"The Real Jesus: The Mistaken Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels," by Luke Timothy Johnson (Harper San Francisco, 182 pp.; $22, hardcover).

"Who do scholars say that I am?" asked a recent CT cover story on the flourishing industry of Jesus studies (Mar. 4, 1996). The answer seemed to be almost anything but the risen Christ worshiped by believers around the world. Yet, while the radical revisionists have claimed the lion's share of media coverage, their conclusions are by no means representative of the whole spectrum of New Testament scholarship. Now, from within the scholarly guild, Luke Timothy Johnson has mounted a frontal assault that demolishes the pretensions of the Jesus Seminar and reaffirms the Christ of faith.

Johnson's book "The Real Jesus" is one of the most exhilarating religious books published in this decade. His formidable task, which he performs with gusto, is to sort out the claims made by Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Robert Funk, Burton Mack, and other much-publicized scholars so that Christians, and other fair-minded people, can take stock of what is actually being asserted.

A former Benedictine priest and currently a professor of New Testament at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta (in 1995, Doubleday published his commentary on the Epistle of James in the acclaimed Anchor Bible series), Johnson is a soft-spoken man, at first glance an unlikely candidate for polemics. He was motivated to write his book, he says, out of a genuine sense of outrage over the preposterous claims being made by the Jesus Seminar and its fellow-travelers--above all, the claim, repeatedly reinforced by the media, that their peculiar form of scholarly reductionism ...

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