JESUS, AN HISTORICAL  APPROXIMATION by Jose Pagola(Convivium Press, 2012)


The book being presented here about Jesus is the best contextual life of Jesus that I have had the good fortune to read and study. The author has given us an historically reliable picture of the milieu in which Jesus lived and delivered his message about his father/mother God. The more we can know and sense the biblical, economic and social culture of early first century Galilee, the easier it is to enter into the mindset of his listeners and interpret his message more accurately. In many ways reading this book can be a transformative experience.

We have more historical, not approximate, material about Jesus than we do of most important figures of his time and the place where he lived and died. The Gospels not written specifically as historical documents properly mined yield valuable historical clues. On the other hand in the case of Jesus, who for millions of people embodies the Creator’s human revelation of himself, reliable  insights or interpretations of his message based on historical approximations or new focuses unearthed through research take on signal importance. Millions of believers energize their spiritual life through knowledge of Jesus. Historical approximation along with much certain data has helped make possible a different but trustworthy vision of Jesus and his message.

With the advent of modern universities and research, especially in the Western world, the last 200 years have witnessed the development of an impressive number of inexact sciences along with the so called exact sciences. The methods of history stand out. Although an inexact science, it is  the key source for both older and newly sifted and tested historical data.  Historical methods  can  connect  that data to generalized knowledge of its time and place.  As an example, cultural historians can approximate the level of Jesus’ education and that of his selected audience from historically certain data available about the Galilee of his time.

Data accepted as reliable by historical methods can feed and be fed from exact data mined according to proven methods of such as archaeology, sociology, economic and cultural anthropology and even biblical linguistic analyses.  The combined research from these fields, evaluated with varying degrees of probability/certainty, contribute greatly to substantiate the credible foundations for religious belief in Jesus, and what is important for many believers, contour a new and compelling human face of Jesus.