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Bruce Chilton

Author of Rabbi Jesus

63+ Works 1,949 Members 15 Reviews 1 Favorited

About the Author

Bruce Chilton is Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson and priest at the Free church of Saint John the Evangelist in Barrytown, New York. He is the author of many scholarly articles and books, including Jewish-Christian Debates and A Galilean Rabbi and His Bible. (Bowker show more Author Biography) show less


Works by Bruce Chilton

Rabbi Jesus (2000) 513 copies
Mary Magdalene: A Biography (2005) 118 copies
Jesus and the Ethics of the Kingdom (1987) — Author — 47 copies
In Quest of the Historical Pharisees (2007) — Editor; Editor; Editor — 44 copies
The Brother of Jesus: James the Just and His Mission (2001) — Contributor — 44 copies
The Kingdom of God in the teaching of Jesus (1984) — Editor — 37 copies
Jewish-Christian Debates (1707) 35 copies
Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (1998) — Editor; Contributor — 31 copies
Authenticating the Words of Jesus (2002) — Editor — 27 copies
Christianity: The Basics (2014) 5 copies
Jesus in Context (1997) — Author — 4 copies
Isaiah: 11: Volume 11 (1987) 1 copy

Associated Works

Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (2005) — Contributor, some editions — 527 copies
Hearing the New Testament: Strategies for Interpretation (1995) — Contributor, some editions — 345 copies
The Biblical World: An Illustrated Atlas (2007) — Foreword — 299 copies
The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (2001) — Contributor — 174 copies
The Historical Jesus in Context (2009) — Contributor — 145 copies
The Cambridge Companion to the Bible (1893) — Editor, some editions — 141 copies
The Blackwell Companion to Judaism (2000) — Contributor — 65 copies
Judaism in Late Antiquity (1995) — Editor — 32 copies
The Aramaic Bible: Targums in their Historical Context (1994) — Contributor — 19 copies
Altruism in World Religions (2005) — Editor — 19 copies
Religious Tolerance in World Religions (2008) — Editor — 11 copies


Common Knowledge



Summary: A history of this dynasty, tracing its rise from Antipater, the rule of Herod the Great, and his descendants who struggled to recover control over the territories he ruled amid Roman power and rising Jewish discontent.

Any reader of the New Testament recognizes that one or another of the Herods plays a significant part in the birth of Jesus, the ministry and crucifixion of Jesus, and the beginnings of the Christian movement, and the trial of and appeal by Paul to Rome. What is often not considered is the rise of this family from Idumea amid the power struggles of the Jews to maintain independence amid, first the Seleucids and then the Roman power that came to assert control over the lands that once constituted ancient Israel.

Bruce Chilton traces the history of this family and their shrewdness in maintaining Jewish support and pleasing their Roman masters. It begins with Antipater, who modestly never claimed the title “king” of Idumea but allied with Hyrcanus II as high priest of the Jerusalem temple and leader of Judea and allying himself with Pompey against the Seleucids, securing both Hyrcanus in Jerusalem and securing Roman favor for his own family.

Herod, known as “The Great,” was his son. He married Mariamne, the granddaughter of Hyrcanus, gaining legitimacy with the Maccabees, and works first with Mark Antony and then Octavian, securing kingship over Jerusalem, Samaria, Galilee, and Idumea. Chilton traces his ruthlessness, executing first Mariamne’s brother, then Mariamne, and her sons but leaving his kingship in disarray at his death.

Chilton situates the birth of Jesus and the massacre of the innocents during the brief reign of Herod’s son Archelaus over Judea. while Philip ruled in Gaulanitis and Antipas in Galilee and Samaria. Antipas was the shrewdest, stealing his brother Philip’s wife Herodias and working throughout his reign to regain control of Judea and Jerusalem, only to lose it all to his nephew, Agrippa I, who had cultivated Caligula, who succeeded Tiberius, who had favored Antipas. Antipas was the one Jesus called “the fox” and Chilton has some interesting insights into gospel passages alluding to Antipas, who concurred in the execution of Jesus, as well as the beheading of John.

Agrippa I recovered the realm of Herod the great, persecuted restive minorities, including the followers of Jesus, and, as recorded in Acts, died an early and grisly death just days after being proclaimed as a god. He was succeeded by Agrippa II over parts of Agrippa I’s realm under tight control of Rome, aided by his sister Berenike, perhaps the more ambitious of the two. But affairs among the Jews were spiraling into open rebellion that they could not stop, resulting in brutal Roman suppression and the fall of Jerusalem. It was Agrippa II and Berenike who consult with Felix and hear Paul’s defense and appeal to Rome.

Chilton offers a narrative that underscores the shrewdness and ambition and ruthlessness, when necessary, of the Herods. He also shows the significant roles played by women in this dynasty: Mariamne, Herodias, Salome, and Berenike among them. We learn of other competent, but lesser lights, like Philip, who appears to have led well in Gaulanitis, and Phasael, Herod the Great’s more restrained older brother who administered Jerusalem until Herod took control.

While Chilton provides both a timeline and a Dramatis personae of important figures, it would have been helpful to provide a family tree or genealogy to make clear the relations among the various figures, and the offspring of multiple marriages. It is also evident that Chilton credits other sources like Josephus above the New Testament writers at points of conflict.

That said, Chilton’s account of this dynasty enriches our understanding of the figures who intersect with the New Testament narratives and played a vital role in second Temple Israel during the decisive century before the fall of the temple.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.
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BobonBooks | 1 other review | Nov 13, 2022 |
The Herods explores the Herodian rule from Herod the Great's father, Antipater, until the dynastic sunset with Bereniké, Herod's great-granddaughter, describing the theocratic aims that motivated Herod and his progeny, and the groups and factions within Judaism and Christianity that often defined themselves in opposition to the Herodian project. Herod framed a version of theocratic ambition all his own, deliberately crafting a dynastic claim grounded in Roman might and Israelite theocracy. That unlikely hybrid was the key to the Herodians' surprising longevity in power during the most chaotic century in the political history of Judaism. Chilton's highly academic book is illuminating and lays out a thorough history of The Herods.… (more)
modioperandi | 1 other review | Aug 22, 2021 |
RABBI JESUS immerses readers in the religious, political, and cultural milieu and upheavals of Palestine as Jesus would have witnessed them.
The experiences of his life are at once documented and augmented by the author's investigations and his new translations from Aramaic.

Many traditionally held beliefs are challenged as Bruce Chilton explores the multitude of conflicting challenges that Jesus faced from his own Jewish community,
from his family, from the high priests of the Second Temple at Jerusalem, and from the Roman soldiers and Pilate.

That the Temple had evolved into a horrifying slaughterhouse was new to me, as was the fact that his community had twice tried to stone Jesus early in his life.
The role that James took on after his brother's gruesome death also takes on new meaning as he refrained from eating flesh or drinking wine.

Jesus break from John the Baptist away from immersion and into the existence of inner purity in all people and toward direct communication with God are handled as gently and respectfully as the
still controversial Transfiguration, Virgin Birth, Miracles, and Resurrection.

The most important and compelling facts stand out that Jesus could actually heal people by channeling the powerful Chariot spirit of God,
that he continued to "cast out demons," and that HE fully believed that He was The Son of God.

The cover painting is evocative, intense, and haunting.

(Odd omission is both location of Mount Zion on maps and in index.)
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m.belljackson | 1 other review | Sep 5, 2018 |
This is a very interesting and clearly written history of the interpretation of Revelation.
proflinton | Apr 6, 2015 |

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