The Life & Times of Jesus of Nazareth: Recommended Resources

There are also many other things that Jesus did,” wrote the author of John’s Gospel. “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

Well, book publishers everywhere are certainly giving it a try.

Hundreds of thousands of books about Jesus are in print by the major publishers alone—not bad for someone for whom every primary source can be read in an afternoon.

The Man

N. T. Wright’s latest two books cover both ends of the scholastic spectrum. Jesus and the Victory of God (Fortress, 1996) is a 740-page survey of the historical record and the historical criticism on the life of Jesus; sticking close to the biblical record, he sets Jesus in a very Jewish context and highlights his prophetic ministry. He then took many of his main points from that book, stripped them of footnotes and academic references, and published The Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary (Eerdmans, 1996). It’s a personal, illuminating look at Jesus and the Gospels.

Another excellent look at today’s Jesus research, written from an evangelical perspective, is The Jesus Quest by Ben Witherington III (IVP, 1997). From the Jesus Seminar to N. T. Wright, Witherington examines and critiques the many ways scholars have interpreted Jesus.

For those interested in a traditional evangelical approach to Jesus’ life, Robert H. Stein’s Jesus the Messiah (IVP, 1996), is a very readable survey.

The Times

Among the many Bible dictionaries available, the most in-depth in dealing with Jesus is the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (IVP, 1992). The term dictionary, however, may be misleading. The 177 entries, from Abiathar to Zechariah’s Song, average more than five pages each.

When it comes to Jesus’ times, it’s nearly impossible to find a topic a Reader’s Digest book hasn’t covered. Our favorite for this issue was the appropriately named Jesus and His Times (1987).

Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus by Joachim Jeremias (Augsburg, 1979) has been around for a while, but Jeremias’s eye for detail ("chickens were forbidden in Jerusalem because . . . “) makes it a must—own for anyone interested in New Testament life.

Two other classic works: F.F. Bruce’s New Testament History (Doubleday, 1971) covers the larger political history of the era (and it’s readable!), and C. K. Barrett’s New Testament Background (HarperSanFrancisco, 1995) reprints primary documents that help reveal the first-century world.

Films, Videos, and Online

There seem to be as many films on Jesus, both depicting and analyzing, as there are books. N. T. Wright hosts the new Christian History Institute six-part video series Jesus: The New Way (1998). One of our favorite narrative films is The Gospel According to Matthew (Visual Entertainment, 1996), starring Bruce Marchiano.

The works of Josephus and other primary sources are available for free at the Christian Classics Electronic Library ( or AOL

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #59 in 1998]

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