By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Prophet. Wisdom Teacher. Spirit Person. Movement Founder. Savior. Mystic. Revolutionary. Rabbi. Peasant. Troublemaker. The Prince of Peace. The Christ. These are some of the titles given to Jesus of Nazareth. He's been the subject of countless works of theology; he's inspired novels and poetry; and his story has been told in movies. Yet no one portrait can capture all that there is to say or feel about him.
Here are links to reviews of 50 books about Jesus. Just by reading the reviews, you will get a wide spectrum of ideas about his teachings, ministry, and mission. But, of course, we also encourage you to read the books. Click on the link on each review to order through our affiliation with Powells.com, who carry both new and used books.
Borg, Marcus J.
Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (HarperOne)
This is a brilliantly rewritten version of the author's 1987 classic, which blazed a trail to new discussions of the historical Jesus. In bold chapters on God, Wisdom, and Resistance, Borg spells out the "way" of Jesus before he was executed by Rome and vindicated by God.
Borg, Marcus J.
Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith (HarperSanFrancisco)
This clearly written classic text describes the "pre-Easter" Jesus as a spirit person, teacher of wisdom, prophet, and movement founder. He invited his followers to a transformed relationship with God and emphasized compassion.
Borg, Marcus J. and Crossan, John Dominic
The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus' Final Week in Jerusalem (HarperSanFrancisco)
Two progressive contemporary Jesus scholars interpret the events and encounters during the last week in Jesus' life, as recorded in the Gospel of Mark.
Borg, Marcus J. and Crossan, John Dominic.
The First Christmas (HarperOne)
Two Jesus scholars offer a parabolic reading of the narratives in the Bible about Jesus' birth and infancy.
Bruteau, Beatrice, editor. Jesus through Jewish Eyes: Rabbis and Scholars Engage an Ancient Brother in a New Conversation (Orbis Books)
This salutary anthology of essays by Jewish rabbis, scholars, and laypersons provides a fascinating look at Yeshua, the controversial Jewish teacher from Nazareth, the "Galilean Hasid, someone passionately in love with God," and the most famous Jew who ever lived. Martin Buber called Jesus his "brother"; several authors here refer to him as "cousin."
Chilson, Richard W.
Yeshua of Nazareth: Spiritual Master (Sorin Books)
Change and trust are identified as the centerpieces of Jesus' teaching ministry. Yeshua of Nazareth demonstrated the spiritual practices of gratitude, hospitality, compassion, and forgiveness.
Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography (Image Books/Doubleday)
Here is a portrait of a profoundly Judaic Jesus. Using the Gospels, ancient Jewish literature, and the Aramaic oral tradition, Chilton sheds light on Jesus as a rabbi, a teacher of the Kabbalah, and a devotee of a Galilean brand of Judaism that put the accent on direct communication with God.
The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore (Harmony)
The bestselling author presents different views of Jesus, including Jesus as "The Christ We Cannot Ignore" who lives in "our own awareness at the level of God-consciousness. This Jesus is also an enlightened teacher of personal transformation.
The Unexpected Teachings of Jesus: Encountering the Gospels All Over Again
A Lutheran pastor offers out-of-the-box interpretations of the teachings of Jesus, focusing on five types: the blindside, the (re)visionary, the shalom, the perilous, and the restorative. Can we accept that in his time Jesus was a criminal?
Crossan, John Dominic.
Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (HarperSanFrancisco)
Drawing from cross-cultural anthropology, Jewish and Greco-Roman history, and literary and textural evidence, Biblical scholar Crossan paints a portrait of Jesus as a Mediterranean Jewish peasant whose disarming egalitarianism got him into trouble with the authorities and led to his death.
Jesus the Rebel: Bearer of God's Peace and Justice (Sheed & Ward)
Priest and peace activist Dear sees Jesus as a troublemaker for the religious elite, the war-making empire, and the establishment. He opposed the culture of violence with an inner peace and a startling love of his enemies.
Dear, John. Transfiguration: A Meditation on Transforming Ourselves and Our World (Image/Doubleday)
This meditation on the story of Jesus' transfiguration turns into a thought-provoking and soul-stirring book that encourages us to practice Jesus' way of fearless non-violence.
Douglas-Klotz, Neil. Blessings of the Cosmos: Benedictions from the Aramaic Words of Jesus (Sounds True)
The author, current co-chair of the Mysticism Group of the American Academy of Religion, known for his explanation of the meaning of The Lord's Prayer in Jesus' native language Aramaic. Here he explains other blessings and invocations of Jesus, providing insights into Jesus' spirituality.
Douglas-Klotz, Neil. The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus (Quest Books)
This portrait of Jesus as a Middle Eastern mystic examines Jesus' teachings about the Sacred Unity, presenting translations of his words from the Aramaic, meditations, and body prayers.
Dwinell, Michael. From Within the Heart of God: The Journal of Jesus (Xlibris)
Dwinell imagines Jesus' experience at various points in his life and ministry, using the literary device of a journal of Jesus discovered when the remains of Mary Magdalene are unearthed. We sense his vulnerability, errors, anger, fear, suffering, and most of all, his intimacy with God.
Elliott, William J. A Place at the Table: A Journey to Rediscover the Real Jesus with the Guidance of Various Teachers from Billy Graham to Deepak Chopra (Doubleday)
Armed with a batch of questions about the man from Nazareth, the author interviews 27 people scholars, mystics, and evangelists ranging from Matthew Fox and John Shelby Spong to Marianne Williamson and Jerry Falwell. The result is a multidimensional feast of insights on Jesus.
Freeman, Laurence. Jesus: The Teacher Within (Continuum)
Freeman, director of the World Community of Christian Meditation, centers his commentary on Jesus' question to his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" He posits that it is "the indefinable silence at the heart of the mystery of Jesus" that communicates his identity.
Funk, Robert W. Honest to Jesus: Jesus for a New Millennium (Polebridge Press)
Funk, a biblical scholar and founder of the Jesus Seminar, describes Jesus as an iconoclast instead of an icon, a social deviant, boundary breaker, charismatic teacher, and troublemaker who criticized the temple cult and subverted purity codes.
Girzone, Joseph F. A Portrait of Jesus (Image Books)
The author of the bestselling parables in the Joshua series presents Jesus as a transforming figure in the lives of those around him, a charismatic and loving soul, and a free spirit who never "put on the pious."
Goldman, Caren, and Dols, William. Finding Jesus, Discovering Self: Passages to Healing and Wholeness (Morehouse)
The authors explore how the process of personal meaning-making using stories from the life and ministry of Jesus.
Gomes, Peter J. The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus (HarperOne)
The well-known African-American teacher and preacher is dedicated to spreading the
Good News of the Gospel. He encourages preachers to disturb the comfortable in the pews and to emphasize that the Christian faith requires following the words and deeds of Jesus in everyday life, even though this is not an easy path.
Grun, Anselm. Jesus: The Image of Humanity: Luke's Account (Continuum)
A German Benedictine monk, Grun examines the Gospel of Luke's account of Jesus' life, noting how the author tried to make his ideas accessible to readers in the Greek world. Focusing on Jesus as one who develops the divine center in us all, he sees him as the true physician who heals our wounds and teaches the art of healthy living.
Hanh, Thich Nhat. Living Buddha, Living Christ (Riverhead)
The Buddhist teacher and practitioner of nonviolence builds bridges between Buddhism and Christianity by talking about the similarities between the enlightenment of the Buddha and the lovingkindness of Christ.
Harvey, Andrew. Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam)
This examination of Jesus begins with an affirmation of contemporary biblical scholarship on this mystic revolutionary and concludes with a section on 12 transformational spiritual practices. Harvey salutes Jesus as a radical who "combines the deepest mystical absorption in the divine with the most absolute and selfless work for justice and compassion in the world."
Hays, Edward. The Gospel of Gabriel: A Life of Jesus the Christ (Forest of Peace)
This new version of the gospel story is a poetic, passionate, and deeply spiritual portrait of the man from Nazareth. Jesus wild, mystical, and imaginative romances us with glad tidings about love.
Heyward, Carter. Saving Jesus from Those Who Are Right: Rethinking What It Means to Be Christian (Fortress Press)
Offering alternative images to the authoritarian, moralistic, adversarial, and obedient Jesus of the Religious Right, Heywood holds up Jesus as brother, teacher, healer, and advocate of solidarity with the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized.
Kolbell, Erik. What Jesus Meant: The Beatitudes and a Meaningful Life (Westminster John Knox Press)
In this exploration of the meaning of the Beatitudes, Jesus the rabbi shows us that the path of discipleship consists of meekness, empathy, righteousness, peace, persecution, purity, poverty, and simplicity. Jesus did not take the path of ease and comfort.
Leloup. Jean-Yves. The Sacred Embrace of Jesus and Mary: The Sexual Mystery at the Heart of the Christian Tradition ( Inner Traditions)
An Orthodox theologian from France draws from canonical and apocryphal gospels, the Hebrew esoteric traditions, and Christian Gnosticism to explore the sexuality of Jesus who honored the flesh rather than denying it. He argues that the Incarnation heals the split between spirituality and sexuality.
Leong, Kenneth S. The Zen Teachings of Jesus (Crossroad)
Leong presents Jesus as an artist who sought to draw out the creativity, joy, and wonder of those who listened to him. He was a Zen master of everyday spirituality whose parables and koans enabled people to see the world afresh.
Maalouf, Jean. Jesus Laughed and Other Reflections on Being Human (Sheed & Ward)
Here is a rousing, creative, and passionate portrait of Jesus as a robust, earth-cherishing visionary and healer. Jesus was a spirit person who "saw in everything the divine reality of God's living presence."
Manning, Brennan. A Glimpse of Jesus: The Stranger to Self-Hatred (HarperSanFranciso)
The author of the bestselling The Ragamuffin Gospel contrasts Jesus' ardent trust in the wonderful and unending love of God to the self-hatred fueled by moral perfectionism of many contemporary Christians. He also notes that while many congregations exclude some people from their communion table, Jesus shared his table with sinners, bringing healing and wholeness to the entire community.
The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth That Could Change Everything (Thomas Nelson)
McLaren, a leader in the emerging church movement, believes that Jesus didnít come to start a new religion but was on a radical journey to start a revolution in the way people lived their everyday lives on every level ó political, social, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual. This is the right book at the right time with its call to a new form of Christianity that can appeal to evangelicals, mainliners, and spiritual seekers.
On Your Mark: Reading Mark in the Shadow of the Cross (Orbis Books)
This rigorous and deeply spiritual commentary on the Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus as a border crosser who constantly challenged the understandings of his time.
Wisdom of the Carpenter: 365 Prayers & Meditations of Jesus (Seastone)
This book contains a saying from Jesus, a short commentary, and a prayer for every day of the year. The emphasis is upon the unconventional nature of the man from Nazareth whose words go against the standards of his day and reveal a mystical dimension that is both experiential and subtle.
The Gospel According to Jesus: A New Translation and Guide to His Essential Teachings for Believers and Unbelievers (HarperPerennial)
Mitchell has culled an "Essential Gospel" from the biblical texts, focusing on aspects of the life and message of Jesus that point to God's unconditional love and forgiveness.
Jesus Before Christianity (Orbis Books)
Theologian Harvey Cox called this classic "the most accurate and balanced short reconstruction of the life of the historical Jesus." The accent is upon his compassion for the poor and the oppressed, his healing, and his ability to read the signs of the times.
Jesus Today: A Spirituality of Radical Freedom (Orbis Books)
The author, a Dominican priest from South Africa, looks at the relevance of Jesus' spirituality to our time. He concludes that radical freedom Jesus taught and modeled leads to unity with God, ourselves, others, and the universe.
Nouwen, Henri J. M.
Heart Speaks to Heart: Three Gospel Meditations on Jesus (Ave Maria Press)
The spiritual master offers three meditations on the sacred heart of Jesus set against the backdrop of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
O'Grady, Ron, editor.
Christ for All People: Celebrating a World of Christian Art (Orbis Books)
This stunning collection of 100 paintings and sculpture pieces from 60 countries depict the life of Jesus from his birth to his resurrection. The images for people of all races and traditions reveal how Jesus can be a bringer of unity in diversity.
The Illustrated Jesus Through the Centuries (Yale University Press)
Historian and theologian Pelikan surveys the different ways successive generations and cultures have appropriated Jesus for their times as the King of Kings, the Cosmic Christ, the Son of Man, the Prince of Peace, and more.
Riegert, Ray and Moore, Thomas. The Lost Sutras of Jesus: Unlocking the Ancient Wisdom of the Xian Monks (Seatone)
These teachings were carried from Persia to China by a group of Christian monks who translated them into Chinese. They are a unique blend of the teachings of Jesus and the wisdom of the East.
Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt (Alfred A. Knopf)
Rice, best known for her vampire stories, has written a novel about the childhood of Jesus.
Christ the Lord (Alfred A. Knopf)
This second novel covers Jesus' baptism, his temptations in the wilderness, and the marriage at Cana.
Jesus for the Rest of Us (Hampton Roads)
This is a post-Christian exploration of what it means to be present with Jesus.
Jesus in the Power of the Spirit (Fortress Press)
Song envisions Jesus as a Spirit-filled person who envisioned truth as relational, contextual, historical, and transcultural. He crossed borders and barriers and stood against "spiritual colonialism," a "closed truth that comes in the guise of absoluteness and uniqueness."
Spong, John Shelby.
Jesus for the Non-Religious: Recovering the Divine at the Heart of the Human (HarperOne)
The Episcopal priest proclaims Jesus as the breaker of tribal boundaries, of prejudice and stereotypes, and of religious enclaves.
The Words of Jesus (Jossey-Bass/Wiley)
This is a collection of the saying of Jesus organized into five thematic categories.
Four Faces: A Journey in Search of Jesus the Divine, the Jew, the Rebel, the Sage (Ulysses Press)
Tully, a journalist, takes us on a fascinating journey to Israel, Egypt, Rome, and India to learn more about Jesus, talking to scholars about the incarnation, the connections between Jesus and Hinduism's Krishna, and Jesus' emphasis on the inner search for God.
Befriending the Stranger (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
Here's a book that explores the popular question "What would Jesus do." It presents a radical overview of the spiritual practice of hospitality advocated by Jesus.
The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of the Son of the Man (Fortress Press)
Jesus refered to himself as the "son of man" which simply means "a human being." By avoiding honorific titles, he helped people become more truly human. For Wink, the quest for the historical Jesus is a search for the carpenter from Nazareth who condemned all forms of domination and sought to set people free from the multiple prisons constructed by themselves or those in positions of power over them.