What did I think of “The Jesus Scandals?” Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Back around Easter, I was listening to the radio program “Unbelievable?” when I heard that there was a give away of David Instone-Brewer’s book “The Jesus Scandals.” I was quite anxious to get it and thus entered the contest to win one of a number of copies given away. Fortunately, I happened to be one of the names drawn. It was only recently found out that the American winners had not yet received their copies so just a week or so ago, I got my copy.
The idea of the Jesus Scandals is that the gospels are more authentic due to the scandalous facts about the life of Jesus. Some of these we might not really think about in our Western society. For instance, I have a number of male friends who are not married. At this age, that can be common. In the time of the Jews, this was something to be avoided. After all, everyone was expected to be married and if you weren’t, there had to be some strongly negative reason for that. The main one that would be pointed to would be Jesus’s parentage. (Yeah right. Born of a virgin?) If your atheist friends are skeptical of this, it would not have been any different in a Jewish society. I have often been asked “Would you believe your spouse if she was pregnant and said it was of the Holy Spirit?” I would be hard-pressed in that situation and would probably be like Joseph and need a dream from God to believe otherwise.
We must keep in mind after all that the Bible only gives us snapshots of what happened. When Mary told Joseph about what happened, we can be sure that Joseph did not believe it immediately since it took a dream from God to stop his plans from divorcing her. Imagine then how it would be for Jesus in His ministry, especially when it was asked whose son He was and have the questioner be told “The son of Joseph, you know, THAT Joseph.” Jesus had a huge black mark against Him.
Yet in the gospels, none of this is denied. The virgin birth is there to explain what happened and it would hardly have drawn sympathy. It would have made more sense to say something like “It was a tragedy that this young Jewish woman named Mary was raped, but the child grew up anyway and Joseph was a noble father who raised him like his own.” No. Instead, it goes for the route that skepticism would go against, and that was that Jesus was of divine origin.
Why would the gospels contain such scandalous events? Because they could not be denied. These were events that were known by the common populace. The gospel authors had to explain them. They chose an odd way by affirming each of them, including the crucifixion and resurrection. I think a work like this could be read in tandem with J.P. Holding’s “The Impossible Faith” to great benefit.
I do appreciate that Instone-Brewer has a chapter on disabilities in there. As many know, my wife and I both have Asperger’s, and it made me consider that both of us would be shunned in the time of Jesus, but as we know today, we are not shunned. We were both on the Theopologetics podcast to talk about how the church can be more receiving of those with disabilities. Such a talk would not take place in the time of Jesus. That we do have this talk today shows how far we’ve come.
Instone-Brewer also shows his scholarly knowledge of the Rabbinic writings, but does so in a way that’s not overbearing. The reader will not need a strong knowledge of the literature to know what Instone-Brewer is talking about. Fortunately, for those who do want more knowledge, he includes a list of recommended books in the back.
The chapters are also short enough that one could use them as a springboard at a church discussion group or could use the idea at a discussion around the water cooler. Each chapter can be read in only a few minutes and can provide plenty of food for thought for interesting discussion. Also, at the end of each chapter, Instone-Brewer includes an application piece that is relevant to what we are doing today.
I do think this book would be an interesting one for the person wanting to know more about the historical Jesus. The book uses the criterion of embarrassment to indicate that something is more likely to be true if it’s embarrassing to the cause. Aside from that, there won’t be much on historicity, but that was not the goal of this particular book.
This book thus comes with my recommendation. Do yourself a favor and buy it, or with Christmas coming, buy it for that non-Christian friend you have.