Book Review: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

Book CoverAlfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1883, 1993), 1,136 pp.

Reviewed by Mitch Taylor (Taylorside, SK)

If you’ve ever longed to delve deeper into the gospel accounts of Christ’s life, this book will be a treasure trove for you. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah is a reference book filled with extensive background information on Jewish life at the time of Christ, enriching even the frequent gospel reader. The expertise which the Jewish-born author brings to the table concerning customs, geography, Jewish ideology and rabbinical teaching is invaluable for any reader of the Gospels. Edersheim transports you to the Judaean hills to meet the country priest Zacharias, hurries you down darkened streets with the seeker Nicodemus, reclines with the disciples in the Upper Room, and offers psychological insight into Pharisaical thought and the rational outcome of their prejudice – the cross.  The holes in the gospel narrative that leave the reader longing to know more are patched with reverent suggestions in this delightful book.

The 1000+ page volume is arranged in the chronological order of the life of Christ. The short chapters are highly readable for a work from the Victorian era. The first section undertakes the task of plotting the state of Jewish history in the mind of the reader, while the remaining four sections then follow Jesus, ruminating over details that are mentioned in each Scripture reading. You can purchase a paper copy relatively inexpensively or locate a free electronic copy since it is no longer under copyright law.