Saturday, December 25, 2010

Readings: The Man From Nazareth

It might have been the name of the author—Harry Emerson Fosdick—on the spine of the book that caught my eye. There, in a cardboard box labeled “Religion,” amidst a jumble of others, was a thin, black covered, hardback book, and I remember thinking something like “Why would an F.B.I. Director write a book about Jesus? Doesn’t that name (which was vaguely familiar to me for reasons that I still find obscure) suggest a high government official, rather than a man of God? Yet, a man of God was the Rev. Fosdick—a Baptist preacher, to be exact—and a man whose biography is worth taking a glance at.

As I collect books about Jesus Christ, and as the risk of picking up a book at the public library’s used book sale is all of thirty-cents, I brought this one—the full title of which is The Man From Nazareth as his Contemporaries Saw Him—home with me.

I have now started reading it and have to admit that I’m enjoying it. It is nice to have a sensible Protestant voice in my head, once in awhile. It is also nice to read a book on the “historical Jesus” written by a believer (rather than a stone-souled scientist) once in awhile.

As a “writer,” I particularly liked and concurred with this concept of Fosdick’s:

One hesitates to use the word “artist” about Jesus, because he was so much more, but one does not understand him and his impact on his contemporaries, if one fails to see him as that too. In his thinking about God, the soul and the profound concerns of religion with which he dealt, he was never a speculative theologian, working out a formal religious philosophy, but an artist, seeing truth with visual vividness and embodying it in similes, metaphors, parables, which mankind has never been able to forget. If the common folk who heard him were to understand serious teaching at all, they would best understand that.

If you ever come across this book in a cardboard box, looking for shelf in a friendly home, pick up; it will repay your loving attention.