Jesus of Nazareth – King of Jews, Paula Frederiksen

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Jesus of Nazareth – King of Jews

A Jewish Life and the Emergence of Christianity

By Paula Fredriksen

Key excerpts from the text:


Prelude I: Jerusalem (p.12-17)

Ch.1 Gospel Truth and Historical Innocence

  • The Synoptic Gospels (p.21-27)

In this section, Fredriksen looks at the commonalities of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. From this she hopes to identify truths about the historical Jesus.  However, she states that these similarities are due to the fact that both Matthew and Luke relied on the Gospel of Mark and another common Christian source while their own Gospel’s were being written.

  • The Synoptics and John (p.28-34)
    • Mark’s Jesus is a man of action: dashing, busy, driven in rapid motion from synagogue to invalid, from shore to grain field to sea, commanding demons with authority, even ordering nature to obey his will. (31) The Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is sentenced to death because of his open affirmation of his identity as the Son of God. (14:61)
    • The Jesus of John’s Gospel is sentenced to death because the priests and Pharisees fear that his activities will somehow jeopardize the Temple and the people. (33) (II:48,50)
  • Anachronism and Willed Innocence (p.34-41)

Prelude 2: The Temple (p.42-50)

Ch.2 God and Israel in Roman Antiquity

Chapter is dedicated to understanding the rituals and daily life of Jews during Roman Antiquity. Fredricksen believes that in order to know the historical Jesus, we must reconstruct the lived experience of the ancient people we wish to study, give up our retrospective knowledge and how it effects our perceptions, and then affect a willed naiveté. (41)

  • Purity (p.52-54)
  • Practice and Tradition (p.54-61)
  • Jewish Diversity and Consensus in the Time of Jesus(p.61-65)
  • Living the Law: Sacred Space and Sacred Time (p.65-73)

Ch.3 Trajectories: Paul, the Gospels, and Jesus

Fredriksen begins her research with Paul’s letters as they are the earliest account of Jesus; predating the Gospel of Mark by a generation. First letter was composed in the 40’s or 50’s of the first century.

  • The Kingdom (P.78-89)

o   Discusses the end of days as written by paul and Mark “The later the writing, the lower its level of commitment to an imminent Apocalypse; the earlier the writing the higher. (89)

  • The Twelve (p.89-98)

o   We know that Jesus had an inner core of followers, The Twelve, and that after the Crucifixion they traveled to spread the gospel, and that the movement relocated to Jerusalem (94).  Did the unpreparedness of Jesus and his disciples for their lengthy travels suggest that he too believed that the Kingdom would come soon? (98)

  • Ethics and the End (p.98-110)

o   Strong themes in the Gospels:  1) Jesus is drawn especially to the poor, whose very poverty enriches them spiritually 2) Jesus puts membership in and obligation to his group above normal ties to family and property 3) Evil is to be met with non-resistance; the enemy loved rather than hated 4) along side the ethic of perfectionism is also a message of divine leniency 5) Sinners need not fear exclusion from the Kingdom (103)

o   Mark’s Jesus can be read as standing against the Judaism of his time, represented on the one hand by his scribal and Pharisaic opponents, and on the other by the Temple and its priests…These episodes attest to Jesus’ true hostility, not just toward certain practices, but toward the Law itself .(104)

  • Works and Power (p.110-117)
  • The Lord’s Supper (p.117-119)
  • Jesus the Christ (p.119 -154)

o   The Meaning of Messiah

o   “Christ” in Paul

o   “Christ” in the Gospels

Ch.4 The Galilee, Judea and Jesus

Chapter looks at the landscape, language and governance in Israel during the time of Jesus, for the purpose of understanding the daily life of those times. (A review of all these aspects of life can be found on p.182)

Economics, Politics, and Power (p.159-184)

  • The Galilean Context
  • The Judean Context
  • Rome and the Jews

The Mission of John (p.184-214)

  • John, Jesus, and Repentance

John as mentor; Describes John and Jesus’ differences and similarities. (193)

  • Jesus and Purity

Jesus was truly a Jew of his time – had he not been, he would not  have had first century Jewish followers. (203) Jesus took purity codes for granted as fundamental to the worship of the God who had revealed them, uniquely, to Israel.

  • The Cleansing of the Temple

Jesus the Jewish peasant Cynic; Jesus the ethical, egalitarian Spirit-Person; the anti-nationalist Jesus (211)

The Followers of Jesus (p.214-234)

  • Galileans and Judeans in John
  • John’s Jesus, Mark’s Jesus, and the Crucifixion
  • The Temple, Again

The point of crucifixion/execution is not death but getting the attention of those watching.  It is the crowds in Jerusalem who are the audience that Pilate addresses, and in a sense they are the reason for Jesus’ death. (234)

Ch.5 The Days in Jerusalem

The Call to Israel (p.236-241)

  • By the time Jesus was crucified Pilates would have known a lot about him, having had preached in Jerusalem for many years. The Romans and Pilate knew Jesus was harmless, and this is why none of his followers were killed. (241)

The Crucified Messiah (p.241-259)

Afterword: Jesus, Christianity, and History

So what have we learned about Jesus through this reconstruction? (266)

  • He was a prophet who preached the coming apocalyptic Kingdom
  • His message coheres both with that of his predecessor and mentor, John the Baptizer, and with that of the movement that sprang up in his name.
  • Jesus, unlike others, had stepped the timetable for the coming Kingdom to not just soon but now.
  • Jesus was killed as an insurrectionist on Passover, but none of his disciples were.