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Marginal Jew, A: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (5 Volumes)

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A Marginal Jew represents the first time an American Catholic biblical scholar has attempted a full-scale, rigorously scientific treatment of the “historical Jesus.” By the “historical Jesus,” Meier means the Jesus whom we can recover and reconstruct by using the tools of modern historical research. Granted the fragmentary state of the sources and the indirect nature of the arguments, the resulting portrait is incomplete and at times speculative. Still, Meier argues, something precious is gained. The “consensus statement” that emerges is open to probing and debate by all interested parties - Catholics, Protestants, Jews, believers and agnostics alike. It can serve as common ground for ecumenical dialogue and further research among the difficult questions Meier confronts: Was Jesus virginally conceived? Did he have brothers and sisters? Was he married or single? Was he illiterate? Did he know Hebrew and Greek as well as Aramaic?

Meier’s sober, well-reasoned account of the life of Jesus is nothing less than startling, as though almost 2,000 years later we are seeing Jesus for the first time as his contemporaries would have seen him - “a marginal Jew” - with all the implications and questions raised by this deliberately provocative title. Indeed, the author has here sketched out for us the portrait of Jesus for our times.

  • Volume One: The Roots of the Problem and the Person (1991) - This book grapples with the greatest puzzle of modern religious scholarship: Who was Jesus?
  • Volume Two: Mentor, Message, and Miracles (1994) - In this volume, Meier continues his quest for the answer to the greatest puzzle of modern religious scholarship: Who was  Jesus? To answer this Meier imagines the following  scenario: “Suppose that a Catholic, a  Protestant, a Jew, and an agnostic were locked up in the  bowels of the Harvard Divinity School library... and not allowed to emerge until they had hammered out a consensus document on who Jesus of Nazareth was and what he intended...”. A Marginal Jew is what Meier thinks that document would reveal.
  • Volume Three: Companions and Competitors (2001) - Meier explains his conviction that “No human being is adequately understood if he or she is considered in isolation from other human beings.” He leads readers through the concentric circles of companions (including the followers who became his disciples and apostles) and competitors (such as Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Samaritans) that shaped Jesus’ life in first-century Palestine.
  • Volume Four: Law and Love (2009) - After correcting misconceptions about Mosaic Law in Jesus’ time, this volume addresses the teachings of Jesus on major legal topics like divorce, oaths, the Sabbath, purity rules, and the various love commandments in the Gospels. What emerges from Meier’s research is a profile of a complicated first-century Palestinian Jew who, far from seeking to abolish the Law, was deeply engaged in debates about its observance.
  • Volume Five: Probing the Authenticity of the Parables (2016) - Since the late nineteenth century, New Testament scholars have operated on the belief that most, if not all, of the narrative parables in the Synoptic Gospels can be attributed to the historical Jesus. This book challenges that consensus and argues instead that only four parables—those of the Mustard Seed, the Evil Tenants, the Talents, and the Great Supper—can be attributed to the historical Jesus with fair certitude.

For even more information, see this release announcement.

A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (5 Volumes)
• Series: The Anchor Bible Reference Library
• Author: John P. Meier
• Publisher: Yale University Press

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