A reconsideration of Jesus’ spiritual mission as he may have understood it.
According to debut author Page, a proper understanding of Jesus’ ministry must ultimately defer to Jesus’ self-interpretation. More specifically, one must figure out—on the basis of scant historical information—what Jesus thought God expected of him and of Israel. According to the author, the fact that the Jews were a chosen people meant that they were supposed to be a special example for mankind and that they were meant to invite others to believe in God. However, he contends, Israel was not honoring its commitments, so Jesus’ principal task was to show his fellow Jews the errors of their ways—and to remind them of their purpose. But although Jesus’ undertaking was a deeply Jewish one, Page says, he meant his message to spread to the rest of the world: “Jesus envisioned the mission of Israel to be that of a new Moses, leading all the nations of the world through the wilderness of separation from G-d, pausing along the way at campsites of enlightenment.” Page encourages Jewish readers to better understand the ancient Judaic traditions that Jesus was continuing while also urging Christians to “recover their Jewish roots.” Everyone, the author says, should live in a way that can serve as a model for others. Page clearly aims to wrench the historical appraisal of Jesus away from professional scholars and make it more accessible, and he impressively achieves a style that is both pellucid and “folksy,” as he intended. He concedes that the historical information available about Jesus is meager and contradictory, and he doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge the tentativeness of his conclusions. For example, it’s simply unclear if Jesus considered himself a “messiah” in the strict sense of the term, but the author provocatively suggests that it’s more edifying to see Israel’s role as messianic. Overall, Page’s exegesis is notably diligent, and he reaches beyond textual disputes to articulate broader lessons of transcendent moral import.
A thoughtful assessment that may interest readers of all religious persuasions.