The best way to get to really know someone is to know where and how they live and who they associate with and who they don't. So, the best way to get to know who Jesus Christ really was is to learn about him through that context...how did he live and who were his friends and who were his enemies as well as why. Why did Jesus live as he lived and why did he have the friends and enemies that he did?
The book, Jesus Among Friends And Enemies, edited by Chris Keith and Larry W. Hurtado is a book that is ALL ABOUT Jesus. The book begins and ends with Jesus...and all the pages in between reveal something to us about Jesus and who he really was.
If you are searching to learn just who the real "historical" Jesus is as revealed by the Word of God, then you will find this book to be most helpful. The book begins with some introductory information about Jesus Christ from the perspective of "inside and outside the New Testament." In the Introduction the author Chris Keith reveals to us information about Jesus apart from or "outside of" the four gospels from the "first to the third centuries." Referring to the writings of historians such as Flavius Josephus, as well as the writings of other Gospels - non-canonical gospels other than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the reader gets a look at Jesus Christ and his life from different people and perspectives. Also author Keith provides his reader information about Jesus Christ as found in the actual gospels themselves which is very helpful.
In Chapter 1 Edith Humphrey writes about God and Angels. In this chapter the author provides historical and narrative information about both the person of God and Angels with a good bit of information being revealed to the reader about who Angels are and what their role was in relation to the "historical" Jesus. The author writes, as Susan Garrett aptly puts it, "in the Gospels the angels assume the role of supporting players and bit characters who seldom steal the limelight." The history, life and ministry are the predominant theme of the four Gospels with angels offering only ministering and supporting roles.
In Chapter 2 Michael Bird writes about the person of John the Baptist and how his life and ministry related to the life of Jesus Christ. The author gives the reader an extensive and most insightful look at the life of John the Baptist as revealed in historical writings as well as in the Gospel. And in relation to the life and ministry of the "historical" Jesus, John the Baptist is what we would refer to as a key player.
In Chapter 3 Warren Carter provides the reader information regarding the key disciples of Jesus Christ with the major emphasis being on the four disciples who wrote the canonical Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. He shares information not only about their lives but how their lives connected with and related to the "historical" Jesus.
Chapter 4, written by Richard J. Bauckham, we learn about the family of Jesus both from what is written about them in the New Testament as well as from "sources outside the New Testament. By sharing what the author has about the family of Jesus we as the reader get a clearer picture of the important role they played in the life of Christ as well as in the early church.
In Chapter's 5 and 6; Chapter 5 being written by Dieter T. Roth, and Chapter 6, written by David M. Allen; we learn about other friends that Jesus had who played a role in his life and ministry; (that information is revealed in Chapter 5), and about his "secret disciples" Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
In Part 2 of the book and Chapters 7 through 10 we read about the "enemies of Jesus" and what role they played in his life and ministry. In Chapter 7 Loren T. Stuckenbruck reveals invaluable information about the number 1 and major enemy of Christ during his life and ministry on earth and that was Satan and his demons. In Chapter 8 Anthony Le Donne writes about the Jewish leaders of Christ's day; the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes, and how they interacted with Christ during his earthly life and ministry and ultimately what role they played in the life of Jesus Christ as well as in his death. In Chapter 9, written by Helen K. Bond, the reader learns about the most predominant rulers of Jesus day, The Herods, Caiaphas, and Pontius Pilate and how their influence and lives affected and related to the life, ministry and death of Christ on the cross. And then in Chapter 10, Holly J. Carey sheds light for the reader upon the life of "Judas Iscariot The Betrayer of Jesus." In Chapter 10 she shares what information is available about Judas to give us as the reader a better idea of who he was according to legend, in history as well as what is revealed about him in the Gospels as being the one who betrayed Christ, which led to his crucifixion and death.
In the Conclusion of the book, written by Chris Keith with Larry Hurtado, they sum the theme and importance of the book, Jesus Among Friends and Enemies up in this manner. They write, "Jesus Among Friend and Enemies contributes to Jesus studies against this larger background of scholars returning to the texts of the Gospels in order to understand the identity of (the historical) Jesus. And I have to state that the book does indeed fulfill its mission in a grand fashion and that is that it does accurately and thoroughly provide us as the reader with a true picture of who the (historical) Jesus really was and what he accomplished through his life, ministry, death and resurrection.
I received a complementary copy of the book Jesus Among Friends and Enemies Baker Publishing Group for reviewing the book.