Why Sinners? An Interview with Author Greg Carey

The message of Jesus' faithfulness and God's vindication not only gives us hope beyond death, it empowers us to live Jesus' way right now. A full gospel proclamation must maintain this continuity among Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

Now that Sinners has been reviewed, what would you change about the book?

Aside of some minor oversights, I wish I had spent more time on one point. I maintain that the Gospels never describe Jesus as rebuking an individual sinner. He has harsh words for righteous people, but not for sinners. I still believe that, but some reviewers have rightly said this point needs more argumentation. For example, there's no doubt that the famous story of the woman caught in adultery is a later addition to John's Gospel (7:53-8:11), but I breeze by that story fairly briefly. And I never discuss John 5:14, in which Jesus tells a man he had healed, "Sin no more, lest something worse happen to you."

I think Jesus' companionship with sinners offers a vital clue for contemporary mission. We Christians waste our time chiding people for their moral failings, when we should be doing what Jesus did—meeting people where they are and bearing blessing and healing. In fact, a second look at the Gospels reveals that very often Jesus does not set the agenda—it's the people who come to him, even when he's trying to get some privacy. What would our mission look like if it were a response to people rather than the imposition of an agenda?

Greg Carey is Professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Greg has taught at Lancaster Seminary since 1999 and taught previously at Rhodes College and Winthrop University. His publications include numerous studies on the book of Revelation and ancient apocalyptic literature, rhetorical analysis of the New Testament, and Sinners: Jesus and His Earliest Followers.

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.

Return to the Patheos Book Club to read an excerpt of Sinners, as well as more reviews and reflections from bloggers, pastors and scholars.

4/15/2011 4:00:00 AM
  • Mainline Protestant
  • Book Club
  • Books
  • literature
  • Mainline Protestantism
  • Media
  • Christianity
  • About Alonzo L. Gaskill
    Alonzo L. Gaskill is an author, editor, theologian, lecturer, and professor of World Religions. He holds degrees in philosophy, theology, and biblical studies. He has authored more than two-dozen books and numerous articles on various aspects of religion; with topics ranging from world religions and interfaith dialogue, to scriptural commentaries, texts on symbolism, sacred space, and ritual, and even devotional literature.