Keith, Chris and Larry W. Hurtado. Jesus among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospel. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2011. 352 pages, pb. $27.00. Link to Baker  Link to Logos

[This is part two of my review of this book, part one (the “friends”) is here.]

Turning to the enemies of Jesus, Loren T. Stuckenbruck examines the greatest of enemies, “Satan and Demons.” This chapter is highly detailed and an excellent resource for the wide ranging and diverse opinions in the Jewish world of the second temple period on the origin and current status of evil and the Evil One. In fact, Satan is not a particularly common name for the Evil One in Jewish literature of the first century. Stuckenbruck surveys the various names used in the literature. In the Gospels, Satan or the devil are mentioned frequently as they oppose Jesus and his ministry. Stuckenbruck Includes a brief but fascinating discussion of demon possession in this chapter since this phenomenon appears regularly in the gospels. The chapter also includes a survey of apocalyptic literature that describes the origin and activities of demons.

Friends and EnemiesAnthony Le Donne describes the Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus: the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. Beginning with the Hasmonean dynasty, Le Donne gives a basic history of the Saducees and Pharisees as they developed in the aftermath of the Maccabean revolt. While these two groups are well-defined, “’Scribes’ is a category that overlaps with almost every aspect of the Jewish power matrix” although they were ultimately elite power brokers (204). Turning to the Gospel accounts, Le Donne points out that the Gospels are stories, and stories need some sort of villain to give contrast to the hero. In the Gospels it is often the case that the Pharisees who complain about the activities of Jesus, providing him an opportunity to teach on that topic (Sabbath, purity laws, etc.). The Pharisees are not always portrayed negatively; Luke occasionally describes Pharisees in a positive light. By the time of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus could be described as “ambiguous loyal,” not praiseworthy, but not an enemy. This chapter might have been improved with a brief note on potential anti-Semitism in the Gospels, and the Pharisees are so well-known that they merit a chapter by themselves.

Helen K. Bond contributes a chapter on the “Political Authorities” in the Gospels: The Herods, Caiaphas, and Pontius Pilate. As with the Pharisees in the previous chapter, the Herodians could fill an entire chapter (or monograph), and Bond herself has written monographs on Caiaphas and Pilate. She begins the chapter with a survey of the Hasmonean period leading up to the appointment of Herod the Great. The chapter extends to Herod Antipas since he ruled Galilee at the time of Jesus. The chapter does not offer too much detail on Herod’s building projects, although the continual building up of the Temple is in the background of Jesus’ ministry. Shoe gives an excellent sketch of the family of Caiaphas, including a brief mention of Caiaphas ossuary. For Pilate, Bond surveys material from Josephus and Philo and demonstrates that Pilate was a cruel and insensitive governor of Judea. After the historical material, she surveys the material in each gospel of each of her three topics, making for more than a dozen sections (the Herodians are sometimes treated separately). As is well known, the Jewish leaders are portrayed negatively in the gospels while Pilate fares well compared to his reputation in history.

Finally, Holly J. Carey discusses the chief “enemy” of Jesus, Judas Iscariot. As the betrayer of Jesus, most people would immediately think of Judas as an enemy of Jesus. Since there is no real historical material on Judas outside of the New Testament, Carey offers an interesting review of the various legends that developed about Judas in the early church, culminating in the Gospel of Judas. While most of the early fathers vilified Judas, this apocryphal text portrays Judas as a faithful disciple. Carey points out that this Gnostic book was known in the early church although a copy of it was not discovered until the 1970s and it was not published until 2006. (There was a great deal of hoopla when the National Geographic Society bought the text and published it as a lost manuscript, implying that it was suppressed by the church as heterodox.)  After her examination of the material on Judas in the Gospels, Carey offers two fascinating sections on Judas’s freewill (did he have a choice?) and his motivations for betraying Jesus.

Chris Keith and Larry W. Hurtado offer a concluding chapter on “Seeking the Historical Jesus among Friends and Enemies.” This chapter serves as a mini-introduction to the rise and fall of the criteria for authenticity. As is well known, there is a growing dissatisfaction with these mechanical methods made popular first by Jesus Seminar, primarily because they do not result in much. Rather, the method suggested by Dunn in his Jesus Remembered (Eerdmans, 2003) has gained traction in the last decade. The chapter does not really form a conclusion to the book, since the bulk of the book did not employ the criteria. Most of the friends and enemies in these essays are known from history and the ones that are not historical characters are not subject to the criteria (God and Satan, Angels and Demons, the Disciples and Judas).

Conclusion. One of these reasons this collection is valuable is that a few of the chapters cover characters that are not the usual fodder for a historical Jesus study. While there are a number of books on John the Baptist or Judas, there are few that are interested in Mary Magdalene, the Bethany Family, and the Beloved Disciple, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Overall I find this a worthy collection that offers some detailed study of characters in the Gospels that are rarely examined closely.

NB: This book is available as a part of the Logos Jesus Studies collection. I offer my thanks to Logos for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.