By John P. Meier

John Meier’s prior volumes within the acclaimed sequence A Marginal Jew are based upon the proposal that whereas stable ancient information regarding Jesus is sort of constrained, humans of other faiths can however arrive at a consensus on basic historic evidence of his existence. during this eagerly expected fourth quantity within the sequence, Meier methods a clean topic—the teachings of the historic Jesus relating Mosaic legislation and morality—with an analogous rigor, thoroughness, accuracy, and insightfulness on reveal in his past works. After correcting misconceptions approximately Mosaic legislation in Jesus’ time, this quantity addresses the lessons of Jesus on significant felony themes like divorce, oaths, the Sabbath, purity principles, and many of the love commandments within the Gospels. What emerges from Meier’s study is a profile of a sophisticated first-century Palestinian Jew who, faraway from trying to abolish the legislation, used to be deeply engaged in debates approximately its observance. merely through embracing this portrait of the old Jesus grappling with questions of the Torah can we keep away from the typical mistake of making Christian ethical theology less than the guise of learning “Jesus and the Law,” the writer concludes.

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Additional info for A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume 4: Law and Love

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27 28 The arguments supporting this position are given in A Marginal Jew, 1. 112–66. , see John P. Meier, “On Retrojecting Later Questions from Later Texts: A Reply to Richard Bauckham,” CBQ 59 (1997) 511–27. As is customary in discussions of the historical Jesus, words like “authentic” and “historical” are used in a technical sense to express the judgment that some saying or deed preserved in the Gospels does in fact go back to the historical Jesus. Gospel material that is judged not historical or not authentic in this technical sense may nevertheless be an important witness to the history of the early church or an important source of authentic Christian teaching.

For example, when it comes to Jesus’ prohibition of divorce, it is the early Christian church that preserves the tradition of Jesus’ prohibition and tries to implement it, though with obvious difficulties that lead to adaptation and expansion of the core tradition. It is rather vis-à-vis most if not all of the Judaism of his time (depending on how one interprets the Qumran material) that Jesus seems discontinuous in his prohibition of divorce. 35 As indicated throughout the first three volumes of A Marginal Jew, I hold that John’s Gospel represents a tradition independent of the Synoptics.

Once again, the chicken-and-the-egg 26 JESUS AND THE LAW—BUT WHAT IS THE LAW? 27 effect takes hold. On the one hand, the data in the Gospels, when correlated with the testimony of Philo, Josephus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, may shed light on how the Law was understood or practiced around the time of Jesus. On the other hand, the Law, thus clarified and put into context, may shed more light on Jesus and his teaching. Actually, there is nothing new or surprising in this method of reciprocal illumination; scholars use it regularly in the study of ancient history.

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