Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 18:1 (Spring 1997)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous


Book Reviews

John P. Meier. A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Volume Two: Mentor, Message, and Miracles. The Anchor Bible Reference Library. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

John Meier’s second installment of A Marginal Jew, offers another substantial contribution to Jesus research. This hefty tome, which runs to more than eleven hundred pages (and at forty-five lines per page, compared to the first volume’s forty lines per page), continues at the same level of readability, balanced judgment, and thorough treatment, to which Meier’s many readers were treated in the first volume. Whereas the first volume of A Marginal Jew (1991; see review in TrinJ 14NS [1993] 88–92) treated introductory matters, such as sources and the historical and cultural context into which Jesus was born and in which he grew up, the second volume treats Jesus’ relationship to John the Baptist, his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, and his ministry of miracles. Meier’s work is compelling and will be ranked among the very finest studies on the historical Jesus produced in the 1990s. The third and final volume of A Marginal Jew will examine Jesus’ death and the factors that led to it.

The second volume takes up where the first volume left off. The first volume offered readers an Introduction plus eleven chapters under two major headings: the “Roots of the Problem” and the “Roots of the Person.” Volume two offers us an Introduction, Conclusion, and twelve chapters (i.e., chaps. 12–23) under three major headings: “Mentor” (chaps. 12–13); “Message” (chaps. 14–16); and “Miracles” (chaps. 17–23).

The two chapters devoted to John the Baptist (the “mentor”) and Jesus’ relationship to him are succinct and satisfying. Meier concludes that almost every major aspect of Jesus’ teaching and praxis reflects those of the Baptist. Jesus, says Meier, “carried John’s eschatology, concern for sinful Israel facing God’s imminent judgment, call to repentance, and baptism with him throughout his own ministry, however much he recycled and reinterpreted this inheritance” (p. 176). Indeed, Meier finds that every major topic in Jesus’ teaching relates in some way to a saying that refers to the Baptist. Meier rightly disagrees with Paul Hollenbach who speaks of Jesus’ defection from John and with E. P. Sanders who has argued that Jesus did not require repentance (as had the Baptist).

The three chapters devoted to Jesus’ message are all entitled “The Kingdom of God: God Coming in Power to Rule.” The first treats the background of the concept. Meier reviews the relevant passages found in the OT (including the Apocrypha, or deuterocanonical books), the Pseudipigrapha, and the Dead Sea Sc...

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