Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth

Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth

Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth

Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth


Familiar Stranger by Michael McClymond is a very readable introduction to that elusive figure known as "the historical Jesus" -- his life, his world, his sayings and doings, accounts of his death and resurrection, and his followers' efforts to understand him.

Three features set Familiar Stranger apart from the many other available books on Jesus. First, it's targeted to general readers but doesn't dumb down in its attempt to inform them. Second, it's ideologically balanced, exhibiting a refreshing lack of agenda or ulterior motive beyond the desire to genuinely present what we can and cannot know about Jesus today. Third, it brings together the two most fruitful models for understanding Jesus and his mission -- Jesus the "moral sage" and Jesus the "eschatological prophet." The result is a truly well-rounded picture of Jesus.

Marked by concision, clarity, and thoroughness, McClymond's Familiar Stranger is ideal for classrooms, study groups, and individuals in search of an up-to-date, trustworthy guide to the historical Jesus. Readers familiar with Jesus may well find him becoming stranger to them through these pages, and, conversely, those to whom Jesus is a stranger may well discover a growing familiarity with him.


At the time of his death, Jesus of Nazareth was a figure known only to certain Jews in Palestine. Today by contrast, nearly everyone in the world has heard of Jesus. Printed literature, global travel, and the mass media have transmitted some basic information about Jesus to seven billion people. In a sense, the whole world knows Jesus. Yet this most familiar of persons continues to be unfamiliar. Those who have heard of Jesus, and even those who worship him, are often unacquainted with the teachings and stories presented in the Gospels and the possible interpretations of these sayings and doings. Moreover, the enormous effort by scholars to study the life of Jesus — an academic industry in itself — has made Jesus both more accessible and more distant. Recent research has emphasized some basic features of Jesus’ life that were overlooked in the past. As scholars have investigated Jesus’ social, cultural, and historical context, Jesus has come to appear more human than ever before. In the newer literature, the backdrop for Jesus is not the heavenly scenes and angelic choirs of traditional church art, but rather the fishing villages, dusty roads, political struggles, synagogue services, and religious debates of first-century Palestine. Jesus now appears as a Jewish peasant from Galilee, and that has made him seem earthy and human and approachable. On the other hand, Jesus’ culture sets him apart from many modern readers. Those who live in traditional societies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America may feel more kinship with this Galilean peasant Jesus than those residing in Western societies.

The close of the second millennium and start of the third is an exciting time to reconsider the life of Jesus. Most scholars today have greater confidence than they did a generation ago regarding our ability to piece together the essential features of Jesus’ life. Despite many points of disagree-

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