BA Books & Authors on the Web – October 30, 2015

Cover ArtAt Syndicate Theology you can read reflections on Jesus against the Scribal Elite from Dagmar Winter, Tobias Hägerland, Christopher Skinner, and Jason Lamoreaux, along with responses from Chris Keith.

“Chris Keith’s book, Jesus against the Scribal Elite, defends the claim that two factors are intimately related, namely a) Jesus’ status as an illiterate teacher and b) his conflict with scribal authorities. This is to say that conflict arose between Jesus and the scribal elite because of “how various groups within Second Temple Judaism would have perceived Jesus, a scribal-illiterate carpenter, upon his occasionally occupying the position of a scribal-literate authority” (155).”

Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution was reviewed by D. A. Carson at Reformation 21.

At Ponderings on a Faith Journey, Robert Cornwall reviewed From Nature to Creation by Norman Wirzba.

David Wilhite’s The Gospel according to Heretics was reviewed at Tabletalk Theology and recommended by Erik Raymond at The Gospel Coalition.

The Christian Humanist interviewed Kevin Vanhoozer about The Pastor as Public Theologian.


BA Books & Authors on the Web – October 16, 2015

Cover ArtDaniel Block, author of For the Glory of God, was interviewed at Books at a Glance. You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

“The pragmatism of the ‘worship industry’ concerns me. Since our understanding of worship is restricted largely to what we do in church as a community, we devote our energies to making our worship that is attractive especially to the unbelievers and the marginal Christians.

We forget that an audience with God calls for a counter-cultural liturgical vocabulary. In Deuteronomy 12 Moses declares that the forms of true worship may not derive either from our own imaginations (v. 8) or the environment in which we live (vv. 29–31). The object of worship alone (i.e., God) determines the nature and forms of true worship.”

An upcoming Syndicate Symposium will interact with Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite, and Chris Skinner will be one of the participants.

Youth Ministry in the 21st Century, edited by Chap Clark, was reviewed at Panorama of a Book Saint.

Publishers Weekly reviewed The Gospel according to Heretics, by David Wilhite.

“This book is ideal for a scholar seeking to study church history, or an educated layperson wanting to know more about church councils, Gnostics, and modern day Muslims.”

At Reformation 21, Robert Yarbrough reviewed Richard Bauckham’s Gospel of Glory.

James K. A. Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Relativism? was reviewed at Just and Sinner.


BA Books & Authors on the Web – September 11, 2015

Cover ArtAt The Gospel Coalition, Justin Taylor shared Kevin Vanhoozer’s 55 Theses on Pastors as Public Theologians from The Pastor as Public Theologian.

“Why does the church need pastor-theologians? What are pastor-theologians for? Our answer, in brief, is that pastor-theologians are gifts from the risen Christ, helps in building Christ’s church, especially by leading people to confess, comprehend, celebrate, communicate, commend to others, and conform themselves to what is in Christ.”

At The Jesus Blog, Anthony Le Donne recommended Jesus among Friends and Enemies, edited by Chris Keith and Larry Hurtado.

Cover ArtStanley Porter’s How We Got the New Testament was reviewed by Jacob Prahlow at Pursuing Veritas.

“Highly recommended to anyone interested in learning more about the history of the New Testament. Not only do the contents of this book offer valuable observations for those seeking to better understand the New Testament and early Christianity, but How We Got the New Testament also addresses penetrating issues at the heart of all Christian faith.”

Mike Boling, at Servants of Grace, reviewed Defending Substitution by Simon Gathercole.

Alvin Rapien, at The Poor in Spirit, reviewed Christian Scharen’s Fieldwork in Theology.

Fieldwork in Theology will hopefully influence many to rethink their approach to research, society, and individuals around them.”


BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 24, 2015

Cover ArtAt The Jesus Blog, Chris Keith shared two recent reviews of his Jesus against the Scribal Elite as well as the latest news about a symposium interacting with his book.

“Keith begins with the sources as they are, and explains the conflicting memories regarding Jesus’ scribal literacy from the fact that a scribal-illiterate member of the manual-labour class presumed to function as an authoritative teacher. Keith argues persuasively that this in itself would have been sufficient to lead to all sorts of questions and conclusions about his scribal-literacy and authority, and to bring him into direct conflict with the scribal elite.”

Lindsay Kennedy, at My Digital Seminary, reviewed Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution.

At Thoughts, Prayers & Songs, James reviewed Reading Barth with Charity by George Hunsinger.

“An important scholarly book for clarifying Barth’s theology. No doubt the revisionists named by Hunsinger will make a response which will further the debate.”

Matthew Schlimm’s This Strange and Sacred Scripture was reviewed at Brave Daily.


BA Books & Authors on the Web – January 16, 2015

Cover ArtByron Borger, at Hearts & Minds Books, named J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth as 2014’s Best Book Of Biblical Studies.

“What a book!…There is no doubt in my mind that this book is urgently needed — among evangelicals and mainline folks alike — to be fully clear about God’s promises of new creation, and how this vision of a restored Earth can animate and sustain our efforts for cultural reform now. Richard is an excellent Biblical scholar and has worked on this serious volume for years; the endorsements have been robust and exceptional, and early readers report it is nearly life-changing.”

Also in his Best Books of 2014 post, Borger gave a double award (Best New Contribution to Bonhoeffer Studies and Best Youth Ministry Book) to Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker by Andrew Root, and an honorable mention to From Every Tribe and Nation by Mark Noll and Reading a Different Story by Susan VanZanten.

At The Hump of the Camel, Jon Garvey reviewed A New Heaven and a New Earth.

RJS continued to discuss Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth in the post “The End of the World” at Jesus Creed.

J. Richard Middleton wrote “God’s Bringing Creation to Its Glorious Destiny” for The High Calling.

Chris Woznicki reviewed Reformed Catholicity, by Michael Allen and Scott Swain.

At First Things, Peter Leithart reflected on the discussion of Reinhold Hutter in Reformed Catholicity.

Reformed Catholicity was listed in The Aquila Report’s New & Noteworthy Books in 2015.

At Panorama of a Book Saint, Conrade Yap reviewed Effective Intercultural Communication by A. Scott Moreau, Evvy Hay Campbell, and Susan Greener.

Christopher Skinner, at Crux Sola, reviewed Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite.

Daniel Gullotta reviewed Ancient Christian Worship by Andrew McGowan.

Elodie Ballantine Emig reviewed Rodney Decker’s Reading Koine Greek for the Denver Journal.

At Theosblog, Lawrence Osborn reviewed Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A. J. Swoboda.

At The Jesus Blog, Anthony LeDonne named Dale Allison’s Constructing Jesus as the best Jesus book of the 2010’s.

Robert Johnston, author of God’s Wider Presence, was interviewed in Tehelka Magazine.


BA Books & Authors on the Web – January 9, 2015

Cover ArtDerek Rishmawy, at The Gospel Coalition, explains “Why You Should Read Bavinck.”

“Bavinck’s accomplishment in the Dogmatics is nothing short of jaw-dropping. The expansive, nuanced, and deeply trinitarian theological vision is both intellectually challenging and spiritually nourishing. I anticipate turning to these volumes regularly in the years to come.”


Walter Moberly’s Old Testament Theology was reviewed at Euangelion.

Craig Blomberg reviewed A Peaceable Hope by David Neville, as well as The King in His Beauty by Thomas Schreiner, for the Denver Journal here and here.

Nate Claiborne reviewed Exploring Psychology and Christian Faith, by Paul Moes and Donald Tellinghuisen.

Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite was reviewed at CHOICE connect.

At Discovering the Mission of God, Ed reviewed Understanding Christian Mission by Scott Sunquist.

Andrew Root’s Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker was reviewed at Diglotting.

Michael Philliber, at Deus Misereatur, reviewed The Holy Trinity in the Life of the Church, edited by Khaled Anatolios.

Best Of

As 2014 came to a close, quite a number of Baker Academic titles were featured in “Best of” posts.

Galatians and Christian Theology, edited by Mark Elliott, John Frederick, Scott Hafemann and N.T. Wright, was named as one of “The Top (Mockingbird) Theology Books of 2014.”

At Crux Sola, Nijay Gupta listed Chris Keith’s Jesus Against the Scribal Elite, Galatians and Christian Theology, Jeffrey Weima’s 1-2 Thessalonians, and Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth among the “Best New Testament Academic Books of 2014.”

Women in the World of the Earliest Christians by Lynn Cohick, Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society edited by Susan Holman, Scripture and Tradition by Edith Humphrey, The Economy of Desire by Daniel Bell, and Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich by Helen Rhee were all in Alvin Rapien’s “Top 10 Books of 2014.”

The Missio Alliance Essential Reading List of 2014” featured Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology, by Daniel Brunner, Jennifer Butler, and A. J. Swoboda.

At Reformation 21, Michael Allen and Scott Swain’s Reformed Catholicity, Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution, Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan’s The Pastor as Public Theologian, and Richard Bauckham’s Gospel of Glory were noted as “New & Noteworthy Books in 2015.”


Scot McKnight reflected on Alistair Stewart’s The Original Bishops in the post “Paul and the Economic Justice Vision of Jesus“, and Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth led to his discussion “Revolution in Eschatology Today?

Andrew McGowan, author of Ancient Christian Worship, wrote “Incarnation and Epiphany: How Christmas became a Christian Feast” for ABC Religion and Ethics.


BA Books & Authors on the Web – December 8, 2014

Cover ArtAt The Christian Century, Greg Carey reviewed Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite.

“Keith writes with the charm of an excellent classroom teacher: always clear, occasionally hip, and sometimes a little geeky. Any reader who has completed a basic curriculum in the Gospels will enjoy this book, while professional scholars will recognize immediately that Keith is a primary contributor to academic debates. He has earned a reputation as an influential emerging voice in historical Jesus research and an expert on ancient literacy.”

Also reviewing Jesus against the Scribal Elite was Brian LePort.

John Piper reviewed Mark Noll’s From Every Tribe and Nation.

At Reformedish, Derek Rishmawy reviewed Atonement, Law, and Justice by Adonis Vidu.

George P. Wood reviewed Rediscovering an Evangelical Heritage by Donald Dayton with Douglas Strong.

Conrade Yap, at Panorama of a Book Saint, reviewed The Church according to Paul by James Thompson.

At First Things, Peter Leithart reflected on The Holy Trinity in the Life of the Church, edited by Khaled Anatolios.

The Englewood Review of Books recommended Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth.

At the Bible Gateway Blog, Jonathan Petersen interviewed David Bauer about his book (together with the late Dr. Robert Traina), Inductive Bible Study.

Mark Kiessling, at the LCMS Leader Blog, interviewed Andrew Root and discussed his new book, Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker.


BA Books & Authors on the Web – September 19, 2014

Cover ArtAt The Englewood Review of Books, Jeanne Lehninger reviewed Roger Lundin’s Beginning with the Word.

“Lundin is a wonderful teacher who explicates clearly why contemporary thought regarding language and literature is what it is and what the implications are for the church. Not merely an academic treatise, Beginning with the Word both begins and ends in delight and wisdom. Best of all, Lundin answers the question of why it matters that words are more than symbols. That they are reflections of the Word made flesh makes them bearers of truth and grace.”

Also, Roger Lundin was interviewed about Beginning with the Word on the Christian Humanist Podcast.

At the Strong Towns Podcast, Charles Marohn interviewed Eric Jacobson, author of The Space Between.

Wyatt Graham, at Writings and Reviews, reviewed Stephen Hildebrand’s Basil of Caesarea.

Michael Allen, author of Justification and the Gospel, wrote “The Desire and Joy of the Gospel” for Good News.

At Philonica et Neotestamentica, Torrey Seland quoted from Jesus against the Scribal Elite, by Chris Keith.

Finally, Graham Twelftree, author of Paul and the Miraculous, gave a lecture entitled “The Historian and the Miraculous“.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – August 29, 2014

Cover ArtThe Christian Century recently featured Meeting God at the Movies, an excerpt from Robert Johnston’s forthcoming God’s Wider Presence.

“Few in the church have been encouraged to think theologically about encounters with God that take place outside the church and its scripture. The result is a disconnect between how the church speaks formally of God’s self-revelation and how those who are not Christians speak of that same reality.”

Nijay Gupta shared a brief review of Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite, as did Joshua Paul Smith.

Books at a Glance interviewed Douglas Moo about his recent BECNT volume on Galatians.

At the Helwys Society Forum M. Grady Calhoun reviewed Resounding Truth by Jeremy Begbie.

Between the Times reflected on The Mystery of God, by Steven Boyer and Christopher Hall

Tim Henderson, at the Earliest Christianity blog, recommended James Thompson’s The Church According to Paul.

At First Things, Karen Swallow Prior wrote about marriage and drew from James K.A. Smith’s work in Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom.

As part of his ongoing “Aha Moments” series, Peter Enns, author of Inspiration and Incarnation, interviewed Jeannine Brown, author of Scripture as Communication and Becoming Whole and Holy.

Chris Keith: “The Contested Authority of Jesus”

“The Contested Authority of Jesus”
by, Chris Keith

Jesus against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict really came about as a result of my monograph Jesus’ Literacy: Scribal Culture and the Teacher from Galilee (T&T Clark 2011). In that book, I argue that Jesus was most likely not from the scribal-elite class and thus did not receive a scribal-literate education. At the very end of the study, I state that this conclusion has implications for how we understand Jesus’s interactions with other teachers of his day. Shortly after finishing Jesus’ Literacy, I received an invitation from Emmanuel Christian Seminary to deliver the Frederick D. Kershner Lectures in New Testament, and I decided to pursue the topic further in the context of those lectures. Those lectures formed the basis of Jesus against the Scribal Elite, where I take my prior arguments to the controversy narratives and ask what historical and exegetical implications might result from the idea of a historical Jesus whose status as a teacher was under question during his ministry.

Cover ArtAs such, Jesus against the Scribal Elite is—to my knowledge—the first book-length study of the earliest period of Jesus’s ministry. It focuses specifically on the question of how and why conflict first emerged between Jesus and authoritative Jewish teachers. Scholars typically attribute the origins of the conflict to Jesus’s reputation as a miracle-worker and exorcist or his alternative views on Torah. Although not dismissing these important insights, this book argues that one must go further, since Jesus was not the only person regarded as a miracle-worker or exorcist in Second Temple Judaism, and he was most definitely not the only teacher who took a non-Pharisaic approach to the law. Complementing these earlier proposals, then, I argue that Jesus’s status as a teacher itself was debated. That is, the problem was not necessarily what he taught or how he taught it but whether, from the perspective of the authoritative teachers, he had the right to be teaching at all. This overall argument emerges from several more specific arguments.

Drawing on my previous arguments in Jesus’ Literacy, I argue that Jesus was not a member of the educated scribal class and thus not able to read the Hebrew Scriptures on his own. As part of this argument, I detail that the first-century Gospels in the New Testament attest a debate among early Christians over this issue. Mark and Matthew place Jesus outside the scribal-literate class in the manual-labor class (Mark 6:3//Matt. 13:55) and state explicitly that Jesus was “not like the scribes” (Mark 1:22//Matt. 7:29). Luke, on the other hand, places Jesus directly in the scribal-literate class, attributing to him the scribal-literate skill of public reading in synagogue (Luke 4:16–20). Luke removes the claim that Jesus was a manual laborer (Luke 4:22) and also removes the claim that Jesus was not like scribes (Luke 4:32). Also related, the Gospel of John claims that some of “the Jews” questioned Jesus’s scribal literacy as a result of hearing his teaching (John 7:15). I argue that the best explanation for this variety of opinions is that Jesus was not a scribal-literate teacher, but, in light of the complex ways that literate skills were perceived in the ancient context and perceived differently by different classes, some of Jesus’s audiences likely believed he was a scribal-literate teacher.

I argue that this complex of events led the true authorities to engage Jesus publicly in order to expose him as an imposter to the position of scribal-literate teacher, and so emerged the initial stages of conflict. The only problem is that if Jesus ever managed to turn the tables on them and was perceived as the winner of a debate with them, it made their problem worse, because it gave some members of the audience further reason to consider Jesus an authority in his own right. Note, however, that my point is only that some members of the audience would have thought this. It’s my opinion that if a farmer visiting Jerusalem for a festival and a scribe from the temple overheard Jesus arguing with Pharisees, the farmer and the scribe could have walked away with differing conceptions of Jesus as a teacher. The farmer, illiterate and not versed in the intricacies of scribal authority, could have believed that Jesus must have been one of the teachers himself because he seemed to hold his own. The scribe, fully aware of the intricacies of scribal authority and culture, could have believed that Jesus was doing the best with his limited abilities but clearly was not an educated authority himself. Of course, in the Gospels Jesus pitches a shutout and wins every single argument. We might rightly question whether Jesus always won an argument, but I’m prepared to accept that he at least on occasion was perceived as the winner of debates with scribal elites.

The overall implication of this argument, then, is not only that Jesus’s authority itself was an important element in the rise of the conflict, but also that the general claim that Jesus was engaged in conflict with elite teachers of the law over Scripture and (Jesus’s) authority has a very high degree of historical plausibility. Indeed, if it is the case that Jesus himself was not a scribal-literate teacher but occasionally was perceived as one, we should expect that the true authorities would have challenged Jesus on precisely these issues. Of course, the conflict between Jesus and other teachers quickly spiraled beyond these issues and became more complex. The contribution of this book, however, is to establish that these were important issues at the very beginning of the conflict.


Chris Keith (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is professor of New Testament and early Christianity and director of the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham. He was a 2010 recipient of the John Templeton Award for Theological Promise for his book The Pericope Adulterae, the Gospel of John, and the Literacy of Jesus and was named a 2012 Society of Biblical Literature Regional Scholar.

For more information on Jesus against the Scribal Elite, click here.