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John P. Meier, The Marginal Jew, 4 v.

(Detailed summary)


John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Doubleday (The Anchor Bible Reference Library), New York, 1991-2009, 4 v.

John P. Meier is an American Catholic Jesuit priest specializing in biblical studies. Born in 1942, he was educated at St. Joseph's Seminary, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964, then a Licentiate in Theology in 1968 at the Gregorian University in Rome, and finally his doctorate in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1976.

He was editor of The Catholic Biblical Quarterly and president of The Catholic Biblical Association. He has taught at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC. He is currently Professor of New Testament in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.


Vol. 1, The Roots of the Problem and the Person, 1991, 484 p.

  1. Introduction: In what sense can we say that Jesus is a marginal?
  2. Ch. 2: Can we find in the Gospels the sequence of events surrounding Jesus and the words he actually spoke?
  3. Ch. 2: What is the date of the Gospels and their source?
  4. Ch. 3-4: Are there testimonies on the existence of Jesus outside of Christian texts?
  5. Ch. 5: Do the apocryphal Gospels really give us information about Jesus?
  6. Ch. 6: If the Gospels are catechetical narratives, how can historical information be extracted from them?
  7. Ch. 8: What do we know about the birth of Jesus?
  8. Ch. 9: Can anything be said about the education and formation of Jesus?
  9. Ch. 10: Did Jesus have brothers and sisters, was he married?
  10. Ch. 11: Can we specify a chronology of the life of Jesus?

Vol. 2, Mentor, Message, and Miracles, Yale University Press, 1994.

  1. Ch. 12: Did John the Baptist really exist and what do we know about him?
  2. Ch. 13: Was Jesus a disciple of John the Baptist?
  3. Ch. 13 - Excursus: Does this Q source that biblical scholars talk about really exist?
  4. Ch. 14-16: Does the central message of Jesus boil down to that of love, or is it rather centered on the proclamation of the reign of God?
  5. Ch. 17: Can we reasonably determine the existence of miracles?
  6. Ch. 18: Can we classify Jesus among the great magicians of antiquity?
  7. Ch. 19: Are Jesus' miracles historical facts?
  8. Ch. 20: Which exorcisms of Jesus can be considered historical?
  9. Ch. 21: Which of the stories of healings are likely to date back to the time of Jesus?
  10. Ch. 22: Did Jesus even rise people from the dead?
  11. Ch. 23: Should the so-called miracles of nature be rejected outright as non-historical?
  12. Conclusion: How can we summarize the study of miracle stories in the Gospels?

Vol. 3, Companions and Competitors, Yale University Press, 2001.

  1. Ch. 24: Did Jesus really draw large crowds during His ministry?
  2. Ch. 25: Who can be considered a disciple of Jesus?
  3. Ch. 26: Was the group of Twelve around Jesus an invention of the early Christians?
  4. Ch. 27: What do we know about each person in the Group of Twelve?
  5. Ch. 28: Were the Pharisees so terrible?
  6. Ch. 29: Who are these mysterious Sadducees?
  7. Ch. 30: Did the Qumran Essenes influence Jesus?
  8. Ch. 30: Did Jesus have contact with the Samaritans?
  9. Ch. 30: Did the scribes really oppose Jesus?
  10. Ch. 30: Did the Herodians contribute to the death of Jesus?
  11. Ch. 30: Was Jesus a Zealot?

Vol. 4, Law and Love. Yale University, 2009.

  1. Ch. 31: What is this Law to which Jesus submitted while discussing it?
  2. Ch. 32: What did Jesus really say about divorce?
  3. Ch. 33: Does Jesus distance himself from the Mosaic Law by forbidding the oath?
  4. Ch. 34: Does the rebuke of Jesus healing on the Sabbath correspond to reality?
  5. Ch.35: Did Jesus take a stand against the laws of ritual purity in Judaism?
  6. Ch.36: Does the commandment to love God and neighbor, as well as enemies, come from Jesus?