Spectator's Guide

Book Review

A Spectator’s Guide to Jesus:
an Introduction to the Man from Nazareth
    — John Dickson


John Dickson is an Australian writer, historian and minister with a PhD in ancient history. His book, A Spectator’s Guide to Jesus, gives readers an introduction to a number of portraits of Jesus, for the average spectator. Dickson sets about this by taking us through historical sources, giving an explanation for each of the portraits, to reveal this figure of Jesus and what we know about him. In A Spectator’s Guide, Dickson’s portraits deal with the humanity and life of Jesus, as well as his divinity, his death and resurrection. Dickson also addresses the theme of Jesus’ legacy and the importance of it.

Dickson begins by explaining the Greco-Roman, Jewish and Christian sources about Jesus. He goes though the information these sources give and discusses why Christian sources can be reliable and useful, even when accounting for any biases, because of the ‘criterion for multiple attestations’. Religious texts such as the Bible are considered no differently to any other texts. All through A Spectator’s Guide these sources are used by Dickson to show how we have found out what we now know about Jesus.

A large part of A Spectator’s guide, deals with the life of Jesus and his reputation as a teacher, healer and friend. Dickson mentions Jesus as a teacher; but he believes this role is over-stated by the general public, as they ignore his many other miraculous deeds. However he also states that equally flawed, is the church’s overreaction to this teacher-Jesus figure. He argues that this diminishes other important aspects of him, such as his role as a worker of miracles and a healer. He makes no attempt to prove these miracles, but rather explains the meaning of these and gives some observations about them. Dickson asserts that miracle-workers were not common at the time, the miracles were recorded in many independent Christian & non-Christian...