Baker & Taylor A lively study of the historical Jesus draws on the letters of St. Paul to provide new insights into the lives of both Jesus Christ and Paul within the context of the historical era in which they lived.
Oxford University Press The gospels, scholars agree, were written after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. This catastrophic event, argues Donald Akenson, forever altered the outlook--and the agenda--of the Christian and Jewish faiths. Of all the New Testament writings, only Paul's letters were composed before 70 CE. Thus, Akenson says, they are the only direct evidence we have that is untainted by this profound and lasting shift in perspective. And yet this most important source on the life of Jesus is also the most neglected. In Saint Saul, Akenson offers a lively and provocative account of what we can learn about Jesus by reading the letters of Paul, providing fresh new insights into both Jesus and Paul. Akenson painstakingly recreates the world of Christ, a time rich with ideas, prophets, factions, priests, savants, and god-drunk fanatics. He insistently stresses throughout the Jewishness of Jesus (for example, referring to Jesus and Paul as Yeshua and Saul, as they were then known). Equally important, he dismisses the traditional method of searching for facts about Jesus by looking for parallels among the four gospels; they were handed down to us as a unit by a later generation, he argues. Saul, although he did not know Yeshua personally, knew his most important followers, and wrote immediately after Yeshua's death. Saul's teachings were approved (though sometimes reluctantly) by Yeshua's brothers and other early leaders. As an eminent historian, Akenson approaches his subject with a fresh eye and a scholarly rigor that is all too rare in this hotly disputed field. The result is a vibrantly written and provocative book that will captivate anyone seeking to know more about the historical Jesus and the earliest Christians.