The Life of a Galilean Shaman
Jesus of Nazareth in Anthropological-Historical Perspective
Imprint: Cascade Books
"In this book, Craffert uses the metaphor of traveling to describe the task he has undertaken. Given the existence of the two prevailing pathways leading into contemporary 'historical Jesus' study, Craffert leaves the century-and-a-half old Schweitzer Street (Schweitzerstrasse) and Wrede Road (Wredebahn) to do some 'bundubashing' (South African: to travel off road through remote and rough terrain) to get to the social personage of Jesus the Galilean. His critique of prevailing historical Jesus study is insightful and incisive, while his description of Jesus as first-century Galilean shaman is masterful and accomplished. His rationale for and realization of a work of anthropological history is quite on the mark, enabling a reader to have an encounter with a first-century, Galilean shamanic Jesus that should
produce an appropriate culture shock in those unused to the radically different cultural and social landscape of Mediterranean antiquity."
--Bruce J. Malina, author of The New Testament World
"Just when it seems that all has been said about the historical Jesus, Pieter Craffert offers a genuine paradigm shift in method and insights growing out of an 'anthropological-historical' perspective. His interpretation of the public figure of Jesus using the social-type of a shaman opens up a new world view and encourages the inclusion of texts, events, and activities usually dismissed from discussions of the historical Jesus. His originality is matched by his meticulous research and the clarity he brings to a complex problem. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the historical Jesus, but especially for those who enjoy a genuinely new approach to an old problem."
--William R. Herzog II, author of Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God
"[This book] has the rare quality that it helps us to think 'otherwise' about the Historical Jesus. We understand persons with the help of some category or model that suggests to us what they were like. The problem with categories used about Jesus is that they are either too distant historically to provide meaning to modern readers, or to modern to help us grasp the disturbing 'otherness' about Jesus. Craffert's use of 'shaman' as a social model for Jesus makes sense of the otherness of Jesus in our own world, and also helps us grasp how the faith of Early Christian communities was very different from most modern forms of Christianity."
--Halvor Moxnes, author of Putting Jesus in His Place
"Craffert's groundbreaking study lifts contemporary historical Jesus research out of frustrating dead ends to move it in a new and richly rewarding direction. According to him, Jesus is best understood as a shamanic figure who lived in first century Galilee. Everything the New Testament reports about Jesus, his teaching and his activities, fits the model of a shamanic complex. This model offers the most culturally plausible interpretation of biblical evidence that others have judged to be purely literary compositions with no basis in reality contrived to teach a 'theological' or 'spiritual' lesson. Craffert's new view of Jesus makes him as intelligible as other universally documented holy persons who have appeared in all cultures throughout the millennia of human existence."
--John J. Pilch, author of Visions and Healing in Acts of the Apostles
"Can the sense of reality in one culture (the modern West) really provide an accurate guide for understanding what happened in an alien culture (ancient Mediterranean) in the distant past? Craffert argues persuasively that the answer is no. Judgments about the real, the strange, the odd, the implausible, indeed the historical, are all culturally determined. The net result: Craffert's study raises as sharp a challenge to traditional historical Jesus studies as has come along in a generation."
--Richard L. Rohrbaugh, author of The New Testament in Cross-Cultural Perspective
"Pieter Craffert's book is a timely contribution to the debate about Jesus, which deserves to be read widely and pondered by the scholarly community, as it enables a better grasp of Jesus of Nazareth in his historical context. Those who have discussed the political problem posed by Jesus have never taken seriously enough the power wielded by the charismatic, miracle-worker, and seer in an ancient society. The careful exploration of the way in which Pieter Craffert has explored how shamanism might inform the understanding of the Jesus tradition sheds much light on the religion and politics of the Jesus of history which will set future discussion on a firmer historical footing."
--Christopher Rowland, author of Christian Origins
"...it is rare, in a field of study that is notably prone to rehashing the same arguments again and again, to have a knowledgeable professional scholar offer a whole new set of ideas and an original way of looking at the early Christian texts, and Craffert should be commended for doing just that. This book's anthropological historiography is intended to be a new paradigm for historical Jesus studies; those interested in that field of should read it and reflect on it."
-- Steven L. Davies
As reviewed in Biblical Theology Bulletin, Vol 39, 2009
"...a source of much interesting information, as well as a fascinating thought experiment on many levels."
---Robert M. Price
John Coleman Theological Seminary
As reviewed in Religious Studies Review, March 2009