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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Way of Jesus by Bruce Chilton



The Way of Jesus has an evocative subtitle :to repair and renew the world. This is not what I would call 'inspirational' writing, in terms of genre. It is written by a scholar in a scholarly way. Having studied theology, this does not in itself faze me, but I confess I struggled to get through this book.

Chilton presents his book as looking at the prophetic Jesus, with some reference to the Lord's prayer (although that theme is not held up - see later comments). He also looks at other religious figures such as Lao Tsu, Gandhi and Krishna, to look at how they shared a sense of the prophetic resources Chilton talks about in this book.

I found some parts of this book interesting, particularly when they discussed a specific part of the scripture and brought in wider cultural understandings and symbols of which I had not previously been aware. He makes some appealing statements, for example describing religious communities as 'villages of hope', so has the ability to craft an engaging way of writing.

However, I found some of his remarks very speculative, making statements about Jesus and his life where there was no basis. I don't mind speculation if it is presented as such: when authors ask me to humour them by making a suggestion about what they thought may have happened, I willingly listen to their idea. I struggle when speculation is couched in scholarly language which implies the author is presenting opinion as pure fact.

That was my personal niggle! But I think the main reason I struggled with this book was a failing of planning and structure. Chilton addresses seven 'prophetic resources': soul, spirit, kingdom, insight, forgiveness, mercy, and glory. But the main theme is not strong enough throughout the book - although the introduction, and to a lesser extent the last chapter, attempt to tie it all together, to me it felt like disparate parts. As such it feels like you are reading thoughts on a variety of topics, occasionally going off on an interesting tangent.

I felt it simply does not hold together. This is a shame as he does have the ability to provoke interest - but falls down by not having a strong enough overall thread. 'To repair and renew the world' is a wonderful, evocative subtitle. But he only really mentions these concepts at the beginning and the end, and does not make the connection throughout.

Personally, I found Chilton a funny mixture of someone very interested in what scholars call the 'Historical Jesus', particularly in the original Aramaic, while having also a strong interest in Gnosticism. I confess I found something lacking in this book as I read, and really had to concentrate for the sentences to even take root in my mind. Nevertheless, there were points where he genuinely captured my interest.

This is my personal experience; I have read other reviews which think it is fantastic! But as this is an extended blog post of a shorter review, I felt able to share some more personal feelings about it. There was a certain emptiness to it...perhaps due to the fact that the theme was so fluid and hidden. I honestly don't know. But I found myself getting frustrated with it.

I will perhaps in future dip in and out of this book, but had to make a great effort to read it 'all the way through'.




I received this book free from Alban Books for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.



2 comments:

Kathryn said...

Wow. I'd have a hard time struggling thru a book only to be left feeling empty. Kudos to you for doing it.

I studied theology in college, long, long ago, but tend not to go there now.

Our former pastor presented each & every sermon with his opinions couched as literal doctrine. I struggled with it again & again until we had to leave. Had he merely said, "In my opinion, this scripture . . . " But no, he presented it as TRUTH. That his truth was often a very depressing twist on the scripture was sad.

Hope you're doing a bit better physically. Have a good week. :)

Anders Branderud said...

There is a difference between the historical first century Ribi Yehoshua ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) and Jezus desribed in the “gospels”.

A logical analysis (found in www.netzarim.co.il (Netzarim.co.il is the website of the only legitimate Netzarim-group)) (including the logical implications of the research by Ben-Gurion Univ. Prof. of Linguistics Elisha Qimron of Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT) of all extant source documents of what Christians calls “the gospel of Matthew” (Ribi Yehoshuas teachings was redacted and the redaction is found in what Christians call “the gospel of Matthew”) and archeology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

It is important to distinguish the two polar-opposites - the authentic, historical, PRO-Torah 1st-century Ribi from Nazareth and the 4th-century (post-135 C.E.), arch-antithesis ANTI-Torah apostasy developed by the Hellenists (namely the Sadducees and Roman pagans who conspired to kill Ribi YÓ™hoshua ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah), displaced his original followers Netzarim and redacted the NT). (Source: www.netzairm.co.il)

The term “historical Jezus” used by Scholars is an oxymoron, since the historical person was named Ribi Yehoshua, and since Jezus is a counterfeit image of the historical Ribi Yehoshua.

"The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."- Richard Foster