In reading Jesus: Engaging Theology: Catholic Perspectives (which is sometimes used as a text for theology classes), I was drawn into the fact that Aquinas wrote 5 proofs for the existence of God and now Dr. Sloyan is writing many substantial proofs for the existence of Jesus. In chapter one, he gives us the purpose of the book when he states: “to explore who Jesus was, is, and is to come, and by what series of events this man of Jewish history came to be viewed by millions as a man of Godlike powers in their present lives and their hoped-for future”. This book is mesmerizing in its minutiae. What we know about Jesus comes from His teachings and the last week of His life on earth. The pivotal issue in the book deals with the Resurrection. Dr. Sloyan provides us with as much detail on this action as he can. He is thorough and thoughtful in giving us the facts and the detail that this death was different from other deaths that occurred.
In describing the early life of Jesus, Sloyan indicates that Christ’s extended family was embarrassed by the straight-forwardness of His teaching and fearful that other sages who were teaching would be annoyed by His proclamations. The differences that Christ had with these men were perhaps not the exact differences that the Gospels reported. His method was to give the message and then go. Every place He went, profoundly troubled people were returned to calm by His presence. The reader might ask: “What holds the people to Jesus?” The covenant made by God to His people is one of everlasting love, it is one of never getting weary, and it is one that is seen as purposeful in all the Scriptures. In Chapters three and four, the author reports and analyses the teaching and movement of Christ on this earth. We are challenged and joyful about His interactions with people and His merciful and compassionate responses. In Chapter 5 the author gives us unbridled detail concerning the death and resurrection. The most moving paragraph for me as a reader was on page 131 where Sloyan describes “The absence from the cross of any other male disciple as Jesus breathed his last is noteworthy. Two of the synoptic authors have them all turning tail and running as Jesus is apprehended at prayer in Gethsemane…” To me this is the hardest of the sufferings to bear. In Chapter six we see the impact of the Epistles of Paul on the community of believers. He conveys a spirit of hope and compassion and a need for welcoming in each and every area of the believers. In Chapter seven Sloyan reports that “there has been much irresponsible writing about Jesus in the last twenty-five years….with some rationalists maintaining He never existed. Sloyan dismisses this claim as nonsense. In the Epilogue the author states: “There is more known about Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee than of any other historical figure of the ancient world, pagan or Jewish”. This book provides us with knowledge of the existence of Jesus and does so in a very remarkable way. It is worth the read especially for new believers.