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The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images [Paperback]

By John Dominic Crossan (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   199
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.66" Width: 5.38" Height: 0.51"
Weight:   0.59 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2008
Publisher   Wipf & Stock Publishers
ISBN  1556358334  
EAN  9781556358333  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Outline ReviewJohn Dominic Crossan's collection provides readers with a fresh look at the central lessons of Christianity's great teacher in his depictions of the "historical Jesus ... in both his vision and program." His excellent introduction puts forth the radical thesis that Jesus is best understood as a social reformer, a poor Jew in an occupied country who stressed social equality as much as or more than individual salvation. Attempting to see Christ not through 20th-century eyes but in the social, political, and economic context in which he lived and taught, Crossan points out that for the first 300 years after his crucifixion what was emphasized was not Jesus' divinity but his concern for communal empowerment. The picture that emerges is of a political and social rebel, a fearless champion to the poor and dispossessed.

Crossan's translations of Christ's sayings gathered from the four canonical gospels and the Gospel of Thomas are paradoxically both new and familiar, and their newness helps readers break outside their preconceived ideas of what they may consider to be "essential" about the revolutionary Galilean's message. Renderings such as "the somebodies will be nobodies and the nobodies will be somebodies" give well-known biblical verses renewed impact. Each saying stands alone and is meant to be read like poetry or dialectical argument, to be savored and enjoyed for its simultaneous simplicity and power. Scattered throughout the text are images of Jesus in Pre-Constantinian Christian reliefs and frescoes. Crossan explains that their emphasis on Jesus' concern with open healing and shared eating are further evidence of his radical social commitment. Those who are not afraid to challenge their assumptions about Jesus' teachings will find much of value in this volume. --Uma Kukathas

Product Description
The author translates Jesus's sayings showing him to be a teacher who lived his own radical message that all are equal before God. The portrait shows that he was remembered by the first Christians not as God, but as a revolutionary leader and healer.

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More About John Dominic Crossan

John Dominic Crossan John Dominic Crossan is the author of The Historical Jesus (T&T Clark, 1991). He chairs the Historical Jesus section of the Society of Biblical Literature. Luke Timothy Johnson is Woodruff Professor of New Testament at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. The author of a number of best-selling books, he is also editor of the Anchor Study Bible. Werner H. Kelber is Turner Professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University.

John Dominic Crossan currently resides in Clermont, in the state of Florida.

John Dominic Crossan has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Biblical Scholarship in North America
  2. Discovering the Last Words of Jesus
  3. Eagle Books
  4. Princeton Readings in Religions (Paperback)

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An interesting work  Apr 6, 2008
Crossan's re-tooling of some of Christ's most famous utterances is welcome; it is a rare work which allows us to "re-see" the Gospel teachings.

I would like to see more scholarship in addition to the sayings, but the absence doesn't detract much from the book as a whole.
The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earlist Images  Jun 8, 2006
Written in a style more easily understood than the Nag Hammadi Library translation.

Coming to an art gallery near you :)
Bizarro Jesus  Jun 5, 2006
I've no doubt that John Dominic Crossan will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before many who see themselves as good Christians; anyone who wrestles with Christ as much as he deserves a free pass. But it won't be on the strength of his theology.

In this slim book, Crossan asks us to focus on Jesus's "program", which included a healthy dose of criticism of the current world order. Crossan goes as far as to re-translate (I would suggest "rewrite") a number of Jesus's sayings to fit his thesis. "The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" becomes "Only humans are homeless"; "Blessed are the poor" becomes "Only the destitute are blameless." Crossan's idea is to deliberately heighten the "kingdom" aspects of Christ's sayings, stripping away the sugary accretions of later ages for the pith he imagines were Christ's original words.

There is value to this exercise. But also danger. The kingdom that Christ proclaimed is not completely congruent with the idea of heaven that many Christians accept. But to equate it with a here-and-now critique of 1st century economics seems equally absurd. Crossan also denies the apocalyptic aspects of Christ's preaching in favor of a "sapiential" eschatology that focuses on the presence of the Kingdom in the present. Yet one need not hold a doctorate in theology to recall the many instances when Christ spoke of an ultimate time of final judgment. Crossan ignores these sayings.

"The Essential Jesus" contains a couple dozen images of Christ from the early centuries of Christianity, which Crossan deploys to make his case that Jesus's "program" was centered on healing and meal commensality. These black-and-white images are of middling quality and spread throughout the book, but explained in a hard-to-find appendix in the back of the book. The middle section contains Crossan's rewritten versions of Jesus's sayings, one to a page, making the slim volume even leaner. Crossan's explanations for these sayings is also found in the back, which makes reading the book tedious and confusing.

Still, there's (accidental) value in the book. By focusing so much on the kingdom, Crossan brings attention to an all-but-neglected aspect of Jesus's teaching. And his interpretation of Christ's parables provide insights into their meaning that don't always come from more conventional writers. To see a mustard plant as an aggressive and uncontrollable weed gives new insights into what Jesus was talking about when he compared the Kingdom to a seed of that plant.

In the old Superman comics, the Man of Steel visited a strange planet where a lived "bizarro" version of himself. Bizarro Superman was strange inversion of the real Superman -- his face was bleached and craggy and his speech was brain-damaged. The Jesus that Crossan presents is just as strange, representing an extreme edge of the fully-limned (if difficult to understand) portrait of the Jesus of the Gospels. It's sad that a man of Crossan's obvious intellect and passion goes to such lengths to fashion a Christ that is so evidently made in his own image.
Crossan's Jesus is NOT My Jesus  Mar 31, 2005
This book collects a tiny selection of words purportedly spoken by Jesus while he was on earth. As with other books by members of the Jesus Seminar, Crossan is terribly narrow in his selection methods. This is, of course, done in order to fit the Jesus presented in the Canonical Gospels into the predefined mold of a social revolutionary that Crossan already established beforehand. The problem with this Jesus is that he is terribly unoffensive and uncontroversial - even for a social revolutionary who never claimed to be God-incarnate! Therefore, if this was what Jesus was like, it's hard to imagine why anyone would want to subject him to the worst forms of torture, humiliation and finally the violent death of crucifixion in the first place. In fact, if Crossan's Jesus was the real Jesus, the miracle would not be his supposed resurrection - it would be this: that people 2,000 years later would still be bothered to study the life of a totally uncontroversial wimp who is far less offensive than the average episode of "The Simpsons"!

Thankfully, Crossan's Jesus is NOT the real Jesus... and certainly not MY Jesus.
What is essential?  May 11, 2003
It is hard to be objective about a text such as this, being a Christian myself. In trying to be objective, I keep finding things that are not here that I would consider essential.

John Dominic Crossan, a former Roman Catholic priest turned academic 'faithful sceptic', has been a member of the Jesus Seminar since its beginning. He has written extensively on the life of Jesus, public perceptions of Jesus past and present, and now this slim volume that is a part of the Essentials series (see my other reviews; titles such as the Essential Kabbalah).

As a guide for meditation and contemplation, this volume works very well. It introduces the reader to many of the statements by and about Jesus, as newly translated by Crossan. The reader must be careful here, however, to be open to the new translations with a critical and discerning eye. Crossan gives and example of how he translates:

'I seek to be at the same time minimal and poetic. For example, the twenty-one words of Luke 9:58 and Matthew 8:20 are verbatim the same in Greek. They are translated in the older and newer Revised Standard Versions with twenty-one words as, respectively:

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.

My own translation [operating within principles he explains, largely those of minimal and poetic] is this (with fourteen words):

Every fox has a den
Every bird has a nest

Only humans are homeless.'

This is a fascinating view and reframing of a traditional text, but is it in fact true to the meaning of the Gospel? Each reader must decide that individually.

The concerns about translation and limitation aside, this is a wonderful collection with which to meditate and get a sense of the spirit of Christianity. Crossan has a brief essay of historical introduction and translation principles, but, by and large, lets the texts speak for themselves, accompanied by artwork taken from the first few centuries of Christianity (stone, painting, etc.).

For instance, no. 33:

'The Kingdom of God is like this:
A fisherman drew his full net from the sea
Among the many small fish was a single large one
He grabbed hold of it and threw back all the rest
(But how is the Kingdom of God like that?)'

This piece faces a picture of a communal meal, a typical eating scene taken from the catacombs, a festive meal with joyful people.

Crossan often asks inviting the reader (as the final question in the example above indicates) to really reflect on what has been said, rather than leaving it there as valid and true, but unexamined.

Crossan also provides notes on the texts and the artwork to satisfy the academically inclined. I find that some days I want to use these, and other days just want the texts themselves to speak to me.

This is a very down-to-earth book. It does not get into high Christological issues, but rather looks back to an early church view when Jesus was remembered more as a revolutionary healer and leader (a view that many modern scholars attempt to support today). It is a challenge to look past Crossan's bias, however, as I want so much for the Jesus I've come to know to be the one upon which I meditate. And perhaps that also reveals the true value of the book--to help break down preconceptions so as to experience the spirit anew.

A good use for any book, of any spirituality.


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