Book Summary and Review List

Most of these books try to be scholarly yet popular.  Though some are challenging, all were written to be intelligible to educated lay readers (e.g., Greek words are almost always translated).  The lengths vary from around 200 to 400 pages.  Don't choose entirely by length, however.  A particular 200 page book may be more difficult to read than another 300 page one. 

Acceptable books for review are

Anderson, Graham. Sage, Saint and Sophist: Holy men and their associates in the Early Roman Empire. London: Routledge, 1994.

Bauckham, Richard. Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

Blomberg, Craig. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels. Intervarsity, 1987.

_____. Jesus and the Gospels: An Introductory Survey. Broadman & Holman, 1997.

Borg, Marcus. Conflict, Holiness, and Politics in the Teaching of Jesus. Trinity, 1998.

_____. Jesus, A New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship. Harper, 1991. [Reprint]

Borg, Marcus and N. T. Wright. The Meaning of Jesus. Harper, 2000.

Crossan, John Dominic. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. Harper, 1995.

Davies, Stevan. Jesus the Healer: Possession, Trance, and the Origins of Christianity. Continuum, 1995.

Gregory W. Dawes, ed. The Historical Jesus Quest: Landmarks in the Search for the Jesus of History. Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.

Doherty, Earl. Challenging the Verdict: A Cross-Examination of Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ."

_____.  The Jesus Puzzle. Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? : Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus. [Caution: About 400 pages.]

Duquesne, Jacques. Jesus: An Unconventional Biography. Liguori, 1998. 

Dungan, David L. A History of the Synoptic Problem: The Canon, the Text, the Composition, and the Interpretation of the Gospels. [Caution: About 400 pages.]

Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford, 1999.

Fredriksen, Paula. From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Jesus, Yale, 2000. [Reprint]

_____. Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews: A Jewish Life and the Emergence of Christianity. Vintage, 2000.

Funk, Robert. Honest to Jesus: Jesus for a New Millennium. Harper, 1997.

Ellegard, Alvar.  Jesus--One Hundred Years before Christ: A Study in Creative Mythology. Overlook, 2002. [Reprint.]

Gooch, Paul W. Reflections on Jesus and Socrates: Word and Silence. Yale, 1996.

Gnilka, Joachim. Jesus of Nazareth: Message and History. Hendrickson, 1997.

Hanson, K. C. and Douglas E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts. Fortress, 1998.

Hedrick, Charles W. Parables as Poetic Fictions: The Creative Voice of Jesus. Hendrickson, 1994. [An elementary knowledge of Greek would be very helpful for this one.]

Horsley, Richard A. Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus. Trinity, 1999.

Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and Truth of the Traditional Gospels. Harper, 1997.

A very polemical assessment of "radical" historical Jesus scholarship from a conservative scholarly position. It's a good read, but for a more objective, more comprehensive, and more entertainingly written overview see Shorto's Gospel Truth.

Klassen, William. Judas: Betrayer of Friend of Jesus? Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996.

Lüdemann, Gerd. The Great Deception: What Jesus Really Said and Did (Prometheus, 1999) and What Really Happened to Jesus: A Historical Approach to the Resurrection (Westminster John Knox, 1996). [About 250 pages combined]

A very skeptical approach to the Gospel traditions about Jesus from an outstanding New Testament scholar.

Mack, Burton L. A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins. Fortress, 1988.

Maccoby, Hyam. Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil, 1992.

Malina, Bruce J.  The Social Gospel of Jesus: The Kingdom of God in Mediterranean Perspective. Fortress, 2000.

Martin, Raymond. The Elusive Messiah: A Philosophical Overview of the Quest for the Historical Jesus. Westview, 1999.

Matera, Frank, J. New Testament Christology. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1999.

McCormick, Scott. Behold the man: re-reading Gospels, re-humanizing Jesus. Continuum, 1994.

Meeks, Wayne. The Moral World of the First Christians. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986.

Painter, John. Just James: The Brother of Jesus in History and Tradition. University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Patterson, Stephen J. The God of Jesus: The Historical Jesus and the Search for Meaning. Trinity, 1998.

Powell, Mark Alan. Jesus as a Figure in History: How Modern Historians View the Man from Galilee. Westminster John Knox, 1998

Reed, Jonathan L. Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus: A Re-Examination of the Evidence. Trinity, 2000.

Robbins, Vernon, K. Jesus the Teacher: A Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation of Mark. Fortress, 1984. [Out of print, but in Meyer]

Sanders, E. P. The Historical Figure of Jesus. Viking/Penguin, 1995.

Sanders, E. P. Jesus and Judaism. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985.

Shorto, Russell, Gospel Truth: The New Image of Jesus Emerging from Science and History, and Why it Matters. Riverhead, 1997.

An outstanding overview of the full range of recent Jesus scholarship written in a popular and engaging style.  It is non-polemical and more informative that Johnson's The Real Jesus.

Smith, Morton.  Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? Ulysses, 1998. [reprint]

Spong, John Shelby. Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible With Jewish Eyes: Freeing Jesus from 2,000 Years of Misunderstanding. Harper, 1997.

Sobrino, Jon. Jesus the liberator: a historical-theological reading of Jesus of Nazareth. Orbis, 1993.

Stein, Robert. Jesus the Messiah: A Survey of the Life of Christ. Intervarsity, 1996.

Vermes, Geza.  Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels, Fortress, 1981.

_____.  The Changing Faces of Jesus, [reprint]

Wilson, A. N. Jesus. Norton, 1992.

Witherington, Ben. The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth. Intervarsity, 1999. [New and Expanded Edition.]

Wright, Christopher J. H. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. Intervarsity, 1995. 

Wright, N. T.  The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. Intervarsity, 1999.

Books not acceptable for review are:

Borg, Marcus.  Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus & the Heart of Contemporary Faith (Harper, 1994).

This book is too short and more popular than scholarly.  But it was based on his more scholarly Jesus, A New Vision, which is acceptable.

Miles, Jack. Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God

This book takes a modern literary and creative approach to the subject.  It completely ignores historical issues.  It's a theologically thought provoking book, but it will not increase your comprehension of problems addressed in this course.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus. Zondervan, 1998.

This book has made a splash in the popular market.  As the title clearly states, the author is not a New Testament scholar.  Frankly, the main thing one can learn from it is how to write highly biased propaganda.  All the scholars interviewed are conservative Christians.  More moderate to liberal Christian scholars are not included at all.  For all but the most naive students, that should already raise red flags.  Furthermore, the questions are all ones that easily invite the "right" answers.  This is either by Strobel's design, ignorance, or both.  For example, he includes an interview with Bruce Metzger, one of the greatest NT text critics of the past hundred years.  All the questions asked generate answers that assure the reader that the NT is be best preserved of ancient writings.  However, if Strobel had asked Metzger if there is any evidence that early scribes occasionally changed the text so as to fit in better with their own views, Metzger would have replied yes.  But that question is not asked.  Nor are dozens of others that would have elicited potentially disturbing answers even from conservative scholars.  If you want to read scholarly conservative apologetics, there are better choices in the list above.