The book by Chris Keith; Jesus against the Scribal Elite (Baker Academic, 2014) is one of those standing on my preferred reading list this fall. And having a brief look last weekend at the first pages, I met the following description that I both found amusing, pertinent, and well formed. And it certainly wet my appetite to read on (p. 5):
Matthew 23’s Jesus is not a vacation Bible school Jesus or a seeker-sensitive Jesus. That Jesus’s hair is nice and combed. His robes are sparkling white, and his face is aglow as he hovers about six inches off the ground. He hugs people a lot, speaks in calm tones, and pats little children on the head as he tells his audience, only four chapters earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, that the kingdom belongs “to such as these” (Matt 19:14…). The Jesus of Matt. 23 is of a different sort. He is fired up and within a word or two of unleashing some profanity in the style of a high school football coach. This Jesus’s hair is untamed. His clothes are beaten and tattered from a semitransient lifestyle. His face and neck are reddended by the Palestinian sun, and his feet are blistered, cracked, and calloused. There is a wild look in his eyes, sweat pouring down his forehead, and spit flying off his lips when he yells, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23,25 ,27, 29; 23:16). His message ends not with a head pat to a child and and aphorism about the kingdom, but with tales of murder and bloodshed (23:34-37).
When you finish reading Jesus tirade against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23, you might need a deep breath. Those who have grown all too accustomed to the teddy-bear Jesus may need to reasess wholesale their idea of Jesus. At the worst, we can point to thids text and affirm that, when early Christians such as Matthew commemorated Jesus’s life in the form of narrative Gospels, they portrayed a Jewish teacher who was embroiled in heated controversy with other Jewish teachers and gave as good as he got.”
One of the reasons why I had to stop a moment at this description, is certainly that I on the one hand know the teddy-bear Jesus all to well, but also – in spite of some exaggerations- I found that author’s focus on Matt. 23 interesting and appealing.
I am loking forward to continue reading this book!