Item description for This Hebrew Lord by John Shelby Spong...
Overview Newly revised by its bestselling author, this groundbreaking classic reveals the Jesus "behind the language of myth, magic, and superstition". Spong illuminates the "figure who stands at the center of all that the Christian Church is" by exploring Jesus under the light of the Hebrew tradition into which he was born.
Publishers Description In This Study I Found A Lord, a center for my being. Behind the supernatural framework of the first century...I discover a life I wanted to know; a life that possessed a power I wanted to possess; a freedom, a wholeness for which I had yearned for years."Illuminating the "figure who stands at the center of all the Christian Church is," John Shelby Spong explores Jesus under the light of the Hebrew tradition into which he was born. Candid, personal, and soundly argued, this is Spong's spiritual and intellectual pilgrimaged to the Christ he discovered in Jesus of Nazareth.
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John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000. As a visiting lecturer at Harvard and at universities and churches throughout the English-speaking world, he is one of the leading spokespersons for liberal Christianity. His books include Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, Jesus for the Non-Religious, A New Christianity for a New World, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Why Christianity Must Change or Die and his autobiography, Here I Stand. He has initiated landmark discussions of controversies within the church and has become an outspoken advocate for change.
John Shelby Spong currently resides in Newark, in the state of New Jersey. John Shelby Spong was born in 1931.
Reviews - What do customers think about This Hebrew Lord?
Modern and ancient world views Jun 15, 2005
Spong aims to remove the layers of church varnish and restore the real Hebrew Jesus. Worthy aims but Spong utterly fails and fails in a dishonest fashion.
His removal of church varnish primarily consists of asserting a modern, liberal view of Jesus, which Spong states to be his "personal" one. The fact that it is modern or personal neither makes it wrong or right. But, informed critique of church dogma and doctrine is almost entirely lacking.
Instead, Spong relies on a counter-point between traditional church teachings and what he claims to be the authentic, Hebrew Jesus.
In this he reflects some trends in New Testament studies and, conveniently finds the authentic Hebrew Jesus attunes to his (Spong's) modern sensibilities.
One might smell a rat and, indeed, it is here that Spong's argument becomes dishonest. His method essentially is to discard miracles and all that inconvenent stuff and emphasise "love" as the real Jesus. But Spong is performing no more than a conjuring trick.
If we are to place Jesus in context then we must do more than project some 20th/21st century mindset and nice words back onto the 1stC. Hebrew context demands an understanding of the tenach (Old Testament) and how Jesus (Yeshuah) saw himself in relation to them.
If one bothers to understand the context properly (which Spong does not), then it becomes clear that Yeshuah, even from his first quoted words as a child in the temple and His first miracle of healing the lepers (which did not occur according to Spong), saw and presented Himself as the Messiah. The Messiah in the tenach is to heal the breach of covenant between the Lord and Israel.
Concepts such as peace and love (in terms of the Hebrew tenach, not exposition of Greek words in the N.T.) can only be understood in terms of covenant. Peace and love only occur within covenant relationship. Actiosn that break covenant are, by definition, violence. This is quite different from the modern mind set and usage of these terms. Covenant, and obedience (about which Yeshuah spoke often) is the yardstick.
That is why so many at the time found encounter with Yeshuah disconcerting. When we are presented with truth as the yardstick, our vain imaginings are challenged. Even John the Baptist had to be told not to be offended by Yeshuah.
What Spong preaches is conveniently absent of any yardstick beyond internal feelings and a vague do-goodism. No awkward challenge here. Covenant is not only ignored but cast aside. Thus, in terms of the very perspective that Yeshuah moved within and teaches, Spong is preaching violence yet calls it love and, what is worse, calls it authentic.
If you are searching for the authentic Jesus then Spong does not answer your search and will mislead you whilst pandering to your sensibilities.
A Message Full Of Hope Feb 29, 2004
In THIS HEBREW LORD Spong gives us a glimpse of Jesus of Nazareth and the example he revealed of a life being fully lived and shared. In order to appreciate Jesus, Spong believes it is necassary to look at him through first century Hebrew eyes. From this vantage point the meaning of spiritual is to be alive to both God and the world. To have faith is to have the courage to enter life where one is also able to find God. To the Hebrew in the time of Jesus there is no separation between God and the world as there is in Greek philosophy.
The author shows us a few Hebrew images from the Bible to help us observe Jesus in this new light. They are Jesus as a new Moses and new Elijah as well as the suffering servant from Second Isaiah.
Spong also discusses certain words attributed to Jesus in the fourth gospel which allow us to see Jesus more completely. These words refer to Jesus as Light, Life, Resurrection and the Bread of Life. In this gospel Jesus is given what the author refers to as "Christpower."
Spong provides a hopeful message for anyone who is having trouble relating to traditional Christianity but is still searching for meaning in religion. He writes with clarity and the text is filled with examples from his own personal quest for the truth.
Discover the fake Jesus you always wanted to believe in. Jun 24, 2003
I confess-- I have something in common with most of the Rt. Rev. Spong's fans. Like them, I've read very little of what he's written. (For example, "Can A Bishop Be Wrong" has two five-star reviews from Spong fans who are under the impression that Spong wrote this book-- apparently, they feel comfortable praising Spong's work sight-unseen). Don't get me wrong. I've tried to read Spong for a seminary class. But, alas, the Rt. Rev. S. is a ghastly writer. After a while, the charms of Spong's writing-- his relentless self-congratulation, his presenting of hackneyed 19th-century pop-biblical-criticism as his own daring innovation, his use of the passive voice to hide sweeping and questionable assertions ("...there is surprise at how insignificant were the theological issues dividing the two sides [of the Reformation]"), his utter lack of a sense of humor, his unforgivably poor skill with words-- begin to pall. I haven't yet met someone who can read an entire chapter of Spong at one sitting.
That's where another book comes in handy- "Can a Bishop Be Wrong?". The authors don't exhaustively categorize the intellectual sins of the Rt. Rev. Spong-- such a task could never be worth the trees killed. But they provide a good survey of his looking-glass kingdom. "Can A Bishop Be Wrong" isn't a work of Christian apologetics, because it doesn't have to be. Spong's main contention-- the foundation of all his work-- is his claim that no intelligent person of the twentieth century can be an orthodox Christian. To respond, one doesn't have to prove Christianity-- one just has to provide a counterexample. This book categorizes his errors and logical lapses with admirable thoroughness. Not an exhaustive thoroughness, to be sure, but sufficient to the silly task at hand.
This book has its flaws. As others have noted, it is a collection of essays, and they repeat some of the same points over and over. The authors sometimes let Spong goad them into anger. And they don't argue much against Spong's theological outlook-- but since Spong's outlook is just rehashed nineteenth-century "modernism", you can find plenty of orthodox arguments against heavier intellectual forces than Spong. (Try Chesterton's _The_Everlasting_Man_, for starters.)
This book has a limited market. Spong's fans will not be moved by what they read here, if they were inclined to try reading it. But to the traditional theist of whatever religion, who wonders whether he ought to read Spong and find out what all the fuss is about, this book offers a strong and well-reasoned answer: "Nope."
This unrecognizable Lord Jul 25, 2002
Unfortunately, Episcopal Bishop Spong's view of being "Hebrew" is probably unrecognizable to Jews or to anyone who doesn't share Spong's specific intellectual vision of 1st century Palestine. Unfortunately also, New Testament studies abound with the writings of people who have quirky visions of 1st century Palestine.
No doubt this book reflects Spong's own questions and spiritual search. I have a great deal of doubt whether it offers a *successful* search for "the authentic Jesus".
Excellent book with a somewhat unique view on Jesus Mar 26, 2002
I will say right off that I write this review pretty much as an atheist. I certainly do not believe in much of what the Christian Scriptures have to say regarding miracles. I want to get that out so that any bias I have might be obvious.
That said, I think this is an excellent book. Spong writes very well, in a conversational and engaging style. You never feel you are being preached to and you have no doubt at all of this man's intelligence in his writing. Regarding the book, it seems to be showing you Spong's view of Jesus that he has come to accept in order to be an intellectually fulfilled person in this day and age and yet still be a spiritual one. Is this a redefinition of Jesus? To many, that is how it will be perceived. I think to Spong he feels that his view of Jesus is one that actually gets back to what Jesus represented and how the early writers (such as the Gospel writers) were actually representing him. To that end, I would say that Spong does a great job convincing me of the veracity of his vision in the sense that he presents a wonderful life philosophy. The book would do nothing to convince me to believe in the veracity of Jesus, per se, except in so far that one might call this life philosophy by "the Christ". Spong manages to do this, in some fashion, without believing in all the miracle stories of the Bible. At least I feel this to be the case. After reading the book I am not exactly sure where Spong stands on all the issues regarding Jesus' life (he refers you to his later books, which I will definitely read now) but I get the impression that he seems to feel Jesus was certainly more man than some sort of incarnation of the Hebrew Yahweh.
Regarding the book content itself, I like the idea of seeing Jesus through Hebrew eyes. I think that really was a mainstay of the book because you always have to look at people from the past in terms of what they represented in their cultural milieu. Spong makes a good case about the gospel writers (some of them, anyway) being influenced by Second Isaiah. That was interesting to me as I had never considered that. However, for myself, I disagreed (tentatively) with some of Spong's conclusions regarding how the gospel writers wrote. His interpretation of that, however, is definitely a good one and worthy of study. For myself, I do not think the gospel writers were as sophisticated as Spong seems to give them credit for but, then again, he does at least present the tendrils of a good case in that regard. I also do not feel that this book takes into account some of the notions that Jesus was part of the Zealots, which would undermine some of what Spong has to say.
However, one has to remember that this book is not meant to be a treatise on scholarship regarding the actual life of Jesus. So if one expects it to succeed in that realm, one would be missing the point of the book. The book is the story of how one man has looked at a definition of Jesus that he believes is relevant to the twentieth and twenty-first century. I highly recommend this book, particularly to those like myself who have little faith in religion. This book will probably not make you a believer but it will make you realize that it is possible to be very intellectual, very engaging, very articulate, as well as being very spiritual. I think that even if you abstract out the religious elements of Spong's book, the main theme still holds together. That is quite an accomplishment and makes it, in my opinion, well worth the read.