Recent years have seen an explosion of interest in the renewed quest for the historical Jesus, much of the interest from a skeptical perspective. To correct this imbalance, Jakob van Bruggen offers part 2 of his investigation of the life and teaching of Jesus as found in the Gospel accounts.
In the first volume, Christ on Earth, he surveys the Gospel narratives to determine what they can tell us about the historical life of Jesus. In this companion volume, he focuses on the message found in those narratives. In both volumes he reaffirms an orthodox interpretation of Jesus life and death in response to skeptical positions.
Van Bruggen begins with a richly detailed survey of the social and religious context of first-century Judaism, dealing particularly with the various religious and political groups and the place of John the Baptist as a prophetic forerunner to Jesus. A knowledge of those details, he maintains, is imperative for understanding how the message of the Gospels would have been received and interpreted by its first-century audience.
The author then turns, in successive sections, to the fundamental issues involved in considering the meaning of Jesus message:
What did Jesus mean when he spoke of the coming kingdom of God, and what would first-century Jews (with national and political hopes) have understood by that term? What was the meaning of the terms used by Jesus and others to describe his role (Son of Man, Son of David, Son of God, etc.)? What was the sacrificial meaning of Jesus suffering and death? Who now are the people of God? What can be affirmed about the future coming of Christ and the abiding presence of the Spirit?
An appendix considers the importance of the Pharisees. Together with his earlier Christ on Earth, this volume offers a thoroughly researched and well-considered survey of the Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. [via]