The Human Christ reveals how the idea of Jesus has functioned as a vehicle for some of the best and worst ideas of the West. The historical person of Jesus has intrigued a panorama of some of the most interesting figures of modernity: Spinoza, Newton, Voltaire, Hegel, George Eliot, Cecil B de Mille and Norman Mailer. Jesus research has been shaped by nearly every intellectual fashion and the scholar-ship of each epoch of Jesus research has dated with alarming speed. But have the Jesus-searchers of every era merely reconstructed an historical Jesus who was little more than an image of themselves? In this revealing new book, the author enters the sometimes tragic, sometimes comic, always complex mental worlds of these researchers and concludes that the future of Jesus studies lies with those who give credence to his Jewishness and to the canonical Gospels as historical documents. 'Vividly and entertainingly she conveys that the range of responses to Jesus has always been one of the most endless variety ...Thoroughly recommended.' Ian Wilson, author of Jesus: the Evidence.
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One might think that the search for the historical Jesus--or the human Christ--is a recent phenomenon. The controversial work of the Jesus Seminar and its efforts to discover (or uncover) the "real" Jesus, the recent spate of books that include "the complete" sayings of Jesus; the ongoing efforts of theologians like John Shelby Spong to redefine the meaning of Christ for a new millennium: these are just among the latest efforts in a quest going back three hundred years to define Jesus, the man.
There is a delightfully rich cast of characters in Charlotte Allen's book The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus. Hermann Reimarus, father of German textual criticism of the Bible, who accused Jesus of deliberately deceiving his followers into thinking he was a miracle worker; Thomas Jefferson, who in 1804 decided to extract from the gospels what he considered the genuine sayings of Jesus (presaging the Jesus Seminar by some 190 years). Schweitzer, Hegel, Flaubert, Nietzsche, Scorsese--these figures and many others are shown searching for their historical Jesus, in a n informative, amiable style.
Allen argues that searchers for the "real" Jesus found what they wanted to find: liberals found a liberal Jesus; mystics a gnostic Jesus. Not surprisingly, Allen also details the passing fads over the 300-year search for the "real" Jesus--and how Jesus research usually spoke more directly to the present than the past.
If readers are interested in the ongoing premillennial controversy about Jesus the man--what he said; what he did, what it meant, and what it means--Allen's book is recommended reading. Those interested in finding out more about the men and women who quested for the human Christ will be well served by Allen's entertaining and informative volume. --Fraser HallAbout the Author:
Charlotte Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor at Lingua Franca. She lives in Washington, D.C.
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