Jesus’ Prayer of Thanksgiving (John 11:42-44)

Jesus prays a “prayer of thanksgiving” before commanding Lazarus to come out of the tomb. This prayer has been discussed with respect to the possibility of historicity – is it the type of prayer that Jesus might have prayed in this context?  Some scholars dispense with the historicity of the prayer as an addition by the writer of the Gospel.  For example, R. H. Fuller, (Interpreting the Miracles) wrote that:

To the modern reader this prayer is irritating, if not offensive. The whole thing looks like a put-up show, anything but genuine prayer. Jesus knows he need not pray, but apparently stages a prayer to impress the bystanders.

Rather than an “irritating prayer”, this is actually a Prayer of Thanksgiving as prayed by Jews commonly in the context of first century Palestine. Following J. M. Robinson, Bingham Hunter has demonstrated that there are formal parallels to a Jewish thanksgiving prayer. As a Jewish Hodayoth, the prayer is intended to be heard by the audience for which it is prayed. The cited article lists many examples (including in the Pauline and Qumran literature) indicating that this sort of prayer was not only common enough in the first century, but expected in a religious context such as the one Jesus finds himself in John 11.

Because of its form the prayer seems to be genetically related to and a part of a tradition of piety exemplified by the Jewish personal thanksgiving psalm. Thanksgivings of this sort are characteristically prayers that both God and spectators are meant to hear.

With respect to the scholars that find offense in the prayer, Hunter points that the offense is entirely modern. Read in the context of the first-century, the prayer is exactly the sort of thanksgiving prayer we might have expected.

Bibliography:  R. H. Fuller, Interpreting the Miracles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963); W. Bingham Hunter, “Contextual And Genre Implications For The  Historicity Of John 11:41b-42” JETS 28:1 (March 1985) 53-70.

The Good Shepherd – John 10 and the Hebrew Bible

John 10 begins with the closest thing to a parable we find in the Gospel of John. While parables are common in the other three Gospels, John does not record a single parable. In this passage, Jesus uses an extended metaphor drawn from the common experience of tending sheep. If the audience had not tended sheep themselves, they knew that these things were true from their experience.

Good_ShepherdJesus chose this metaphor intentionally since the image of a shepherd is used in the Old Testament frequently for the leaders of the nation. The are bad shepherds who are not leading the people “beside still waters” (Psalm 23) The people are like “sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36). In contrast, Jesus leads the people into the wilderness and provides food for them (the feeding of the 5000), seeking out the lost sheep wherever they are (Luke 15:3-7) and ultimately laying Jesus will lay down his life down on behalf of his flock.

What is more, this image of a true shepherd is a messianic image found in the Old Testament. Moses led sheep for 40 years in the wilderness before God called him to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, and the ideal King of Israel was David, who was first a shepherd before his was a king. Psalm 23 has messianic overtones (“The Lord is my shepherd”), but Ezekiel 37:24-28 is the most clear use of a shepherd metaphor for the coming Messiah, the true son of David and ideal shepherd who replaces the bad leaders who have led the people into danger but do nothing to save them.

The image of a God as a shepherd is found frequently in the Old Testament. God is described as a shepherd for his people (Gen 48:15, 49:24, Ps 23:1, 28:9, 77:20, 78:52, 80:1, Isa 40:11, Jer 31:10) and the people of Israel are regularly refer to as the sheep of God’s pasture (Ps 74:1, 78:52, 79:13, 95:7, 100:3, Ezek 34:31). It is possible that Jesus had Ezekiel 34 in mind, but the fact that the image of an ultimately good shepherd who will lead God’s people back to the land appears in Isaiah 40 and Jeremiah 31 as well. These are passages Jesus uses frequently in his teaching and would have been well-known to the listeners in the Temple.

In John 10:14 Jesus declares he is not only the proper gate into the sheep pen, he is in fact the good shepherd who will lay his life down on behalf of his flock. By calling himself “the shepherd,” Jesus is evoking passages such as Ezekiel 34 which looks forward to an ideal shepherd who will lead the people on behalf of God. On the other hand, the true shepherd of Israel is God. There is only one shepherd for the flock (verse 16). God the Father is the shepherd (Ps 23:1), but here Jesus is claiming to be that good shepherd.

The reaction of the crowd (10:19-21) is similar to chapter 9, some say Jesus is inane or demon possessed, yet others understand that a demon possessed man cannot open the eyes of the blind, nor does an insane person speak as Jesus does. He makes sense!

By claiming to be the Good Shepherd, Jesus in intentionally declaring that he is the Messiah and therefore God’s son. But he will go beyond the expectation that the Messiah will be the ideal king, a new Moses and new David. Just as both those men could be called “a son of God,” Jesus also claims to be the ideal Son of God because he is God.

There is more in this chapter which makes Jesus’s claim even more clear. But is this an accurate reading of the words of Jesus? Is he claiming to be the eschatological shepherd from Ezekiel 37:24-28? And if he is, what does this tell us about his relationship with God?

John 7:8 – “My Time Has Not Yet Come”

When his brothers encourage him to go up to Jerusalem, Jesus initially refuses their request because “his time has not yet come.”  However, he does eventually go to Jerusalem in secret.   His apparent refusal leads to some textual variation, since it is clear that Jesus says one thing and does another.  One way to explain this is that Jesus said that he would not go now, but he would go later, separate from the family.

SuccothD. A. Carson, for example, tries to explain that when Jesus says “my time has not yet come,” he means that his time for leaving for the Feast has not yet come.  Carson thinks that the next line (you can go anytime but I cannot) means that Jesus is simply thinking about when he was leaving for the Feast.  This is possible, since the point of the rest of the chapter is to argue that Jesus does not act unless the Father directs him.  Perhaps this simply means that the  Father directed Jesus to leave a few days later than his brothers.

It is also likely this is another example of Jesus initially refusing a request but eventually granting the request.  In John 2, Jesus appears to refuse Mary’s request to “do something” about the wine.   Just as Mary’s request was on an earthly level and Jesus’ answer was on the higher, messianic level, so too here with his brothers.  They are thinking solely of Jesus’ status as a religious leader (“Go to Jerusalem where those sorts of people hang out”), Jesus is thinking about his real mission to die on the cross at the next Passover.   (Nicodemus and the woman at the well also mix up the earthly and the spiritual, except in those cases Jesus says something spiritual and they take it as earthly.)

The timing of Jesus’ death is to be at the Passover, not the Feast of Tabernacles.  If he appears there at the beginning of the Feast, there may be a unintentional “triumphal entry.”  His actions would therefore be seen as messianic and probably develop into a riot!

Jesus “time” is therefore the time of the crucifixion, resurrection, and glorification.

John 6:1-14 – What is the Point of the Leftovers?

Looking at the huge crowd gathered to hear him, Jesus asks his disciple Philip where they could possibly find enough food to feed the large crowd. As happens often in John’s Gospel, Jesus knows exactly what he is about to do so this question is a test for the disciples (John 6:6). Marianne Meye Thompson acknowledges the verb used here can refer to a temptation or trap, but in this cases it is better “examine, try, prove” (John, 140).

Fish and BreadOnce again in the Gospel of John someone misunderstands Jesus’s question and fails to anticipate the miracle. Philip points out the impossibility of buying that much food: “Two hundred denarii” worth of food would not be enough! This is more than a half-year’s wages, so Philip’s point is “we don’t have that kind of money, Jesus.” He is thinking of literally feeding the crowd, Jesus is talking about spiritually feeding the crowd the “bread of life.”

Another disciple who is only mentioned in the Synoptic gospels, Andrew, finds a boy with a small lunch. Andrew probably did not think the food could be shared, he was pointing out the impossibility of finding enough food for the crowd. The fish were probably small pickled fish (not a sardine, but something similar). No one would carry a pair of rainbow trout in their satchel on the outside chance they were needed to feed a crowd!

Jesus takes this small amount of food, offers thanks, and then distributes the food to the crowd. The crowd sees that is a miracle and wonder what kind of prophet Jesus is. They have in a mind a tradition drawn from Deut 18:15-18 that another prophet like Moses will come into the world. Moses fed the Israelites manna in the wilderness, in a similar way Jesus gives bread to a new Israel in a new wilderness.

Deuteronomy 18:15-18 (ESV) “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

It is possible this miracle is an allusion to Elisha (2 Kings 4:42-44). In 2 Kings the prophet Elisha feeds 150 men with a small amount of food. There are similarities, but the more important allusion is to the wilderness period of Israel’s history.

The food provides enough for all the crowd to eat until they are satisfied and still have twelve baskets left over. Consider these are poor people who are given free food and allowed to eat as much as they want. I think they probably overate and maybe stuffed a few leftovers in their pockets to take home to the family.

The point of the leftovers? “This is the ample provision of the Lord who declared, ‘My people will be filled with the bounty’ (Jeremiah 31:14)” (Carson, John, 271). Just as Jesus provided plentiful excellent wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-12) and healed a man who was crippled for thirty-eight years (5:5-6), now Jesus provides enough food everyone is satisfied and there are plenty of leftovers. Like the wine at the wedding in Cana, Jesus is revealing for those who have ears to hear that he is the host of an eschatological banquet, like the manna in the wilderness God is providing new bread for his people. But as Jesus will say later in John 6 this “bread of life” is his own body which will be given for them (6:48-51).

John 6:1-14 – Feeding the 5000

The Feeding of the Five Thousand appears in all four Gospels.The details in John are in some ways more detailed. For example, the role of Andrew and Philip are unique to John, in the synoptic gospels the disciples who ask Jesus about the crowds are anonymous. The use of the disciples to react to Jesus is typical of John, as is the mention of the words and deeds of other disciples outside of Peter, James and John.

Fish and Bread, Feeding the 5000

That this event occurs at the time of the Passover is extremely important for understanding the point of the miracle. Passover celebrates the rescue of Israel out of Egypt. God sent plagues on the Egyptians and took his people out into the wilderness where he provided for them both food and water. What is more, the rescue from Egypt at Passover marks the beginning of Israel as a nation.

John wants to present Jesus as a “prophet like Moses” in this section. It was Moses who provided food to the people of Israel in the wilderness after the first Passover and then led the people through the waters of the Red Sea. In Exodus 16 God provides for the people of Israel with manna and quail.  Jesus provides food then walks on the water. There is even a parallel in the reaction of the crowds – the crowds  “murmur” in 6:41 in such a way that implies that they have not really understood the miracle.

When Jesus provided food for a large crowd of Jews in a wilderness location, consciously re-enacting the original Passover. Like celebrating the fourth of July in America, celebrating Passover evoked a nationalistic spirit even in Galilee. Perhaps because many in Galilee thought of themselves as “occupied” by the Romans, Passover could easily develop anti-Roman sentiment.

This miracle could be taken as the beginnings of a revolution. When he seats people in groups he is organizing the people into “tribes” just as Moses did. The crowds in fact misunderstand the sign in just this way and try to force Jesus to be a king. As D. A. Carson said, “In the light of v. 15, where the people try to make Jesus king by force, it is easy to think that, at least in John, the specification of five thousand men is a way of drawing attention to a potential guerrilla force of eager recruits willing and able to serve the right leader” (Carson, John, 270).

The crowd thinks that Jesus is the Prophet, a messianic figure, a second Moses who leads Israel into the wilderness and provides manna for them. Isaiah 40-55 makes us use of the original wilderness period to describe the return of Israel from Exile.  There seems to have been a general feeling among the people, perhaps especially in Galilee, that the exile was still going on because Israel’s king had not come nor has the whole nation been gathered back to the land.

This nationalism would have been especially strong during the Passover. Israel was remembering his origins. Families were re-enacting the inaugural Passover meal in their homes and talking about what God has done for them in the Exodus and journey to the land. It is very easy to see what the people thought, Jesus is like Moses, gathering a force in the wilderness which could be used to secure the land, in this he is a new Moses. But Jesus is also a new Joshua- the people of Galilee were willing to take up arms to liberate the nation.

After Jesus explains that his kingdom is not going to be an armed rebellion, the crowds begin to fall away and even Jesus’ own disciples begin to grumble about this “hard teaching” (6:60-66) .  The verb used in verse 61 (γογγύζω) is used for the complaints of the Israelites in the wilderness period (they were “murmuring”). Just like Israel in the past, present Israel is complaining, questioning whether Jesus is the true messiah or not.

The Twelve, however, remain faithful (6:67-69).  Peter is the disciples who responds that there is no one else to follow since Jesus has the words of life.  The inner circle is committed to following Jesus since there is no life (water, bread) anywhere else.  If that is true, Peter says, “What other teacher are we going to follow?” If Jesus is the teacher who has the truth, it is because he is also God incarnate – once again, who else are they going to follow?  They know the truth, they cannot now turn to any other teacher.

Indeed, what other teacher are we going to follow?

Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels

It is well known that the gospel of John is considerably different than the other three Gospels.  One of the reasons that the Gospel of John seems so different is that the three synoptic gospels are so similar.  Because of the similarities between Matthew, Mark, and Luke some theory of literary dependence must be given to explain the close relationship.

Gospel of JohnFor example, there is no birth, baptism or temptation in John. While Jesus does seven miracles, they are called “signs” and there are no exorcisms. There are no parables, despite Mt 13:34 and Mk 4:34 which indicate that Jesus primarily spoke in parables in the second half of his ministry.

There are several extended dialogues which have no real parallel in the synoptic gospels. Jesus does not re-interpret the Mosaic law, as in the Sermon on the Mount, nor does he predict the fall of Jerusalem (cf. Mark 13 and parallels.)  In fact, there is no prediction of a second coming in John, although Jesus does promise to send the Paraclete to the disciples after he returns to heaven (14:25-26, 16:7-15).  The Last Supper is not described as an ongoing celebration, rather, John describes Jesus washing the feet of the disciples (13:1-16).  While the arrest and crucifixion is described in similar ways to the synoptic gospels, there is no agony in the garden of Gethsemane.

I am following Andreas J. Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and his Letters (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009). Köstenberger follows B. F. Wescott’s observation that John’s Gospel was written after the success of the (Pauline) Gentile Mission, after the destruction of Jerusalem, and at the same time as the emergence of Gnosticism as competitor to Apostolic Christianity.

For Köstenberger, the Fall of Jerusalem is the most important factor.  I am sure that the rise of Gnosticism is a major factor, but I am not sure that the success of the Gentile mission is as much of a factor than sometimes assumed.  John wrote the gospel some thirty years after the death of Paul, from Ephesus, the city where Paul had his most success among Gentiles. Yet the Gospel has very little to say about Gentiles. The Samaritan Woman (John 4) is a possible example, but Samaritans are a in many ways neither Jew nor Gentile.  The healing of the official’s son in John 4:46-54 is sometimes offered as an example of a Gentile who encounters Jesus, but if he is John certainly does not make this explicit.

On the one hand, the Gospel is evangelistic.  John wrote to Jewish readers who might be open to Jesus as an alternative to the Temple and the festivals.  But there are a few stories which are could be described as drawing Gentiles to Jesus.  The story of the blind man who is healed in John 5 may show that Jesus is superior to Asclepius, a Roman god of healing.  Given the number of allusions to the Hebrew Bible and the importance of the Jewish story of redemption, it is clear that the main target of the Gospel is Jewish.

On the other hand, the Gospel is apologetic.  John wrote to Christians (either Jewish or Gentile) in order to clarify who Jesus was as an answer to growing questions raised by developing Gnostic theology. There is a serious theological challenge developing in the church, John must address this as insufficient for explaining who Jesus was.   John describes Jesus as the Word, equal with God because he is God. But Jesus is also flesh, fully human. These two facts are stated in the prologue and supported throughout the Gospel of John.

The Gospel of John is therefore a window into the end of the apostolic era. Christianity was making progress against paganism, but needed to to develop a theology of Jesus in the face of an internal challenge. Can we draw other implications from the differences between John and the Synoptics?

Faithful Thomas

Thomas was not with the disciples when Jesus first appeared after the resurrection. We are not told why and it may not be important. But while the other ten were locked in the upper room out of fear, Thomas was someplace else. Thomas seemed ready to die with Jesus in John 11, so it may be the case that he is willing to go about his life, almost daring the Jews to arrest him too.

On the other hand, perhaps Thomas experienced a “crisis of faith” when Jesus died. If he believed Jesus was the Messiah and that the Messiah was not going to be crucified by the Romans, perhaps Jesus’ death caused him to doubt everything. He may be in a state of denial, like Peter, but deeper.

Whatever the case, he returns to the upper room the disciples tell him that Jesus is alive. Jesus is “more than alive,” he has risen from the dead to a new kind of life. Whatever the reason, when he is told that Jesus rose from the dead, he refuses to believe without further evidence. Thomas gets a bad reputation as a skeptic for not believing what the disciples told him.

On the other hand, there is virtually nothing in Second Temple Period Judaism that anticipated the death of the Messiah not his resurrection to eternal life. It was something which Thomas was not ready to believe since it was unbelievable within his world view. The disciples are making an extraordinary claim, that the messiah intended to die and rise to eternal life. This will require them to re-think virtually everything that they believe.

When Jesus appears in the midst of the disciples a second time, Thomas believes and confesses Jesus as “Lord and God” (v. 28). Thomas’s confession is a theological statement for the whole book of John. The writer has been slowly revealing who Jesus is through a series of misunderstandings, people hear Jesus’ words but do not fully comprehend his meaning. Even after the resurrection, Mary thinks Jesus’ body was stolen, then the disciples wonder if he ever really died. Even when he appears to them, they still do not confess Jesus quite the way Thomas does in v. 28.

John therefore intends Thomas’s words as a final word on who Jesus is: he is the “Lord and God” of the reader, and that by believing that he is the Lord one can have eternal life in his name (verse 31). Are there other ways in which Thomas’s faithful statement functions like a theological conclusion to the Gospel of John?

The First Witnesses of the Resurrection

According to John 20:1, the first witness to the resurrection is Mary Magdalene, who visited the tomb very early on Sunday morning. Who is this Mary?

The name “Magdalene” indicates she was from a town in Galilee, Magdal about a mile north of Tiberias. The name means “tower” and is called “fish tower” in the Talmud, perhaps indicating that it was associated with exporting fish from Galilee. The town may have been as large as 40,000 in the first century and predominantly Gentile (ABD, 4:579).

According to Luke 8:2 Jesus healed Mary “from seven evil spirits,” otherwise she only appears in the resurrection stories in Matthew and Mark. Luke only says that demons went out of her, but it safe to assume that Jesus was the exorcist.

According to a sixth century tradition, Mary was the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50 (and Mary of Bethany, John 11:1-12:8, Luke 10:38-42). This is possibly due to the fact that Magdal had a reputation for as a sinful town in Midr. Lam 2:2. It is possible that a Jewish woman living in a Gentile town was there to work as a prostitute, although there is no reason to assume that is the case. There is nothing in the Bible to support the idea that she was a prostitute or adulterous, only that she had been demon possessed.

Mary has become popular in contemporary culture as a female disciple of Jesus on the same level as Peter and the Twelve. The real problem for this view is that the New Testament does not present her as part of the inner circle. These popular readings of Mary are based on Gnostic literature, include the Gospel of Peter and the Coptic Gospel of Thomas (both date to about A.D. 200) and the Gospel of Philip (third century A.D.), which describes Mary as the disciple whom Christ loved more than all the others.

There is a longstanding Gnostic tradition that Jesus and Mary had a romantic relationship and that they were secretly married and had a child. This child begins a kind of “Jesus dynasty,” a secret line of Jesus which existed for centuries. This sort of thing turns up in the Da Vinci Code and other conspiracy-mined entertainment. There is little evidence for this, what evidence does exist is strained at best.

Still it is remarkable that this woman is the first to visit the empty tomb in John’s gospel. Since it is still early in the morning, Mary cannot see into the tomb, only that the stone has been moved away from the entrance. She assumes that the body has been disturbed, perhaps that the tomb has been robbed. She returns to the place where Peter and the others are staying, presumably the upper room) and reports that the tomb has been opened.

If one were to invent the story of the resurrection, Mary would be a poor choice for first witness to the empty tomb. As a woman her testimony would be questioned, and even in the story as we read it in John, she misunderstands what has happened and assumes (as most people would) that someone has moved the body of Jesus, likely to prevent the disciples from venerating the tomb of their prophet.

What are the ramifications of the “first witness” being a woman with a potentially tarnished reputation?


Second John – Developing Doctrine and Practice

The short letter of Second John is address to the “elect lady and her children.” This is likely a reference to a church. Since the Greek word for church is feminine, calling a church a “chosen lady” is a natural metaphor. Jobes points out that neither “chosen” nor “lady” were used as proper names in the first century, nor are there any personal names in this letter (Letters to the Churches, 441). John refers to the members of a congregation as “children” in 1 John several times, so it seems fairly certain that this address is to a congregation of believers.

It may be a generic letter, however, circulated to several churches in a region. 1 John seems to be intended as a circular letter, so it is possible that this short note from “the elder” was passed around to several house churches. Since this letter is written on a single scrap of paper (verse 12), it may have been intended as a personal note from John, carried by a traveling preacher visiting congregations under John’s oversight. Obviously 1 and 2 John are related, but there is no way to know which letter came first or if they were addressed to different congregations.

The theological content of the letter is similar to that of 1 John. The writer warns the congregation about “deceivers” who have gone out into the world and deny that Jesus came in the flesh (v. 7). In verse 9 John implies that these deceivers have “gone ahead” rather than remained in the truth as it was first taught. Perhaps some teachers had tried to find a way to explain who Jesus was which “went beyond” what the apostles originally taught. These people were not heretics in the traditional sense, but Christians who were seeking to understand what Jesus claimed about himself. While John calls them deceivers, their deception might have been an on honest attempt to develop theology even if it went a different direction that what John himself was teaching.


This is a problem for modern theology. The main issue in Second John is that the false teachers had developed doctrine in a way which was unacceptable. I think they had good intentions – they were genuinely trying to explain a very difficult concept (God became flesh) and they did so in a way which they thought was consistent with their Jewish world view. But from the perspective of John, they have gone too far and need to “remain” in the original teaching he delivered to them.

I think that it is necessary to develop doctrine “beyond the Bible,” since the Bible simply does not specifically address every situation which may arise in a modern context. I am frequently asked what the Bible has to say about birth control or in vitro fertilization. Since it is very hard to “quote a verse” as a proof-text either for or against these practices, Christians have to infer ethical practice from the general teaching of the Bible. The difficult part is knowing when we have “run ahead” and developed a doctrine beyond what the intent of the Bible was in the first place.

Does a little letter like 2 John provide a model for developing doctrine? Or should we read it as a sober warning about going too far?

Book Review: Keith Warrington, Discovering the Jesus in the New Testament

Warrington, Keith. Discovering the Jesus in the New Testament. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2009. 226 pages, pb. $24  Link to Hendrickson   Link to Logos

Keith Harrington is the Vice-Principal and Director of Doctoral Studies at Regents Theological College. This book is a follow up to his Discovering the Holy Spirit in the New Testament (Hendricksen, 2005) and follows the same pattern. His goal is to highlight common threads as well as unique contributions from each of the authors of the New Testament.

WarringtonNo New Testament writer said everything there is to be said about Jesus as a person or his mission. In fact, they rarely address theological questions such as Trinity or the Virgin Birth in a way that is theologically satisfying from a modern perspective. The writers of the NT had two main ambitions, according to Warrington’s. First, “they wanted to reveal who Jesus truly was and to explore his mission” and second, “they wanted to relate these facts to their audiences” (3). His method is text-driven, observing what each book says about Jesus. As such, he avoids historical Jesus questions as well as second order theological problems that trouble later readings of the New Testament. In addition, there is minimal interaction with other scholarship. Each section is rich with scripture references as Warrington pays close attention to the voice of the author.

The books of the NT are taken in canonical order, beginning with the Synoptic Gospels. The first chapter takes Matthew, Mark, and Luke as a whole, but does contain a brief section of the Christology of each author. Since John is next, follows by Romans, there is some chronological disorientation. Paul would be the earliest witness, the Synoptic Gospels. In fact, virtually every other book of the NT was written before John (Revelation is the only exception). I would have preferred the chapters to be laid out chronologically so that is trajectory of Christological development could be traced from the earliest books to the last. This method also separates Luke from Acts and John’s Gospel from his Epistles and Revelation. In the case on the Pauline letters, taking them chronologically may have yielded additional insights as the apostle’s view of Jesus develops over the years. (In fairness, there is a single, brief overview of Paul’s letters before his chapter on Romans.) But this criticism is on the order of “this is not the book I would have written”  and should not distract from Warrington’s otherwise fine presentation in this book.

In general, Warrington divides his chapters into units headed by Christological titles (Lord, messiah, foundation, etc.) or actives of Jesus (redeemer, savior, etc.) Some of these are often repeated in many chapters, since there is continuity throughout the New Testament.  Occasionally there are parts of chapters that do not strike me as on topic. For example, in Acts there is a short comment on the shipwreck in chapter 27 that seems extraneous. In Ephesians there is a short note on being sealed with the Spirit which does not strike me as an activity of Christ despite Warrington’s statement that “Jesus has authorized the sealing of believers with the Spirit” (119). That is not exactly what Eph 1:13 says.

Most of the chapters are brief; Titus and Philemon can be read in a few minutes. Again, in my view most of the Pauline letters could have been drawn together to create a more substantial overview of Paul’s understanding of Jesus.  An entire chapter on the Christology of James is ambitious at best! Some books, however, have a great deal more to say about Jesus, such as the Gospels, Hebrews and Revelation. In fact, Warrington’s chapter on Hebrews is one of the highlights of the book.

Conclusion.  This is a very easy to read introduction to what the New Testament says about Jesus. While there is a great deal of theology in the book, some more theologically minded readers may find the brevity of the book dissatisfying. The book is simply not intended to be a theologically nuanced Christology. Yet for the busy pastor or lay person, this book offers insights into how the New Testament presents Jesus.

NB: I read this book on my iPad using the Logos Bible Software app. The book is available as a part of the Baker Jesus Studies collection from Logos. (This book is one of the many Baker acquired from Hendrickson a few years ago.) The Logos version includes real page numbers and the reader can take advantage of the note-taking and highlighting tools in Logos.

NB: Thanks to Logos for kindly providing me with an electronic review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.