For those who were puzzled by my previous blog post, it is a glimpse at what just appeared in the latest preview catalogue of the publisher Humanitas, one of the biggest publishers in Romania and one that specializes in humanities topics like history, religion, philosophy, and biography. My book What Jesus Learned from Women is being published in Romanian, which is a particular delight. You probably know that I taught in Romania for three years and have visited far more often. I hope that there will be translations into other languages of this and other books, but given my longstanding connection with Romania, I’m glad that Romanian will be the first.
What is featured in the catalogue is an excerpt from the chapter about what Jesus learned from his mother as well as a blurb which I translate for English-speaking readers here:
James F. McGrath poses a question that is sure to shock some readers. Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, the Teacher par excellence, the All-Knowing, the one who came to teach men the way of salvation–can he have anything to learn from other people? And especially from women? The author starts from the premise that Jesus was a real human being, a real historical figure, sharing the human condition, developing and accumulating knowledge like any other person. Although he lived in the socio-cultural context of his time, marked by more or less diffuse misogyny, he set himself apart from it, often scandalizing his contemporaries. His disciples repeatedly expressed their astonishment that the Rabbi was holding theological discussions with women (even some who were “sinful” or of another religion).
Even more disturbing was the fact that he also received women among his disciples. The volume surveys Jesus’ interaction with twelve women. The author focused on texts from the New Testament, but also uses other sources, such as apocryphal texts, and does not hesitate to let his imagination run free. The book also has a dose of fiction, like a romanticized biography, but it tries to reconstruct things as faithfully as possible, without deviating towards the fantastic or sensational.
It is really striking, in revisiting my words and seeing them translated into another language, to notice just how much I was already thinking ahead about my future research about John the Baptist. I had forgotten that, in the fictional correspondence I crafted between Mary and Elizabeth, I included a jab at Zechariah and the fact that his son John was doing something that almost certainly did not make his father happy. I’ve hinted at it in a few talks I’ve given, but when Christmaker: A Life of John the Baptist comes out, it will offer a plausible explanation for why John pursued the course that he did. Although anything to do with infancy stories can be speculative, in this case what we have to work with includes John’s adult life, things that were knowable and visible about him, rather than things that we cannot verify.
That’s for next year. For now, I’m simply delighted to know that my book will be coming out in Romania. I can’t wait to find out what the reactions will be, and hope that I can arrange some interviews and talks in connection with its release. I also can’t wait to see what the cover and the physical book itself look like.
In the meantime, English speakers should not forget that my book The A to Z of the New Testament will be out in just a matter of weeks. If you haven’t ordered your copy, what are you waiting for? Christianbook.com has it for only $15.99! If you need more persuading, check out the blurb below from the publisher Eerdmans, and/or take a look at the preview on Google Books.
So you think you know the New Testament?
Did you know that Jesus made puns? Did you know that Paul never calls himself or the churches he writes to “Christian?” Did you know that we don’t know who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews, or if it’s even really a letter?
James F. McGrath sheds light on these and many other surprising realities of Scripture in The A to Z of the New Testament. Cutting through common myths and misunderstandings of problematic bible passages, James F. McGrath opens up expert knowledge to laypeople in his friendly introduction to New Testament studies. Each chapter in this fresh, accessible volume begins with a provocative anecdote or fact and then pulls back the curtain to inform curious readers about how scholars approach the issue. Along the way, McGrath explains unfamiliar terminology and methodology to nonspecialists with humor and clarity.
You’ve graduated from Sunday School. Ask the hard questions. Take Scripture on its own terms. Invigorate your Bible study with The A to Z of the New Testament as your guide.