No one can deny the importance of Jesus in world history, but more attention is paid to his influence as a religious figure than to his historical personage. Distinguishing between what we know about Jesus using historical research and mere inferences, this book attempts to present all aspects of his life and thought, including his activities, his teaching, his conflicts with others, and his death. Includes a preliminary sketch of Jesus's life and times; a brief account of the politics in first-century Palestine; a few points about Judaism; and the difficulties inherent in source material. 337pp.
What, if anything, can be known with certainty about the life and work of a first-century itinerant preacher named Jesus of Nazareth? Since the 19th century, scholars have attempted to answer that question; and out of their studies, Jesus has emerged variously as a Cynic philosopher (Crossan), a ``marginal Jew'' (Maier), an apocalyptic preacher (Schweitzer), a teacher (Robbins) and a magician (Smith). Sanders (Jesus and Judaism) portrays Jesus as a miracle worker and eschatological prophet whose deeds point to a coming Kingdom of God where good will reign over evil. Sanders's book is a masterful historical reconstruction of the political, social and theological context of the life of the enigmatic Nazarene. The first half of the book provides a detached examination of late Judaism and the Hellenic world into which Jesus came, as well as an exploration of the authenticity of the gospel accounts of Jesus's life. Following such introductory matters, Sanders recounts the gospel narratives in an attempt to separate myth from history and to determine how much we can actually ``know about the historical figure of Jesus.'' The result is a thorough, accessible and conservative study that should have a wider appeal than other recent work on the historical Jesus. (Sept.)