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Louise R. Quigley

MARVelous Times, April 2001, p. 4

DIALOG / BOOK REVIEW

The Lost Religion of Jesus: Simple Living and Nonviolence in Early Christianity, by Keith Akers (New York: Lantern Books, 2000)

The premise of Keith Akersí The Lost Religion of Jesus is that Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish leader of fellow Jews during his life, preached not a negation or replacement of Jewish law and practice but a radical furthering of its spirit, especially in the directions of what we would call voluntary simplicity as well as total nonviolence Ė the latter necessarily including vegetarianism and a rejection of the Temple cult of animal sacrifice. Akers also posits that Jesus promoted baptism / immersion in water as an alternative to animal sacrifice for ritual purification, and suggests that it was in fact Jesusí antagonism to Temple sacrifice which brought him into head-to-head conflict with the priestly (Sadducee) leaders, antagonizing and threatening them to the point where they sought his crucifixion.

Akersí book then follows how Paulís theology and mission to the Gentiles distorted Jesusí original message while challenging the original disciplesí practice; and he explains how these differences, along with the early Churchís need to respond to the popularity of some of Paulís doctrines and also with the chances of history, created a split between the followers of Jesusí original teachings versus those practitioners of early Christianity who finally became that faithís dominant voice. And he traces how, in the course of this evolution of what became Christianity as we know it, the pacifistic and voluntary-simplicity teachings became marginalized while the vegetarian facet of Jesusí message was completely lost.

Akersí book is thoroughly grounded in the modern scholarly/critical view of Judeo-Christian scriptures, which sees these documents as composed and gathered together over centuries by many people who may have each been inspired and well-intentioned but who were human beings acting within their own political and cultural milieus and agendas. In this understanding it is possible to consider that, with the best of intentions on its authorsí parts, the Bible could contain some verses that represent older and closer-to-origin traditions while other passages could be later interpolations backwards of what some authors thought should have been there. Clearly, therefore, this book will not appeal to fundamentalists. This reviewer, however, as a scholar with some expertise in this area, found Akersí understanding of Jewish history, scripture, and tradition, as well as his knowledge of early Church history, to be impeccable, broad, and precise. The book was easy to read, the arguments easy to follow, and I found it fascinating and worthwhile. For non-fundamentalists it may provide persuasive arguments that true Christians should consider vegetarianism a primary goal or even obligation.

If you canít find this book in bookstores, you can probably special-order it from them, or inquire from the author, Keith Akers, [new address: P. O. Box 11240, Englewood, Colorado 80151, U. S. A.].

Louise R. Quigley, MARVelous Times, April 2001, p. 4. (Newsletter of the "Milwaukee Area Resources for Vegetarianism.")

 

 

 
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