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The First Christian: Universal Truth in the Teachings of Jesus [Paperback]

By Paul F. M. Zahl (Author)
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Item Number 144018  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   148
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.01" Width: 5.98" Height: 0.51"
Weight:   0.43 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2003
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802821103  
EAN  9780802821102  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In this book Paul Zahl seeks a broader understanding of the life and teachings of Jesus. What was it within his message that burst his first-century Jewish context? What was creative, fresh, and universal about his message? What did Jesus maintain, within his own setting and period, that is still true and applicable today? In pursuing these questions, Zahl swims against the current of modern scholarship, arguing that Jesus was more "Christian" than "Jewish." Jesus' teaching concerning the kingdom of God is replete with Christian perspectives on human nature and salvation, and his insights into original sin and grace are closer to core Christianity than much recent literature acknowledges. Drawing from both Jewish and Christian thinkers, Zahl shows Jesus to be a saving figure, a christological figure, even a radically Protestant figure. Zahl also brings his fresh perspective into present-day focus by showing how Jesus' dynamic teachings still have worldwide impact. Zahl writes both as a highly trained theologian and as a pastor who recognizes that scholarship stands in the service of discipleship. In The First Christian he renders the contemporary "quest for the historical Jesus" not only accessible but also relevant to the life of faith. Students of the Bible and general readers alike will be enriched by his compelling portrait of a Christian, universal Jesus.

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More About Paul F. M. Zahl

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Paul F.M. Zahl lives in Florida with his wife Mary. He is the author of several books, including "Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life" (2007), and the voice of "PZ's Podcast"

Paul F. M. Zahl currently resides in the state of Alabama.

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Product Categories
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Back to the drawingboard  Mar 16, 2006
I was eager to read this book only to find it a terrible dissapointment. One would think that a 'scholar' such as he would have at least a basic understanding of the Hebraic roots of Judeo-Christianity.
It was obvious that he clearly was clueless to the known Messianic signs spoken of in the Gospels. He is also clueless to the Pharisidical Judaism of the time..not comprehending that all of Christ's teachings were completely in keeping with true Judaism. All of which can be found in contemporary Rabbinical teachings of His time. This book, which some unfortunate readers will swallow as truth will only continue to propagate a backward understanding of the gospels.
Like it or not..the New Testament writings are Hebraic and explain what fulfilled Judaism is. Those who need to divorce Judaism from Christianity are offering a church which is already confused, just more confusion. It is through studying the Hebraic roots that we even begin to understand the 'difficult' sayings of our Lord; 'fullfillment of the Law', binding and loosing (the Law)..etc as well as the parables. The delivering of the deaf mute..was a Messianic sign, because the Rabbi's knew that 'they' had to ask the said demon its name but He did not. Lazerus's resurrection was a Messianic sign because the Rabbi's believed that anyone could come back to life during the first 'three' days after death. Cleansing of a leper was Messainic sign because the Rabbi's understood that it was a 'divine' punishment, that only God could lift. How else can we link Isa 53 with the 'stripes' He was to received as part of fulfilling the punishment the Law required for transgression, and yet 'minus one'. Had our Lord transgressed the Law, then the Jews themselves could have legally killed Him. Remember Paul (Saul)? He also does not understand John and his huge part in the whole picture, in that the Kingdom 'began' with John. He was the 'breachmaker' as fortold in prophecy. This is Hebraic roots 101.
People, please study the Hebraic roots of Christianity and do not waste your time with this book. The fact that he keeps defending his position as 'not' anti-semetic, should give you a clue.
Skip to the middle, if you must  Jun 13, 2005
Zahl, true to the tradition of German theological scholarship, employs the first chapters of his book as response to questions raised by both his predecessors and his successors. Though essential to understanding the work within the matrix of "Historical Jesus" scholarship, such methodology can, for non-academic readers, seem dreadfully tedious.

Complexity notwithstanding, this book is an essential read. If you find the first chapters tiresome, skip them. Once you understand the intricacy of the claims Zahl is advancing and refuting, you may choose to re-read the introductory chapters for advice on where to look for counter-argumentation.
Picking a (good) fight.  Mar 25, 2005
Given an unfair choice between understanding Jesus as a first century Jew, or Jesus as a Christian, Paul F. M. Zahl, dean of the Cathedral of the Advent (Episcopal), would probably choose Jesus as the original, "first" Christian. He suggests as much in the title of this provocative short work.

Zahl's small but rich book deals with the fundamental questions surrounding the relationship of Christianity to its mother faith, Judaism, and more specifically, the relation of Jesus of Nazareth to first century Judaism. Zahl attempts to provide a corrective to what he sees as the prevailing re-judaizing and re-culturation of the founder of the Christian faith, Jesus of Nazareth. This tendency, he believes, has been motivated by a shared Christian "Holocaust guilt" and results in a contextualized second-century historical figure that is inadequate to the realities of the unique claims of both the founder and the faith or Christianity.

Zahl claims that "what has occurred within wide sectors of Christian self-understanding since 1945 has been so to detach the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith that it has become hard to say whether the Christ whom Christians worship is the same as the rabbi Jesus who taught and lived in a specific time and place." (p. 5). The result of this has been the tendency to understand Christianity as a variant of first-century Judaism, not much different in substance from the norms of Jewish ethical teachings and monotheistic belief. In the end, the risk is, as Zahl sees it, that Christianity becomes "a form of Judaism for non-Jews" (p. 5).

The corrective for this inaccurate understanding of Christianity is to understand its founder, Jesus of Nazareth, as uniquely Christian and discontinuous with his contemporary Second Temple Judaism. It is this discontinuity, claims Zahl, that becomes the centrifugal force of the movement that ultimately became the Christian church. As such, Zahl emphasizes that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed, "the first Christian" who was at the center of this centrifugal dynamic.

Zahl is not unaware, nor insensitive, to the potential discomfort that a position of choosing to understand and interpret Jesus as uniquely and overtly Christian over his ethnicity may cause. He handles those objections not only through acknowledging the risk involved, but more importantly, through the courageous commitment to theological and scholarly discipline.

The early chapters of the book contain the groundwork for the treatment of Jesus as the first Christian. They include a survey of the search for the historical Jesus movements, a responsible and balanced treatment of Jesus as a first century Jew and as a religious figure who shaped a unique eschatology that led, naturally, to a discontinuity with the Jewish religion of his time. The heart of Zahl's arguments is found in the subsequent chapters titled, "Jesus the Christian" and "The Centrifugal Force of Jesus the Christian."

This is a readable but responsible treatment of an important, often complex, subject. Zahl provides a stellar example of responsible scholarship and theological thinking.

Creative, compassionate, shocking - like the first Christian  Jan 3, 2005
A bold and timely application of innovative research to the human condition:

Preface. This book defies the traditional categories of New Testament studies and systematic theology.
Introduction. Zahl hopes his presentation of Jesus' message will help heal racial and ethnic divisions.
Chapter 1. Search #1 for the historical Jesus failed because it sought the rationalistic Jesus of its own time. Search #2 ended with a Jesus consumed with an eschatology (theology of the end) that is as alien to modern mankind as to traditional Christianity. With the immense human suffering of the 20th century, Search #3 found hope in his eschatology. Search #4 ignored the results of Search #3 to find the Judaistic Jesus that seemed to sever the root of past anti-Semitism. Zahl sees his work as springing from Search #3.
Chapter 2. Obviously, Jesus was a first-century Jew who ministered almost exclusively to Jews in the context of his culture.
Chapter 3. The difference between the eschatology of John the Baptist and that of Jesus gave rise to Christian compassion.
Chapter 4. Five radical themes of Jesus' teaching originated from his unique eschatology: 1. repentance of the whole person, not just of specific sins; 2. exorcisms that announced the coming of the kingdom of God; 3. opposition to the contemporary interpretation of the law of Moses; 4. inner purity; 5. association with sinners.
Chapter 5. Jesus' teaching on the inability of the human heart to overcome its own depravity is supported empirically, and yet psychologically that idea cannot be accepted without the hope of salvation from above.

There are some minor problems that future revisions could remedy. In some places, the book could have been improved by better editing, e.g., "former" and "latter" should have been transposed in the last sentence of the first paragraph of p. 41. Controversial statements, e.g., that the Council of Trent in effect repudiated Augustinianism, are sometimes made without supporting arguments. References provided to arguments deemed beyond the scope of this short book would help some readers.
Read Other works  Jan 2, 2005
Try reading 'The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man' for some true scholarship and unbiased analysis of the Jesus myth.

Maybe too reality based for some of you.

Write your own review about The First Christian: Universal Truth in the Teachings of Jesus

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