My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Essential Jesus by John Dominic Crossan takes what he believes are sayings by the so-called "historical Jesus" and interprets them in light of Jesus' mission to bring the Kingdom of God on earth.
He translates key bible verses reflecting this opinion and sheds new light on some confusing and somewhat routine verses of scripture. His translations are fresh, eye opening and very poetic.
For example, Matthew 5:13 is normally translated along the lines of "You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?" It is a verse that I could never make complete sense of as it stands.
Crossan translates it thusly:
What if those who are salt,In other words, "What if those who are supposed to have all the answers and wisdom, need answers themselves?"
must themselves be seasoned?
It is easy to see, after reading this book, why Jesus was executed. His teachings were not all about nebulous good feelings for all, but about how the current power structure was not living up to its purported level of insight and how the only people truly blameless in a corrupt society were the truly destitute (as opposed to "the [mere] poor").
Crossan translates the famous verse from the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20: "Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven") as
Only the destitute
The implication being that only those with absolutely nothing have not participated in any way in the corrupt power structures of society and are therefore innocent and living the Kingdom of God on earth.
Much food for thought in this short and easy to read book.