THE MESSAGE AND THE KINGDOM: HOW JESUS AND PAUL IGNITED A
REVOLUTION AND TRANSFORMED THE ANCIENT WORLD
By Richard A. Horsley
and Neil Asher Silberman
288 pp., $27.50
ABRAHAM GEIGER AND THE JEWISH JESUS
By Susannah Heschel
U. of Chicago Press
317 pp., $48 ($20 paper)
Nearly two millennia after his brief appearance in a remote
Roman province, Jesus Christ continues to inspire questions.
Centuries of study by theologians and scholars have failed to fully
answer even some basic questions: Was Jesus a Jew or a Christian?
An inspired teacher or the divinely appointed Messiah? And finally,
was he a historic personage or a mythical fabrication? Two new
books approach and answer these questions in very different ways.
The Message and the Kingdom: How Jesus and Paul Ignited a
Revolution and Transformed the Ancient World, by Richard Horsley
and Neil Asher Silberman, is a highly readable history of the first
century of Christianity. Spanning a period roughly covering the
birth of Jesus to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (AD
70), "The Message and the Kingdom" places the Master in the context
of the history of the Holy Land and of the Roman Empire.
Horsley and Silberman powerfully evoke the horrifying
oppressions of Rome. This was a culture in which some lived in
unimaginable luxury and others wallowed in unspeakable poverty. The
reader can almost see the riches and beauty of the imperial court,
and all but smell the putrid salt-fish factories surrounding the
Sea of Galilee in the time of Jesus.
The main thrust of "The Message and the Kingdom" is sobering
and timeless. For the early Christians, the destruction of the
temple and of much of Jerusalem brought the painful realization
that Jesus' assurance "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall
make you free" (John 8:32) was much more a spiritual than a
The long-awaited Messiah was not sent to free the Jews from
the yoke of Roman rule, but to liberate all mankind from corruption
of every sort - political, moral, mental, physical.
"The Message and the Kingdom" tells an exciting story, and
tells it well. The authors quote extensively from Scripture, from
early histories of Christianity, and from current scholarship. Time
lines and bibliographical notes provide a path for further
research. The dynamic, vivid images of Jesus and of Paul, almost on
fire with Old Testament promises of deliverance and freedom for
humanity, make for inspired and exciting reading. …