Baker Academic

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jesus and Scripture by Steve Moyise—Chris Keith

Unexpectedly, I had to make a trip to the States last week.  I used the flight to read Steve Moyise’s book Jesus and Scripture, published in the US by Baker Academic and in the UK by SPCK.  Moyise first treats Jesus’ usage of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.  Then he treats John’s Gospels, but focuses instead upon explicit citations of Scripture:  John 6.25–29; 10.31–39; 13.18–20; 15.25.  After covering the Gospels, Moyise has three chapters that show readers how historical Jesus scholars have moved from the Gospel claims about Jesus’ usage of Scripture to positing his actual usage of Scripture.  Under the “minimalist” descriptor (the Gospels show us little of how Jesus used Scripture), he discusses Vermes, Crossan, and Borg.  Under the “moderate” descriptor (the Gospels show us roughly how Jesus used Scripture), he discusses Dunn and Wright.  Under the “maximalist” descriptor (the Gospels show us exactly how Jesus used Scripture), he discusses Kimball and France.  Moyise locates himself in the “moderate” camp and says, “I find it difficult to believe that Scripture was vitally important to Jews and vitally important to Christians but not important to Jesus.  On the other hand, I find that the differences between the Gospels make it difficult to accept a maximalist position that Jesus said everything the Gospels say he did” (121). 

Moyise’s book is designed as a textbook and does an excellent job of introducing students to scholarly discussion of how Jesus used Scripture.  He puts more confidence in the criteria of authenticity than I am inclined to do, but my other significant criticism is that he throughout takes the “dark” interpretation of Psalm 22.1 (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) on the lips of Jesus in Mark 15.34//Matt 27.46.  I think Holly Carey has argued convincingly against this interpretation.  But that’s a minor complaint.  Jesus and Scripture functions as a useful introduction to Gospels studies and historical Jesus studies by focusing narrowly on the issue of Jesus and Scripture.

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