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The Message and the Kingdom : How Jesus and Paul Ignited a Revolution and Transformed the Ancient World
Richard A. Horsley & Neil Asher Silberman
From The Publisher:
In its vivid picture of the early Christian communities, The Message and the Kingdom shows that the world of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostle Paul was "not only a spiritual battleground but a landscape of far-reaching economic dislocation, cultural conflict, and political change.
Two thousand years ago, in a tiny land on the fringes of the Roman Empire, the message of Jesus resounded among a people suffering under the tyranny of Rome. The revolutionary message of Jesus ignited these listeners and infuriated the Roman imperial establishment. Some years after the death of Jesus, Saul of Tarsus experienced a vision that persuaded him to deliver Jesus' message throughout the empire. This almighty, biblical story transformed the world.
Now Richard Horsley and Neil Asher Silberman reveal how the message of Jesus and Paul was profoundly shaped by the history of their time and by the circumstances and social conditions of the congregations to whom they preached. The authors draw on a wealth of newly uncovered historical information and archaeological discoveries: among others, the soggy timbers of a fisherman's boat submerged in the mud of the Sea of Galilee for more than two thousand years, which suggest the kind of vessel that might have been used by the fisherman-disciples; the ruins of the ancient harbor city of Caesarea, where the name of the notorious Roman governor Pontius Pilate has been identified on a fragmentary Latin inscription; and an ornate urn found in a ancient tomb just south of the Old City of Jerusalem, inscribed with the name of Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest who presided over Jesus' trial. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of Jesus and Paul as great men of faith and passion who were moved by the suffering caused by the domination of Rome and who offered a renewed religion - a kingdom in which no earthly power would reign.
An eloquent social history of first-century Palestine by Horsley (Religion/Univ. of Massachusetts) and Silberman (The Hidden Scrolls, 1994). As the authors often reiterate, they are historians, not theologians; their goal is not to bolster or debunk the claims of the New Testament, but to contextualize them. They accomplish this by setting the stage of Christian beginnings in the first century, an era of profound social changes, such as escalating tenancy, spiraling indebtedness, and overtaxation by the burgeoning Roman bureaucracy. In Galilee, an obscure outpost of the empire, it became increasingly difficult for Jews to make a decent living (even fishing was transformed in this period from a seasonal, family occupation to a year-round export business, as enthusiasts in Rome developed a taste for the piquant). The region was ripe for social protest, and the authors claim this is how Christianity, ``a movement that boldly challenged the heartlessness and arrogance of a vast governmental bureaucracy,'' began. Jesus, the heart of this movement, constantly challenged Roman rule as illegitimate; the authors persuasively argue that even the ``render unto Caesar'' remark was Jesus' cryptic way of saying that everything belonged to God. The tenor of the movement changed markedly after Jesus' death, becoming more an urban than a rural phenomenon, but even under Paul it remained a social protest. Paul's remarkable missionary success was expedited by audiences' continued discontent with the Roman government, which made the promised immediate demise of all worldly principalities an attractive option. Paul displayed his protest by insisting on equality among persons; he took collections for the poor and even advocated the immediate abolition of the Roman institution of slavery. Paul's ideology was wildly popular, but not with the Roman authorities, who imprisoned him several times and eventually beheaded him for sedition. Stylishly written and rich in memorable detail, this is a rare find that actually offers fresh insight into the over studied New Testament. (2 maps)
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About the Authors
Richard A. Horsley is Professor of Classics and Religion at the University of Massachusetss, Boston. He is the author of numberous books, including the Fortress Press title, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence (1992). Neil Asher Silberman is the author or editor of numerous popular books on archaeology and the Bible, including The Bible Unearthed (2001) and the Archaeology of Israel (1997).
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