To kick off the new Adult Ed program at our church I’m helping with a class I put together on the life, times, person and work, of Jesus. We swiped a title from the wonderful John Ortberg book, Who Is That Man? and we’ve got both of our PC(USA) pastors and another local ordained PCA guy briefly exploring this majestic topic. I’ve been pursuing some old favorites and new titles and have been reminded not only how great it is to read and re-read the gospels (something I don’t do as much as I should) but also how many great books there are about the Christ.
We have often suggested that small groups and Sunday school classes and fellowship retreats take up a study of Jesus. I bet we have over 300 different books about Jesus to choose from.
I have to admit, though, that I’m a little surprised how few books in the field of Biblical studies, generally, and about Jesus, particularly, we sell. Maybe you and yours might be inspired by this list to remedy this. I would suspect that you want your faith to grow, your discipleship to deepen, your spiritual formation to be, truly, in the way of Jesus. I bet you’ve got issues in your life that a re-boot, towards Jesus, would help. Maybe we all should pick up a book or two to help us more faithfully understand the gospels and consider the implications of being a modern day apprentice to Jesus.
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The Jesus Journey: Shattering the Stained Glass Superhero and Discovering the Humanity of God: A 40-Day Encounter Trent Sheppard (Nelson) $16.99 This is actually the book I’ve recommended for our class participants to accompany them as they take up the gospel readings this season. It is wonderfully written, clever, curious, interesting, up-beat, honest, a great read on many level. The author is a theologian that draws on the likes of the big scholarly books of N.T. Wright and a boots-on-the-ground pastor who cares about how people learn to live. He starts off telling about how jolly old Saint Nicholas punched a guy during the Council of Chalcedon (talk about “the Santa I never knew” he quips, alluding to the Phil Yancey book.) He is utterly orthodox and believes we should care – if not throw punches – about the divinity and humanity of Christ. This book is reflection on the life and times of Jesus with a view to his humanity. There are many good books on this these days – don’t miss The Jesus We Missed for instance — but this is arranged in 40 short readings. From “Jesus Had an Aunt” to “But Was He Funny?” through to the exquisite telling of Jesus’ last days and a reminder of the dance of the Trinity in the final piece called “In the Beginning” Sheppard will draw you it, give you insight, and create space for real transformation.
At the end of each reading Sheppard invites us into a three-layered process of “Ponder, Pray, Practice.” These are not just mundane or simple summaries, but wise and poignant and useful for your journey. It will help you learn more about the Jesus story and it will help you care. I am sure your relationship with God will be enhanced by this very interesting book.
Sheppard helps to pastor an urban house church called Ekklesia and oversees Alpha’s work with college students in New England. He has read very widely, draws on the best stuff, and is a great storyteller. Most important, he offers these eye-opening reflections by helping us – as the back cover puts it — “”encounter Jesus as if for the first time by experiencing his breathing, heart-beating, body-and-blood, crying-and-laughing humanity.”
Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus John Ortberg (Zondervan) $16.99 In class this week I showed a brief clip from the lively Ortberg DVD curriculum by this same name (that we also carry and it is very cook, very engaging.) I’m not kidding, the first chapter is worth the price of the book where Ortberg highlights the ways in which the person of Jesus – with virtually no followers at his death – became, arguably, the most important person in the history of the world. Not only did he launch a movement of followers that within a generation or two numbered in the hundreds of thousands, they changed the world. From the way in which European culture treated children to innovations in medicine, from literacy and higher education to the very rise of democracy a line – often a straight line – can be drawn from the teachings of Jesus to these revolutionary cultural improvements. Who was this man who as a first century Jew from a rural region of Palestine didn’t try to name any towns after himself, didn’t start a political party, didn’t seem t to organize much of a movement (and in any event, left his followers in disarray after his execution.) Yep, as some say about the resurrection and all the rest: “Well, you didn’t see that coming, did you?”
John Ortberg is a great preacher, storyteller, communicator and clear and interesting writer. I am positive you will learn something new by reading this well-researched book and I’m sure you will have a greater appreciation for the implications of a Christ-centered faith – whether you even believe it or not. In a way, this is a great book to give to someone who sneers at conventional views of Jesus or those who think that the legacy of the Christian religion has been more bad than good. Of course, Ortberg not only looks at this wonderful and fascinating two-thousand year impact of the man from Galilee, but he asks, powerfully and urgently, even, how it was that these early followers staked their lives on the teachings of this man? Of course, the resurrection is at the very heart of that, so the book ends with a dramatic exploration of the Easter accounts and their believability. What a great read. Highly recommended.
The Jesus I Never Knew Philip Yancey (Zondervan) $14.99 It is hard to pick a favorite Philip Yancey book. He is an author we always recommend unreservedly to anyone that is educated as he is eloquent without being exceedingly literary, he is very well read and draws on just the right mix of fascinating sources, and he tells stories of his own evangelical background and his journey through rejecting fundamentalism, legalism, discovering grace, coping with pain and suffering, and not a small bit of doubt. Yet he shines through with humanity and care and always with solidly orthodox Christian faith intact. Don’t you love his book What’s So Amazing About Grace or his several books about suffering (such as Disappointment with God or The Question That Won’t Go Away.) Well, this is one of the great books of the last fifty years – and I’m not alone in saying this. The eloquent and gospel-drenched ethicists Lewis Smedes said, before he died, that this was probably the best book about Jesus written in the whole century!
I like how early on in this very engaging book Yancey talks about varying view of Jesus from different cultures and how various filmmakers have given us different visions of the persona and work and meaning of Jesus. Like him, I was deeply moved in the early 70s when our youth group went to see The Gospel According to Matthew by the Marxist filmmaker Pasolini. There is a reason this book has sold over a million copies; it is remarkable, fascinating, maybe even a bit disturbing. What a book!
The Incomparable Christ John Stott (IVP) $20.00 I have sometimes said that this is my favorite serious book on the person and work of Christ. It is so well researched, so compelling, and so comprehensive. Allow me to simply explain what Stott is doing here – these were the important Langham Lectures that were turned into the book – and you will see its value. I have drawn from it often, and think anyone who teaches or preaches could use it profitably for personal inspiration, of course, but for accumulating stories and illustrations and historical stuff. What a wonderful, mature, thoughtful, educated, and inspiring books this is!
There are four major sections of The Comparable Christ.
The first set of chapters looks at what he calls “The Original Jesus” which is how the New Testament witnesses to Jesus in the Gospels, Acts, and Letters. For anyone that cares about the Bible, this is remarkably inspiring and very wise.
The second section is called “The Ecclesiastical Jesus” which shows how the church has presented Jesus historically – that is, it offers the insights and teachings about Jesus from church leaders, explaining different theologies of Christ, different views of the role of the Cross, different ways to understand his work. Although this is more theological in nature, it draws on representative figures, exploring their historical context and why their particular insights were either helpful or less so in their time and ours. He looks at views of Christ represented by Justin Martyr to Saint Benedict, Anselm to Bernard of Clairvoux, from the early Councils to Luther and more. There are some curious thinkers selected, too, such as Thomas Jefferson, and modern thought leaders such as Gustavo Gutierrez, N.T. Wright, and some in the church workers that represent historic modern missions movements.
The third section is fascinating as it explores what Stott calls “The Influential Jesus.” Here he shows how people from St. Francis to Tolstoy, from Gandhi to Roland Allen, from Father Damien to William Wilberforce have taken inspiration from him. Talk about a lot of sermon illustrations or teaching examples. This is different than the broader sweet and more systematic exploration of Who Is This Man by Ortberg because it focuses on these individuals who, as Christians or in some cases not, were decisively shaped by the person of Jesus.
The fourth part of this great book is what Stott explores under the title “The Eternal Jesus.” Here he invites us to consider how we ourselves are continually challenged by him today through ten visions of Christ from the Book of Revelation. To be honest, I thought I might find this section less interesting but I assure you that in Stott’s balanced, impeccable hands, this material comes alive and is a big ending to an already very strong work.
As the publisher said The Incomparable Christ offers “an enriching vision of Jesus that defies measurement.” “Uncle John” Stott died in 2011 and some of my favorite people in the world knew him well and still point to him as the most influential Christian leader in their lives. You should read his
What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Jewishness of Jesus: A New Way of Seeing the Most Influential Rabbi in History Rabbi Evan Moffic (Abingdon) $16.99 How Jewish clergy have viewed Jesus has been a fascinating topic of study for millennia, and I suppose interest in the question heightened with the awareness of anti-Semitism in the years following the Holocaust. Mainline denominational folks (and, eventually, Roman Catholics) started renewed dialogue and with new vigor in the middle of the 20th century. Some evangelicals have also joined this sort of conversation and it has been renewed in recent years – for reasons of justice, for reasons of mission, and for reasons theological in nature. Be that as it may, one of the specific questions is how we should at the very least understand our Lord and Savior as the Jewish rabbi that he was. What does it mean to explore Jesus’ life and ministry through the lens of his Jewishness? Why has it been so often overlooked?
It is good to have a contemporary Rabbi teach us this stuff, and this recent book was a delight to read. Rabbi Moffic is a popular speaker and an advocate for uncovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible for people of all faiths so he ends up in conversations with church folks a lot. (He is the Senior Rabbi of Congregational Solel in suburban Chicago and the author of What Every Christian Needs to Know about Passover.)
Scot McKnight (quite a good Jesus scholar himself and a prolific author) opens his comments about Rabbi Moffic and his book reminding us of the need to listen well to one another, especially in conversations between Jews and Christians. And he says, “Christians will not agree with everything Moffic says, but they will say he has listened well. For that alone, I am immensely grateful for this book.
“Immensely grateful.” How’s that for an endorsement? Why not put it in your church library or donate one to your own public library?
Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $24.99 This medium sized, solid hardback is a very nice introduction to what Wright says about Jesus and I highly recommend it.
You probably know that Wright has done what may be the most talked about Biblical and theological project of our lifetime, the large four volume series called “Christian Origins and the Question of God.” The first three volumes are each hundreds of pages (at least they aren’t, like volume four on Paul, itself two volumes, 800-some pages each) and they are all on Jesus. These fat volumes are The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, and The Resurrection of the Son of God and of course we have them. There are books about these books, now, including a brand new one, on a sub-theme of Wright’s, his important view of how first century Jews and Jesus understood the exile era, and whether it was still ongoing for them and what role it played in Jesus’ own mission. This is a major new work – a sure to be discussed collection by New Testament scholars, early Judaism scholars, and theologians, and with Wright replying. It is called Exile: A Conversation with N.T. Wright edited by James J. Scott (IVP Academic; $40.00.) It is brilliant!
The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is N.T. Wright ( IVP Academic) $16.00. For a good accessible summary of the first three volumes of that hefty “Christian Origins” series referred to above, by the way, see this excellent paperback The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. It was published as the third big one was was coming out in the late1990s — given as lecture’s explaining about his big project. A new introduction was written by Wright for the paperback edition a few years ago. It’s a great resource.
Yep, as you most likely know, Rev. Dr. Wright has written much on the Christ. But here, in Simply Jesus he attempts to summarize his main thesis for beginners or seekers, naming the “perfect storm” of ancient Israel under the boot heel of Roman imperialism and Jesus showing up with his own unique identity and calling. It argues for Jesus’ own identity as the One to liberate God’s people from exile, restore the Kingdom (in an unusual, subversive way that they didn’t quite understand) and put the world to rights, as he puts it, through his sacrificial death and resurrection. It isn’t as simple as I’d wish and it is still hardcover, so I read it again this last week to see if I really should list it here. And, yes, I was utterly taken with it. I’ll admit that I’ve thought his easier collection of sermons called Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship and the one more directly about Christ’s Kingdom-vision (How God Became King) were better, more succinct and compelling, especially for those unfamiliar with historical scholarship about Jesus. I am so glad to have become re-acquainted with this one as I am now convinced that it is a must-read for Wright fans and a fascinating, substantive introduction to Jesus for those who want a basic but solid resource like this.
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels N.T. Wright (HarperOne) $14.99 This is the red one, that goes with that blue one… they both came out about the same time but it is this one that first captured my attention – I’ve always wanted a really solid book explaining the Kingdom of God and its centrality in the life and teaching and work of Jesus. And it is the one he preached on in our backyard when he came here several years ago. (Yeah, you read that right. Go Dallastown!) For what it is worth, this may be one of my favorite Biblical-studies books ever and is my favorite Tom Wright book. You should get it. Simple as that.
The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited Scot McKnight (Zondervan) $16.99 I could get worked up about any number of books that are so useful to help us understand the way Jesus himself explained his gospel and how it is best described by using the rubric of the Kingdom. I think Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel is one of the must-reads, as well. There are two stellar introductions to this little book – one by N.T. Wright and one by Dallas Willard. That’s really something, indicating the importance of this volume. Don’t miss it.
Jesus: A Pilgrimage James Martin, SJ (HarperOne) $17.99 When Mary Karr, the exquisite, captivating memoirist and author of The Liars Club, Cherry, and Lit, said of this book that it is “One of the best books I’ve read in years – on any subject,” I took notice. Reviewers have talked about this memoir and travelogue in glowing terms (as they do about most of Father Martin’s many captivating books.) When Archbishop Tutu calls it “refreshingly innovative” and Scott Hahn says, “This book isn’t about pilgrimage. It is a pilgrimage. I didn’t want the pilgrimage to end,” when it gets raves endorsements from conservatives like Archbishop Charles Chaput and liberationists like Orbis editor Robert Ellsberg, from Protestant liberal theologian Harvey Cox and the literary contemplative Presbyterian Kathleen Norris, you know you have something very, very interesting. This really is a travelogue, a journey throughout the Holy Land to discover more about the person of Jesus. The Tablet says it is “Infectious. Travelogue, spirituality, and theological reflection combine with wit and wisdom and human insight.” You will learn a lot about Jesus, about the Holy Land (then and now) and perhaps discover yourself wanting to be more seriously committed to “the first-century Jewish radical that Martin has devoted his life to following.” It may not mean much to many BookNotes fans, but Jesus: A Pilgrimage is dedicated to a very important Catholic New Testament scholar, Daniel Harrington, SJ, of whom Martin says, he “taught Jesus in his classes, his books, and his life.”
Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels Kenneth E. Bailey (IVP Academic) $32.00 I can hardly think of a Biblical scholar who is as widely respected, even admired, as this fine, good man was, this quiet teacher who lived most of his life in the Middle East, from Cairo to Syria, Lebanon to Jerusalem. His decades of service as a Presbyterian Bible scholar is well documented – his widow told us this summer in a lovely conversation that his papers and correspondence and academic articles are now being curated in the world-renowned missions library at Harvard Divinity School. Ken’s legendary service to the unchurched world, especially the Arab world, is only rivaled by his tireless service to the church, helping us understand our Bibles better. He has published widely and is respected ecumenically. Here we suggest this great-looking fat paperback which is a recent collection of a bunch of his excellent work, articles and classes and essays that hold together well, starting with the birth of Jesus and exploring various aspects of his life and ministry. Throughout Bailey shows how knowing a bit about first century Middle Eastern culture illumines what Jesus did and taught and how He would have been understood by his listeners and followers; he helps us discard our typical Western worldview and see what is really going on in the gospel accounts. What a book!
His other must-read titles include Jacob and the Prodigal: How Jesus Retold Israel’s Story (IVP Academic; $22.00) and The Good Shepherd: A Thousand Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament (IVP; $24.00.) We always promote his “two books in one” early volume called Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes: A Literary-Cultural Approach to the Parables in Luke (Eerdmans; $34.00.) They aren’t simple but repay careful study – guaranteed. (For what it is worth, one of the last books Ken did before his death a year ago was a thick, major work called Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes which has a lovely cover that sits as an obvious companion to Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. It offers his insightful cultural and literary study of 1 Corinthians.)
Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of The Son of God Timothy Keller (Riverhead Books) $17.00 Tim Keller is known as a thoughtful, theologically conservative, Reformed theologian but more, perhaps, as a winsome apologist, writing intellectually mature and very interesting books for skeptics and seekers. (See, for instance, his Reason for God or the heavier Making Sense of God.) At the heart of his church work and his justice preaching and his culturally-engaged dialogues with seekers, is his classic, solid, insightful preaching of the Bible. He has a book on Judges and a small two-volume set on Romans, one on Galatians, a lovely year-long devotional using the Psalms (and a similarly formatted one coming in November on Proverbs which you can pre-order, btw.) Even his topical books – on suffering, or prayer, on justice, are very rooted in Scripture. This book, Jesus the King, was previously released in hardcover as Kings Cross — he admits it a line early one that it is a nod to Harry Potter – but when the paperback was released they changed the title. Curiously, Keller does see that the energetic book of Mark is arranged in essentially two parts: the first half of the gospel makes the claim that Jesus is the King and the second half is all about the Cross of the King.
As the back cover explains it:
…the man the New York Times called “a C. S. Lewis for the twenty first century,” unlocks new insights into the life of Jesus Christ as he explores how Jesus came as a king, but as a king who had to bear the greatest burden anyone ever has… Keller shows how the story of Jesus is at once cosmic, historical, and personal, calling each of us to look anew at our relationship with God. It is an unforgettable look at Jesus Christ, and on that will leave an indelible imprint on every reader.
Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions Timothy Keller (Penguin Books) $16.00 We have referred to this often at BookNotes – it is a compact sized paperback (like his book on idolatry, on the one on justice, or the one on preaching) and it packs a wallop more than you might think. It is a lovely, winsome, but powerful study of the encounters Jesus had with people in the gospel of John. Keller tells us that the first half of the book were talks he did at a public gathering in England – not necessarily among the religiously minded, by the way, public meetings at Oxford University The second half are talks he gave, Bible lessons among a business group at the secular-minded Harvard Club in mid-town Manhattan. So in both cases, these explorations of these remarkable encounters people had with Jesus are explained in ways that are interesting, intellectually sharp, not presuming any previous knowledge of the text, with the result of these Bible re-tellings being almost evangelistic in nature. This is a very, very nice book.
Jesus Behaving Badly: The Puzzling Paradoxes of the Man from Galilee Mark Strauss (IVP) $16.00 A few weeks ago the Revised Common Lectionary gave us the text of Jesus calling a woman a dog, and she pushed back – wow. Every time I hear or read that story I wonder, “what was Jesus thinking?” I trust you do too. Well, as it ends up, for honest readers, there are other pretty difficult sayings of Jesus, things that were judgmental and provocative, things that seemed chauvinistic and some might say unkind. He was angry, cursed an innocent fig tree, seemed on occasion to be sexist. Geesh, I thought everybody like Jesus. Well, this upbeat and interesting book takes a hard look at the hard stuff found in the teachings or sayings of Jesus. It reckons well with the real Jesus, not a straw man or caricature, and that is both good and harder than it sounds. I agree with Walter Wink who said if we were making up a person like Jesus, we wouldn’t in a thousand years come up with this one. The real Jesus is unpredictable and sometimes a bit odd. Strauss is a fine evangelical scholar (and served as an associate editor of the huge and balanced NIV Study Bible.) This book is worth having on hand – you never know when the Lectionary is going to give us one of those hard-to-understand texts again.
Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder Richard A. Horsley (Fortress) $17.00 There are numerous books that open up the relationship of the violent empire of ancient Rome and the subversive practices of the early Jesus community – you may have read of John Dominic Crossan who gets some of this pretty right, or Marcus Borg who was attentive to the political themes we often miss in our readings of the life of Jesus. (See, for instance, his early book Jesus: A New Vision.) My favorite exploration of this, by far, is Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire by Brian Walsh & Sylvia Keesmaat (IVP Academic; $24.00) which, admittedly, is about Paul and the early church’s experiences, less directly about Jesus, but it is still essential reading.) For a mind-blowing study along these lines that is directly about Jesus, see the hefty and unforgettable Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus by Ched Meyers (Orbis; $28.00)
I list this older Horsley one, though, as an important and representative title, if a bit academic. It is worth working through. A critique of some of the possible excesses of this approach can be found in a book edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph Modica called Jesus Is Lord, Caesar Is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies (IVP Academic; $22.00) and I suspect they are on to something in bringing a bit of balance to this important new genre of early Christ You really should be acquainted with this socially-potent approach that is significant in the cutting edge research these days—some might say to miss it would be a to miss a key to Jesus and He really was and how we really are to respond to his counter-cultural reign.
A Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion Gary Burge (IVP Academic) $17.00 I just had to list this as it is a fun, fun, creative way to get into the background culture of the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus. Gary Burge is an astute Bible scholar, a leader of remarkable holy land tours, and a bit of a peace and justice activist for those in the middle of intractable difficulties in Palestine. He’s a Wheaton College prof and we think he is very, very reliable as a scholar and teacher within the broader church. So this is nice, an easy way in to some important cultural background.
By the way, this follows on the heals of a similar novel written by the extraordinary New Testament scholar Ben Witherington III called A Week in the Life of Corinth, obviously about the early church, and the brand new, imaginative and I think very helpful one, also by Ben Witherington, called A Week in the Fall of Jerusalem which explores how that seismic event scattered the members of the persecuted local church in Jerusalem in 70 AD. As the plot unfolds and Jews and Christians escape the terror, we travel with some of them “through an imagined week of flight and faith.” A scribe heads for Galilee in search of records of Jesus’ life and teachings. And a company of women makes its way to a new life in the village of Pella. But, of course, the …Roman Centurion one is most germane for those studying the life and times of Jesus in occupied Galilee, who shows up in the fictionalized account as an itinerant Jewish teacher.
The Upside Down Kingdom Donald Kraybill (Herald Press) $16.99 . There are many, many good books on the Sermon on the Mount or that otherwise invite us into the harder teachings of Jesus, what some call “radical discipleship.” I didn’t want to get too far afield in offering books on contemporary discipleship but this classic walks an excellent path between serious Biblical scholarship and practical lifestyle questions for today’s living. Kraybill is a Mennonite (and, as a sociologists a leading expert on the Amish) and so naturally takes seriously the call to live counter-culturally. Not only does he show the contemporary relevance of Christ’s teachings, he shows what these teachings meant in the socio-political setting of the first century. He explains who the Pharisees and Zealots where, for instance, and explains much about the Temple piety and the like. I know a number of people who have said this is one of the most important books they have ever read in their lives; it endures because it is so interesting, informative, and yet pushes us towards resisting the domination systems of today with Christ-like goodness and grace. A must-read.
Jesus Is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked And The 3 He Answered Martin B. Copenhaver (Abingdon) $15.99 Do you read Copenhaver ever in The Christian Century, maybe? Or know of his several devotionals or his fascinating co-authored book about the lives of mainline clergy? He’s a thoughtful UCC pastor, now a seminary President, and this fine bit of popular level Bible research is so intriguing and interesting and has proven so helpful to Bible study groups and classes I had to at least mention it here. It is, as you can tell, a study of each of the many questions Jesus asked. I suppose others have done books like this, but this is the stand-out. Nothing like it. Includes a lovely foreword by Lauren Winner.
Man Myth Messiah: Answering History’s Greatest Question Rice Brooks (Thomas Nelson) $16.99 We have in our store dozens of books about apologetics, defending the core doctrines of the faith, and many are quite compelling. Most are fairly broad as they respond to the sorts of questions that skeptics have these days. We have several books that are specifically about this one constellation of questions: is Jesus who he says he was? How did the gospels get written? Are those New Testament documents reliable? What non-canonical evidence do we have –minimal historically agreed upon facts as some might call it – that Jesus existed and that his followers believed he rose from the dead? Write to us if you have deeper questions (or are counseling those who have these tough questions) or want more or less scholarly treatments of these questions — there’s good stuff from a variety of scholarly quarters these days. You will notice that this book is written by the writer of the God’s Not Dead movie, which I have seen some less than stellar reviews of that but I thought this book was really interesting and well informed — a great gift to give to one that might be curious or cynical.
The Dawn of Christianity: How God Used Simple Fisherman, Soldiers, and Prostitute to Transform the World Robert J. Hutchinson (Nelson) $24.99 This book could sell for considerably more as it is a great, thick hardback with pictures and illustrations, not exactly lavish, but certainly handsome, chock-full of historical stuff, things I hadn’t heard before, good information about how Christianity came to be. It tells the story of how the first followers of Jesus survive the terror of those first years (Jesus’ death, the persecutions and more.) Hutchinson is a great popularizer of the recent research on the first century culture and has given us a book that is both useful for those interested in Christian origins and for anyone needing to learn more so they can offer good responses to critics or skeptics. This really does offer a compelling argument for the plausibility of faith and how the first followers of Christ were drawn to deeper life by the eyewitness accounts not only of his life but of his resurrection.
Granted, The Dawn of Christianity covers how the faith unfolded and thrived in places like Antioch, Damascus, Rome and Athens so is actually more than an introduction to the life of Jesus. But it sure does depend on the reality of a risen Lord and is a perfect follow up to any of the books mentioned above.
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