An instructor in the Socratic mold, Dr. Sharman wrote his book as a study guide, meant to be explored through group dialogue. Dr. Sharman’s style was to ask penetrating questions, to which the students were expected to provide astute and insightful answers. Answers were never given by Sharman -- only questions followed by more questions meant to guide the student toward greater clarity in his or her thinking.

Dr. Sharman died in 1953, but his work was continued by two of his favorite students: Harry and Emilia Rathbun. Harry was Professor Emeritus at Stanford University’s School of Law, and Emilia a teacher, lecturer and renowned religious leader. Together they founded the Sequoia Seminar Foundation – and later the Creative Initiative Foundation – dedicated to exploring, understanding and living the teachings of Jesus.  Always they stayed true to Sharman’s vision of engaging with the book through group dialogue.

This is still without question the best approach. But given the world today, it seems Sharman’s work needs to be made more accessible to a wider audience. This became even clearer after reading a recent New York Times best seller on the teachings of Jesus, where the author asserted that Jesus’ primary teachings had to do with advocating feminism and doing right by the poor and destitute. That is like saying the primary function of physics is to help you play a better game of pool. Those are implications of the teachings, but the essence is far more profound and far reaching.

Dr. Sharman’s book is written in approximate chronological order, as best as can be reasonably assumed, starting with a few statements about Jesus’ early years, through his Baptism by John, and then his period of teaching, which most scholars believe lasted about one year before he was crucified.

Now, let’s begin. Which means we have to start where Sharman started: with an understanding of the times into which Jesus was born, and within which he lived, taught and died.

In this Section