Jesus Among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels.
by Chris Keith and Larry W. Hurtado(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011)
Here is an introduction to Jesus and the Gospels with a unique approach. The editors ask the question “What can we know about the identity of Jesus from the way the canonical Gospels portray him in relation to his friends and enemies?” Six scholars offer summary treatments of various “friends” of Jesus as we meet them in each of the Gospels, as follows: God and Angels by Edith M. Humphrey; John the Baptist by Michael F. Bird; The Disciples by Warren Carter; The Family of Jesus by Richard J. Bauckham; Other Friends of Jesus: Mary Magdalene, the Bethany Family, and the Beloved Disciple by Dieter T. Roth; and Secret Disciples: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea by David M. Allen. Four other contributors deal with “enemies of Jesus,” including Satan and Demons by Loren T. Stuckenbruck; The Jewish Leaders by Anthony Le Donne; Political Authorities: The Herods, Caiaphas, and Pontius Pilate by Helen K. Bond; and Judas Iscariot: The Betrayer of Jesus by Holly J. Carey.
Each chapter first summarizes what can be known about these “friends” or “enemies” from sources outside the canonical Gospels and then deals with the narrative presentation of these subjects in relation to Jesus in each of the canonical Gospels. The socio-historical sections can range widely enough to include the OT canon and the later literature of Judaism up to the time of the Mishnah (so “God and Angels”) or be confined to the so-called Apocryphal Gospels (so “Secret Disciples”). In the analyses of the Gospel narratives some chapters work from the classic “Mark/Q Hypothesis,” accounting for differences in Matthew and Luke on the basis of standard redaction-critical considerations and seeing the Johannine narrative as unrelated to the Synoptics; others simply summarize the varying Gospel narratives without dealing with the question of literary relationships.
Although the book is not offered as a “historical Jesus” study, the authors do occasionally venture suggestions about the historical plausibility of various claims in the Gospels. A concluding chapter, co-authored by the editors, offers suggestions as to how the foregoing studies can contribute to the critical “quest of the historical Jesus,” especially by showing how the various narrative portraits are the result of the different ways Jesus (among his “friends” and “enemies”) was remembered and asking what kind of person must Jesus have been to have generated such memories. The Introduction (“Jesus Outside and Inside the New Testament”), by Chris Keith, would be an excellent stand-alone read for a college or seminary survey on socio-historical and narrative approaches to the life of Jesus. Indeed, many chapters could well serve as contributions to NT intro. courses or life of Jesus studies. At least four of the contributors (Keith, Stuckenbruck, Le Donne, and Carey) have connections with the Stone-Campbell tradition. Altogether, a useful volume.
Review by Dr. Robert F. Hull Jr., Professor of New Testament, Emeritus.