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An intriguing new angle on the well-worn field of “historical Jesus” studies.

Understanding the role of memory in the formation of the Christian Gospels.

In his latest work on the historical Jesus, Ehrman (Religious Studies/Univ. of North Carolina; How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, 2014, etc.) delves into the oft-neglected role of memory in the context of the early Christian church. The author argues that memory is of paramount importance to understanding such basic Christian writings as the four Gospels, since these arose from remembered events and were written decades after the life of Jesus. Ehrman demonstrates the widely accepted view of scholars that none of the Gospels were written by people who actually knew and followed Jesus personally. As such, each is based upon the memories of others, often transmitted through unnumbered sources in the early Christian community. Understanding the science behind memory, therefore, helps students of the Bible to understand the origins of, and differences among, the Gospels. Ehrman provides an intriguing overview of memory studies over the past century and introduces readers to a variety of important pioneers and studies in the field. The author finds that memory constructs the past. No matter if the topic is ancient history, recent news events, or personal happenings, the human understanding of all things past is constructed via memory. Furthermore, memories are often flawed or “distorted.” This fact is simply a reality of the human condition; nevertheless, distorted memories lead to distorted history. Readers of the Bible can, however, assume that “gist memories” are based in solid reality. Gist memories reflect the basic situation (e.g., Jesus was crucified) without potentially distorted qualifications (e.g., dialogue at the site of the crucifixion). Despite the fact that his work is highly critical of the Bible as history, Ehrman concludes that it is still important, just as Shakespeare and Dickens are important. “The historical Jesus did not make history,” he writes. “The remembered Jesus did.”

An intriguing new angle on the well-worn field of “historical Jesus” studies.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-228520-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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