Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium


Few biographical works spark passions as intensely as do interpretations of the life of Jesus. In this highly accessible book, Bart Ehrman reviews the latest textual and archeological research into Jesus's life and the history of first-century Palestine, and draws a fascinating, controversial portrait of the man and his teachings. Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium seeks to show general readers what historians have long known about the Gospels and the man who stands behind them. Through a careful evaluation of the New Testament Gospels and other surviving sources, including the more recently discovered Gospels of Thomas and Peter, Ehrman proposes that Jesus can be best understood as an apocalyptic prophet, a man convinced that the world would end dramatically within his lifetime, and that a new kingdom would be created on earth--a just and peaceful kingdom ruled by a benevolent God. According to Ehrman, Jesus's belief in a coming apocalypse and his expectation of an utter reversal in the world's social organization underscores not only the radicalism of his teachings, but also sheds light on both the appeal of his message to society's outcasts and the threat he posed to the established leadership in Jerusalem. In this sharply-written and persuasive book, Ehrman suggests that the apocalyptic fervor that perpetually grips large segments of society is nothing new. Indeed, history's many doomsayers, including those today who are frantic about the approaching millennium, are close in spirit and thinking to Jesus, who waited in vain for the imminent arrival of a new kingdom of peace.


Scholars have written hundreds of books about Jesus (not to mention the thousands of books written by non-scholars). A good number of these books, mainly the lesser-known ones, have been written by scholars for scholars to promote scholarship; others have been written by scholars to popularize scholarly views. The present book is one of the latter kind. I really don't have a lot to say to scholars who have already spent a good portion of their lives delving into the complex world of first-century Palestine and the place that Jesus of Nazareth occupied within it. And frankly, having read scores of the books written by scholars for scholars, I don't think anyone else has much more to say either. This is a well-beaten and much-trod path.

There does seem, though, to be room for another book for popular (i.e., general-reading) audiences. It's not that there aren't enough books about Jesus out there. It's that there aren't enough of the right kind of book. Very, very few, in fact.

For one thing, most popular treatments are inexcusably dull and/or idiosyncratic. I've worked hard to make this one neither. You'll have to decide for yourself whether it's dull. But I would like to say a word about idiosyncrasy.

It's true that some rather unusual views of Jesus sell well: "Jesus Was a Marxist!" "Jesus Was a Feminist!" "Jesus Was a Gay Magician!" After all, if any of these views should be right, it might be worth knowing. What has struck me over the years, though, is that the view shared probably by the majority of scholars over the course of this century, at least in Germany and America, is equally shocking for most nonspe-

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