Mark Strauss on Jesus Behaving Badly (Gupta)

When I was a young believer, I had many questions about the Bible. I remember the deep appreciation I had for a book called Hard Sayings of the Bible. It offered complex, but well-researched explanations of the confusing and challenging texts in Scripture. It was refreshing to have a book that engaged with the messy things in the Bible.

JBBFast forward to 2011, and David Lamb published a book with IVP called God Behaving Badly – a short text that delved into the questionable reputation of the OT God, someone who was known to be angry, sexist, and racist. Lamb did a fantastic job painting a more nuanced portrait of the God of Israel – not a simplistic “rosy” picture, but a full one with a God who is angry, but also loving, particular, but also all-embracing, etc. Apparently Lamb’s book sparked a series, and the latest book is called Jesus Behaving Badly: The Puzzling Paradoxes of the Man from Galilee, by Mark Strauss. I had a chance to read this book recently and Strauss gets down and dirty in the mess of Jesus’ teachings and behavior. He does not sweep away a perplexing, offensive, and enigmatic Jesus – rather, Strauss wants to make sure we see Jesus in the full sense in which the Gospels portray him. It is an excellent read (very witty and engaging), and particularly useful for an undergraduate general ed class on the Gospels, or even for adult education in the church. Here is my endorsement:

Many people have the view that Jesus was basically a friendly and warm teacher. Those who have read the Gospels closely recognize, though, that Jesus said and did things that upset this rosy portrait.Jesus Behaving Badly engages the hard ‘sayings’ and ‘doings’ of Jesus, not by merely explaining them away, but by representing a fullness of Jesus in the three dimensions of a real historical figure and in the fourfold portrayal of the Gospels. If the aim of this book is to reckon with the whole Jesus and not a mere caricature, Strauss has accomplished this with sense and wit.

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Dr. Joel Green’s Commentary Recommendations for Gospels and Acts (Gupta)

Over at Catalyst Resources, Dr. Joel Green (Fuller) offers his advice on best commentaries on Gospels and Acts.

Matthew: RT France (NICNT), Nolland (NIGTC); Keener (Eerdmans)

Mark: France (NIGTC), Strauss (ZECNT), Donahue/Harrington (SP)

Luke: Carroll (NTL), Green (NICNT), Bovon (Hermeneia)

John: Thompson (NTL, soon-coming!), Ramsey-Michaels (NICNT), Lincoln (BNTC), O’Day (NIB)

Acts: Gaventa (Abingdon), Wall (NIB), Spencer (Journeying through Acts), Peterson (Pillar), Schnabel (ZECNT)

Green is a recognized Gospels expert, so his recommendations are very worthwhile. I echo his choices, esp the works of RT France, and please do check out Marianne Meye Thompson’s new John commentary – it is spectacular! Here are some of my favorites in addition (not that you asked):

Matthew: Hagner (WBC) – phenomenal exegetical work, but also his pastoral and theological insights are profound.

Mark: Morna Hooker’s short work on Mark is one of my favorite (BNTC), and I would also add Larry Hurtado’s brief, but valuable NIBC volume.

Luke: I would add Mikeal Parsons’ Paideia volume, and note that RT France wrote the Teach the Text commentary on Luke (Baker) just before he passed away – it is a goldmine for pastors!

John: Lincoln is my favorite, but it also is worthwhile to mention Moody Smith’s Abingdon volume – lots of insight packed into a short volume.

Acts: Truth be told, I often return to classics like FF Bruce (NICNT) and Richard Longenecker (Expositor’s). But Gaventa is certainly the best for brief exposition and literary-theological insight.

The Gagnon-Kirk Debate on Scripture and Homosexuality (Gupta)

This semester I am teaching a seminary course on biblical hermeneutics. There are several case studies we will discuss, but none that is more controversial and sensitive than homosexuality and the church. The topic has especially heated up in evangelical circles in recent years due to leaders like Tony Campolo and scholars like David Gushee becoming public supporters of same-sex Christian marriages and full inclusion of homosexuals in the church. Perhaps some of you know that Fuller Seminary professor Daniel Kirk has embarked on a journey on this issue that has now led to full support for gay Christians. Someone pointed out to me recently a debate between Robert Gagnon and Daniel Kirk on this issue which has been posted to Vimeo. I will be encouraging my hermeneutics students to watch this debate when we get to the homosexuality discussion in our case studies. I am very interested in your thoughts on this debate, especially as it pertains to theological hermeneutics and how the Bible should be used by Christians today to shape theology and ethics – so please comment here, leave a note on FB (if we are friends), or email me (you can find my email here).

Ordination Standards Seminar 2 from Valley Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.