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Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews


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Paula Fredriksen is the Aurelio Professor of Scripture at Boston University.


These two books offer an enormous contrast. While Fredriksen provides a balanced, carefully reasoned, scholarly study of the historical Jesus, Ellegard's conclusions can only be described as preposterous. Ellegard (formerly dean, Univ. of G”teburg, Sweden) is clearly familiar with some mainline biblical scholarship, but he always opts for the minority view and stretches it beyond reason. For example, he believes that the Gospels were written in the second century C.E. and traces the origin of Christianity to "a group of pious Jews called the Essenes" (the Dead Sea Scrolls group). Then, based on this highly questionable and twisted "evidence," he leaps to several unjustified conclusions: that Jesus lived long before he was supposed to have and that his disciples had only "ecstatic visions" of him and never knew him in the flesh. The Gospel writers, he suggests, then mistook their visions for real events and created fictitious accounts of Jesus' life. Fredriksen (scripture, Boston Univ.), on the other hand, explores the conundrum of a well-established historical fact--namely, that Jesus was executed by the Roman prefect Pilate as a political insurrectionist while his followers were not. She concludes that it was the volatile mix of excited pilgrims in Jerusalem for Passover and their acclaim of Jesus at a time when Pilate was especially interested in keeping the peace that led to his death. Her balanced, well-written work could serve as a kind of introduction to the content and methodology scholars use in the study of the historical Jesus and is highly recommended for any library. Ellegard's work would only be useful as an example of the false conclusions that result when questionable opinion is stretched beyond reasonable limits.--David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"Tightly reasoned, learned and readable.... Engagingly written."--National Review

"Fredriksen boldly and compellingly tackles a fundamental question about Jesus: Why did he die?"--The Boston Globe

Among bookstore shelves crowded with recent biographies of Jesus of Nazareth, Fredriksen's contribution will certainly be a welcome addition. It is scholarly without being pedantic, insightful without being revolutionary. Yet the central question it asksÄ"Why did Jesus die the way he did?"Ästrikes to the very core of the debate over the Historical Jesus. Fredriksen, Aurelio Professor of Scripture at Boston University, brings to this question enormous erudition drawn from the rabbinic writings, opening fresh ways of looking at the well-trodden Historical Jesus material. Her careful working through the serious historical issues surrounding the definition of "Gospel Truth," the nature of God and Israel in Roman antiquityÄas well as the problem of Paul's renovation of the first Christians' view of JesusÄare important contributions to our understanding of Jesus' life. Unlike some other new biographies of Jesus emerging from the trade press, the scholarly apparatus for this text was not shed in the hopes of making it more acceptable to the general reader. The author's notes, far from merely documenting sources, contain interesting and useful augmentations. There is much new here, something that seems unusual for territory so heavily mined. Fredriksen's Jesus of Nazareth is one of those enviable scholarly works that is both a credible scholarly effort and a very good read. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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