Why write about scandals? David says they are the inconvenient truths of the gospel. Some may try to dismiss the gospels as fiction. But these scandals would never have been invented for fiction. They reveal the truth of the authors.
The chapters of the book are self contained and can be read in any order. They are short and can even be used as devotional talks.
The scandals regarding Jesus himself include: illegitimate birth, accusations of alcoholic abuse, welcoming children, paying the pagan image bearing temple tax, and a shameful execution among others.
There are scandals regarding Jesus' friends: Mary Magdalene, Judas Iscariot, ordinary disciples, and prostitutes.
There are scandals regarding his teachings: hypocrisy, polygamy, divorce, oaths and curses, forgiveness and more.
David's area of expertise is early rabbinic Judaism. He wants his readers to understand Jesus and that requires knowing something about the Jews of the time. He adds Roman and Greek culture as well. He has added lots of background information on each topic. (For example, I learned the legend behind the tradition of coloring Easter eggs.)
David tends to add his own philosophy here and there. Some of his opinions may be troublesome to readers. For example, when he writes of the scandal of Jesus welcoming children, David goes on to give opinions about children taking communion. “...I am sure,” he writes of Jesus, “he'd welcome even the smallest and least educated child at his table.” (48) As one of the Reformed tradition, taking the warnings of Paul on taking communion wrongly, I did not appreciates David's added comments.
When people write write, they have presuppositions. David lays his out right away. “My personal presuppositions are that Jesus is who he claimed to be in the Gospels, and that these accounts represent what actually happened.” (9) He does stay true to the gospel, although he did lose me when he tried to explain how eternal punishment is true and destruction is true. Punishment of hell involves torment followed by destruction (i.e. annihilation). The torment must be of limited time, yet that allows “eternal torment” to be true. (See his discussion on pages 181-182.)
The strength of this book is showing that no one would have made up a story about Jesus as we see in the gospels. There is just too much about him, his friends, and what he taught that would have been scandalous in the first century culture of that area. The gospels must be true.
David Instone-Brewer is a Senior Research Fellow at Tyndale House, Cambridge, a Baptist minster and a biblical scholar.
Monarch Books, distributed in the U. S. by Kregel Publications, 191 pages.
Publisher product page.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications for the purpose of this review.