Jesus Beyond Christianity: The Classic Texts
Edited By Gregory A. Barker & Stephen E. Gregg
Oxford University Press 2010; 256 pp., $85
There is no single story of Jesus. There is of course the typical tale of the Christian Messiah, the words and deeds with which Western church-goers are well familiar. But then there is a second story. Or, rather, a thousand “second” stories, told by those with no commitment to the first.
Jesus Beyond Christianity, a selection from 56 texts, brings together two thousand years’ worth of thought, examining the figure of Jesus from a slew of outside perspectives. Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu reflections on the figure of Jesus — including writings by Mahatma Gandhi and the 14th Dalai Lama — guide the reader along where the world’s religions overlap.
But “confrontation” is the term preferred by the book’s editors. “‘Dialogue’ conjures up images of smiling religious leaders nodding politely to one another, extolling the virtues of one another’s beliefs,” Barker writes. But rather than mild discourse, this book seeks ideas that sizzle. There’s no shortage of these in its pages. With the figure of Jesus Christ — deemed to be a messiah or a deceiver, depending who you ask—there is much food for thought and fodder for reflection.