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Monday, July 16, 2012

"The Jesus Scandals" (David Instone-Brewer)

TITLE: The Jesus Scandals: Why He Shocked His Contemporaries (and Still Shocks Today)
AUTHOR: David Instone-Brewer
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2012, (160 pages).

[This review is part of a Kregel Publications book tour from 16-20 July 2012.]

What is so shocking about the Jesus scandals? It is simply this: The very evidence that tries to shut down the authenticity of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, actually proves Jesus. This is the key thesis of the book.

"Scandals are our best guarantee of historical truth in the Gospels. When disgraceful, embarrassing and shocking details about Jesus are recorded by his friends and supporters, it is much harder to disbelieve them." (11)

In three parts, David Instone-Brewer tries to show how the Jesus Scandals through his life, his friends, and his teachings. Part One contains 12 short chapters about Jesus' life on earth and his interactions with various people. His very birth, coming in such a humiliating manner, is in fact a demonstration of God's power to use this person to save humanity. Against the norms of Jewish society then, Jesus chooses a life of simplicity and singlehood. His working out of miracles come across more as compassion. In trying to disprove Jesus, the Pharisees have unwittingly confirmed the authenticity of his miracles. Each chapter then describes the Jewish norms and how Jesus lives counter-culture to them. It points out how a law-based society becomes upended by Jesus who lives to show that there is something much better than mere laws. Even the arrest of Jesus is scandalous, that when men try to prove Jesus otherwise, instead, they prove Jesus' status as divine, as kingly, and as a prophet. The resurrection proves once and for all, that what Jesus has said is true.

Part Two focuses on six groups of people, Mary Magdalene, Judas Iscariot, the disciples, the chosen, the cursed, and the prostitutes. Instead of a girl next door maiden, the outcast, Mary Magdalene becomes a key follower of Jesus, and is mightily used by God in many gospel events. Judas Iscariot, for all the wrong reasons, end up becoming a facilitator to speed up the arrest, the trial, and the crucifixion of Jesus. The "second-rate disciples" who all forsake Jesus during the greatest moment of need, end up becoming first rate martyrs and witnesses for Jesus. The "unchosen" ones are also given the chance the hear the gospel, even though they continue to remain stubborn in their set ways. If Jesus shows mercy on prostitutes in showing grace to them, how about us? Is that not scandalous?

Part Three is the chapter that deals with twelve contemporary issues. Child abuse has been admonished by Jesus, and the word "stumble" owes its root to scandalion. where the word scandal is derived. We are cautioned about applying too many rules, for the latter facilitates the practice of hypocrisy. On polygamy, Instone-Brewer asks why people in general like to spend time and resources in the wedding, and in divorce, but fail to spend enough time in between to cultivate the marriage. There are teachings surrounding oaths, taxes, divorce, relationships, and also about disasters and calamities, all of which are interpreted not from worldly wisdom, but from the viewpoint of God, which is scandalous to the world.

My Thoughts

This book is plain and simple counter-cultural. It informs readers about how bold Jesus had been in countering the law-based society during his time, and the obstacles that are extremely discouraging. Yet, Jesus overcomes them. There are impossible situations in the eyes of man, are impossible to overcome. Yet, Jesus shows us the way. There are crucial contemporary issues that remain unresolved to this day. Yet, there is a way out. Instone-Brewer masterfully shows readers the way into the first century, and bridges the contexts to our modern world. By showing a counter-cultural lifestyle and happening of Jesus, he illumines the path for modern disciples to follow. Scandals shock us. Scandals create headlines. Scandals come about because falsehood tries to cover up the truth. It is in Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who has come to earth, to give us the Truth that will set us free.

Delightful to read, be prepared for your existing presumptions to be blown away as you let Instone-Brewer brings life to ancient texts, and purposeful living in modern contexts. Do not be deceived by the short chapters. They are packed with insightful observations and practical considerations. My view of Jesus in the first century has been given a fresh illumination. Thanks Dr David Instone-Brewer!

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Kregel Publications without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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