Friday, February 6, 2009

The Life of Jesus Christ, James Stalker

The Life of Jesus Christ, James Stalker

If one is familiar with various treatments of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, then they know books come in various sizes, approaches and viewpoints. Some books on the life of Christ are clearly better than others. Some treatments of the life of Christ are not worthy of print. One classic treatment that is better than several others is by James Stalker entitled The Life of Jesus Christ. My dad first brought this work to my attention. In fact, he purchased a copy for me on one of our many bookstore expeditions insisting that I would enjoy reading it (despite some of its flaws). For several months he would occasionally ask if I had read the book yet. This prompted me that I had better get the book read! I was glad that he encouraged me to read this popular work because other people’s use of the term “masterpiece” in reference to it seem to be appropriate.

It has been printed and revised in several editions since its original publication in 1880. In fact, Leroy Brownlow even reprinted an edition of the work back in 1995 with the title of For All My Special Days: Important Dates and People to Remember. If one is familiar with the use of the Internet, then one can obtain the entire book for free in PDF format. There are several Internet sites that have reprinted the book as well. All this provides testimony on the enduring value of the work. The book is a concise treatment averaging around 175 pages. It provides an excellent overview of Jesus’ life from his arrival on earth until his ascension back to heaven. The writer provides historical settings of the period which enriches the reading as well.

I appreciate Stalker’s treatment of various subjects relating to the life of Jesus. For example, consider this statement about the years of Jesus life that are not revealed:

It was natural that, where God was silent and curiosity was strong, the fancy of man should attempt to fill up the blank. Accordingly, in the early Church there appeared Apocryphal Gospels, pretending to give full details where the inspired Gospels were silent. They are particularly full of the sayings and doings of the childhood of Jesus. But they only show how unequal the human imagination was to such a theme, and bring out by the contrast of glitter and caricature the solidity and truthfulness of the Scripture narrative. They make Him a worker of frivolous and useless marvels, who moulded birds of clay and made them fly, changed His playmates into kids, and so forth. In short, they are compilations of worthless and often blasphemous fables. (p. 16).
I wish more modern day “scholars” were more respectful of the authority of the Scriptures and would not rush into spinning their fanciful theories for gain or notoriety!

James Stalker (1848-1927) was born in Scotland. He served as professor of church history in the United Free Church College in Aberdeen from 1902 to 1926. Of course, one will have to read with a discerning eye, but his “The Life of Jesus Christ” is highly respected for its conciseness and simplicity.

Since I first read this book, I have looked for used inexpensive copies to recommend to friends so they could enjoy reading the book as well. I have received comments about how much the person had enjoyed reading this book. Perhaps you will find a copy of this book in a used bookstore for a very reasonable price. If so, you should pick up a copy to consider for the church library.

No comments: