Friday, September 30, 2005

First Review: Rick Brannan

Rick Brannan, on his nice and informative blog, has written an early review of Jesus and His Death.

The Fall 2005 Catalog from Baylor University Press includes a new title from Scot McKnight, Jesus and His Death. His primary blog is Jesus Creed, though there appears to be a blog for this book too. Here's the book blurb from the publisher:

Recent scholarship on the historical Jesus has rightly focused upon how Jesus understood his own mission. But no scholarly effort to understand the mission of Jesus can rest content without exploring the historical possibility that Jesus envisioned his own death. In this careful and far-reaching study, Scot McKnight contends that Jesus did in fact anticipate his own death, that Jesus understood his death as an atoning sacrifice, and that his death as an atoning sacrifice stood at the heart of Jesus' own mission to protect his own followers from the judgment of God.

As with a few other Baylor University Press titles,** I was granted a sneak peek at this new book from McKnight (Amazon lists the release date as Sept. 30). Page proofs arrived in August; I set the goal of finishing it before September ended, and ... it looks like I've just barely made it.

The subtitle of McKnight's tome says it all: "Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory". That really does sum it up. After setting the scene in the first chapter, McKnight delves into things like:

  • What did Jesus know about his death?
  • When did he know it?
  • How did his understanding of his death develop?

This leads into the primary discussion of the book: What can be concluded regarding the concept of atonement based on the conclusions we can make regarding Jesus' statements and actions?

Not being one who has followed synoptic studies that much, I did feel like I was stepping into the middle of a conversation, especially at the beginning of the book. McKnight interacts with other material published in this area to a large degree. But, to McKnight's credit, he does a good job of orienting the reader with the necessary background material, authors and their material (the footnotes are excellent in this regard, ignore them at your peril!).

That said, realize that this is not a casual read, though I found McKnight more readable than, say, N.T. Wright. Chances are you'll want to have a Bible available to look stuff up as you work through major sections. The work is worth it; the section working through the Last Supper was highly illuminating, at least for me.

All in all: worth the read. If you have interest in Historical Jesus studies, synoptic studies, and stuff like that -- you should probably read this book.