I was very excited to get this in the mail today: From Crisis to Christ: A Contextual Introduction to the New Testament (Abingdon Press), by Paul N. Anderson, my New Testament colleague here at George Fox. I was able to read this work at various stages of its development and I really appreciated the strong grounding in historical situations, contexts, and “crises.” Too often, New Testament introductions introduce NT “texts” as if they were free-floating theological discourses. Once we put them into the context of history, they are so much more riveting and gripping. To borrow language from David deSilva, historical approaches as we have with Anderson are able to put “flesh” on the “soul” of the New Testament.
My personal opinion is that this would make an excellent textbook for an undergraduate introductory course on the New Testament. I will especially consult this book as I develop and refine lectures on the Gospels.
This is my endorsement for the book:
“Truth be told, most New Testament survey books I have read are utilitarian – they offer basic information about the biblical text. Paul Anderson has achieved something rarely found in such textbooks. From Crisis to Christ is engaging as well as informative. He takes the biblical text, often treated in a static black-and-white way, and sets it into the brilliant colors of real life in the world of Jesus, the apostles, and the first Christians. I warmly recommend it for beginning students.”
Over the past two weeks our class has been watching Jesus of Montreal and dealing with the topic of how to present Jesus allegorically in a way that resonates with contemporary audiences but also captures the essence of one or more of the gospel stories. This movie is unique in that it strays from the script of the gospels while presenting the main character, Daniel–an out-of-work actor in Montreal–as the ultimate Christ-figure. Here’s a description of the film from IMDB:
“A group of actors puts on an unorthodox, but acclaimed Passion Play which incites the opposition of the Catholic Church while the actors’ lives themselves begin to mirror the Passion itself.”
You can find a plot summary and a list of the allegorical elements of the film here.
This is one of my favorite Jesus films largely because of the creativity it uses in telling the story of Jesus within a modern, western setting. In my opinion, most Jesus movies that “stick to the script” of the NT sanitize Jesus and seem to err on one side of the human/divine dichotomy we have been discussing all semester. The practical effect is that most of the time, in my opinion, these films aren’t very creative or interesting. I think it’s also safe to say that many of the well-known allegorical treatments of Jesus’ life are so transparent as to be an almost plain re-telling of the Christian story under a thinly-veiled allegorical cover; I’m thinking particularly of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, though our previous film–The Book of Life–also attempted to pull off a modern day allegory for Jesus and the apocalypse. (BTW, this is not to say that I dislike Lewis or Bunyan, only that the allegories presented in each are not as interesting to me as what we see in films like Jesus of Montreal.)
As a result of watching this film, our students seemed genuinely engaged at a different level for the first time all semester. When the film was over we asked them to divide up into groups and craft an allegorical version of the Jesus story set in modern-day Mount Olive. The results were interesting and in some cases, hilarious, though it was still difficult for some students–particularly those from religious backgrounds–to break free from the particulars presented in the Gospels (viz., miracles, parables, etc.). In one version, Jesus was a blond-haired Norwegian named “Markus” who served as captain of the Mount Olive golf team. At one point, he hooks his ball onto a lilly pad sitting in the middle of a lake. Markus then proceeds to walk out onto water and take his next shot from the center of the lake. 🙂
Tomorrow we will begin watching, The Life of Brian. I can’t wait to see how the students respond to that one. I’m sure there will be lots to talk about next week!
Here’s a clip from Jesus of Montreal for those who are interested: