Understanding Jesus of Nazareth: a Review of Graham Stanton’s the Gospels and Jesus

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For centuries, people from diverse religions and cultures have searched for substantial data in order to better understand the true nature and identity of Jesus. Some contend that he was a prophet; others worship him as a god, while many others assert that he was merely a wise teacher with no link to the divine. In the second part of Graham Stanton’s book, The Gospels and Jesus, Jesus’ intentions, teachings, and downfall are examined and assessed with notable order and clarity, all in an attempt to resolve the fundamental question of Part II: who was Jesus of Nazareth?
Stanton launches Part II with a chapter entitled “What do we know about Jesus of Nazareth?” Here, the debate as to whether or not Jesus existed is considered by exploring archaeological evidence from outside the gospels in an effort to establish what is known about Jesus. He cites various non-Christian, Jewish, and Christian sources after opening the chapter with a theory by G.A. Wells which argues that it was not until 100 CE that Jesus was worshipped as a “Savior” figure. Wells maintains that before 150 CE, there is no independent non-Christian support for the existence of Jesus and that the authors of the four New Testament gospels invented their traditions about the life of Jesus. As Stanton argues, this does not entirely make sense, since it is difficult to find signs of the convictions, emphases, and conflicts of the Christians of that period in the canonical gospels. Stanton continues to refer to sources outside of the gospels such as the non-Christian writings of the Roman historian Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, and satirist Lucian of Samosata. He also investigates the writings of Jewish historian Josephus, which alludes to Jesus as “the so-called Christ,” as well as to James, the brother of Jesus. With the exception of Josephus, Jewish writings say little about Jesus.…...

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