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Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery


In a deeply personal coda, Brodie begins to develop a new vision of Jesus as an icon of God’s presence in the world and in human history.

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SKU: 978-1-907534-58-4

In the past forty years, while historical-critical studies were seeking with renewed intensity to reconstruct events behind the biblical texts, not least the life of Jesus, two branches of literary studies were finally reaching maturity. First, researchers were recognizing that many biblical texts are rewritings or transformations of older texts that still exist, thus giving a clearer sense of where the biblical texts came from; and second, studies in the ancient art of composition clarified the biblical texts’ unity and purpose, that is to say, where biblical texts were headed.

The primary literary model behind the gospels, Brodie argues, is the biblical account of Elijah and Elisha, as R.E. Brown already saw in 1971. In this fascinating memoir of his life journey, Tom Brodie, Irishman, Dominican priest, and biblical scholar, recounts the steps he has taken, in an eventful life in many countries, to his conclusion that the New Testament account of Jesus is essentially a rewriting of the Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible, or, in some cases, of earlier New Testament texts. Jesus’ challenge to would-be disciples (Luke 9.57-62), for example, is a transformation of the challenge to Elijah at Horeb (1 Kings 19), while his journey from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and beyond (John 2.23 —4.54) is deeply indebted to the account of the journey of God’s Word in Acts 1 —8.

The work of tracing literary indebtedness and art is far from finished but it is already possible and necessary to draw a conclusion: it is that, bluntly, Jesus did not exist as a historical individual. This is not as negative as may at first appear. In a deeply personal coda, Brodie begins to develop a new vision of Jesus as an icon of God’s presence in the world and in human history.

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Table of Contents

1. The First Revolution: Initial Contact
2. Trinidad. The First Revolution Deepens
3. ‘When a Child Have no Food…’
4. Still Remembering Africa

5. Out of the Blue: The New Testament Shows Greater Dependence on
the Old
6. The Second Revolution Deepens. Berkeley, New Haven 1981–1984
7. The Second Revolution Illustrated

8. The Third Revolution. St Louis 1984–1991
9. The Third Revolution Deepens. African Genesis 1992–1995
10. From Homer to 4Q525. Tallaght, Boston 1995–2000
11. Limerick. The Dominican Biblical Institute 2000-–

12. The Funeral: ‘Oral Tradition’ and its World
13. The Quest for History: Rule One
14. The Shipping Forecast: Deeps Below and a Storm Ahead
15. Paul’s Biography: Increasingly Difficult. Fordham, The Bronx 2008
16. Paul: The Penny Finally Drops 2008
17. The Monumental Work of John P. Meier

18. Backgrounds of Christianity: Religions, Empires, and Judaism
19. Christian Origins: Writing as One Key
20. Is It Possible to Rediscover the Meaning of Christ?
21. Glimmers of Shadowed Beauty: Symbol of the Invisible God
22. Reasoning with Beauty


  1. Benjamin I. Simpson, Review of Biblical Literature.

    In sum, Brodie offers an engaging presentation of an unpopular and, perhaps to many, shocking position [that Jesus was not a historical person]. By presenting it as a memoir he draws the reader into a conversation, disarms presuppositions, and challenges a dominant position. His own experiences are entertaining, and only a scholar such as Brodie can write such a book, but ultimately his conclusions are not persuasive. Brodie succeeds in engaging the reader, as one would over coffee, and even though the two may disagree they can still enjoy the company.

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Book information

Thomas L. Brodie
Paperback price
£18.95 / $29.95 / €22.95
ISBN 13 Paperback
Page Extent
xv + 256
Publication Date
September 2012
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