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A full table of contents 

Who on Earth was Jesus?  is divided into three parts.

The first part, SOURCES, begins by setting out the ‘road map’ for the book’s journey, then tells the story of the quest up to modern times, before setting out over four chapters a comprehensive list, with analysis, of the textual sources available to scholars – Biblical, non-Biblical, Jewish and secular. The main text is punctuated by ‘cameos’ – short essays on such subjects as The invention of the narrative gospel, Q revealed, ‘pious forgeries’, Essenes and the Jesus movement, and Did Jesus have a love life?

The second part, INTERPRETATIONS, explains over five chapters how different schools of modern critical scholarship have interpreted the sources to discover or reconstruct a plausible historical Jesus. Beginning with the ‘Jesus Seminar’ group of scholars, who find a non-apocalyptic Jesus (a Jesus who did not prophecy imminent divine intervention to bring the world as we know it to a sudden catastrophic end), it moves on to their critics who do see Jesus as an End-Time prophet.

 

 Further chapters look at the ‘Jewish Jesus’, and at some of the more sceptical scholarship that differs from the mainstream, or positions Jesus in myth and legend rather than history. There are more cameos, including key excerpts from the scholars under discussion, and Jesus, the prostitute’s fee and the High Priest’s privy

Part three, CONSEQUENCES, summarises what most mainstream scholars agree on, and what disagreements remain unresolved. A final chapter takes a fresh look at the origins of the notion of an apocalyptic End Time, and makes a passionate argument for the importance in our own time of determining whether the historical Jesus was an apocalyptic doomster or a utopian visionary.

The full Table of Contents is as follows:

Foreword by Richard Holloway (click on RICHARD HOLLOWAY’S FOREWORD to read]

Author’s Preface

Part I: Sources

CHAPTER 1. WHY SEARCH FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS?

The road map

Seeking a pure Jesus and finding a congenial one

            Cameo: The quest for purity and truth

CHAPTER 2. THE LONG SEARCH: QUESTING OLD AND NEW

1 Gospel harmonies

2. A kosher Jesus

3. A Jesus within

4. A rationalized Jesus

5. A humanist Jesus

6. Dumps in the sands

7. The end of the ‘Old Quest’

8. Between quests

9. Back on the trail

            Notes to Chapter 2

 

CHAPTER 3. THE GAP

Chinese whispers: the oral tradition

Jesus reconstructed, or Jesus remembered?

            Notes to Chapter 3

 

CHAPTER 4. GOSPEL TRUTH

1. Paul’s letters

2. The non-Pauline letters

3. The biblical gospels

            Cameo: The invention of the narrative gospel (click on EXTRACTS to read)

 

Mark

            Cameo: Sex, lies and fraud in Secret Mark

Matthew

Luke

John

            Cameo: Jews? Israelites? Judeans?

            Notes to Chapter 4

 

CHAPTER 5. JESUS BEFORE CHRISTIANITY

           

1. Q, M and L

            Cameo: Q revealed

2. Thomas

            Cameo: Thomas without doubts

3. Signs

4. The Didache

5.  Peter: the first passion story?

            Cameo: ‘In the know’:  Gnosticism and the gospel of Thomas

            Notes to Chapter 5

 

CHAPTER 6. THE UNOFFICIAL FACES OF JESUS

 

            Digression 1: the game of the name

            Digression 2: “pious forgeries”

1. Buried treasure: the Nag Hammadi hoard

The Secret Book of James

The Dialogue of the Savior

The Gospel of Philip

            Cameo: Did Jesus have a love life?

2.  Finds before and after Nag Hammadi

The Gospel of Mary

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas

The Infancy Gospel of James

The Gospel of Judas

3.  Fragments

4. Jewish-Christian and other gospels

5. More buried treasure: the Dead Sea Scrolls

            Cameo: Essenes and the Jesus movement. Any connection?

6. Early Jewish references to Jesus

‘Yeshu the Nazarene’

Jesus written in stone

7. Roman references to Jesus

The Mara letter

Pliny the Younger, Tacitus and Seutonius

Josephus

8. Postscript: another Jesus?

            Notes to Chapter 6

 

Part II. Interpretations

 

CHAPTER 7. THE JESUS SEMINAR

 

            Cameo: Robert Funk on “The Aim of the Quest”

1. The method: beads and ballots

2. Rules of written evidence

3. Rules of oral evidence

4. What did Jesus really say?

            Cameo: The Red and Pink Jesus

5. What did Jesus really do?

6. Jesus and Apocalypse

7. The Seminar and its critics

            Westar as “destroyers of Christianity”

            James Dunn: What the Seminar missed

            Thomas Altizer: No Christ, no passion

            Liberal apostasy or group experiment?

            Notes to Chapter 7

 

CHAPTER 8. DIVERSITY IN UNITY: A RANGE OF JESUS SEMINAR PORTRAITS

 

1. Robert W Funk’s Jesus as stand-up comic

            Cameo: Funk on “Demoting Jesus”

2. Bernard Brandon Scott’s Jesus as visionary poet

3. John Dominic Crossan’s Jesus as social revolutionary

            Cameo: Crossan on Jesus as “permanent performance”

4. Marcus Borg’s Jesus as revolutionary mystic

            Cameo: Borg on “ecstatic religious experience”

5. A less congenial Jesus

            (i) Kathleen Corley’s Jesus: “A foundation myth for Christian feminism”

            (ii) Gerd Ludemann’s Jesus who got it wrong

6. Jesus and “The Powers that Be”

            (i) Roy W Hoover: Q’s Jesus “as good as it gets”

            (ii) Walter Wink’s non-violent Jesus

            Notes to Chapter 8

 

CHAPTER 9. JESUS AS PROPHET OF THE APOCALYPSE

 

1. E P Sanders: Jesus and the end of history

2. John P Meier: Jesus as mentor, message-bringer and miracle-maker

3. N T Wright: Jesus as son of Israel’s god

            Cameo: Wright on Jesus as embodiment of the kingdom

4. Joseph Ratzinger: a Pope’s Jesus

            Notes for Chapter 9

 

CHAPTER 10. A VERY JEWISH JESUS

 

1. Geza Vermes: Jesus as charismatic holy man

            (i) Galilee in the age of Jesus

            (ii) Popular religion in the age of Jesus

            (iii) Models of charismatic holy men in the age of Jesus

            Cameo: The Mishnah and the Talmud

            Cameo: Vermes’ Jesus as “highest and holiest”

2. Hyam Maccoby: Jesus the Pharisee

            Cameo: Jesus, the prostitute’s fee and the High Priest’s privy: a dirty joke

3. Robert Eisenman: Jesus the brother of James

            Notes to Chapter 10

 

CHAPTER 11. HISTORY, MYSTERY AND MYTH: AN IRRETRIEVABLE JESUS

 

1. William Wrede’s Jesus as Mark’s own creation

2. Alvar Ellegard’s Jesus one hundred years before Christ

3. G.A.Wells: Jesus as myth and legend

4. The gospel according to Mack

            Notes to Chapter 11

 

Part III. Consequences

 

CHAPTER 12. REDS AND BLACKS

 

1. Bare bones

2. Not proven

3.The problem of Apocalypse (again)

            Pro-apocalyptic: waiting for God to act

            Anti-apocalyptic: waiting for us to act

            Both/and: God and humanity act together

            Notes to Chapter 12

 

CHAPTER 13. WHICH JESUS?

 

            The “Making Wonderful Time

            “Showers of blessing”

            “The vision of the Time of the End”

            The dream of “the Day of the Lord”

            Payback time

            “The Biggest Evil around”

            “The utopia that sets history in motion” (click on EXTRACTS to read)

            Notes to Chapter 13

 

Bibliography

 

Index

‘If you know anything about David Boulton you will know how lightly he wears his erudition, and with what wit.’ ANNE ASHWORTH, Editor, ‘The Universalist’

 


 

© David Boulton