"Sinners: Jesus and His Earliest Followers": An Overview

About the Book

How did early Christians remember Jesus—and how did they develop their own "Christian" identities and communities? In this accessible and revelatory book, Greg Carey explores how transgression contributed to early Christian identity in the Gospels, Acts, Letters of Paul, and Revelation. Carey examines Jesus as a friend of sinners, challenger of purity laws, transgressor of conventional masculine values of his time, and convicted seditionist. He looks at early Christian communities as out of step with "respectable" practices of their time. Finally, he provides examples of contemporary Christians whose faith requires them to "do the right thing," even when it means violating current definitions of "respectability."

Read an excerpt from Sinners here.

Greg CareyAbout the Author

Greg Carey (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is Professor of New Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary. Carey has also written: Ultimate Things: An Introduction to Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature (2005), and Elusive Apocalypse: Reading Authority in the Revelation to John (1999).

Greg serves as chair of the Rhetoric and the New Testament Section of the Society of Biblical Literature and as co-chair for the Apocalyptic Literature Section of the Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting. Greg serves on the editorial boards of The Journal of Bible and Human Transformation and Out In Scripture, an LGBT-friendly lectionary resource. Greg has also appeared in documentaries on the BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Channel.

Read a Q&A with Carey here.


"Carey writes with an inviting style. Distilling currents in contemporary scholarship, he challenges readers to consider the implications of the identification of Jesus and his followers with and as sinners." ~ Jennifer A. Glancy, Interpretation (2011, 65:2)

". . . students and laypersons will find much food for provocative thought presented in a lively and academically responsible fashion. C[arey] adroitly canvasses key biblical and scholarly sources, spiced with illuminating insights from modern film, literature, and pop culture." ~ The Catholic Biblical Quarterly (2010, 72)

"With economic stress feeding anti-immigrant prejudice, debates over sexuality heating up, and fear of terrorism percolating, Christians would do well to consider that Jesus fraternized with misfits and was himself a social deviant. Greg Carey—winsome communicator and professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary—offers us colorful and compelling evidence that Jesus and his early followers often did not fit the mold." ~ The Christian Century (June 1, 2010)

"In lively prose, this book blends today's cultural idioms with serious biblical scholarship. The result is a provocative read that will surely challenge the many easy assumptions we consumers of American pop culture make about Jesus, Paul, and the early followers of the Christ-movement. Greg Carey is a public theologian of the most serious sort." ~ Sze-kar Wan, Professor of New Testament, Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology

"Many in our culture seem deeply interested in the question 'What would Jesus do?' yet largely uninformed about 'what Jesus did' two thousand years ago. In this smart and accessible book Greg Carey offers an illuminating sketch of the first century social landscape, allowing readers to see Jesus as his contemporaries did: as a transgressor of cultural norms. By explaining and celebrating the perception of Jesus as one who associated with fellow 'sinners,' this book provides a way of understanding the New Testament that can deliver Christians from their crippling tendencies to pursue respectability instead of imitating Jesus." ~ Matthew L. Skinner, Associate Professor of New Testament, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul

"Greg Carey sets forth an excellent and innovative example of how to read the character of Jesus from a literary, historical, and theological perspective, with an emphasis on ethics of interpretation for the postmodern world." ~ Francisco Lozada, Jr., Associate Professor of New Testament and Latina/o Church Studies, Brite Divinity School

4/15/2011 4:00:00 AM
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