Standing at the intersection of historical-Jesus research and the popular evangelical slogan "WWJD?," this book asks: If we are going to base our ethics on what Jesus would do, wouldn't it help to know what he did? Spencer, who teaches New Testament at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond, surveys the evidence through an innovative set of lenses. How did Jesus treat his family? Not as well as proponents of "family values" might like. How about his friends? Spencer explores how Jesus' willingness to rebuke associates like Peter fit in with ancient ideals of friendship. How did Jesus care for his own body? What were his attitudes towards work, money and sex? Spencer answers by retelling the events of the gospels, informed by an impressive breadth of recent scholarship (though, curiously, Spencer largely neglects the essential contributions of N.T. Wright). If he occasionally lapses into scholastic vocabulary ("open commensality," "supererogatory practices"), most of his prose sparkles with wit and insight, as in this comment on Jesus' kosher observance: "The gospels feature two `pig tales' involving Jesus, and in neither does Jesus consume any pork or accord the poor pig any dignity." To be sure, Spencer is covering well-trodden ground. But it's hard to think of another book that avoids so well the twin hazards of corrosive irreverence and excessive piety in retelling the unlikely life of Jesus.
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"Spencer provides an informative, lucid, and often witty discussion of how Jesus conducted himself and interacted with others in his first-century world. He treats matters of relevant interest to Christians today and engages the challenges they inevitably face in taking the life of Jesus as a model of discipleship. The book is both academically responsible and fun to read-this popular focus and chatty style should make it a real treat for readers in churches and classrooms alike."--Mark Allan Powell, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary (Mark Allan Powell)
"In posing the question, "What would Jesus do? This very readable book provides a fresh perspective on Jesus as a norm for contemporary behavior. Spencer attempts to create a bridge between 1st and 21st century ethics by focusing on gospel portraits of Jesus' own personal conduct."-Gail R. O'Day, A.H. Professor of New Testament and Preaching, Chandler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA (Gail R. O'Day)
"As a New Testament scholar and a Christian, F. Scott Spencer meets halfway those Christians who, though largely unfamiliar with biblical scholarship, are eager to ask "What would Jesus do?" as a guide for their own ethical actions. Spencer's cleverly titled book, What Did Jesus Do?, is not a scholarly reconstruction of the historical Jesus but a portrayal of the narrated actions of the composite (not harmonized) canonical Jesus, especially actions that might be labeled "personal ethics," in the context of the first-century Mediterranean world. Thus while Spencer shares an interest in ethical guidance with his audience, he aims to challenge his audience to be guided by a Jesus understood within his own (ancient) context rather than a fabricated twenty-first-century North American Jesus who too easily confirms without challenging accepted values."-Elizabeth Struthers Malbon Professor of Religious Studies Center for Interdisciplinary Studies Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Elizabeth Struthers Malbon)
"In Trying to Grapple with ethical dilemmas, this lively and helpful book takes as its starting point the slogan often heard today: " What would Jesus do?" Spencer, who is a professor of New Testament at Baptist Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, respects the earnest spirit of the question but is aware that the answer has to be comples. He focuses on the four Gospels and gives attention to how they portray the conduct and teaching of jesus, especially in regard to personal ethical issues. The author selects six key topics: family, friends, body, money, work, and issues of honor. In each case he offers a thoughtful grappling with the gospel materials and draws out the inherent values and perspectives in a way that respects the complexities of the text but also communicates with a modern lay reader."-Father Donald Senior C.P., The Bible Today, Nov. Dec. 2003 (Father Donald Senior C.P. The Bible Today)
"A lucid, engaging look at the personal life and conduct of Jesus of Nazareth, this book plays off the popular 'what would Jesus do?' question. Spencer offers an informed, honest, and challenging alternative: 'What did Jesus do?' This book will be an effective resource for classes in both biblical studies and ethics. It also could be used in adult church educational contexts." -Choice (CHOICE)
"What Did Jesus Do? is a balanced and perceptive book that provides a detailed examination of Jesus' behavior as recorded in the four Gospels. Spencer offers numerous insights into the mind of the most fully human being that has ever lived...The highest compliment one can pay to any writer of a book about Jesus is that it brings us closer to its subject. What Did Jesus Do? is scholarly yet surprisingly pastoral. No reader can fail to be enriched and enlightened by Spencer's easy prose and fearless probing into the perfect life that Christ lived." -Prism, March/April 2004