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Jose A. Pagola. Jesus: An Historical Approximation

Jose A. Pagola

Jesus: An Historical Approximation

ISBN: 9781 9349 9609 6

Convivium-Kyrios, 2012, 557pp, £25.00

This book first appeared in Spain in 2007. Two years later an English translation by Margaret Wilde came out in the USA. These words appear in the epilogue, which should be read before starting at page15, the Preface:-

‘What joy it would bring to people, to be able to discern the features of the true God in Jesus! How brightly their faith would burn, if they could see with new eyes the face of God incarnate in Jesus! If there is a God, he is like Jesus’.

So here is a book written with the express intention of giving the readers those ‘new eyes’. It comes from a Spanish catholic priest with very solid credentials, studies in Rome and Jerusalem, teaching and administrative posts in his diocese, and throughout a big part in ‘the quest for the historical Jesus’. It was written in plain Spanish, and is translated into plain English.

Pagola does not pretend to have given us a biography of Jesus. He uses the evidence – the bible, historical sources (scanty), the Qumran manuscripts, the politics and economics of Galilee in the early decades of the first century – archaeology, sociology, the Judaism of temple and of synagogue – all that made up the context of the life and death of Jesus. The modern biographer can be thought of as a photographer (not fair, really). Pagola is an artist.

His early chapters depict Galilee in the time of Jesus’ birth, childhood, and life in Nazareth, and then follow aspects of his association with John the Baptist, his itinerant ministry among the deprived and oppressed peasantry and fisher folk who for him were first in the Father’s kingdom. He attracted followers, some of whom, men and women, accompanied him and were taught intensively by him. His constant and public advocacy of the outcast, his witness to God’s love, his rejection of the religion of the temple, earn him a death sentence from Pilate and execution according to the savage laws of Rome: death by crucifixion.

This is not the end; Pagola’s treatment of the sequel to the horrors of 7th April, 30 AD, is breath-taking, convincing, edifying and spirit filled. It succeeds in giving us those new eyes.

Anselm SSF