Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels

Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels

Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels

Jesus the Jew: A Historian's Reading of the Gospels


This now-classic book is a significant corrective to several recent developments in the study of the historical Jesus. In contrast to depictions of Jesus as a wandering Cynic teacher, Geza Vermes offers a portrait based on evidence of charismatic activity in first-century Galilee. Vermes shows how the major New Testament title of Jesus--prophet, Lord, Messiah, son of man, Son of God--can be understood in this historical context. The result is a description of Jesus that retains its power and its credibility.


During the last few years I have often been asked whether I was writing my book on Jesus from a Jewish point of view.

The answer is yes - and no.

It is not inspired by traditional Jewish attitudes towards 'the founder of Christianity', and is decidedly not intended to depict a 'Jewish' Jesus as a denominational counterpart of the Jesus of the various churches, sects and parties that claim allegiance to him.

On the other hand, in so far as it insists that a convincing study of Jesus of Nazareth must take into account that the Gospels containing the story of this first-century AD Galilean demand a specialized knowledge of the history, institutions, languages and literature of Israel, both in Palestine and in the Diaspora, of the age in which he lived, then it is a very Jewish book indeed.

This knowledge, furthermore, is not borrowed from the two notorious guides usually employed by New Testament scholars, Kittel's Theological Dictionary and Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud and Misdrasch by Strack and Billerbeck. It is drawn instead from a personal exploration of the ancient Palestinian sources themselves.

I have aimed at a wide audience: Christians, Jews, people unaffiliated to any creed, scholars and educated laymen. Scholars will find references to ancient and modern literature in the notes, but non-experts should bear in mind that they are not indispensable to an understanding of the text. As regards contemporary writings, I mention only those which have either positively . . .

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