By Stewart Halforty
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Jesus Christ

This article is over 14 years, 5 months old
Terry Eagleton, Verso, £7.99
Issue 320

As if there weren’t enough Bibles in print, Verso has decided that we need one more. The difference between a Gideon Bible in a motel drawer and the Verso edition is a £7.99 price tag and an introduction by Terry Eagleton. After wondering where the cover price goes (not to Jesus: copyright expires after 70 years), you confront the fact that only 40 pages of the book are new.

Other books in the series range from Trotsky’s Terrorism and Communism to Mao’s On Practice and Contradiction. Those new to Verso would be forgiven for thinking they have stumbled across the imprint of the Maoist-Leninist Party of God.

Eagleton makes a good fist of arguing that a man who may not have existed might have been a revolutionary. He provides a valuable historical background to the Roman occupation and its effects on the population at the time. The division between the Pharisees and Sadducees was between respectively those who, collaborated with the Romans and those who did not. Many of Jesus’s followers were Zealots, opponents of Roman rule.

Eagleton’s introduction, like the series itself, does not seem to know what is expected of it. He finishes by hedging his bets, like those Viking warlords who spent their lives plundering monasteries only to build one on their death bed. “Perhaps the answer, then, is not that Jesus was more or less a revolutionary, but that he was both more and less.”

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