I was dlighted when David Instone-Brewer, with whom I work on Tyndale House’s STEP Project, contacted me and asked me to write a review of his latest book, The Jesus Scandals: Why He Shocked His Contemporaries (and Still Shocks Today).
I have always been fascinated with research that attempts to shed light on the meaning of obscure biblical texts by drawing upon relevant background material from the culture of day. In this case the author uses the theme of “Scandals” in Jesus’ life and teachings and among Jesus’ friends, using his extensive knowledge of rabbinic sources, to explain why what Jesus said and did was so shocking to the religious people of his day. Each chapter contains references to these sources for further reading.
Of course, there are dangers in relying on background alone to clarify the meaning of biblical texts. There are countless examples where new interpretations of particular verses have been suggested based on background material that later turned out to have been misinterpreted, or in one case I can think of, completely fabricated! Rabbinic material is difficult to date, so that danger of an anachronistic interpretation is very real. However, the author is well aware of these potential pitfalls (as he has described in detail elsewhere), and strives to avoid falling into them.
The chapters are deliberately short and pithy, allowing them to be read in a few minutes, meaning that they could easily be used to provoke a discussion in a Bible Study or home group context, especially as a modern day application is suggested. The chapter on “Censored Arrest Warrant”, based on a document acquired by Tyndale House in Cambridge, where David works, can also be viewed as a video:
I found this and the chapter on “Child Abuse” particularly interesting as I had never come across this material before. Those interested in the New Testament teaching on divorce will want to read the chapters on “No Fault Divorce” and “Marital Abuse”, perhaps going on to read the author’s major work on that subject [Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities].
Whether you agree with all of David’s conclusions or not, I am sure that you will find as I did that your understanding of the context of Jesus’ life and ministry is expanded and enhanced, and so warmly recommend this book. For a sample chapter and a peak at the introduction and table of contents, click here.
I thought that this was such a great book that I bought another copy which you can win book by entering the giveaway below [i.e. it is not the free copy I was sent to review 🙂 ].
This Giveaway is now closed.