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 nonacademics 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.
• "Verhoeven turns out to be a member of the Jesus Seminar, a collection mostly of scholars devoted to reconstructing the historical Jesus, and much of what he has to say is shrewd and learned." --Adam Gopnik, New Yorker
• "Jesus goes from being a follower of John the Baptist to inspired exorcist to peace-loving proclaimer of the Kingdom of God to a messianic rebel forced by the authorities and Romans into a radicalized corner to fight for his developing and somewhat desperate beliefs. Rather than forcing himself to throw out major portions of the story to make his sense of Jesus fit a given thesis, Verhoeven manages to pull together all the major threads and make narrative sense of it all." --Christopher Napolitano, Playboy
• "Verhoeven has written an excellent book." --Paul Schrader, Film Comment