The Life of a Galilean Shaman: Jesus of Nazareth in Anthropological-Historical Perspective

By Pieter F. Craffert

An anthropological approach to the historical personage of Jesus, offering an intriguing and fruitful alternative to traditional historiographic methods.

ISBN: 9780227173206


Historical Jesus research remains trapped in the positivistic historiographical framework from which it emerged more than a hundred and fifty years ago. This is confirmed by the nested assumptions shared by the majority of researchers. These include the idea that a historical figure could not have been like the Gospel portrayals and consequently the Gospels have developed in a linear and layered fashion from the authentic kernels to the elaborated literary constructions as they are known today. The aim of historical Jesus research, therefore, is to identify the authentic material from which the historical figure as a social type underneath the overlay is constructed.

Anthropological historiography offers an alternative framework for dealing with Jesus of Nazareth as a social personage fully embedded in a first-century Mediterranean worldview and the Gospels as cultural artifacts related to this figure.

The shamanic complex can account for the cultural processes and dynamics related to his social personage. This cross-cultural model represents a religious pattern that refers to a family of features for describing those religious entrepreneurs who, based on regular Altered States of Consciousness experiences, perform a specific set of social functions in their communities. This model accounts for the wide spectrum of the data ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth while it offers a coherent framework for constructing the historical Jesus as a social personage embedded in his worldview. As a Galilean shamanic figure Jesus typically performed healings and exorcisms, he controlled the spirits while he also acted as prophet, teacher, and mediator of divine knowledge.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 470

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Pieter F. Craffert is Professor of New Testament and Chair of the Department of New Testament at the University of South Africa in Pretoria. His other published works include Meeting the Living among the Dead, Mediating Divine Power, and Illness and Healing in the Biblical World.


List of Diagrams

Part 1: A Paradigm Shift in Historical Jesus Historiography
1. Historiography beyond Positivism and Postmodernism
2. An Analysis of Current Historical Jesus Research
3. A New Road for Historical Jesus Research: Cultural Bundubashing
4. In the Beginning Was a Social Personage and Cultural Artifacts

Part 2: A Model of Shamanic Figures
5. The Shamanic Complex: A Social-Type Model
6. Components of a First-Century (Shamanic) Worldview
7. The Shamanic Complex and Ancient Societies

Part 3: Jesus and the Shamanic Complex
8. Baptism and Spirit-Possession Experiences
9. Healing, Exorcism, and the Control of Spirits
10. Teaching, Preaching, and Prophetic Activities
11. Constituting a Galilean Shamanic Figure by Means of Infancy Narratives
12. Afterlife for Someone Like a Galilean Shamanic Figure
Conclusion: Someone Like a Galilean Shamanic Figure?



Endorsements and Reviews

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