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The Jesus Scandals: Why He Shocked His Contemporaries (and Still Shocks Today) Paperback – 17 Feb 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Monarch Books (17 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857210238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857210234
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 505,503 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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About the Author

The Revd Dr David Instone-Brewer is Senior Research Fellow and Technical Officer at Tyndale House, Cambridge. A Baptist minister, his hobby is computer programming. A rabbinic scholar, he is author of many academic and popular articles, and of 'Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities', published by Paternoster.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Scots Jimmy on 21 Jan. 2013
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I cannot recommend this book more highly. The author writes so clearly. I have read stories in the bible about Jesus but this book fills in so much of the historical context and makes more sense of the passages. The chapters are only 2 or 3 pages each so can be read at any time, but give you so much to think about.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Geoff G on 15 Dec. 2012
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Bite sized gems of insight into the customs and mindset of the community in which Christ lived and into which the NT was written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs E C McHardy on 3 Oct. 2013
Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and felt it gave me a lot of insight into the culture of Jesus in His day. It also opened my eyes to the untruths that are infiltrating the church today. I would highly recommend this book also for a Bible Study Group.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Linda on 29 April 2013
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i have not read this book yet but my husband who is a methodist local preacher has said that he found the ideas in it interesting though possibly nothing new!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 31 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Life and Times... 19 Feb. 2013
By Tom D - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book fits best in the context of trying to understand the secular and religious world into which Jesus was born and lived. I was tempted to give it three stars because it's chatty to the point of irrelevance and occasionally off the mark. But I gave it 4 because when it's on, it's worth the read. The Jesus Scandals is not on academic par with Instone-Brewer's Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, summarized in a chapter in Scandals. It's a short, easy read.

An "off the mark" as well as chatty chapter for example, Is "Unfair Loans." The problems related to loans are described including Deuteronomy 23:20's prohibition against Jews charging fellow Jews interest and the various requirements for forgiveness of outstanding debts. Described is how this was circumvented by loaning money to the Temple and the priests would re-loan it to the poor to get around the forgiveness statutes they decided did not apply to the Temple. None of that is connected to Jesus in the text. The author offers that in the 1500's one family finally concluded that 5% interest was normative, interesting but irrelevant in context. Within the chapter the author speculates about the meaning of Luke 16:1-9, the parable of the unrighteous or dishonest steward, but speculates is the sense, there's nothing revealing in the tentative conclusion and certainly nothing "scandalous".

The chapter "Contemplating Suicide" is perplexing, suggesting but never supporting a thought no orthodox theologian would entertain.

Similarly the chapter on Mary Magdalene is far more about the misguided ramblings of the modern era and the chapter can be summed up in one of the final paragraphs:"It's this rewriting of her history that is the real scandal surrounding Mary Magdalen..."

Other chapters are more on track. Fraudulent Miracles sets the context for when Jesus' miracles were public and when he preferred to keep them private. Instone-Brewer's reference to the Greek word splagchnizomai, which he translates as "gut-wrenching" is a small revelation, the kind of thing that makes the book worth the time. Similarly "Shameful Execution" offers an though provoking context for crucifixion.

So it's a cheap short read with a half dozen nuggets that make it worth the effort.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Shock of Jesus 19 Nov. 2012
By ApologiaPhoenix - Published on
Format: Paperback
Back around Easter, I was listening to the radio program "Unbelievable?" when I heard that there was a give away of David Instone-Brewer's book "The Jesus Scandals." I was quite anxious to get it and thus entered the contest to win one of a number of copies given away. Fortunately, I happened to be one of the names drawn. It was only recently found out that the American winners had not yet received their copies so just a week or so ago, I got my copy.

The idea of the Jesus Scandals is that the gospels are more authentic due to the scandalous facts about the life of Jesus. Some of these we might not really think about in our Western society. For instance, I have a number of male friends who are not married. At this age, that can be common. In the time of the Jews, this was something to be avoided. After all, everyone was expected to be married and if you weren't, there had to be some strongly negative reason for that. The main one that would be pointed to would be Jesus's parentage. (Yeah right. Born of a virgin?) If your atheist friends are skeptical of this, it would not have been any different in a Jewish society. I have often been asked "Would you believe your spouse if she was pregnant and said it was of the Holy Spirit?" I would be hard-pressed in that situation and would probably be like Joseph and need a dream from God to believe otherwise.

We must keep in mind after all that the Bible only gives us snapshots of what happened. When Mary told Joseph about what happened, we can be sure that Joseph did not believe it immediately since it took a dream from God to stop his plans from divorcing her. Imagine then how it would be for Jesus in His ministry, especially when it was asked whose son He was and have the questioner be told "The son of Joseph, you know, THAT Joseph." Jesus had a huge black mark against Him.

Yet in the gospels, none of this is denied. The virgin birth is there to explain what happened and it would hardly have drawn sympathy. It would have made more sense to say something like "It was a tragedy that this young Jewish woman named Mary was raped, but the child grew up anyway and Joseph was a noble father who raised him like his own." No. Instead, it goes for the route that skepticism would go against, and that was that Jesus was of divine origin.

Why would the gospels contain such scandalous events? Because they could not be denied. These were events that were known by the common populace. The gospel authors had to explain them. They chose an odd way by affirming each of them, including the crucifixion and resurrection. I think a work like this could be read in tandem with J.P. Holding's "The Impossible Faith" to great benefit.

I do appreciate that Instone-Brewer has a chapter on disabilities in there. As many know, my wife and I both have Asperger's, and it made me consider that both of us would be shunned in the time of Jesus, but as we know today, we are not shunned. We were both on the Theopologetics podcast to talk about how the church can be more receiving of those with disabilities. Such a talk would not take place in the time of Jesus. That we do have this talk today shows how far we've come.

Instone-Brewer also shows his scholarly knowledge of the Rabbinic writings, but does so in a way that's not overbearing. The reader will not need a strong knowledge of the literature to know what Instone-Brewer is talking about. Fortunately, for those who do want more knowledge, he includes a list of recommended books in the back.

The chapters are also short enough that one could use them as a springboard at a church discussion group or could use the idea at a discussion around the water cooler. Each chapter can be read in only a few minutes and can provide plenty of food for thought for interesting discussion. Also, at the end of each chapter, Instone-Brewer includes an application piece that is relevant to what we are doing today.

I do think this book would be an interesting one for the person wanting to know more about the historical Jesus. The book uses the criterion of embarrassment to indicate that something is more likely to be true if it's embarrassing to the cause. Aside from that, there won't be much on historicity, but that was not the goal of this particular book.

This book thus comes with my recommendation. Do yourself a favor and buy it, or with Christmas coming, buy it for that non-Christian friend you have.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Scandalous, Shocking But True! This Book Presents A Whole Different Look At The Life of Christ! 29 Sept. 2012
By Harold Cameron - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Why He Shocked His Contemporaries (And Still Shocks Today)

"The author's aim is to help thinking lay persons and people preparing sermons to apply NT ethics within a modern culture, while still remaining faithful to the text - by taking into account the ancient culture. This is high quality scholarship at a very accessible level. Over the centuries Jesus's teaching on ethical matters has often become muted and distorted. This book sets the matter straight. Here are 30 areas of ethical debate: in each context Jesus offered insights which would have left his contemporaries agape." (From the publisher's website)

It seems that the masses today love a good scandal. That's why there are hundreds of scandal-filled tabloids published and sold worldwide - each offering pages and pages of slanderous and scandalous stories about famous people or people of some renown.

And so we have the story of Jesus Christ to consider along with the author. Dr. Brewer breaks his book down into 3 parts - each part in some way looking at the life of Christ and who he associated with and the scandals that were associated with them. In Part 1 author Brewer wrote about the alleged scandals in Jesus own life, in Part 2 he wrote about the alleged scandals among the friends of Jesus and finally in Part 3 he wrote about the alleged scandals in Jesus teaching. And it's worthy of note that the author had plenty of good potential evidence to use in building his case concerning "the Jesus Scandal."

For starters in Part 1 we have the author looking at the narrative of Christ's conception and birth to Mary...that he was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit and that Joseph, Mary's husband, did not have relations with her prior to Jesus birth. Even Joseph had some doubts as he considered "putting her away privately" because of what appeared to be infidelity on her part - that is until the Angel of the Lord revealed to him that the child inside Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that when Jesus was born, Joseph would call his name Jesus. Which the author notes was a unique factor because it was customary at that time for Jews to take their father's surname as theirs, but Joseph obeyed the Angel of the Lord and named him Jesus.

From the 1st chapter of the book to the last Dr. Brewer refers to plenty of Scripture to support his ultimate claim...but I'll get to that in a bit. Also in Part 1 Dr. Brewer points out the issues of Jesus' miracles and whether they were from God or not claiming that the matter of miracles was distasteful and "embarrassing" to the Jews. Some of the other "scandals" the author writes about in the life of Jesus include what he refers to as "Alcohol Abuse, (that Jesus was a winebibber); "Disruptive Worship and the Exposing of Temple Scams," his "Shameful Execution" and finally His "Embarrassing Resurrection." Imagine trying to convince the masses of that fact - that some guy conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit and lived a very good, moral and exemplary life, and who made claims that he was God, was ultimately publicly crucified, (so there's no denying that fact), only then to be raised from the dead. Were it not for the testimonies of the Apostles and countless others it would seem a pretty scandalous and unbelievable story. Could it really be? The answer which Dr. Brewer gives us in his book is a resounding YES.

Then there was the matter of Jesus friends. Dr. Brewer shares with us what the Bible does and that is that Jesus hung out with some pretty unsavory and sinful people in his day. His crowd was not the kind of crowd that the Jews would have taken much of a liking to. Author Brewer lists some of Jesus friends and the scandals associated with them - First, there was Mary Magdalene who had seven demons in her and most likely acted pretty strange; Judas Iscariot, who sold Jesus out for cash, some of his disciples such as Matthew who was a tax-collector, (which did not make him at all popular with the Jews), "The Unchosen" and unwanted of the society in which Jesus lived, "The Cursed" and "The Prostitutes." Such were the kind of people that Jesus hung out with on a regular basis and was quite comfortable being around. Surely, if he were the Son of God and God in the flesh he would not have hung out with the riff raff crowd he did...or if he really were the Son of God and very God would he have associated himself with such people? The answer might just surprise you. Dr. Brewer in his book comparing Scripture with Scripture as well as historical writings from that time period writes YES He would and He did.

Then finally there was the problem with Jesus' Teaching and that was a major bone of contention for the Jewish spiritual leaders of his day. Some of the topics of Christ's teaching that Dr. Brewer examines include "Child Abuse," (Jesus stated that if anyone caused one of his little ones, a child, to stumble- which the author states has a sexual connotation, it would have been better that a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea); "Hypocrisy," (he blasted the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and calloused indifference to the spiritual and physical needs of the people of that day), "Oaths and Curses," Good and Bad Luck," God-Sent Disasters," "Unforgivable Blasphemy," and finally "Eternal Torment." Without knowing the context of the Scriptures that relates these teachings of Christ as well as the Old Testament Scriptures behind what Jesus taught, one would want to sign him up for a Dale Carnegie Course on "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Because as the author writes, when Jesus taught what he did quite often he stirred up quite a hornet's nest. It was so bad that the religious leaders absolutely hated Christ and plotted his death waiting for the opportune time. And when it came they took advantage of it and had him crucified. So, this Jesus, who started out in life with more than a few points against him, who then hung out with some very undesirable and unsavory people, who throughout his adult life and ministry taught that he was the Son of Man, Son of God, and even God himself - which by the way was the ultimate blasphemy to the ruling Jewish spiritual leaders, could this man who seemed to be surrounded by so much scandal really be who he stated he was? Well, Dr. Brewer believes so and states as much in his very insightful book about Jesus. And you know what? I have to agree with him. I hope you will read his book and agree with him as well about who Jesus really is...that he truly was and is the Son of God and God.

Dr David Instone-Brewer is Senior Research Fellow and Technical Officer at Tyndale House, Cambridge. A Baptist minister, his hobby is computer programming. A rabbinic scholar, he is author of many academic and popular articles, and of `Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities', published by Paternoster.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, Monarch Books for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Scandal in Sandals 19 July 2012
By James R. V. Matichuk - Published on
Format: Paperback
David Instone-Brewer has made scandal his business. He is a Baptist minister, biblical scholar and Senior Research Fellow at Tyndale House, Cambridge. As scandalous as ministry and academia may be, it is not his profession which provides scandal. Scandal is his professional interest. In particular, he reads the Gospels with an eye for what sort of scandals are evident in the life of Jesus, his followers and his teaching. Why? Because scandals self-authenticate Christian truth claims. As Instone-Brewer writes:

"Scandals are the best guarantee of historical truth in the Gospels. When disgraceful, embarrassing and shocking details about Jesus are recorded by his friends and supporters, it is much harder to disbelieve them.
Jesus was accused of being a bastard, blaspheming, abusing alcohol, partying with prostitutes, being mad and working for Satan-in other words, scandal followed him. And a huge part of his teaching and ministry tackled head-on the scandals that pervaded society and would therefore have been regarded as scandalous by his audience (11).:

Many of these `coffee-break-length' chapters first appeared as columns in Christianity magazine (the rough UK equivalent to Christianity Today). So while Instone-Brewer is a scholar by day, this book is written for a popular audience. I will enthusiastically recommend this book for anyone interested in Jesus (i.e. Christians, seekers, apologists, evangelists, exegetes, the Doobie Brothers, etc.). I found it eye-opening.

The book's three parts discuss the different realms of scandal which surround Jesus: his life, his friends, and his teaching. Instone-Brewer brings his knowledge of first century Judaism and Roman culture to bear on New Testament texts and is able to uncover scandal in texts which contemporary readers may miss, which reveals fresh insights. For example, Instone-Brewer discusses how Jesus' illegitimate birth actually made him an ineligible bachelor, or nearly so. He also discusses the ways in which his healing miracles, his table manners, his `alcohol abuse,' and the way his triumphal entry was socially suspect by the religious establishment, his confrontation of the temple money lenders and the events surrounding his crucifixion. I especially liked his discussion of Jesus' arrest warrant (preserved in Jewish literature) and the ways in which subsequent Jewish generations censored and rewrote the warrant. Instone-Brewer makes the case that the original warrant, describing the execution of Jesus on Passover for sorcery and enticing Israel, has the ring of truth to it but various additions by the rabbis seek to alleviate the scandal of it being an illegal trial, on one of Judaism's high holy days, and ways in which a charge of sorcery added validity to claims that Jesus' miracles were genuine.

Instone-Brewer's insights into Jesus' scandalous friendships were likewise revealing. Yes he talks about the way Jesus was friends with tax collectors and sinners (i.e. prostitutes) and he spills some ink clarifying Jesus' relationship to Mary Magdalene (not a prostitute but formerly possessed or possibly mentally ill). One aspect which I found interesting was his comparison of Jesus' disciples (who were at best second rate) with the disciples of the great rabbis which were extolled for their virtue and understanding. The way in which Jesus conducted his ministry and those with whom he spent time, was at complete loggerheads with the religious establishment of his day.

David Instone-Brewer
Perhaps the most fascinating part of this book for me is Instone-Brewer's discussion of Jesus' teaching. Two aspects of Jesus teaching with Instone-Brewer illuminates are his teaching about divorce and abuse. Instone-Brewer argues that when the religious leaders ask Jesus, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause? (Matt. 19:3)," they are using coded legal language. Divorce for `any cause' is roughly equivalent to the modern concept of a `no-fault' divorce. Jesus rejected these grounds and arguing that marriage should be a life long commitment; however this does not, and should not mean that a neglected or abused spouse should stay in a marriage (Jesus was not discussing the case of abuse but the idea of a `any cause' divorce.

However Jesus does appear to address child sexual abuse when he says, "It would have been better for them if they'd had a millstone hung around there neck and cast into the sea than to have caused one of these little ones to stumble. (Matt. 18:6, Mark 9:42). The word stumble (skandalizo) most often refers to sexual sin within Jewish Greek literature. According to Instone-Brewer, Jesus is decrying sexual abuse of children, because of its long term consequences (a sexually abused youth becomes an abuser or continues to be abused).

As may be evident from the sample of topics I just profiled, Instone-Brewer is great at drawing comparisons between Jesus and his contemporaries. There are a lot of other aspects which Instone-Brewer explores (there are 29 chapters to his book). The short stand alone chapters makes this an easy book to read and it also means that you cover a lot of ground.

Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for this review.
Very interesting book! 18 July 2012
By Sonya Jeffords - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a very interesting book which puts Jesus Christ and what he did and taught into the context of the culture he lived in, and how his life and teachings were in a way scandalous. The reason to look for scandals, according to the author, is that they are the "best guarantee of historical truth in the Gospels" (pg. 11) "Scandals are the inconvenient truths which the Gospels could not omit without being dismissed as fiction by their first readers. If there had been no scandals, the Gospel writers wouldn't have invented them--why create potential reasons for people to dismiss Jesus? And if there were scandals, the original readers would remember, so the Gospel writers had to mention them and make a reply."

This book is divided into three parts. Part 1 is Scandals in Jesus' Life. Chapter titles in this section of the book are: Illegitimate Birth, Ineligible Bachelor, Fraudulent Miracles, Bad Table Manners, Alcohol Abuse, Disruptive Worship, Exposing Temple Scams, Supplanting Passover, Contemplating Suicide, Censored Arrest Warrant, Shameful Execution and Embarrassing Resurrection.

Part two is titled Scandals Among Jesus' Friends. Chapter titles here are: Mary Magdalene, Judas Iscariot, Second-rate Disciples, The Unchosen, The Cursed, and Prostitutes.

Part 3 is Scandals in Jesus' Teachings. Chapter titles in this section are Child Abuse, Hypocrisy, Polygamy, No-Fault Divorce, Marital Abuse, Unfair Loans, Oaths and Curses, Bitterness and Hatred, Good and Bad Luck, God-sent Disasters, Unforgivable Blasphemy and Eternal Torment.

What I really like about this book is that the events of Christ's life are given the cultural context to show how these events were received and why by the people of that time. References are given to other texts from that time period to back up the information that is presented. It's a very interesting book and very helpful to me to know more of the cultural background. Some things from the Gospel accounts make more sense when put into the perspective of the people of that time.

That said, some of the information presented I found difficult to believe. In one place the author claims that the lifespan of people during this time was 30 years, and in another he writes that it was 50 years. That was a little confusing to me, though it did occur to me that perhaps the 30 was a typo. I also find it interesting that based on the language used in this book, it seems the author believes the mainstream teaching that Christ was crucified on Friday and resurrected on Sunday. There were other parts of the book as well that I doubted, but it is certainly a good starting point for researching these thoughts myself. This book definitely gave me a lot to think about, and I plan to go through this book again sometime when I am able to also look through all the documents referenced.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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