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Jesus among Friends and Enemies

A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels

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This engaging text offers a fresh alternative to standard introductions to Jesus. Combining literary and sociohistorical approaches and offering a tightly integrated treatment, a team of highly respected scholars examines how Jesus’s friends and enemies respond to him in the Gospel narratives. It is the first book to introduce readers to the rich portraits of Jesus in the Gospels by surveying the characters who surround him in those texts—from John the Baptist, the disciples, and the family of Jesus to Satan, Pontius Pilate, and Judas Iscariot (among others). Contributors include Richard J. Bauckham, Warren Carter, and Edith M. Humphrey.


Introduction: Jesus outside and inside the New Testament Chris Keith Part 1: The Friends of Jesus 1. God and Angels Edith M. Humphrey 2. John the Baptist Michael F. Bird 3. The Disciples Warren Carter 4. The Family of Jesus Richard J. Bauckham 5. Other Friends of Jesus: Mary Magdalene, the Bethany Family, and the Beloved Disciple Dieter T. Roth 6. Secret Disciples: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea David M. Allen Part 2: The Enemies of Jesus 7. Satan and Demons Loren T. Stuckenbruck 8. The Jewish Leaders Anthony Le Donne 9. Political Authorities: The Herods, Caiaphas, and Pontius Pilate Helen K. Bond 10. Judas Iscariot: The Betrayer of Jesus Holly J. Carey Conclusion: Seeking the Historical Jesus among Friends and Enemies Chris Keith with Larry W. Hurtado Indexes


"It is innovative to ask historical questions about Jesus and the Gospels without getting caught up in the quagmire of the authenticity criteria, and this book is innovative because different authors bring different methods to the texts. And what better topic--asking what Jesus's friends and enemies thought of him! Time and time again we are taken to the Gospels themselves to see how the narratives shape our understanding of Jesus. It is the breadth of the testimony of these narratives that makes this book sparkle."

Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

"The recipe for this book is brilliantly simple: get to know Jesus through those who knew him. Seek out both friends and enemies. Interview family and foreigners, disciples and detractors, men and women. Confer not only with secret allies but also with public opponents, with loyalists as well as traitors. Find out what drew each group toward Jesus or scared them away. Into this mix stir what modern scholars are saying about the impressions Jesus left on the Romans and Jews of his day and about the most responsible ways to read the Gospels. Simmer. Season with clear prose. Serve. Jesus among Friends and Enemies is a great read, a rich introduction to Jesus and his world, and a fresh addition to the often-bland menu of Jesus studies."

Bruce Fisk, associate professor of New Testament, Westmont College

"A fascinating concept for a collaborative book on the historical Jesus--to see him through the biblical and extrabiblical stories about his friends and enemies. This book covers it all, providing clear and robust historical and literary examinations of Jesus from our knowledge of John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, Caiaphas, Pilate, Judas Iscariot, and more. This book will inspire classes."

April DeConick, Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Biblical Studies, Rice University; author of Holy Misogyny: Why the Sex and Gender Conflicts in the Early Church Still Matter

"An outstanding teaching resource, Jesus among Friends and Enemies offers a balanced and comprehensive collection of essays treating the historical contexts and narrative methods of ancient Christian and Jewish writers. Though Jesus and the New Testament Gospels are the primary focus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, non-Christian discussions of Jesus, writings associated with apocalyptic Judaism, and noncanonical Gospel traditions are also addressed, providing readers with a rich store of comparative data from which to assess canonical descriptions of Jesus, his friends, and his enemies. Keith and Hurtado are to be congratulated for this superior contribution to the study of Jesus in the Gospels."

Jennifer Knust, assistant professor of New Testament and Christian origins, Boston University

"The essays in this volume bring a fresh approach to the question, Who was Jesus? by combining the best elements of historical research and narrative criticism. Approaching the Jesus question from the outside in, the contributors reflect both on what can be known historically about the figures who surround him in the Gospels and on how these figures function within the respective narratives as foils to create distinct portraits of Christ. In the process, the essays provide an excellent overview of both the reception-history of characters in the Gospels and the ways that they can contribute to our understanding of the historical Jesus. The content of the discussion will be of interest to scholars, while the accessible presentation will make this book a valuable resource for students."

Tom Thatcher, professor of New Testament, Cincinnati Christian University

The Authors

  1. Chris Keith

    Chris Keith

    Chris Keith (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is professor of New Testament and early Christianity and director of the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible at St. Mary's University, Twickenham. He was a 2010 recipient of the John Templeton Award...

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  2. Larry W. Hurtado

    Larry W. Hurtado

    Larry W. Hurtado (1943-2019; PhD, Case Western Reserve University) was professor of New Testament language, literature, and theology at the University of Edinburgh. An internationally respected New Testament scholar, he was an expert on the Gospels, the...

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"A distinctive introduction to the quest for the identity of Jesus and an invitation to readers to reflect on their own stance in relationship to the Nazarene."

Beverly Roberts Gaventa,

Christian Century

"This collaborative work of several New Testament scholars takes a novel and fruitful approach to learning about the historical Jesus and the Jesus of the gospels. . . . The goal is to help the reader cumulatively to see the full dimensions of the Jesus of the gospels through the eyes of those who surround him in the gospel dramas."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"This book is designed to be an introduction to both the historical evidence that informs reading of the Gospels and the literary dimension of the Gospels. As an introduction, it achieves both aims very well. First-year students enrolled in an introduction to the Gospels course could easily read individual chapters and gain both a good understanding of the historical background of particular people/offices and also ascertain the contribution of each character to the Gospels. . . . The conclusion in particular contains a good summary of the quests for the historical Jesus and a critical appraisal of some of the key methods used."

Matthew D. Jensen,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"Neither a textbook on the historical Jesus nor a survey of each individual Gospel written about him, Jesus among Friends and Enemies, with its imaginative angle on the subject, offers an innovative yet accessible point of entry for students of the New Testament Gospels. Keith and Hurtado have assembled an impressive array of leading scholars. . . . [The concluding chapter] alone will make it a valuable resource for classroom discussion in a course on Jesus and the Gospels for the insight that it provides into the dynamics of the ever-changing field of biblical scholarship and the rise and fall of methodologies and critical approaches. . . . Every chapter concludes with helpful suggestions for further reading and most are accompanied by student-friendly text boxes and sidebars with definitions of key terms and discussions of related issues. . . . As an introductory volume this text hits all the right notes, introducing students to the most salient background material and making clear its relevance to the study of the Gospels without overwhelming novices with arcane details. A convenient and reliable resource for teachers and undergraduates alike, this is one textbook that students will not want to part with after the close of the semester."

Daniel Frayer-Griggs,

Reviews in Religion & Theology

"[The] discussions demonstrate a clear mastery of the relevant ancient evidence and a mature reading of the canonical texts. . . . The volume is a useful contribution to the crowded field of literary studies of the gospels, and the multiple indices and ample bibliography increases its value, particularly for those new to the literary study of the gospels."

Thomas E. Phillips,

Religious Studies Review

"The contributions are all very readable and successfully include sources as well as scholarly debates. . . . A recommendable introduction not only to the characters described, but also to large parts of New Testament scholarship."

Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer,

Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Every chapter almost serves as a dictionary entry on its respective character(s) with the authors condensing much historical data and presenting the literary depictions of the character(s) in each gospel into an accessible, easy-to-read essay. This wealth of information is the key strength of the book and will be useful to the reader as an entry point to the study of the individuals and groups examined in this volume. In addition to this, the work contains numerous sidebars that introduce and briefly explain more technical concepts to the non-expert. . . . The introductory nature of this book makes it especially suitable for the editors' intended audience: the undergraduate student. . . . This is a book that takes a pioneering approach to the question of Jesus' identity and deserves the attention of both student and scholar."

Frank Dicken,

Expository Times

"This outstanding textbook presents the Gospels not merely as literature to be deconstructed or history to be eyed with suspicion, but as complex 'Jesus Memory' from Christianity's earliest adherents, urging the reader to consider the question 'Who was (or is) Jesus?' by examining how New Testament storytellers posed answers to that very question."

Joshua Smith and David M. May,

Review and Expositor

"A fascinating investigation. . . . The essay writers are all published scholars in the area of Jesus research. . . . Although the majority of these scholars are from the United Kingdom, there is a good variety of educational institutions represented. . . . Each essay follows the same format of examining the noncanonical literature and then examining the Gospels one by one, which provides a helpful consistency in the study. Periodic callout explanations are beneficial for students and lay people. . . . [This volume] can be helpful to pastors, students, and teachers. The premise of this book could make a good sermon series, and it certainly reveals helpful information about Jesus."

James R. Wicker,

Southwestern Journal of Theology

"The volume is produced in such a way as to fit well as part of an introductory course on the Gospels. Chapters are sized appropriately for classroom use. Sidebars are found throughout the book, giving basic description to all sorts of texts, people, and academic jargon. . . . This book is a fine resource to have at one's disposal as a teacher or student. Whenever I have a question about John the Baptist or one of the Herods, I know I can turn to this resource for cutting edge research and good, succinct summaries of the state of scholarship. . . . It will be on my list for resources for advanced study."

Nijay Gupta,

"A fascinating book. . . . One of these reasons this collection is valuable is that a few of the chapters cover characters that are not the usual fodder for a historical Jesus study. While there are a number of books on John the Baptist or Judas, there are few that are interested in Mary Magdalene, the Bethany Family, and the Beloved Disciple, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. Overall I find this a worthy collection that offers some detailed study of characters in the Gospels that are rarely examined closely."

Phillip J. Long,

Reading Acts blog