Although revisionist studies of the life of Christ are as old as Renan (and not much changed since then), this is a credible...

READ REVIEW

THE CHANGING FACES OF JESUS

Biblical scholar Vermes sets off in search of the historical Jesus.

In an attempt to interpret the New Testament within the context of contemporary Jewish civilization, the author systematically analyzes the Gospel of St. John, the Epistles of St. Paul, the Acts of the Apostles, the Synoptic Gospels, and religious trends in ancient Palestine. St. John and St. Paul, the main masterminds of early Christian doctrine, considered Christ the ultimate mouthpiece of God, and their accounts focus on his death and resurrection. Christ is likewise depicted as more divine than human in the Acts of the Apostles, and he does not really appear in human guise until we meet him in the three Synoptic Gospels. Written between a.d. 70 and 100, the Gospels of St. Mark, St. Matthew, and St. Luke are the earliest canonical writings of the Christian tradition. Composed in the form of a biographical sketch, these Gospels address the historical character of Jesus, an itinerant Galilean preacher deeply linked to his Jewish surroundings. It is noteworthy that the earliest of the three—the Gospel of St. Mark—recounts almost no miracles at all, suggesting that the miraculous accounts of Christ’s superhuman power were introduced later to substantiate the claim of his godlike authority. Vermes painstakingly points out the numerous contradictions within the corpus of texts under consideration, while also indicating that many of the described events were highly unlikely in a country still governed by Jewish law. (For example, an interrogation by the high priest on the eve of Passover would have been most implausible, in view of the prohibition against court hearings on festival days.) The author sees the New Testament as a kind of exercise in translation, rendering an Aramaic-speaking, Jewish-thinking Jesus into the language and mentality of Greco-Roman culture.

Although revisionist studies of the life of Christ are as old as Renan (and not much changed since then), this is a credible portrait all the same.

Pub Date: April 2, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-89451-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

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 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS

AND OTHER ESSAYS

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more