Cover image for The changing faces of Jesus
The changing faces of Jesus
Vermès, Géza, 1924-2013.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Viking Compass, 2001.

Physical Description:
324 pages : map ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library BT202 .V44 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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A world-renowned scholar explores the New Testament writings about Jesus that have defined two millennia of Christian belief, worship, and speculationGeza Vermes is internationally recognized for his pioneering biblical scholarship as well as for his definitive English-language translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now, in his latest work, he takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the New Testament to reveal the true historical figure of Jesus hidden beneath the oldest Gospels.How was this Palestinian charismatic transformed by later generations into the heavenly savior elaborated by the Christian Church? Vermes acts as a sensitive, learned, and thought-provoking guide. His brilliant account presents the fruit of both a lifetime's scholarship and a lifelong quest to understand a solitary giant among Jewish prophets.

Author Notes

Geza Vermes was a religious scholar who became one of the "essential translators and a vocal advocate for their broad dissemination" of the Dead Sea Scrolls, according to the New York Times. Until his death, he was a Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies and Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, but continued to teach at the Oriental Institute in Oxford. He was born on June 22, 1924, in Hungary and died on May 8, 2013, after a recurrence of cancer. He was 88.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Vermes, a biblical scholar best known for his translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, takes a whack at a popular topic: the Jesus of the Bible versus the historical Jesus. He reverses the typical order of this discussion, beginning with the Gospel of John and ending with the synoptic Gospels. The usual building order, from earliest to latest, is more logical, but by opening with John's mystical Jesus, Vermes makes readers think in a new way about today's Christianity and its evolutions. Despite the depth of the scholarship, this is never a difficult read. Clearly, Vermes has brought a lifetime of knowledge to his work (he has written three previous books on Jesus and Judaism). The engaging way in which he shapes the familiar story makes this a definite buy for religion shelves, even if you think you've got a full complement on the subject. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

This academic yet accessible book tackles the question of Jesus' identity by attempting to strip away theological and historical interpretations in order to reach the original, Jewish, human Jesus. Vermes, professor emeritus of Jewish studies at Oxford, begins with the Gospel of John, which he asserts was the first to ascribe divine status to Jesus, and proceeds through the Pauline letters, the Book of Acts and the Synoptic Gospels. Along the way, he dismantles any statements about Jesus' life that he feels to be inaccurate or questionable. Vermes argues instead that if one returns to the actual and indisputable words of Jesus as stated by the Synoptic Gospels, and if one also takes into account the historical and Jewish religious tenor of the time, Jesus is revealed as a "prophet-like holy man, mighty in deed and word, a charismatic healer and exorcist." Vermes's Jesus is a teacher concerned with the Kingdom of God on earth, in the tradition of other Jewish holy men. The book sometimes engages in speculative reasoning: for example, a) Luke was an associate of Paul, b) Paul's theology is missing from Acts, c) "one would have expected an associate of Paul to do better than that," so d) Luke must not have written Acts. For the most part, however, Vermes ably poses the critical questions that have characterized the "quest for the historical Jesus," adding a few of his own. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Vermes (emeritus, Jewish studies, Oxford), one of the world's great Jewish scholars on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the historical Jesus indicates that as a historian, he considers "Jesus, the primitive church and the New Testament as part and parcel of first-century Judaism." Here he sets out to illuminate Jesus' teachings as they were understood in their original Aramaic. Using these assumptions and information, Vermes takes the fascinating and unusual approach of looking for Jesus in the Gospel of John. (Most writers on the historical Jesus begin with the Synoptics; i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke). He then moves from what he thinks are less authentic portraits of Jesus to those he considers more authentic: the Gospel of John presents Jesus as a "stranger from heaven;" Paul's Jesus is the Son of God and universal Redeemer; Acts presents Jesus as Prophet, Lord, and Christ; and in the Synoptics he is a charismatic healer, teacher, and eschatological enthusiast. Finally, Vermes looks for the real Jesus beneath the Gospels and deals with what he finds at the "dawn of the third millennium." Vermes's vast knowledge of first century Judaism ensures that this work will become one of the most important works in historical Jesus studies, and his readable style makes it useful for both public and academic library patrons. Highly recommended. David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prologue: From Christ to Jesusp. 1
1 John: The Odd Man Out Among the Evangelistsp. 7
2 The Jesus of John: Messiah Figure or Stranger from Heavenp. 25
3 Paul: The Odd Man Out Among the Apostlesp. 63
4 The Christ of Paul: Son of God and Universal Redeemer of Mankindp. 83
5 The Jesus of the Acts of the Apostles: Prophet, Lord, and Christp. 125
6 The Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels: Charismatic Healer and Teacher and Eschatological Enthusiastp. 157
7 Beneath the Gospels: The Real Jesusp. 237
8 The Real Jesus at the Dawn of the Third Millenniump. 281
Epilogue: A Dreamp. 287
Chronological Tablep. 289
Notesp. 291
Select Bibliographyp. 301
Indexp. 303

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