Jesus and the gospels Every year hundreds of books about Jesus appear in print, but not every year does one become a best-seller, as did 1977’s Jesus of Nazareth (Collins + World) by the late William Barclay. The book is based on the film of that title directed by Franco Zeffirelli and televised last Easter. More than 100,000 copies have been sold, and the sales are likely to continue, since NBC bought the rights to show the film during Holy Week for the next nine years. People who like big books with lots of sentimental pictures will love this one! As usual, Barclay writes interestingly, in non-technical language; but several of his other books on the story of Jesus are better—and considerably cheaper.

How does a historian look at the life and teachings of Jesus? Michael Grant attempts an answer in Jesus: An Historian’s Review of the Gospels (Scribners). The author of numerous historical studies intended for the educated lay reader. Grant seeks to steer a course between what he regards as the excessive skepticism of many critics and the adulation of believers in approaching the gospel materials. Although he does not argue that the Gospels are historically trustworthy in every detail, he makes it very clear that there is no reason to deny the fundamental features of the life and teaching of Jesus that are found there. Scholars and ordinary Christians alike will wish to challenge many details in this book, but no one will read it without being both entertained and intellectually stimulated.

A more substantial work is I. Howard Marshall’s I Believe in the Historical Jesus (Eerdmans). Although written for the general reader, the work is the product of decades of serious academic research. In contrast to Grant’s work, Marshall’s ...

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