Books by E.P. Sanders

Released: Sept. 1, 1994

A valuable contribution to the evaluation of our knowledge about Jesus by a noted bible scholar. Sanders (Religion/Duke Univ.) returns to the territory of his well-received Jesus and Judaism (not reviewed) to provide an overview of the history of study of the historical Jesus (as opposed to the Christ of faith). He doesn't advance any startling new claims about Jesus; nor does he assume the biographical stance that A.N. Wilson adopted in his Jesus: A Life (1992); but he does offer his own clear summary of what can be accurately said of Jesus of Nazareth. The so-called quest or search for the historical Jesus began in the late 18th century, in the wake of the Enlightenment, and later engaged Albert Schweitzer, among others. At first, scholars thought the real person was easily discoverable behind the mythic accounts of the Gospels. In the 20th century, it became fashionable, Sanders points out, to say that next to nothing could be known about the man. Sanders himself hews to a middle ground: While admitting the difficulties involved in uncovering the historical reality, he nevertheless claims that one can, with reasonable certainty, say quite a lot that is true about Jesus. Sanders presents an outline of Jesus' life and a discussion of his basic beliefs and teachings. He also traces what he discerns as the course of Jesus' ministry and the events leading up to his execution. He places Jesus in both the political setting of the backwater province of the Roman Empire (Judea was then ruled by a fairly independent Herod) and the Judaism of his time. His discussion of the miracles attributed to the man is set against a backdrop of acceptance of magic and miracles generally in the ancient world. Highly readable, this book will be of interest to scholars and accessible to general readers as well. (History Book Club main selection; Book-of-the-Month Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selections) Read full book review >