Monday, March 4, 2013

Understanding Jesus by Stephen M. Miller

book cover
Understanding Jesus:
A Guide to His Life and Times
by Stephen M. Miller

ISBN-13: 9781616269142
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Barbour Publishing
Released: February 1, 2013

Source: Review ebook copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
This black-and-white paperback reference is written in a casual, easy-to-read journalistic style. Miller explains the Roman world where Jesus lived, adding new insights from archaeology and ancient history.

My Review:
Understanding Jesus is a Bible reference book about the gospels. It's a detailed historical background book but also a comparative commentary on selected verses or events. It's written in a casual tone but stays focused and contained in-depth, complex information.

The author wrote this book for people who don't know much about Jesus, yet I suspect they would either find this book overwhelming or confusing. For example, his information on the difference between a bride price, a dowry, and a bride gift, the amounts typically paid for each during that time period, and the exact wording of a divorce paper was interesting to me. However, this information didn't really help me understand Jesus' life and teachings better. This depth and type of information is more something I'd recommend to those familiar with the Bible and who want to go deeper than the typical study Bible or Bible handbook.

This book also contained comparative commentary. He'd compare the views of Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and various Protestant scholars on certain verses. For example, why do the two genealogies for Jesus appear different, and why were women--and shameful women at that--included in one genealogy? Again, these were questions that those not familiar with the gospel accounts probably aren't worried about and the variety of opinions given could leave them confused instead of enlightened.

A more advanced student of the Bible might find this book useful. It's a good resource for detailed historical background information on certain topics, and I really enjoyed those sections. This information was based off of ancient literary sources and archaeological finds.

The book could also be a time saver for those who don't want to look up various commentary opinions for themselves. However, I didn't really like the commentary comparison because it came from a different starting point than I do. I would have been okay with it if it'd been presented as "we know it's true, but people have various opinions on the specifics." But I felt like the author was saying, "Here are some differing opinions as well as reasons why those opinions don't work. It's up to you to judge which opinion is true, or even to decide that Jesus or the gospel writer made a mistake."

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

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