Jesus by Ed Kessler
The latest in the series of Pocket Giants focuses on Jesus, written by the Founder Director of the Woolf Institute
by Ed Kessler
The History Press
Reviewer: Pieter J. Lalleman
The series of Pocket Giants contains short biographies of persons such as Sigmund Freud, Jane Austen, Abraham Lincoln and Alfred the Great. The latest addition to the series is Jesus, written by Dr Edward Kessler, a Jewish scholar who does not think that Jesus was the Messiah. Indeed, he hardly mentions Jesus' resurrection and clearly does not believe in it. He does describe Jesus in a positive way but the book is too short and too unfocused to be useful. There is almost more background information than evaluation of Jesus himself.
The book is in four chapters, the first of which is a sketch of the life of Jesus, mainly written with the help of liberal scholars such as Ed Sanders. The second chapter focuses on the teaching of Jesus, but the third is an overview of the history of the church in which Jesus is hardly mentioned. The final chapter discusses 'Jesus from the perspective of other faiths' but – disappointingly – it has more on whether Jesus was a communist or a capitalist (six pages) than on Jesus from a Jewish perspective (four pages).
The book contains some weird claims and mistakes, such as that Romans was Paul's last letter (p.69), that the term Christian was first used in the second century (p.67, despite Acts 11:26) and that Helena, the mother of emperor Constantine, 'was perhaps as instrumental as Paul in the development of Christianity' because she invented pilgrimage to the holy land (p.73).
At the end there are two maps (which are too small), a glossary of terms, a timeline of church history and suggestions for further reading. From that list I want to mention one book which is similar to the present one in aim and superior in accomplishment: Richard Bauckham, Jesus: A Very Short Introduction (2011).
The Revd Dr Pieter J. Lalleman teaches Bible at Spurgeon's College