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Image showing the Jesus, Aquinas and Florence Nightingale book covers

Posted: 19 May 2017

A new, short (88 pages) ‘very brief history’ of Jesus has just been published. It’s the first in a new book series which gives concise, expert, paperback introductions to key figures of world history.

The Jesus book is by Helen Bond, who is Professor of Christian Origins at the University of Edinburgh. As well as looking at the story of Jesus as told in the Gospels, her book also debunks claims that Jesus never actually existed, sets the political context of Jesus’s time, and looks at the impact of Jesus throughout history and into the present day.

Helen Bond, writing in Female First, says that the book is ‘an attempt both to reconstruct his life but and also to chart his unparalleled influence on the modern world. I don’t just mean the Church, or western art and culture, but there’s something deep-rooted and persistent about this one man’s story that engages us at a most basic level – from Disney to Doctor Who, and by atheists, agnostics and believers alike.’

The series so far includes Jesus, Thomas Aquinas and Florence Nightingale, with two prequel volumes published last year: Julian of Norwich and Thomas More. We asked Philip Law, the Very Brief Histories editor at SPCK about the series:

There are some very chunky biographies of Jesus, Florence Nightingale and others already out there, so what was the thinking about producing these short introductions?

The aim is to appeal to readers who don’t feel inclined or don’t have time for full-length treatments, but who want something informed by the most up-to-date research and written by internationally respected experts. The books look at people who continue to influence the way we see the world today, which is why each of them explores the subject’s ‘afterlife’ – why they are still considered important.

Who will best enjoy these books?

Anyone interested in cultural history or the history of ideas, including religious ideas. Religion has sometimes been neglected by other introductory histories, so part of the point of this series it to rectify that. The books also acknowledge what we need to learn from cases where religion has been involved in a negative or regressive way.

Which other figures and subjects will you be covering in 2018?

In 2018 we plan to publish new books by Professor Karla Pollman (Head of Humanities at Reading) on Augustine, and Professor Alec Ryrie (Durham) on the English Reformation. John Guy’s Thomas More and Melvyn Bragg’s William Tyndale are also due out in paperback.

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Photos at the top of this column by:
Taro Taylor and Jon Sullivan