The Jesus I Never Knew

The Jesus I Never Knew

by Philip Yancey

Paperback(Revised ed.)

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“There is no writer in the evangelical world that I admire and appreciate more.” Billy Graham Philip Yancey helps reveal what two thousand years of history covered up What happens when a respected Christian journalist decides to put his preconceptions aside and take a long look at the Jesus described in the Gospels? How does the Jesus of the New Testament compare to the “new, rediscovered” Jesus—or even the Jesus we think we know so well? Philip Yancey offers a new and different perspective on the life of Christ and his work—his teachings, his miracles, his death and resurrection—and ultimately, who he was and why he came. From the manger in Bethlehem to the cross in Jerusalem, Yancey presents a complex character who generates questions as well as answers; a disturbing and exhilarating Jesus who wants to radically transform your life and stretch your faith. The Jesus I Never Knew uncovers a Jesus who is brilliant, creative, challenging, fearless, compassionate, unpredictable, and ultimately satisfying. “No one who meets Jesus ever stays the same,” says Yancey. “Jesus has rocked my own preconceptions and has made me ask hard questions about why those of us who bear his name don’t do a better job of following him.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310219231
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 02/11/2002
Edition description: Revised ed.
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 66,606
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Philip Yancey serves as editor-at-large for Christianity Today magazine. He has written thirteen Gold Medallion Award-winning books and won two ECPA Book of the Year awards for What's So Amazing About Grace? and The Jesus I Never Knew. Four of his books have sold over one million copies. Yancey lives with his wife in Colorado. Learn more at

Read an Excerpt

Part One

Who He Was

The Jesus I Thought I Knew

Suppose we hear an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation ... would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape.... Perhaps (in short) this extraordinary thing is really the ordinary thing; at least the normal thing, the centre.

G. K. Chesterton

The Jesus I Thought I Knew

I first got acquainted with Jesus when I was a child, singing "Jesus Loves Me" in Sunday school, addressing bedtime prayers to "Dear Lord Jesus," watching Bible Club teachers move cutout figures across a flannelgraph board. I associated Jesus with Kool-Aid and sugar cookies and gold stars for good attendance.

I remember especially one image from Sunday school, an oil painting that hung on the concrete block wall. Jesus had long, flowing hair, unlike that of any man I knew. His face was thin and handsome, his skin waxen and milky white. He wore a robe of scarlet, and the artist had taken pains to show the play of light on its folds. In his arms, Jesus cradled a small sleeping lamb. I imagined myself as that lamb, blessed beyond all telling.

Recently, I read a book that the elderly Charles Dickens had written to sum up the life of Jesus for his children. In it, the portrait emerges of a sweet Victorian nanny who pats the heads of boys and girls and offers such advice as, "Now, children, you must be nice to your mummy and daddy." With a start I recalled the Sunday school image of Jesus that I grew up with: someone kind and reassuring, with no sharp edges at all--a Mister Rogers before the age of children's television. As a child I felt comforted by such a person.

Later, while attending a Bible college, I encountered a different image. A painting popular in those days depicted Jesus, hands outstretched, suspended in a Dalí-like pose over the United Nations building in New York City. Here was the cosmic Christ, the One in whom all things inhere, the still point of the turning world. This world figure had come a long way from the lamb-toting shepherd of my childhood.

Still, students spoke of the cosmic Jesus with a shocking intimacy. The faculty urged us to develop a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ," and in chapel services we hymned our love for him in most familiar terms. One song told about walking beside him in a garden with dew still on the roses. Students testifying about their faith casually dropped in phrases like "The Lord told me...." My own faith hung in a kind of skeptical suspension during my time there. I was wary, confused, questioning.

Looking in retrospect on my years at Bible college, I see that, despite all the devotional intimacies, Jesus grew remote from me there. He became an object of scrutiny. I memorized the list of thirty-four specific miracles in the Gospels but missed the impact of just one miracle. I learned the Beatitudes yet never faced the fact that none of us--I above all--could make sense of those mysterious sayings, let alone live by them.

A little later, the decade of the 1960s (which actually reached me, along with most of the church, in the early 1970s) called everything into question. Jesus freaks--the very term would have been an oxymoron in the tranquil 1950s--suddenly appeared on the scene, as if deposited there by extraterrestrials. No longer were Jesus' followers well-scrubbed representatives of the middle class; some were unkempt, disheveled radicals. Liberation theologians began enshrining Jesus on posters in a troika along with Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

It dawned on me that virtually all portrayals of Jesus, including the Good Shepherd of my Sunday school and the United Nations Jesus of my Bible college, showed him wearing a mustache and beard, both of which were strictly banned from the Bible college. Questions now loomed that had never occurred to me in childhood. For example, How would telling people to be nice to one another get a man crucified? What government would execute Mister Rogers or Captain Kangaroo? Thomas Paine said that no religion could be truly divine which has in it any doctrine that offends the sensibilities of a little child. Would the cross qualify?

In 1971 I first saw the movie The Gospel According to St. Matthew, directed by Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini. Its release had scandalized not only the religious establishment, who barely recognized the Jesus on-screen, but also the film community, who knew Pasolini as an outspoken homosexual and Marxist. Pasolini wryly dedicated the film to Pope John XXIII, the man indirectly responsible for its creation. Trapped in an enormous traffic jam during a papal visit to Florence, Pasolini had checked into a hotel room where, bored, he picked up a copy of the New Testament from the bedside table and read through Matthew. What he discovered in those pages so startled him that he determined to make a film using no text but the actual words from Matthew's gospel.

Pasolini's film captures well the reappraisal of Jesus that took place in the 1960s. Shot in southern Italy on a tight budget, it evokes in chalky whites and dusty grays something of the Palestinian surroundings Jesus lived in. The Pharisees wear towering headpieces, and Herod's soldiers faintly resemble Fascist squadristi. The disciples act like bumbling raw recruits, but Jesus himself, with a steady gaze and a piercing intensity, seems fearless. The parables and other sayings, he fires in clipped phrases over his shoulder as he dashes from place to place.

The impact of Pasolini's film can only be understood by one who passed through adolescence during that tumultuous period. Back then it had the power to hush scoffing crowds at art theaters. Student radicals realized they were not the first to proclaim a message that was jarringly antimaterialistic, antihypocritical, pro-peace, and pro-love.

Table of Contents

Contents Introduction Session 1: The Jesus I Thought I Knew Session 2 : Birth: The Visited Planet Session 3: Background: Jewish Roots and Soil Session 4: Temptation: Showdown in the Desert Session 5: Profile: What Would I Have Noticed?
Session 6: Beatitudes: Lucky Are the Unlucky Session 7: Message: A Sermon of Offense Session 8: Mission: A Revolution of Grace Session 9: Miracles: Snapshots of the Supernatural Session 10: Death: The Final Week Session 11: Resurrection: A Morning Beyond Belief Session 12: Ascension: A Blank Blue Sky Session 13: Kingdom: Wheat Among the Weeds Session 14: The Difference He Makes About the Writer

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The Jesus I Never Knew 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book made me want to read the Gospels with fresh eyes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
**** In the last eighteen months or so, the question of ''who is Jesus' has been on the minds of many. Although this is not actually a new book, it does answer the question to a great extent, stripping away the Hollywood images to reveal the man who could be termed 'a good Jew', and still is the Son of God. Through the lens of the culture into which He came and the affect His life has had since then, Mr Yancy paints a moving portrait. This is not one of his more contraversial books, but it is one of his best. ****
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has brought me into a closer walk with Jesus. I read it ever so slowly to savor all that Philip Yancey wrote about my Savior. I didn't want it to end. Yancey has written words that sent me back to first century Palestine. I watched Jesus heal the sick, raise the dead and give the Sermon on the Mount. I was there! God Bless you, Mr. Yancey.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I grew up going to church with my family, and knowing a lot about Jesus, but I had never thought about some of the things Mr. Yancey explores in this book. I found his perspective very enlightening. This book is also pleasantly free of church-ese. Mr. Yancey doesn't act like he knows everything there is to know about faith and about Jesus, which is a great relief. This book gently warns me not to keep Jesus in a little 'box,' writing him off as just a wise man or a great thinker (yes, he was both -- but as Mr. Yancey points out, there is much more to Jesus than this). Highly recommended.
windadore More than 1 year ago
Just when one thinks they really know who Jesus is, they realize they weren't taught enough. Phillip Yancey tells us how much he "really" knew about Him too. Only to discuver after reading the Bible and seeing what society shows him is a totally different Jesus the Christ. I really didn't think about how much I really knew about Jesus the Christ until I looked into this book, and I see I could use a little more insight. I grew up knowing one side of Jesus, but when I read the Bible then I discovered there is the other side too.
Willow99 More than 1 year ago
Being of Jewish decent I am humbled in having Jesus as a huge part of my world. People believe what they want ... I practice Christianity and Judaism and feel the best of both worlds. I love what Yancey states in page 140. He gives examples of the type of people who would impress Him. I was able to relate to one of these people. Because I already did something so similar, by giving to a homeless person. I then watched this woman run across the street into a fast food joint because she mentioned she was hungry. The Lord blesses those who help others. Reading this book will expand our knowledge of what He wants us to do, in our lives ...
Guest More than 1 year ago
Philip is gifted in that he perceives a deeper picture which is also biblical. I have been a Christian for 17 years, but after I have read this book, I felt like I have met Jesus in person afresh. The title of this book is very appropriate -- The Jesus I never knew before. Praise the Lord for the works of Philip.
nesum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fine exploration of the life of Christ with great insight into the way we see our Savior. Yancey intentionally tries to get away from our modern cultural perceptions of Christ to see things from a different angle. The result is not a "different" Jesus of course, since the truths of Christ remain constant despite culture, but it is a deep look at the Lord.I would have given it five stars, but for two reasons I could not. In the first place, there were a couple of times I disagreed with Yancey. These were minor, and it probably still would have gained the fifth star with these except for the more major issue.Even though Yancey tried to get away from our cultural views of Christ, he fell into the largest of cultural traps -- seeing Jesus only as a poor Galilean carpenter. He seems to forget the Jesus that created the world or the Jesus that will return with a sword. By only seeing Jesus in the relatively short 33 years, he loses the magnitude of Christ. The result is what seems to be a hippie Jesus. It is the Jesus that we are most familiar with in today's America, but it is an incomplete picture of Jesus. If Yancey really wanted to blow away cultural stereotypes, he would have reminded us of the Jesus who will return to claim His kingdom; he would have reminded us of the Jesus who spoke the world into being.So he loses one star by claiming to examine Jesus, but only examining the part he was already comfortable with. A gret book nonetheless, but one that should be a suppliment to Scripture and not take the place of it.
rybeewoods on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What I love about Yancey is that he takes you on a journey, his journey. This book is killer, with wonderful insights into who Jesus was. Priceless.
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from this book (which now that I think of it is particularly appropriate, Jesus), so naturally it surprised me, but I was surprised again that it impressed me too. Evangelical dude Yancey, you are an imagination blowout! An emotionless cosmic God, becoming human through the Jesus Experiment? A showdown in the desert, Messiah and devil growling each other out? Jesus as either/or? Either God or madman, blessed surcease or demented malevolence? Saviour or monster? This book made me feel good about Christianity, and there wasn't much that could do that at this point in my life.
MarieFriesen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Philip Yancey reveals the real Jesus beyond the stereotypes, revolutionizing the reader¿s passion for Christ, and offers a new and different perspective on the life of Christ and his work¿his teachings, his miracles, his death and resurrection¿and ultimately, who he was and why he came. Relating the gospel events to the world we live in today, The Jesus I Never Knew gives a moving and refreshing portrait of the central figure of history. Yancey looks at the radical words of this itinerant Jewish carpenter and asks whether we are taking him seriously enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book reveals Jesus in several different aspects of life. From having always existed, even before his earthly birth, to his resurrection from the grave into everlasting life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book. A real eye opener. Yancy no doubt will anger some in the right wing with this book. In this Book he lays out the truth. A wonderful read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Very good book
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone who has questions about who Jesus was and is needs this book. I grew up in a christian church, but always had some doubts and questions I didn't even know how to ask. Philip Yancey phrased all my questions better than I could have and answered most of them. He presents a clear, believable picture of a very human Christ and also the divine Christ and meshes the two with a real, living God. After reading this I have a much clearer idea of who i am and how to be the Christian I want to be. I borrowed this from my church library, but I am going to buy this and all his books so I can refer to them whenever I need help on my journey.
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