The Historical Figure of Jesus

Front Cover
Penguin Adult, 1993 - Biography & Autobiography - 337 pages
Everyone has his own picture of Jesus - few historical figures have been so overlaid with centuries of mythmaking. But is it possible for us to discover what he was like from the historical evidence? Professor Sanders, author of Paul and Palestinian Judaism and Jesus and Judaism, has placed the study of the relationship between Judaism and early Christianity on a new basis: one that is historical and descriptive rather than theological and antagonistic. In this book he uses a clear and logical approach, carefully distinguishing the 'certain' from the 'less certain' and the 'improbable' to present a fresh and dramatic account of Jesus as a person. Since scholars first began to analyse the gospels using the tools of critical study, Jesus has proved a tantalizing puzzle. There is enough evidence to offer the hope of a full explanation of who he was and what he did, but on examination it turns out to be difficult and sometimes contradictory. In the first part of this study Professor Sanders proposes that we can have excellent knowledge about Jesus on a general level where he fits into the history and religious movements of first-century Palestine, the main themes of his teaching, some of his principal activities, and the people who followed him. More specific questions, such as 'What precisely was he like?', 'What are the nuances of his teaching?' and 'What were his aims', can be answered with less certainty. The second part of the book identifies the range of possible answers and weighs the evidence in favour of each. Historical research into the life and career of Jesus cannot fully explain the emergence and phenomenal spread of the new religion of Christianity. The author discusses howthe disciples decided to put together the reports of Jesus' life which we now have as the gospels, and their desire to present his person in the teachings of what became a powerful religion that spread from the Jews to the Gentiles and throughout the world. Although we must acknow

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - StephenBarkley - LibraryThing

Sanders made a name for himself (and virtually launched the New Perspective on Paul) with his 1977 classic, Paul and Palestinian Judaism. In The Historical Figure of Jesus, he brings his immense ... Read full review

Excellent Analysis From An Historian's Perspective

User Review  - Philip Tutt -

Let me dispense first with the negative. The book offers little new by way of reconstruction of historical certitudes concerning Jesus of Nazareth. That said, I commend the author, a capable scholar ... Read full review



14 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1993)

After receiving two baccalaureates in his native Texas, E. P. Sanders pursued graduate studies in Gottingen, Jerusalem, Oxford and New York, culminating in a Th.D. from Union Theological Seminary. He joined the Faculty at McMaster University, Ontario, in 1966. In 1984 he was elected Dean Ireland's Professor of Exegesis in the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Queen's College. He moved to Duke University, North Carolina, as Arts and Sciences Professor of Religion in 1990. He has held visiting professorships and lectureships at Trinity College, Dublin, and Cambridge University.

His field of special interest is Judaism and Christianity in the Graeco-Roman world. Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977) won national book awards and Jesus and Judaism won the Grawemeyer Award in Religion and was chosen as one of the most significant works of religious history in the 1980s by the Sunday Correspondent. Other publications include The Tendencies of the Synoptic Tradition (1969), Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (1983), Studying the Synoptic Gospels (with Margaret Davies, 1989), Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah (1990), Paul: Past Master (1991) and Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE–66 CE (1992).

In recent years E.P. Sanders has received further degrees: Doctor of Letters from the University of Oxford and Doctor of Theology (honoris causa) from the University of Helsinki. He is a fellow of the British Academy.