3.15 (26 ratings by Goodreads)
  • Hardback
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Product details

  • Hardback | 110 pages
  • 120 x 180mm
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • bibliography, index
  • 0192830155
  • 9780192830159

Review Text

A clear, even-handed treatment - in the new Past Masters series - for the reader with little or no knowledge of the Bible. Carpenter might seem an odd choice to do this volume, since he's known as a biographer (of Tolkien, C. S. Lewis & Co.), not a theologian or exegete; but he deftly works his way over and around the mountains of scholarship and controversy. In contemporary terms, he is a moderate liberal - though until recently anyone who said, "we should not assume that a messianic view of himself would be incompatible with Jesus' sanity," might have been classified as a demythologizing radical. Carpenter begins, inevitably, with a discussion of the historical sources for Jesus' life and concludes, inevitably, with a reminder that the Gospels can only be used with a great deal of caution. He succinctly sums up the major textual problems of the New Testament (the existence of "Q," etc.), and proceeds briskly to the fundamentals of Jesus' message - not an easy subject for a liberal critic who finds even the Sermon on the Mount "of doubtful authenticity." Jesus, as Carpenter sees him, is an ethical teacher proclaiming the insufficiency of the Law; the essence of the Kingdom is Jesus' call for repentance and his insistence on the need to obey not just the Law but God's "universal and total demands." Carpenter largely discounts the messianic and apocalyptic elements in the Gospels, though he recognizes that Jesus may have thought of himself in some sense as the Messiah. He places considerable importance on Jesus' miracles which must not, he says, be swept aside by a superficial rationalism; one might speak today of "psychosomatic cures" and a "charismatic personality," but something powerful was at work. Then, after a few judicious words about the transition from the death of Jesus to the rise of institutional Christianity, Carpenter rests his case. It is a balanced, sensible one, tentative enough to satisfy anyone to the left of orthodoxy and to the right of total skepticism. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

26 ratings
3.15 out of 5 stars
5 8% (2)
4 27% (7)
3 50% (13)
2 4% (1)
1 12% (3)
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