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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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Foreword by Rob Van Scheers

Translated by Susan Massotty

Building on the work of the great Biblical scholars of the twentieth century—Rudolf Bultman, Raymond Brown, Jane Schabert and Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminars, among others—filmmaker Paul Verhoeven disrobes the mythical Jesus to reveal a man who is, after all, startlingly familiar to us, a man who has much in common with other great political leaders throughout history, human beings who believed that change was coming in their lifetimes.

Gone is the Jesus of the miracles, gone the son of God, gone the weaver of arcane parables whose meanings are obscure. In their place Verhoeven gives us his vision of Jesus as a complete man, someone who was changed by events, the leader of a political movement, and, perhaps most importantly, someone who, in his speeches and sayings, introduced a new ethics in which enlightened behavior and the embrace of human contradictions transcend the mechanics of value and worth that had defined the material world before Jesus.

Coming to a deeper understanding of the historical Jesus has been a lifelong passion for Verhoeven, who for the last quarter-century has been among the very few non-academics participating in the Jesus Seminars. Verhoeven assumed that one day he would make a film of the life of Jesus. Then he realized that it must be a book. Steeped in Biblical scholarship but free of the institutional biases, whether academic or religious, that so often dictate the terms of discussion of the historical Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth is a book that builds a bridge reaching all the way back to Jesus's lifetime, all the way forward to the present, and from biblical scholars to lay readers whose interest might be personal or political.

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“Shrewd and learned.”

“Paul Verhoeven, director of RoboCop & Starship Troopers, wrote a book about Jesus … I will read this.”

“Verhoeven brings a searing honesty to the Jesus debate. His cinematic eye catches nuances that scholars have often overlooked. The payoff is a Jesus released from ecclesial and dogmatic winding sheets … a human being who breathes our air, risks, dreams, imagines, and makes mistakes.”

“Verhoeven certainly knows whereof he speaks, having as a boy experienced the boot of Nazi occupation in his native Holland. His Jesus is, therefore, fresh and invigorating, and thoroughly more historical and convincing than earlier ones.”

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Acclaimed as the director of such films as Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers, Paul Verhoeven was born in 1938 in the Netherlands, where he took a dual degree in math and physics. After moving to Los Angeles in 1985 to pursue his film career, Verhoeven became the only non-theologian admitted into the Jesus Seminar, a group of seventy-seven eminent scholars in theology, philosophy, linguistics, and biblical history. Their activities are devoted to determining more precisely the words and actions of the historical Jesus. Verhoeven’s Jesus of Nazareth, the result of his research, was published in 2010.