Saturday, April 19, 2008

What's Your Favorite Book on Jesus?

As some of you may know, I'm currently working on a new book on Jesus (forthcoming from Eerdmans). The working title is:

Jesus and the Last Supper:
Ancient Judaism and the Origin of the Eucharist

It's been almost three years in the making now, and I keep finding new material that is more exciting than I can say... Let's just say I don't post everything on the blog.

Anyway, as I'm writing, I am re-reading some of the classic books on Jesus that have been written in the last century or so, and was wondering who you thought I should model my writing after. One of the tips Dale Allison once gave me is to read great writers while writing your final drafts, so I've been following his advice.

I have my favorite books on Jesus, but was wondering if you wanted to chime in: What's your favorite book on Jesus?
I'm thinking here of several criteria:

1. Excellent writing (Clarity, style, etc.)
2. Exciting content.
3. Fresh Insights (explanatory power).
4. Historical Plausibility.
5. Footnotes vs. Endnotes.

Here are my top five (in no particular order):
1. N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God
2. E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism
3. Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus
4. Hilarin Felder, Christ and the Critics
5. Dale Allison, Jesus of Nazareth, Millennarian Prophet
(I realize this isn't a complete work on Jesus, but Allison is so brilliant, I love anything he writes, even when I disagree)

In your answers, be sure to let me know what you like most about your favorite Jesus book, so I can steal it and add it to my work!


Drew said...

That would have to be Jesus in the Gospels by Schnackenburg.

Jim said...

The Four Gospels and the One Gospel of Jesus Christ, by Martin Hengel. You have far too much British and American stuff there Michael. You need some real scholarship on the HJ...


Jim said...

And three years to write a book? Jesus' ministry was shorter than that!

Brant Pitre said...

Dear Jim,
(It's Brant, not Michael, by the way)
"Too much British and American stuff"??
There's nobody more German than Schweitzer and Felder!!

But I agree with you about Hengel...

dan said...

Wright, Schweitzer, and Sanders have been my 'big three' thus far (although I would put them in that order -- and Jesus and the Victory of God would be well ahead of the other two). But, you know, I read this book called Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile, and it was pretty damn good...

Nick Norelli said...

Larry Hurtado's Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity is my favorite Jesus book, hands down. I love it because Hurtado's erudition is evident on every page, I think he fairly represents those he disagrees with, and he doesn't draw any conclusions without critically engaging multiple views. Plus it's an easy read and doesn't feel like a 700 pager.

DimBulb said...

I think Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would be indispensable, even if they don't meet all your criteria;)

Brant Pitre said...


Wow, thanks for the kind words. And even though I never answered your query about "lead us not into temptation..."

Nice shot! But note that the post was about MODERN books on Jesus. I'll have to do a similar post sometime asking about favorite Gospels. Mine's Matthew.

dan said...

Ah, but you see, this is all part of my efforts to elicit a response from you -- I shall "heap burning coals upon your head" until you cannot avoid responding to me! ;)

(Although, to be clear, your book is, IMO, one of the best, and most exciting, that I have read on Jesus.)

Oh, and why is Matthew your favourite Gospel?

Alex said...

I'd have to disqualify the gospels (with tongue firmly planted in cheek of course) because of the criteria of clarity which Brant listed. There are so many archaic and symbolic things said that the gospels can hardly be said to satisfy this criteria.

And it's interesting that you mentioned Matthew because that, to me anyway, feels like the one that is the most mysterious.

Brant Pitre said...

Alex and Dan,

The reason Matthew is my favorite Gospel is precisely because its so JEWISH and its so MYSTERIOUS. I realize that one could say the same thing about John's Gospel--but that's why it's my second favorite! I suspect that, should God grant me the grace and wisdom, John will eventually become my favorite. But I'm not there yet...

Chris said...

Hi Dr. Pitre,

I am a theology student who just read your book, "Jesus, The Tribulation, and the End of Exile", and I think it's one of the best NT books I've read in the last three year of study! But I am brimming with questions...I tried sending you an email through the blog, but I don't think you got it.

If you have the time, could you kindly shoot me a working email address that I can contact you at?? (Semi-begging here, haha). My email is:

For the more astute reader, yes, I got that email at the height of the Beyonce craze, ha.

-- Chris

Michael said...

What are your thoughts on "Life of Christ" by Fulton Sheen?

Steve F. said...

Have you read "The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah" by Alfred Edersheim? He was a Jewish Christian so he has quite a wealth of knowledge of the Jewish roots of our faith. Haven't made it very far yet. It's a 1,000 pager! Hendrikson puts out the 2 volume set made into 1.

Also, I came across this website that looks awesome!
Professor David Flusser's (of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)book on Jesus has been translated into English recently and that sounds quite interesting. His former student Brad H. Young has put out some interesting books entitled, "Jesus the Jewish Theologian, The Parables, The Jewish Background of the Lord's Prayer and Paul the Jewish Theologian."

Don't know if you heard of these? But from the looks of it you have a passion for the Jewish roots of our faith, so these titles may be to your liking.

Paul Cat said...

Those Anne Rice books are AMAZING. Dan Brown, top notch!

Just kidding of course.

I'd have to say it is the Bible.

Anonymous said...

I heard "Jesus of Nazareth" by Pope Benedict XVI is a worthy read.

Barry said...

"Man and His Problems in the Light of Jesus Christ," by Rene Latourelle

bosphorus said...

The Mystery of Christ, Fr. John Behr

kentuckyliz said...

To Know Christ Jesus, Frank Sheed

I don't read a lot of that tough academic stuff though.

Fave Gospel? As a goygrrl, I might have to vote Luke. But my life scripture is Luke 1:41a.

I like the woes of Luke 6. That shakes my cage.

GoodStart Mentorship Programme said...

I like very much "Life of Jesus Christ" by Fulton J. Sheen.
It gives you a very in depth picture of our Lord's life. It is excellent to read along with the Gospels.

Romulo Guedez Fernandez

Alex said...

To put my two cents in, my favorite by far is IVPs Exploring the New Testament: Gospel and Acts by David Wenham and Steve Walton. Here's my review on Amazon:

"This book is an excellent introduction to the world of New Testament scholarship. Having gone to Christian schools my entire life, including college, I have seen "New Testament Survey" type books. I thought there couldn't possibly be any benefit from going through yet another New Testament survey as I'd heard it all before. But this rises above the rest. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of biblical studies that I had no idea existed.

Set up like any survey of the gospels and Acts, it delves deeper as it interacts with current scholarly debates and introduces you to the major players and important terminology used by scholars. After reading this book, you feel as if something has been hidden from you your whole life. As if they thought you were too dumb to be able to handle serious research into the historical Jesus and the early church.

This book isn't like that as it brings you into the conversation. I now have a voracious appetite for biblical scholarship and have read some of the greatest books of my life since reading this one. This book book started me on an incredibly influential path theologically and I'd recommend it to anyone who needs a bridge from the basics you learn through church, your own reading, and Sunday school to the gigantic and helpful world of NT scholarship."

Anonymous said...

Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI.

Anonymous said...

How's that book coming along?