Review – David Flusser on Jesus
David Flusser's book, The Sage from Galilee: Rediscovering Jesus’ Genius was a revision of his earlier book, Jesus. Flusser was an Orthodox Jew who revered Jesus. While scholars have been investigating the historical Jesus for over a century, they almost always look through a lens distorted by Augustine and Martin Luther. David Flusser had an encyclopedic knowledge of ancient Jewish and Christian literature, and he places Jesus securely within first-century Judaism. I suspect his views of Jesus are far more like those of Peter and the apostles than you are likely to encounter elsewhere.
This is a short book - 165 pages excluding end-notes, etc. But despite its brevity, New Testament scholars will find new and significant information. The chapter on The Kingdom of Heaven, which compares Jesus’ views to that of other Jewish schools, is in itself worth the price of admission. The kingdom of God/heaven was central to Jesus’ gospel, and his expectations of this imminent kingdom were perhaps the most distinctive part of his teachings. While Jesus shares many views of John the Baptist, the Dead Sea sectarians, and the Pharisees – contrary to conventional wisdom – his views about the kingdom of God and its relationship to the subsequent Age to Come is unique – much more so than his ethical teachings. While Flusser's views are unconventional, they are not especially controversial. He probably accepts the historical accuracy of gospel accounts as much as most New Testament scholars.
This was not designed to be a popular book - and it succeeded. The general reader may find it overly scholarly, but it generally is accessible. If you are interested in learning about the historical Jesus, this is one of the books you should check out.