for the Jesus narratives, yet does not elaborate on the point as to why he thinks that is? The idea vanishes as quickly as it appeared. This and other points stick out when reading it, so it spoiled the few gems of the work. For me, just reading the introduction (a summary of jesus' message) would have been sufficient.

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