A Marginal Jew
Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Vol. 4: Law and Love
John P. Meier
Yale University Press, $55, 752 pp.
This is the fourth of a projected five volumes written by one of the premier Catholic biblical scholars in the United States. Previous volumes tackled other fundamental issues of the quest for the historical Jesus: Jesus’ relationship with John the Baptist (vol. 1); his fundamental message, and his miracles (vol. 2); and Jesus’ disciples and opponents (vol. 3). Still to come are the questions of Jesus’ parables, the titles assigned to him by the Gospels, and his passion—all to be addressed in a fifth and final volume (but can these topics be contained in one volume?). Anyone who has hefted one of Meier’s volumes knows they are in for a detailed, thorough, and indeed exhaustive treatment of the subject. (One of the footnotes on the issue of ritual purity in this volume runs to twelve pages of fine print.)
In volume 4, Meier tackles what he considers one of the most difficult subjects of all—namely, Jesus’ attitude to the Torah or the Mosaic Law. At the outset, Meier reminds his readers of the rigorously focused objective of his investigation. He is not presenting a study of Christology. He is not doing a study of...