Book Review: The Jesus Scandals by David Instone-Brewer

The title alone grabbed my attention: The Jesus Scandals. Turns out this is not an Inside Edition version of digging up some trash on Jesus, but a scholarly indepth look at His story based on His words and events recorded in the New Testament.

Though there is reference to the Gospel of Judas and to the fiction of Daniel Brown and its impact, the investigation is based on comparing what the Bible says to what the culture of the day would expect it to say.

Some scandals we can anticipate:

A birth with Joseph not being Jesus father.

Women as key witnesses of the resurrection

The people Jesus found Himself socializing with and embracing where Pharisees would seperate themselves.

Perhaps most valuable is matching the Biblical stories to the historical evidence that reinforces the Biblical message. There’s the discovery of the charges against Jesus by the Jews, that he did miracles by sorcery. Christians would affirm with their Jewish opponents that miracles were done, they disagree on the cause — God or Satan?

The description of the crucifixion though always graphic becomes even more graphic and humiliating in the way David gives greater detail.

The book is written in short chapters which can be ready in any order you desire. In one sense I appreciated the stand alone nature, but missed the weaving together of story to story.

At times I am not sure if the attempt is to give a historical argument for Jesus as David puts it, “Scandals are our best guarantee of historical truth to the Gospels.” Because they are so shocking in their culture, you would expect a work of fiction to clean up the story a bit, and to add details that would not set off any concern in its readers. Yet the Gospel is scandalous. God sacrifices His Son that we might have life.

The other attempt at the book is for a devotional thought at the end of each chapter. They are meant to be provocative, at times they simply led to disagreement. The writer’s own theological lens cut into his Biblical proclamation.

With the myraid of chapters, the book is broken into 3 parts:

Part 1: Scandals in Jesus’ Life: Illegitimate birth, Jesus being a bachelor at age 33, supplanting Passover, shameful execution. Before I read the book, I thought this would be my favorite part but it was my least favorite. The insiights were good, not great. The chapter titles looked to be more headline based attention grabbers. Perhaps that’s his intent with his audience.

Part 2: Scandals Among Jesus’ Friends: This brief part brought out David’s A game. His look at Mary Magdalene and Judas Isacariot in view of the succes of the Da Vinci Code and any credence given to the late dated Gospel of Judas provided a good corrective.

Part 3: Scandals to Jesus’ Teaching: This is my favorite part of the book as it looks at how Jesus lifted up women and children in a way countercultural to his day that has led to accpetance in our day. Such insights to Jesus teaching on such present day topics makes the book a good read.

I give The Jesus Scandals 4 out of 5 stars. The solid research and insights are valuable, the “sensational” aspects of playing off scandal grew a bit thin at times. I read the book straight through, and perhaps should have dabbled a chapter out of each part and then have pursued what I enjoyed the most. You can read an excerpt here.

Thanks to Kregel publishing for providing a free copy for me to review. I was not required to give a positie review, just an honest one.


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