In my first teaching appointment, a student approached me with a humorous quip: “You’ve been talking so much about Jesus’ teaching about X, Y, and Z, when will we get a lecture on Jesus’ teaching on Jesus’ teaching?” He had a point.
Another point can be added to it: Back up one step and we have to ask about Jesus according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and on and on.
How important is this? Jesus is, in spite of the absolute centrality of soteriology to so many Bible readers, the central message of the New Testament. Who is Jesus? is the central evangelistic question, and Who is Jesus? is the central theological question.
Jesus sometimes get buried in our theological concerns. Scratch that, he often gets buried.
Time to bring him out of the rubble and we do so with a brand new wonderful book, James D.G. Dunn, Jesus According to the New Testament. Yes, Jimmy was my professor and Yes I’m biased and Yes I blurbed this book — but I’m still right when I say is a “bag full of learning opportunities” so I commend this book for pastors, for students, for teachers, and especially for serious small groups. Each one can learn to think “What does this NT text say about Jesus?” No better question for anyone or any group.This book grew out of a concern — the absence of the Year of John’s Gospel in the church calendar — and lectures (one on Jesus according to Jesus, one on Jesus according to the Synoptics, and one on Jesus according to John), and then some creative questions: Why not add to them what the early Christians thought of Jesus? Then he thought about the fathers and even modern thinkers, but he kept the book contained to his expertise in NT studies.
He hopes some will follow up his questions:
Nevertheless, if the present volume has any appeal, there is no reason why other volumes should not follow, with someone else better equipped than me to draw out the testimony of Christian greats through the centuries. And no reason why a(nother) volume of brief testimonies from disciples of today should not follow. After all, everything we know about Jesus is thanks to the personal testimony of his most immediate followers. But for Christians, Jesus is not just a figure of the past. Christians today are disciples of the present. So why not continue the story of Jesus up to the present, with everyday believers bearing witness to what attracts or intrigues them about Jesus? How about it?