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.
Fast 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.