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Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History
Baker Academic / 2010 / Hardcover
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Winner of the Biblical Archaeology Society's "Best Book Relating to the New Testament" award in 2011!
In Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History, internationally renowned Jesus scholar Dale Allison addresses such perennially fascinating questions about Jesus answering them with the precision of scholarship, and sensitivity to the two-thousand year tradition of the church. He asks, What did Jesus think of himself? How did he face death? What were his expectations of the future? And can we answer questions like these on the basis of the Gospels?
Presenting the fruit of several decades of research, Allison contends that the standard criteria most scholars have employed and continue to employ for constructing the historical Jesus are of little value. His pioneering alternative applies recent findings from cognitive science about human memory to our reading of the Gospels in order to "construct Jesus" more soundly and in ways that go beyond the theological and philosophical prejudices that so often taint the discussion.
Scholars, students, pastors, and laity engaged with New Testament studies and, Jesus studies in particular, will want to interact with the data and conclusions of this significant, ground breaking work.
What did Jesus think of himself? How did he face death? What were his expectations of the future? In this volume, internationally renowned Jesus scholar Dale Allison Jr. addresses such perennially fascinating questions about Jesus.
Representing the fruit of several decades of research, this major work questions standard approaches to Jesus studies and rethinks our knowledge of the historical Jesus in light of recent progress in the scientific study of memory. Allison's groundbreaking alternative strategy calls for applying what we know about the function of human memory to our reading of the Gospels in order to "construct Jesus" more soundly.
Dale Allison has written another brilliant book. He manages to dissect technical, complicated subjects and then present them to his readers with remarkable clarity and simplicity. Constructing Jesus will be read with great benefit by scholars, pastors, students, and laity. Readers will find everywhere in this book mastery of the topic, judicious assessment of the options, and invariably sensible and compelling conclusions. If you are interested in learning more about the historical Jesus, then you must read this book."
--Craig A. Evans,
Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College
"In Constructing Jesus, Dale Allison's erudite historical acumen is matched by the simple elegance of his compelling case. Rarely has reasoned judgment sounded so commonsensical. This book deserves to be one of the few to set the course for the next generation of historical-Jesus scholarship."
--Bruce W. Longenecker,
W. W. Melton Chair of Religion, Baylor University
"This is vintage Allison: masterful in his marshaling and exposition of sources, thorough in his interaction with contemporary and opposing views, and robust and persuasive in his argumentation."
--James D. G. Dunn,
Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University
"Displaying jaw-dropping acquaintance with primary evidence and the oceanic body of scholarship on Jesus, a sweet reasonableness toward the complexities involved, and just plain good judgment time after time on controverted issues, Constructing Jesus is essential reading for anyone concerned with the scholarly approach to the Jesus of history."
--L. W. Hurtado,
Professor of New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology, New College, University of Edinburgh
"Lucid, far-ranging, and quietly authoritative, Dale Allison's Constructing Jesus is required reading for scholars, students, and anyone who wants to understand where this most recent phase of the Quest has led us. Once I started, I could not put it down--nor could I stop thinking about its arguments once I finished. This is an important work."
Aurelio Professor of Scripture, Boston University
"This book rightly presents Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet. Elaborating this definition into a more detailed portrait, Allison pushes the envelope by exploring new methods and ideas. These detailed conclusions may be controversial, but the book is a must-read for anyone interested in the historical Jesus."
--Adela Yarbro Collins,
Buckingham Professor of New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, Yale Divinity School
"Allison has written an innovative book on the historical Jesus based on the idea that general features and recurrent motifs are much better witnesses than particular words or deeds of Jesus. Allison's books on the historical Jesus are among my favorite books in Jesus research. I admire his erudition, sobriety, honesty, and creativity. I recommend this book to all students and colleagues."
Professor Emeritus of New Testament, University of Heidelberg
"Dale Allison has written an excellent new book on Jesus, applying a fresh approach based on modern knowledge of human memory and independent of the traditional criteria of authenticity. The basic idea is convincing: the general features were considered more important and are better preserved than the particulars. He identifies larger patterns across the sources and then searches for the best historical explanation. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to rethink the current debates on the historical Jesus."
Professor of Culture and Literature of Earliest Christianity, Department of Theology,University of Utrecht
"To Allison, the gospels and the abundance of extrabiblical sources constitute a rich, heady brew of fact and fiction, all of which must be read not as a strictly historical record but as the collective memory of a people whose experience and dedication would define the direction of history. Allison . . . insists that efforts to reconstruct a purely historical narrative from the gospels are not just impossible but irrelevant. Looking beyond notions of inerrancy and consistency, the author convincingly presents a richly nuanced view of Jesus Christ and the birth of Christianity. The result is a feast to be savored."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"This book is an incredibly important contribution to the study of Jesus as a historical figure, with the potential to mark a watershed between the way things tended to be done before it was published and how we proceeded after taking its challenge to heart. It [is] as important in what it claims we may never be able to know with any degree of certainty, as for the positive conclusions it draws about Jesus. . . . Through the whole volume runs Allison's characteristic humility and willingness to openly admit that there are some things that remain uncertain, and perhaps will always remain so. And that makes the book admirable--it welds together the desire for knowledge that motivates the historian, with the realization of the limitations of our sources and methods that anyone who does historical research must sooner or later encounter. As a call to use the best methods possible while cognizant of what they can and cannot do, Allison's volume will surely inspire a new generation of scholars to engage the material, and do better than their predecessors as a result of taking his arguments to heart. I strongly recommend this book, and look forward to the rich academic discussions it is bound to stimulate."
--James F. McGrath,
Do the gospels contain "the gospel truth"? The answer depends on how you define truth and whether you're willing to see beyond evangelical assumptions about the historicity of the canonical Jesus stories to a higher, more fully realized truth, according to author Dale Allison Jr. (see InProfile in this issue). To Allison, the gospels and the abundance of extrabiblical sources constitute a rich, heady brew of fact and fiction, all of which must be read not as a strictly historical record but as the collective memory of a people whose experience and dedication would define the direction of history. Allison, who is on the faculty of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, insists that efforts to reconstruct a purely historical narrative from the gospels are not just impossible but irrelevant. Looking beyond notions of inerrancy and consistency, the author convincingly presents a richly nuanced view of Jesus Christ and the birth of Christianity. The result is a feast to be savored. (Nov.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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