THE LIFE OF JESUS by Conrad Noel


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This is a book that belongs, perhaps, in the religious book supplement. But it is certain to be a much-discussed and very controversial book, and its general reading public will inevitably be widened by the S. & S. system of publicizing their books. For this reason, the book is being reported here, although it will be reported in the next religious book supplement as well. First of all, it seems to be an attempt to present Jesus as social revolutionary, with a passion for an earthly kingdom of social justice. To this end, he gives the first third of his book to a study of the Roman Empire, the background against which Christianity was born. Then he traces the history of the Jews, and points out the process of disintegration which was taking place, and the need for vital reform, and the opportunity at the time of Jesus' mission. Finally, he comes to the study of the Christ, and meticulously follows the parallel passages of the different gospels, with their elucidation by critics, contemporary writers and theologians of subsequent centuries. He attempts to give a here-and-nowness to his treatment by the use of present day colloquialisms. This seems hardly convincing. His handling of the apocalyptic thought and expectation is negated by his attempt at immediacy. He limits the essential spirit of the Christian teaching, seeming almost to apologize for it. And yet at the same time, he gives it a certain vitality and becomes its staunchest advocate, the not as an individual thesis but a national one. It is not an easy book to read. At times it is quite exciting: at other times irritating. It will be interesting to watch its reception over here. It has already started heated discussion in England.

Pub Date: Nov. 9th, 1937
Publisher: Simon & Schuster