JESUS: What He Really Said and Did

Stephen Mitchell, Author . HarperCollins $15.95 (176p) ISBN 978-0-06-623836-4

Mitchell taps into the questions of truth and faith so central to adolescence with this adaptation of his 1991 adult book, The Gospel According to Jesus. While his thesis—that only some of the stories and only some of the sayings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels are authentic—will certainly engender discussion, readers from various traditions will identify with his doubts and his quests for answers. As a Jewish nine-year-old at a Protestant boarding school, the author recalls in his intimate introduction, he "didn't feel it was right to recite the [Lord's Prayer]," until an influential teacher told him that "the words of Jesus are for all people." This idea threads its way throughout the volume, as Mitchell draws parallels between Jesus and Buddha, Lao-Tzu and Sufi and Zen masters. The author's continuing struggle with biblical accounts of Jesus ("I didn't know if I believed the miracle stories, the walking on water, the loaves and fishes.... What I loved was his kindness and the beauty of his words and feelings") led him to bring modern textual scholarship and his "spiritual intuition" to scrutinizing the Gospels for accuracy. The faithful will be relieved to see The Prodigal Son and The Good Samaritan touted as "deservedly the most famous and beloved of Jesus' parables"; the story of his death, however, seems somewhat glossed over here, and Mitchell goes so far as to call the Resurrection a "legend." Nevertheless, he treats his audience as intelligent individuals capable of coming to their own conclusions. By discussing his process, he models for readers the tools with which to begin an examination of their own beliefs and encourages seekers along their own paths. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/01/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-0-06-449009-2
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-71515-7
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