Logos Bible Software is offering another excellent book for their “Free Book of the Month” Promotion. Last year these were all out-of-copyright classics widely available on the internet for free. Last month they offered one of the Armchair Theologian series from Westminster John Knox Press, this month Steve Moyise’s Jesus and Scripture (SPCK, 2010), and printed in the US by Baker Academic in 2011. Moyise is a professor of biblical studies at the University of Chichester and has written a number of books on the use of scripture in Revelation and Paul. This 140-page book is an excellent introduction to how Jesus used scripture, beginning in Mark, then Matthew and Luke, and finally John. There are a few text-boxes throughout the book that offer brief definitions / expansions on some technical/scholarly issues (What is Q? The Criteria of Authenticity, etc.) While there is nothing ground-breaking in this little book, it is a very nice introduction to some of the problems of Historical Jesus studies, and Moyise is able to explain some difficult problems clearly and concisely.
After surveying the data in the Gospels, Moyise offers three chapters on various approaches to this material. The minimalist approach to Jesus’ use of Scripture (represented by Geza Vermes, John Dominic Crossan, and Marcus Borg). These scholars tend to reject much of the Jesus tradition, beginning with the apocalyptic material (Son of Man sayings, etc). Crossan and Borg are well known for reducing the number of sayings of Jesus to a bare minimum (hence, “minimalists”). It is not that these writers seek to marginalize Jesus, but as Moyise says, “they believe that the Gospel writers diminished Jesus by making him the mouthpiece for their own egocentric claim that they are now the people that God will rescue from the imminent collapse of the universe” (91).
The moderate approach (represented by James Dunn and Tom Wright) accepts far more of the sayings of Jesus as authentic, although there is an acceptance of the fact that some of the sayings have been “embellished” by later Gospel writers.There is also more acceptance of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet of some sort, so Jesus’ own self understanding is based on texts like Dan. 7 , Zech. 9–14, Ps. 22 and Isa. 40–55. Not to give away the conclusion, but Moyise places himself on the side of the moderates (120-1).
The maximalist approach (represented by Charles Kimball and R. T. France) assumes that the Gospels represent a reliable account of what Jesus said and did, and that Jesus’ use of Scripture was analogous to other Jewish teachers of his day. Kimball especially focuses on Hillel’s seven rules as a way to describe Jesus’ teaching.
As a bonus, Logos is giving away a very nice six book collection of “Jesus Studies” published by SPCK (Baker or Westminster in the US). Each book in that collection is worth reading. Head on over to Logos Bible Software, get the free Logos book, and enter to win the whole collection.