Jesus the Man: An Introduction For People At Home In The Modern World


Topics: Theology & Religious Education. Ages: Adult. Resource Types: Books.

Review & Commentary

One thought on “Jesus the Man: An Introduction For People At Home In The Modern World

  1. Review

    Marvin Cain is a former Lutheran pastor with a Ph.D. from Duke University who has taught religion at California Lutheran and Arizona State universities. He is also an electrical engineer with experience in aerospace, electronic design, and in the construction and operation of nuclear and hydroelectric power plants. He is presently Executive Director, Mid-Columbia Center for Theological Studies, Pasco, Washington which he founded in 1993. Cain’ s background in religion and science gives him a unique position from which to write of the historical Jesus for people at home in the modern world.

    In his Introduction Cain gives two reasons for writing his book. One is to address "people who are comfortable in the world of modem science and yet have a desire to know as much as possible about Jesus." Second, he believes that recent Jesus scholarship has produced an explosion of new data and understandings of Jesus which need to be taken out of the academic and ecclesiastical closets and communicated to everyone willing to receive them. What we need today, he writes, "is a second Pentecost, in which the gospel is made intelligible to modern people, who have been trained in the sciences and hold a scientific view of history and of the world."

    He begins his exploration where anyone who is serious about understanding the historical Jesus must begin, describing the "world" of Jesus. Without some knowledge of the historical, social, religious, economic, and cultural context in which Jesus lived, we will misunderstand what Jesus said and did. Modern scholarship, particularly in the fields of archeology and cross-cultural sociology, has given us a new picture of life in first century Galilee, which impacts our understanding of Jesus, his mission and ministry.Cain then devotes chapters to The Birth, Family, and Youth of Jesus, Jesus and John the Baptist, Jesus as Teacher, Jesus and The Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus as Miracle Worker, Jesus and His Followers, The Passion and Death of Jesus and The Resurrection of Jesus. In each chapter he explores relevant biblical texts from the Gospels, using criteria commonly used by historians to determine the historical plausibility of the words and deeds of Jesus. He reminds his readers that "If Jesus is the incarnation of God, then what he said and did is of utmost importance."He points out that recent studies of the words and actions of Jesus have resulted in three major rediscoveries. One is that the fundamental message of Jesus was his proclamation and enacting of the "good news" of the Kingdom of God. Second, the Kingdom of God was not a referent of some ‘other’ world, but to an alternative society for this world, characterized by political equality, economic equity, inclusive communities, and relationships of mutuality. Third is the recognition that a knowledge and understanding of the words and acts of Jesus can bring one close to the historical Jesus.

    In an Appendix, Cain describes the history and work of the Jesus Seminar and responds to the objections of its critics. He also provides invaluable Tables on (1) Two Versions of Jesus, Contrasts between the Synoptic Gospels and John, (2) The Sayings Gospel "Q" (used by Matthew and Luke), (3) The DataBase of the Sayings of Jesus, (4) The Miracles of Jesus, (5) The Old Testament and the Miracles of Jesus: Parallels Between Elijah, Elisha and Jesus, (6) The Passion Predictions, (7) The Passion of Jesus: the Old and New Testament Texts of Jesus’ Passion. There is also a selected but extensive bibliography of basic tools for the study of the historical Jesus.This is a superb work, exciting reading for anyone starting or continuing his/her search for "the historical Jesus." I share Cain’s concern when he writes, "What has become clear to me is the pressing need to get back to the historical Jesus, to discover anew his message of God’s kingdom and to ‘share in his vision of God and the world."

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