There were 17,249 books about Jesus in the Library of Congress as of 2004, and their number, as this essay attests, continues to climb. Who do people say the Son of Man is?

It may well be that these thousands of pages have only intensified our longing for viva vox, the living voice. It is a voice that cuts through our misery and darkness, our pluralizing cacophony—even, yes, our screens and reams of print—with the authority and exuberance of Life itself. Amid the din of our age, we listen and we wait for the voice of life.

Turning and Churning to Jesus

Viva vox was actually a byword for historians in the ancient world. When given a choice, they opted for eyewitnesses over written sources. They strongly preferred relying on those whose hands had touched and ears had heard critical parts of the stories they were intent on preserving. They fought to get the story right, and so do we.

That's the better part of what these Jesus books are about: The stakes, it nearly goes without saying, could hardly be higher. "If he did what he said, then it's nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him." So spoke Flannery O'Connor's tortured, violent Misfit in A Good Man Is Hard to Find. It's wisdom that can't be topped.

Given this daunting imperative, it's fortunate that we do a lot of history these days; indeed, in some ways we in the West are more attuned to history than ever. With the post-Christian, postmodern collapse of visions of universal morality and of soaring metanarratives that explain our world to us from some authoritative vantage, we're left with mere history, with the highly particular, often idiosyncratic, mainly muddled world of everyday human experience: fraying families, oppressive principalities, ...

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