Paul Fredriksen explains the variety of New Testament images of Jesus by exploring the ways that the new Christian communities interpreted his mission in light of the delay of the Kingdom he had preached.
It may be true that modern Christian theology is the correct interpretation of the life and teachings of the man who lived 2,000 years ago. This interpretation, though, is only one of many that co-existed the first century. Indeed, a perusal of both New Testament and accompanying writings of the day show an intense battle among various factions - all claiming to represent and attempting to set the agenda.
Fridrekson argues that what we perceive as the basic Christian message came about over time through compromise, cultural wars and sheer power politics. The split between Christians and Jews was presetn as soon as Jesus was deemed "God". The idea of a god impregnating a human woman is mythological and was (and is) deemed heretical by Jews. They never thought the Messiah would be divine nor that his rule would include Gentiles. This set the stage for two millenia of Jewish persecution. Indeed, one of the first acts of the Church was to ban the Ebionites, a group of Jewish believer in Jesus who did not consider him divine.
A contradiction in the New Testament is present if one knows the date of origin: The earlier the book, the less that was known of the life of Jesus. The first books (Paul's works) show a remarkable lack of knowledge. Mark (written next) starts at manhood while Luke and Matthew go back to the birth. John, the last written, starts at the Beginning of the Universe. This process became static only when a conference of Christian bishops voted not only on Orthodox theology but on approved Scripture.
This is an important, well-researched work that should demand more attention. Yale University Press; 2nd ed. (July 2000), English,
Paperback: 294 pages.