S. G. F. Brandon

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Samuel George Frederick Brandon (1907 – 21 October 1971) was a British priest and scholar of comparative religion. He became professor of comparative religion at the University of Manchester in 1951.


Brandon was a graduate of the University of Leeds. He was ordained in 1932 after Anglican training at Mirfield, and then spent seven years as a parish priest before enrolling as an army chaplain in World War II, after which he began a successful academic career in 1951 as a historian of religion.[1] Brandon's most influential work, Jesus and the Zealots, was published in 1967, wherein he advanced the claim that Jesus fitted well within the ideology of the anti-Roman Zealot group.[2]

As he flew over the Mediterranean Sea on 21 October 1971, he died of an infection he contracted while working in Egypt.[3]


His thinking on New Testament themes grew out of The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church (1951). His most celebrated position is the controversial one, that a political Jesus was a revolutionary figure, influenced in that by the Zealots; this he argued in the 1967 book Jesus and the Zealots: A Study of the Political Factor in Primitive Christianity.[4] The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth (1968) raises again, amongst other matters, the question of how the Fall of the Temple in 70 CE shaped the emerging Christian faith, and in particular the Gospel of Mark.

He was a critic of the myth-ritual theory, writing a 1958 essay "The Myth and Ritual Position Critically Examined" attacking its assumptions.[5]

Brandon also claimed that the Pauline epistles and the accounts of Jesus Christ found in the Gospels represented two opposing factions of Christianity.[6]

Selected works[edit]

  • The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church (1951)
  • Time and Mankind: An Historical and Philosophical Study of Mankind's Attitude to the Phenomena of Change (1954)
  • Man and His Destiny in the Great Religions: An Historical and Comparative Study (1962)
  • Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East (1963)
  • History, Time, and Deity (1965)
  • The Judgment of the Dead: The Idea of Life after Death in the Major Religions (1967)
  • Jesus and the Zealots: A Study of the Political Factor in Primitive Christianity (1967)
  • The Trial of Jesus of Nazareth (1968)
  • Religion in Ancient History: Studies in Ideas, Men, and Events (1969)
  • Ancient Empires (1970)

As editor[edit]

  • The Saviour God: Comparative Studies in the Concept of Salvation (1963)
  • A Dictionary of Comparative Religion (1970)

See also[edit]

Scholars who have advanced related ideas:


  1. ^ Martin Hengel, Was Jesus a Revolutionist, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 5.
  2. ^ S. G. F. Brandon, Jesus and the Zealots, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1967).
  3. ^ Sharpe and Hinnells 1973: ix
  4. ^ Time magazine, 3 January 1969 [1]: Brandon pictures Jesus as a politically aware activist vigorously working against the Palestinian "Establishment"—the Roman occupying forces and Jerusalem's collaborationist Jewish aristocracy.
  5. ^ In Myth, Ritual and Kingship edited by S. H. Hooke. Reprinted in The Myth and Ritual Theory (1998) edited by Robert A. Segal. Segal refers to the Sharpe and Hinnells volume for biography.
  6. ^ S.G.F. Brandon (editor), A Dictionary of Comparative Religion (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1970).


  • Sharpe, Eric J.; Hinnells, John R., eds. (1973). Man and his salvation. Studies in memory of S. G. F. Brandon. Manchester: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-0537-X.

External links[edit]