October 17, 2017

Review: Reinventing Jesus

Reinventing JesusIn a flood of books about the radical revisionism regarding Jesus going on in current New Testament studies, it is important to those with less than endless book allowances to find the right book that accomplishes as much as possible in a helpful way. Reinventing Jesus is such a book, and I recommend it highly as an exceptional introduction to recent issues regarding the Jesus Seminar, the DaVinci Code, and New Testament studies in general.

Co-authors J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer and Daniel B. Wallace all did their studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Each is a distinguished and capable scholar with a grasp of what is happening in the increasingly trendy and chaotic world of revisionist New Testament studies. (Many readers may own Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, an increasingly standard work for Greek teachers and students.) Unlike many other books, however, this book is not aimed so closely at the “DaVinci Code” phenomenon that the book is almost immediately headed to a bargain table with Y2K and “Saddam Hussein Is the AntiChrist” books.

Reinventing Jesus addresses these contemporary concerns, but does so with full and remarkably comprehensive introductions to all of the necessary subjects: The dating of the New Testament, manuscript studies, variables and dependability, the canonization process, the development of Christology, and the relationship of Christianity to surrounding religious beliefs. These are areas pertaining to the recent DaVinci discussions, but they are treated as significant issues within more abiding questions in Jesus studies. Long after the movie/book fad is over, this book will still be a helpful introduction to questions that thoughtful persons will be asking.

Of particular benefit in this book are the frequent references to the controversial and influential work of the Jesus Seminar. There is actually far more Jesus Seminar material in this book than DVC material. Because the methodology of the Jesus Seminar is accepted by many of the media pundits and promoters of the DVC phenomenon, it is important to respond to the assertions of those scholars who are making new and largely revolutionary claims about Jesus and the New Testament.

The book is particularly impressive in taking the methodology of radical scholars and going, slowly and carefully, through their use of logic, interpretative tools and assumptions. The result is a superb exposure of the bankruptcy of most of the assertions of radical revisions, using the same tools that they claim leads to a “new” Jesus.

The process of “reinventing” Jesus is largely a matter of circular reasons, open bias and shoddy scholarship. Rather than, however, simply using polemic and invective to categorize these scholars as heretics, the co-authors of Reinventing Jesus give these views the respect of a thorough and careful answer. The results are helpful and convincing.

I recommend this book without reservation. It is 260 pages of text, with more than 50 pages of readable endnotes and extensive referencing within available New Testament literature. The book is perfectly aimed at students and informed laypersons. It could be given to a skeptic as well, as each author discusses the questions at hand calmly and without ridicule or cheer leading. This is serious scholarship translated down to a level that will help those in local churches and missional callings.

Jesus Under Fire : Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical JesusAnother excellent book that has been very useful to me is Jesus Under Fire, edited by Michael Wilkins and J.P. Moreland.

Note: A copy of this book, and a bag of White Castle cheeseburgers, were provided to this reviewer.

Comments

  1. Well, a bag of White Castle anything is enough to disprove any thesis! We all know that anyone would recant their own mother for a White Castle! Otherwise, I can’t wait to read what you’ve cocommended! I’ll highlight it on the shelf!

  2. mort_chien says:

    I believe that the Jesus Seminar people were the first to point out that stylistic differences in the text of Gen 25:30 make it likely that Esau was referring to White Castle “Belly Bombers” when looking at what Jacob was getting ready to eat. Beware! One never knows where such temptations may lead.

    Mort 🙂

  3. Hey Michael,

    Thanks for this review, I have been looking for a book that addessed these issues in a more systematic way. I suppose I am not in the right geographic area to know about the White Castle burgers, but if they can be shipped maybe someone will think of me sometime. 🙂