John Paul Meier (born 1942) is an American biblical scholar and Roman
Catholic priest. He is author of the series A Marginal Jew: Rethinking
Jesus (5 v.), six other books, and more than 70
articles for peer-reviewed or solicited journals or books.
1 Life and career
2 A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus
2.1 Volume 1
2.2 Volume 2
2.3 Volume 3
2.4 Volume 4
2.5 Volume 5
3 Critical reception
4 Selected works by John P. Meier
4.2 Articles and chapters
6 External links
Life and career
Meier was born in New York. He attended St. Joseph's Seminary and
College (B.A., 1964),
Rome (S.T.L, 1968), and the
Rome (S.S.D., 1976). Meier is William K. Warren
Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. His
fields include biblical studies and
Christianity and Judaism
Christianity and Judaism in
antiquity. Before coming to Notre Dame, he was professor of New
Testament at the
Catholic University of America.
A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus
John P. Meier's series A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus
begins by invoking the methods of modern historical research to
"recover, recapture, or reconstruct" the "historical Jesus." Meier
suggests that such research might admit agreement of Catholic,
Protestant, Jewish, and agnostic scholars as to "who
Jesus of Nazareth
was and what he intended" (v. 1, 1991, p. 1).
Volume 1 (1991) differentiates the historical
Jesus from the Biblical
Jesus. It analyzes sources, including the
New Testament and
non-canonical works. The latter include the agrapha, the apocryphal
gospels (such as the Gospel of Thomas), Josephus, and other
second-century Roman works. For deciding what comes from
distinct from early Christian tradition it proposes these primary
criteria (pp. 168–77):
1. The criterion of embarrassment: Why invent what would invite
difficulty for the early church?
2. The criterion of discontinuity: Why reject as words or deeds of
Jesus what cannot be derived from the Judaism of Jesus' time or the
3. The criterion of multiple attestation: Is it more plausible to deny
words, sayings, or deeds attributed to
Jesus in more than one
independent literary source (e.g., Mark, Q, Paul, and John) or
literary genre (e.g., parable, miracle story, or prophecy)?
4. The criterion of coherence: Given the claims to historicity from
any of the above criteria, are different sayings or deeds evidently
5. The criterion of rejection and execution: If Jesus' ministry came
to a violent, public end, what of Jesus' words or deeds could have
alienated people, especially powerful people?
The criteria are to be used in concert for mutual correction. Still,
any claim is only to the probable, not the certain. The rest of Volume
1 discusses the origins of
Jesus as to formative years, "external"
influences (language, education, and socioeconomic status), and
"internal" influences (family ties and marital and lay status). The
volume concludes with a survey of Jesus' life chronology.
On the question of references to
Jesus in the Talmud, Meier considers
the thesis of
Joseph Klausner (1925) that some very few rabbinic
sources, none earlier than about than late 2nd or early 3rd century,
contain traces of the historical Jesus. He presents further
considerations and arguments, including those of Johann Maier
(talmudic scholar) (1978) who maintains that the Yeshu texts are later
medieval corruptions, and writes that:
While not accepting the full, radical approach of Maier, I think we
can agree with him on one basic point: in the earliest rabbinic
sources, there is no clear or even probable reference to
Nazareth. Furthermore, ... when we do finally find such references in
later rabbinic literature, they are most probably reactions to
Christian claims, oral or written.
Volume 2 (1994) is in three main parts:
Jesus' relationship to
John the Baptist
John the Baptist (as 'mentor')
Jesus' message of the kingdom of God
accounts of Jesus' miracles in ancient and modern minds.
The kingdom of God in the second part (pp. 235–506) is examined
the Old Testament, related writings, and Qumran
Jesus' proclamation of a future kingdom
the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus' words and deeds as already present in
his ministry (pp. 451–53).
The third part applies the same criteria of historicity to miracle
stories as to other aspects of Jesus' life. Rather than adopting say
an exclusively agnostic or Christian perspective or relying on
philosophical arguments whether miracles can occur, it poses narrower
data-based historical questions (pp. 510–11, 517). Meier is
quoted in a 1997 interview as saying: "The proper stance of a
historian is, 'I neither claim beforehand that miracles are possible,
nor do I claim beforehand they are not possible.'" Meier finds that
Jesus' performance of extraordinary deeds deemed miracles at the time
is best supported by the criteria of multiple attestation and the
coherence of Jesus' deeds and words (p. 630). In moving from the
global question of miracles to the particular, Meier examines each
miracle story by broad category. That examination drives the
conclusion that no single theory explains all such stories with equal
assurance and applicability. Rather, it is suggested that some stories
have no historical basis (such as the cursing of the fig tree) and
that other stories likely go back to events in the life of Jesus
(though theological judgment is required to affirm any miracle)
(p. 968). At the global level again,
Jesus as healer is as well
supported as almost anything about the historical Jesus. In the
Gospels, the activity of
Jesus as miracle worker looms large in
attracting attention to himself and reinforces his eschatological
message. Such activity, Meier suggests, might have added to the
concern of authorities that culminated in Jesus' death
Volume 3 (2001) places
Jesus in the context of his followers, the
crowds, and his competitors (including Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes,
Samaritans, scribes, and Zealots) in first-century Palestine.
Volume 4 (2009) deals with the ministry of the historical
relation to Mosaic Law, such subjects as divorce, oaths, and
observance of the Sabbath and purity rules, and the various love
commandments in the Gospels.
Volume 5 (2016) challenges that consensus and argues instead that only
four parables-those of the Mustard Seed, the Evil Tenants, the
Talents, and the Great Supper-can be attributed to the historical
Jesus with fair certitude.
Rome was reviewed in 1984 and 1985. A Marginal Jew
vol. 1 was reviewed by
Larry W. Hurtado in 1993. A Marginal Jew
vol. 3 was reviewed by William Loader in 2002.
Selected works by John P. Meier
... (1976). Law and History in Matthew's Gospel. Rome: Biblical
... (1979). The Vision of Matthew. New York, NY: Paulist Press.
... (1980). Matthew. Lex Orandi. 3. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical
... (1980). Access Guide to Matthew. New York: Sadlier.
with Brown, Raymond E. (1983). Antioch and Rome:
New Testament Cradles
Catholic Christianity. New York, NY: Paulist Press. 
... (1990). The Mission of Christ and His Church. Wilmington, DE:
... (1991). A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus: Volume 1:
The Roots of the Problem and the Person. Anchor Bible Reference
Library Series (Reissued ed.). New York: Yale University Press.
... (1994). A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus: Volume 2:
Mentor, Message and Miracles. Anchor Bible Reference Library Series
(Reissued ed.). New York: Yale University Press.
... (2001). A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus: Volume 3:
Companions and Competitors. Anchor Bible Reference Library Series
(Reissued ed.). New York: Yale University Press.
... (2009). A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus: Volume 4:
Law and Love. Anchor Bible Reference Library Series. New York: Yale
University Press. ISBN 978-0-3001-4096-5.
... (2015). Jésus et le divorce. Paris: Les Editions du CERF.
... (2016). A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus: Volume 5:
Probing the Authenticity of the Parables. Anchor Bible Reference
Library Series. New York: Yale University Press.
Articles and chapters
... (1990). "Jesus". In Brown, Raymond E. (et.al.). The New Jerome
Biblical Commentary. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
pp. 1316–28. ISBN 0-13-614934-0.
... (2008). "The Historical
Jesus and the Historical Sabbath". In
Udoh, Fabian E. (et.al.). Redefining First-Century
Christian Identities. E. P. Sanders Festschrift. 1. Notre Dame, IN:
Notre Dame Press. pp. 297–307.
... (2010). "Petrine Ministry in the
New Testament and in the Early
Patristic Traditions". In Puglisi, James F. (et.al.). How Can the
Petrine Ministry Be a Service to the Unity of the Universal Church?.
1. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. pp. 13–33.
... (2011). "Basic Methodology in the Quest for the Historical Jesus".
In Holmen, Tom; Porter, S. E. Handbook for the Study of the Historical
Jesus. 1. Leiden: Brill. pp. 291–331.
... (2012). "The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds (Matt 13:24-30):
Is Thomas's Version (Logion 57) Independent?". Journal of Biblical
Literature. 131 (4): 715–732.
... (2012). "The Parable of the Wicked Tenants of the Vineyard: Is the
Gospel of Thomas
Gospel of Thomas Independent of the Synoptics?". Frank Matera
Festschrift. 1. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.
... (2012). "Is Luke's Version of the Parable of the Rich Fool
Reflected in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas?".
Quarterly. 74 (3): 528–547.
... (2013). "The Historical Figure of Jesus: The Historical
His Historical Parables". In Estrada, Bernardo (et.al.). The Gospels:
History and Christology 2 vols. 1. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice
Vaticana. pp. 237–60.
^ a b
John P. Meier - Department of Theology, University of Notre
^ Josh Stowe, 2009. "Notre Dame Scholar Debunks Myths about Jesus,"
College of Arts & Sciences News, University of Notre Dame, October
^ John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus,
Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library,
1991, v. 1, The Roots of the Problem and the Person. Description and
reviews. ISBN 0-385-26425-9
1994, v. 2, Mentor, Message, and Miracles. Description and reviews.
2001, v. 3, Companions and Competitors. Description and reviews.
2009, v. 4, Law and Love. Description, pre-publication comments, and
scrollable preview . ISBN 0-300-14096-7
^ John P. Meier, 1991. The Roots of the Problem and the Person, Yale
^ John P. Meier, 1991. A Marginal Jew, v. 1 pp. 95, 97-98.
^ John Bookser Feister, 1997. "Finding the Historical Jesus:An
Interview With John P. Meier," Saint Anthony Messenger, December.
^ John P. Meier, 1994. Mentor, Message, and Miracles, Yale University
^ John P. Meier, 2001. Companions and Competitors, Yale University
^ John P. Meier, 2009. Law and Love. Yale University Press. Contents,
pp. vii-x; and Introduction, pp. 1-25 (press +). Yale University
^ Description & link to reviews from YUP.
^ 1984 & 1985.
John P. Meier, 1999. "The Present State of the ‘Third Quest’ for
the Historical Jesus: Loss and Gain Archived 2006-08-27 at the Wayback
Machine.," Biblica, 80, pp. 459-487.
^ Larry W. Hurtado, 1993. [Review of A Marginal Jew, v. 1], Journal of
Biblical Literature, 112(3), pp. 532-534.
^ * William Loader,"Companions and Competitors - and Context?", 
(19-screen review of A Marginal Jew, v. 3)
^ John P. Meier, 1980. Matthew. Liturgical Press. Contents with
chapter-preview links, pp. vii-viii. Review extract, 1981.
Raymond E. Brown and John P. Meier, 1983. Antioch and Rome: New
Testament Cradles of
Catholic Christianity, Paulist Press. Scroll to
Table of Contents chapter-preview links.
John P. Meier, 2008. "
Jesus the Jew — But What Sort of Jew?" on
YouTube, UCal lecture on YouTube.
_____, 1997. "Finding the Historical Jesus". An interview.
John P. Meier - Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame.
ISNI: 0000 0001 2021 0222
BNF: cb12080882g (data