The Christian scriptures have virtually nothing to say about Jesus' life as a child. According to tradition, he, like his father, was a carpenter and is often pictured living a quiet life in a woodworker's shop. This, says Isbouts (The Biblical World), is a completely false image. Relying on ancient historians such as Josephus, archeological findings of the Ancient Near East, and scripture, Isbouts shows how, after living for centuries as subsistence farmers, families like Jesus' were pitched into poverty by the taxes levied by Herod and various Roman overlords. As a result, greedy oligarchs bought up foreclosed lands, turning former landholders into indentured servants. Isbouts believes that Jesus' ministry was a response to such injustices. The other key factor in Jesus' youth is his questionable paternity, as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The rumor of illegitimacy, says Isbouts, would have made him a pariah in his small village. Isbouts argues that like so many famous geniuses, Jesus' stressful childhood paradoxically gave him "greater freedom to observe, cope, and re-create the world "around" him. While some will quibble with the specific interpretations Isbouts puts forth, the result is a vividly moving portrait of one of the best-known but least understood people of all time. (Mar.)Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
Young Jesus: Restoring the "Lost Years" of a Social Activist and Religious Dissidentby Jean-Pierre Isbouts
A revolutionary look at the early life of Christ. Drawing on new evidence from the historical and archeological record, as well as insightful close readings of both the canonical and the Gnostic Gospels, Dr. Jean-Pierre Isbouts paints a fascinating portrait of Jesus as a grass-roots reformer with a social agenda who’s as much dissident as messiah. Dr. Isbouts
A revolutionary look at the early life of Christ. Drawing on new evidence from the historical and archeological record, as well as insightful close readings of both the canonical and the Gnostic Gospels, Dr. Jean-Pierre Isbouts paints a fascinating portrait of Jesus as a grass-roots reformer with a social agenda who’s as much dissident as messiah. Dr. Isbouts reveals an adolescent Jesus scarred by peasant rebellion, economic repression, and the wholesale displacement of the Galilean peasantry. Using modern economic, forensic, and psychological models as well as information from Roman and Jewish documents, Isbouts shows how these horrifying conditions galvanized Christ’s mission as a social activist and religious rebel. Isbouts’s approach is sophisticated and secular, though respectful of faith, and results in a narrative of compelling interest for a wide range of readersfrom scholars to skeptics to believers. A 16-page color insert with photos of historic sites, archaeological digs, and artwork enhances the text.
Isbouts (culture & media studies, Fielding Graduate Univ., Santa Barbara; The Biblical World) offers yet another attempt to fill in the biography of young Jesus of Nazareth in the years before his adult ministry. Unfortunately, he is unable to materialize any new sources for this purpose-unsurprising, since there aren't any additional known canonical sources from which a complete biography can be written. Isbouts turns to information about first-century Palestine in the hopes of transferring information about the social and political conditions of that time to the life of Jesus, and he also quotes from the canonical Gospels. His thesis is essentially this: whatever life was like under Roman occupation in Palestine, these harsh conditions must have colored the life of Jesus. While this is not totally off the mark, it is neither a new inference nor one whose accuracy can be assured. Readers can themselves easily turn to the writings of Josephus for a grim description of life in first-century Palestine, as Isbouts here does. Because it lacks new information, this book is not recommended, though a 16-page color insert featuring photos of historic sites, archaeological digs, and artwork enhances its worth.
James A. Overbeck
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