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The Existential Jesus (2007)

by John Carroll

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592333,396 (4.17)1
Jesus is the man who made the West. What kind of man was he? Is he relevant to a modern world shaken by crises of meaning? The churches have mainly projected him as Jesus the carer and comforter, Jesus meek and mild, friend of the weak. This is Jesus the Good Shepherd, who preaches on sin and forgiveness. He is Lord and Saviour. But this church Jesus is not remotely like the existential hero portrayed in the first and most potent telling of his life-story - that of Mark. Mark's Jesus is a lonely and restless, mysterious stranger. His mission is dark and obscure. Everything he tries fails. By the end there is no God, no loyal followers - just torture by crucifixion, climaxing in a colossal death-scream. The story closes without a resurrection from the dead. There is just an empty tomb, and three women fleeing in terror. The existential Jesus speaks today. He does not spout doctrine; he has no interest in sin; his focus is not on some after-life. He gestures enigmatically from within his own gruelling experience, inviting the reader to walk in his shoes. He singles out everybody's central question- 'Who am I?' The truth lies within individual identity, resounding in the depths of the inner self. The existential Jesus is the West's great teacher on the nature of being. This book tells his story, and reveals what he had to say.… (more)

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Ex-is-ten-tial –adjective: of or relating to existence, especially human existence.

This is Jesus, the way you’ve never read about him before. John Carroll draws primarily on the Gospel of Mark, a Gospel which rather quickly fell into disuse among early Christians as they favored the more majestic stories told by Matthew and the others.

Mark’s Jesus is far more human. He sometimes questions, sometimes fails. He is ridiculed by his family. Carroll portrays Jesus as a lonely, mysterious stranger with an obscure mission. By the end of his journey, he has lost all of his followers. “His life reaches its consummation in tragedy—a godless and profane one—and a great death scream from the cross, questioning the sense of it all.”

Mark’s story then closes with a mystery. An empty tomb, and three women fleeing in terror, told to tell no one of what they saw—or didn’t see. (Carroll is correct; the ending we have now in the book of Mark, describing the resurrection of Jesus, did not exist in the earliest manuscripts.)

Mark’s Gospel is, of course, one of four. Over time, the Jesus story grew in splendor, and by the time the fourth Gospel was written, Jesus had become God Himself. When I complete my book about John’s Gospel (yet a couple years away from publication), I am going to wander through every local bookstore and move my book next to Carroll’s, where the two extremes can sit side-by-side. ( )
  DubiousDisciple | May 3, 2011 |
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Jesus is the man who made the West. What kind of man was he? Is he relevant to a modern world shaken by crises of meaning? The churches have mainly projected him as Jesus the carer and comforter, Jesus meek and mild, friend of the weak. This is Jesus the Good Shepherd, who preaches on sin and forgiveness. He is Lord and Saviour. But this church Jesus is not remotely like the existential hero portrayed in the first and most potent telling of his life-story - that of Mark. Mark's Jesus is a lonely and restless, mysterious stranger. His mission is dark and obscure. Everything he tries fails. By the end there is no God, no loyal followers - just torture by crucifixion, climaxing in a colossal death-scream. The story closes without a resurrection from the dead. There is just an empty tomb, and three women fleeing in terror. The existential Jesus speaks today. He does not spout doctrine; he has no interest in sin; his focus is not on some after-life. He gestures enigmatically from within his own gruelling experience, inviting the reader to walk in his shoes. He singles out everybody's central question- 'Who am I?' The truth lies within individual identity, resounding in the depths of the inner self. The existential Jesus is the West's great teacher on the nature of being. This book tells his story, and reveals what he had to say.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1921215178, 1921844388

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