Jesus Christ: The Jesus of History, The Christ of Faith by J.R. Porter is a beautifully illustrated overview of Jesus' life, social and political context, and teachings, and the variety of ways Jesus' contemporaries and later followers have interpreted his significance. Porter, a professor of theology at the University of Exeter, has a great talent for synthesizing and popularizing the research of today's leading archaeologists, historians, and biblical scholars--who have lately unearthed some surprising discoveries about Jesus' relationship to first-century Judaism, his view of the Hebrew Scriptures, his close relationships with women, and the political issues surrounding his trial. Porter's keen awareness of contemporary scholarship is complemented by his mastery of the content of the original gospels, the creation of orthodox Christianity by the Church Fathers, and the development of Christendom's relationship to Christ through the Middle Ages and into the Modern period.
The resulting book is an engagingly sober balance of humble traditionalism ("It seems likely that the gospel writers worked with a body of existing traditions about Jesus that had many points in common and must, in numerous instances, have derived from the disciples who knew him.") and reasonable subjectivism ("In the end, anyone who attempts a reconstruction, however tentative, of the life and intentions of Jesus cannot avoid a degree of subjectivity. Every idea about Jesus has to be tested by the wide range of criteria and sound historical methods that present-day biblical scholarship has at its disposal."). Porter's excellent text is complemented by hundreds of sumptuous color photographs of the Holy Land and of artists' renderings of Jesus through the ages. Altogether, it's a fine achievement by a scholar whose commitment to both revealed and historical truth shines through on every page of the book. --Michael Joseph Gross [via]