Christine Strelan- Between the Covers
By J.R. Porter
Duncan Baird Publishers 1999
Hes one of the most famous and influential people who ever lived. He makes Napoleon and Shakespeare look like minor regional celebrities. Elvis Schmelvis Jesus is the original icon. Wonderful things have been done in his name. Terrible things have been done in his name. People have killed and died because of him.
So who on earth was this guy? Porters book is subtitled The Jesus of History, the Christ of Faith, and that pretty well sums up his approach. He does not preach or push any kind of theological argument, he just tells us the facts, and describes the basic themes of Jesus teachings. His even-handed approach will not offend believers or exasperate atheists.
Porter quotes a variety of non-Biblical sources in his depiction of Jesus as an actual historical figure. There are coloured photos of places in present-day Israel and Syria which help us imagine the environment he lived in. He gives plenty of information about Jesus cultural background as a Middle Eastern Jew, and explains the political climate into which Jesus was born.
As for the Christ of Faith, Porter summarises the messages and the miracles, and gives interpretations from other faiths, such as Islam and Gnosticism.
Jesus image has inspired more art than any other individual (only his mum and Buddha come close) and Porters book contains a wide selection of artworks, from the mosaics in Ravenna to Russian icons and Michelangelos sculptures.
Id recommend this book as an excellent starting point for anyone whos curious, and wants to know what all the fuss is about. Whether you believe it or not, Jesus story is a powerful and mysterious one. The Bible itself can be a bit daunting; you have to wade through pages of begetting and smiting and encounters with supernatural beings before Jesus is even born. Porter tells the tale clearly, and points the reader to relevant Bible passages.
If youd like to know what actually happened on Good Friday, or to meet the guy who first coined the phrase Blessed are the peacemakers (no, it wasnt Benny Zable), or are just interested in religious history, Porters book is a comprehensive, beautifully illustrated guide. Books reviewed are available at the Book Warehouse in Keen St, Lismore, and at Lismore Shopping Square.