In his first chapter, Crossley (biblical studies, Univ. of Sheffield, U.K.; The Date of Mark's Gospel) narrates the decline of social-scientific explanations for Christianity in the early 20th century and their resurgence in recent years, a trend to which Crossley eagerly contributes in the subsequent chapters. Drawing on sociology, history, archaeology, and linguistics, he proffers secular explanations for three stages of the Jesus movement. First, he interprets Jesus's activity itself as one instance of a generalized "peasant unrest" provoked by imperial Roman exploitation. Second, the rapid spread of the movement is attributed to the receptivity to monotheism of advanced agrarian societies like the Roman Empire. Third, empirical studies of religious conversion suggest to Crossley that the inclusion of a critical mass of gentiles caused the transformation of Christianity from a Torah-observant Jewish sect to a nonobservant church. Crossley's knowledge of rabbinic Judaism is impressive and furnishes much detail for his discussion of Jesus's attitude to the Law, but his acquaintance with the social sciences is second-hand, and his hypotheses are hardly novel. An optional purchase for academic libraries.-Charles Seymour, Mabee Learning Resources Ctr., Wayland Baptist Univ., Plainview, TX Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.