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Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory Hardcover – October 10, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"Recent books on the historical Jesus illustrate how compelling scholars and general readers alike find the topic of Jesus' death. But these books also illustrate a major problem-some studies depend upon some grand interpretive theory, while others rivet their attention on exegetical details and disregard developmental questions. Widely read, Scot McKnight does both. He moves back and forth with careful transitions between contemporary hermeneutics and the ancient texts. As he does so, he also provides a rich and often entertaining account of the secondary literature. The volume can be read both as an address of its central questions and as a well-informed introduction to New Testament theology."―Bruce Chilton, Bard College

"This is a brave book. With due awareness of the historical traps and with a mastery of the recent relevant literature, McKnight here asks the crucial question, How did Jesus interpret his own death? His answer, which hearkens back to Albert Schweitzer, does full justice to Jesus' eschatological outlook and makes good sense within a first-century Jewish context. Even those who see things differently―I do not―will enjoy how the detailed and rigorous argument develops and will find themselves learning a great deal."―Dale C. Allison Jr., Errett M. Grabe Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

"Scot McKnight is fully aware that making claims about the historical Jesus is like entering a minefield. But he combines wide-ranging knowledge of and a willingness to interact with the extensive literature to build a careful, brick-by-brick argument. The sheer breadth of issues covered separates this work from what might otherwise have been its competitors. In ways reminiscent of Stephen Neil, McKnight also has written a book that is never dry or dull."―Joel B. Green, Dean and Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary

"McKnight has provided in Jesus and His Death a very dense, scholarly, meticulous discussion of how Jesus perceived his death. His conclusions are largely convincing He is lucid and clear, and I highly recommend it for those who are willing."―Johnny Walker, FREEDOM IN ORTHODOXY Christian Origins, Theology and Philosophy

About the Author

Scot McKnight is Profesor of New Testament at Northern Seminary and author or editor of twelve books, including The Historical Jesus (2005), Turning to Jesus (2002), and Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (1992).

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 590 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press (October 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932792295
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932792294
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,615,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loren Rosson III on November 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Against a strong North American trend which views the question of Jesus' understanding of his death as misguided, Scot McKnight assumes as likely that Jesus thought he would die prematurely, in the providence of God, and would probably die at the hands of elites who saw his movement as a potential source of rebellion. "It only makes sense," he states, "that one who thought he would die, who on other grounds considered himself a prophet, also tried to make sense of that death". Jewish leaders like this regularly looked to prototypes from the Hebrew Bible in order to make sense of death and destiny.

The book is suspenseful as it works from a more general discussion of how Jesus made sense of his prophetic mission, to the idea that he thought he would die prematurely, to exactly how he made sense of that death. The Old Testament scripts used by Jesus -- the Psalmist's Son of Man, Elijah, Joshua, and Micah, Isaiah's suffering servant, and Daniel's apocalyptic Son of Man -- helped him make sense of his prophetic mission in light of the tribulation period, the opposition he faced, and the expected vindication/resurrection of him and his followers. But none offer a reliable window onto how he saw his death, and the ransom saying of Mk 10:45/Mt 20:28 is doubtfully historical.

Where the author finally locates Jesus' understanding of his death is in the eucharist account. His analysis of the last supper is the best available and alone worth the price of the book. Not since Jeremias has the eucharist been so carefully weighed and considered against the background of Judaic passover.
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Format: Hardcover
McKnight is a fine writer, and this book, although clearly aimed at scholars, would be an enjoyable read for anyone with an interest in biblical scholarship.

Here is a sample of his writing style: "soon thereafter a big group of scholars (the Jesus Seminar) ignored his sign, came upon the pond, tossed in some lines, and found...authentic" (p 122) saying of Jesus.

As Jenkins and Schweitzer have argued, much of the so-called 'historical' Jesus research of the last two hundred years has added up to..."nothing; we are 'imposing' pleasing narratives about our own ideologies in order to assert our own power" (p 12). And as Schweitzer pointed out so long ago, none of the scholarship has found the truth behind the claims of the church. All it has shown so far is whatever the current fad of the moment is, such as Bultmann discovering the existentialism of Jesus the moment existentialism was a scholarly fad.

So McKnight sets out to discover if Christians for the last 2,000 years have misinterpreted Jesus. Fundamental to that question is how Jesus understood his life and death.

During his lifetime, Jesus was accused of being a drunkard, a glutton, of being in league with Satan, and of breaking Jewish law. And it also seems clear he announced himself king of the Jews, the inheritor of the Davidic lineage,

McKnight concludes that Jesus "thought his premature death was part...of God's providential plan in history" (p 336). Certainly even "prior to Paul" (p 341) the crucifixion of Jess "was perceived in temple imagery and sacrificial terms" (p 341).

The earliest Christians thought of the crucifixion as a victory for God, however it might appear to the world. Jesus became a second Adam, a sacrificial lamb and a new type of Moses.

A book that will interest anyone who enjoys biblical scholarship.
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Format: Hardcover
The significance of the death of Jesus for the Christian faith cannot be overemphasized. From the theologizing of the St. Paul, to the dubious efforts of Anselm, all the way to the theologia crucis of Luther and Moltmann, the cross of Jesus has been central to Christian theology and praxis. Thus, it is surprising how few recent Jesus scholars have contemplated Jesus' own view of his death. In North American scholarship it has become all too common to simply assume that Jesus neither foresaw nor interpreted his impending execution. Rather, it was an unfortunate, tragic death of a man who had sold out for his movement, and who happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, upsetting the wrong people. In order to fill this massive lacuna in research and to combat this "unknowing victim" line of thinking, Scot Mcknight has produced a near comprehensive assessment of the issue in Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory.

Before I sketch out my thoughts here, I'd like to thank Baylor University Press for once again, graciously sending me a copy of one of their volumes. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to partner with them through my reviews. I am truly impressed by the number of phenomenal books put out by BUP in the last decade. Many thanks!

Now that my adulation is complete, it is time to consider the value of McKnight's Jesus and His Death.

McKnight commences with a discussion of the nature and purpose of historical Jesus research. As is promised in the book's subtitle, it here that he considers modern historiography and its estranged child, postmodern historical theory.
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