That is Walter Russell Mead's description of Jesus, and the passages in Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard's Killing Jesus, Book Review No. 1 for 2014, in which Jesus tangles with the Pharisees and Sadducees certainly suggest a witty young man with a penchant for asking difficult questions that didn't sit well with the authorities.  In those days, being born in modest circumstances in the wrong neighborhood hampered one's chances to rise in society, and the Establishment of the day had more painful and permanent ways of dealing with troublemakers.

That noted, I question some of the editorial choices the authors make in constructing their story from sources other than the New Testament.  There are, apparently, Roman records of the trial and execution of criminals in Jerusalem, althought a skeptical reader might want to investigate further, to determine whether there were not additional prophets and itinerant holy men, out of which a composite John the Baptist and a composite Jesus later emerged.  The Star of Bethlehem itself might be a composite.  Killing Jesus places the Star as a comet visible to Chinese astronomers in what we currently reckon as March, 5 B.C.  Another Via Media post offers no definitive conclusion, referring readers to a list of hypotheses, including Halley's Comet in 12 B.C. and a conjunction of Venus with Jupiter in the summer of 2 B.C.  Because of the rotation of the earth, astrologers in Asia Minor, no matter what they were seeing, would follow its motion to the west, until they ran out of land.  But Cyrenius did not become governor of Syria until after King Herod had died.  Here I wish for better documentation of the civil records, as the authors treat Herod's killing of the male babies of Bethlehem as fact.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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