Understanding Jesus of Nazareth: a Review of Graham Stanton’s the Gospels and Jesus

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For centuries, people from diverse religions and cultures have searched for substantial data in order to better understand the true nature and identity of Jesus. Some contend that he was a prophet; others worship him as a god, while many others assert that he was merely a wise teacher with no link to the divine. In the second part of Graham Stanton’s book, The Gospels and Jesus, Jesus’ intentions, teachings, and downfall are examined and assessed with notable order and clarity, all in an attempt to resolve the fundamental question of Part II: who was Jesus of Nazareth?
Stanton launches Part II with a chapter entitled “What do we know about Jesus of Nazareth?” Here, the debate as to whether or not Jesus existed is considered by
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In the book of John, his role as baptizer is downplayed and he is portrayed as a “Christian evangelist.” Not only does John himself ascertain his function as a witness of the Messiah, but Jesus also proclaims John’s role as an evangelist in John 5:31-5. Stanton also suggests that there is a trace of competition between Jesus and John in the fourth gospel as seen in John 3:23 and 4:1. A question of whether John baptizes Jesus in the fourth gospel is raised by Stanton, as the text does not explicitly state that this event occurred. It does, however, portray a deeper, more historically accurate representation of the relationship of John to Jesus, according to Stanton. The fourth gospel, along with the Q source, suggests that the ministries of John and Jesus overlap, and that two of Jesus’ disciples first belonged to John’s circle. Stanton contends that since these traditions are not aligned with previous traditions which separate Jesus and John, they are likely to be authentic and pass the “embarrassment test” outlined in Chapter Nine. Josephus also writes about John the Baptist and unlike the mention of Jesus in his writings, it does not appear to be a Christian interpolation. Moreover, it appears that Josephus, like the authors of the gospels, has an agenda as is indicated by the absence of reference to the eschatological qualities of Judaism. Josephus insinuates that Herod Antipas is responsible for John’s death and
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