Like its predecessors, this volume is demanding but essential reading for anyone interested in the ever-fascinating,...



The latest installment (the third of a promised four) of priest-professor Meier’s monumental inquiry into the historical Jesus of Nazareth (Volume II: Mentor, Message, and Miracles, 1994, etc.).

Meier (New Testament/Notre Dame) steps back a bit to look at Jesus’ ministry in the context of his relationship with his followers and with the groups that competed with him. As before, Meier seeks a historical reconstruction that excludes faith commitments. (He recalls here his fantasy of four historians, a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, and an agnostic, “locked up in the bowels of the Harvard Divinity School library . . . until they have hammered out a consensus document on Jesus of Nazareth.”) And as before, he examines the historical core of the traditions about Jesus and his milieu with objectivity, precision, sound judgment, and massive learning. Here, Meier portrays a Jesus movement with an incipient, concentric structure, from the crowds around him to the disciples called and instructed by him to the Twelve whom he sent on a symbolic mission to all Israel, and a set of distinctive practices: baptism, the Lord’s Prayer, open-table fellowship with “toll collectors and sinners.” Meier's painstaking analysis of the extant traditions about the other religious groups in first-century Palestine—Pharisees and Sadducees, Essenes and Samaritans—illuminates Jesus’ teachings on matters like the resurrection of the dead and the inclusiveness of his movement, as well as his sense of his own remarkable charismatic authority. The result is a very Jewish Jesus, a figure quite different from the Hellenized Cynic or wisdom teacher of much recent historical-Jesus speculation. Although it won't make tabloid headlines the way more fanciful books in its field sometimes do, and it may prove frustrating for those looking for theological meat among the historical bones, Meier's massive enterprise is one of the most ambitious and exciting in modern Biblical scholarship.

Like its predecessors, this volume is demanding but essential reading for anyone interested in the ever-fascinating, never-ending quest for the historical Jesus.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-46993-4

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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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 20, 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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