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Passions of the Christ

The Emotional Life of Jesus in the Gospels

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New Testament scholar F. Scott Spencer focuses on a neglected area in the study of Jesus and the Gospels: the emotional life of Jesus.

The topic of emotions is a burgeoning area of study across humanities and science fields. This book offers a fresh reading of the Gospels through the lens of Jesus's emotions--anger, grief, disgust, surprise, compassion, and joy. These emotions motivate Jesus's mission and reveal to Gospel readers what matters most to him. Amid his passions, Jesus forges his character as God's incarnate Messiah, wholly embodied and emotionally engaged with others and thoroughly embedded in the surrounding environment.

Passions of the Christ is well suited as a supplemental text for New Testament or Gospels courses. It will also be of interest to New Testament scholars.


Part 1: Mission Im/passible: Theory and Theology
1. Emotion Theory and the Passional Christ
2. The Pathos Logic of Theology and Christology
Part 2: The Virtue of Jesus's Vehement Emotions
3. That's Enough! The Angry Jesus
4. That's Heart Rending! The Anguished Jesus in Ministry
5. That's Soul Crushing! The Anguished Jesus at the End
6. That's Gross! The Disgusted Jesus
Part 3: The Power of Jesus's Positive Emotions
7. That's Amazing! The Surprised Jesus
8. What's Love Got to Do with It? The Compassionate Jesus and Pastoral Ministry
9. What's Love Got to Do with It? The Compassionate Jesus and Discipleship
10. That's Good! The Joyous Jesus
Epilogue: Final Thoughts about Jesus's Emotions


"I highly recommend this book to anyone wondering if Jesus might have felt anything as both human and 'as God's Son.' I also suggest reading this for the beauty of the writing and the sophisticated interweaving of interdisciplinary research. Spencer reads the Gospels with fresh attention to a matter of Jesus studies that previous generations of scholars dismissed--namely, human passions and emotions as essential ingredients in human experience. May the next generation of scholars be so bold and courageous in interpretative endeavors and go about the work of biblical studies in such novel and needed forms!"

Shively T. J. Smith, assistant professor of New Testament, Boston University

"Only a scholar who has spent decades on the topic could deliver the excellent and nuanced study that Spencer provides here. His wide-ranging discussion of emotions as understood from both ancient philosophical and contemporary psychological and neurological studies illumines the reports of Jesus's emotions in the Gospels--those usually seen as negative as well as those we view as positive. But even beyond this, Spencer demonstrates how studies of emotions can help us overcome the limitations imposed by Enlightenment-bound understandings of the nature of God, of the incarnation, and of our own human nature. This is a welcome introduction to those not familiar with the study of emotion in biblical texts, and it is an advance of the discussion for scholars in the field."

Jerry L. Sumney, professor of biblical studies, Lexington Theological Seminary

"Combining a close exegetical reading of the Gospels with ancient and modern approaches to emotion study, Spencer provides a truly interdisciplinary exploration into the emotional life of Jesus. The result is a thorough, stimulating, and provocative work that challenges us to confront the passions of Christ. Anyone interested in the study of emotions in the Bible will find this volume enriching and informative."

Te-Li Lau, associate professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"In Passions of the Christ, Scott Spencer demonstrates that Jesus is far from passionless in the Gospels. Instead, the Gospels portray Jesus embodying a variety of intersecting emotions, including anger, anguish, disgust, surprise, compassion, and joy. With exegetical insight and theoretical nuance, Spencer provides an engaging, richly textured account of these emotions and how they contribute to Jesus's mission and identity as the incarnate one. Passions of the Christ is a welcome addition to the study of emotions in the Bible and will be of interest to pastors, students, and scholars alike."

Brittany E. Wilson, associate professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School

"Passions of the Christ has made me realize my own misguided tendency to pass quickly over places where the Gospels highlight Jesus's emotions. In this wise and approachable book, Scott Spencer explains many of those passages' deep importance for understanding the Gospels' testimony about Jesus, his interactions with others, and the priorities of his ministry. I've been changed, and joyfully so!"

Matthew L. Skinner, professor of New Testament, Luther Seminary

"In Passions of the Christ, F. Scott Spencer has done an extremely impressive job of combining erudite New Testament exegesis with his vast knowledge of ancient and contemporary philosophy, theology, and psychological research on emotions. By highlighting the value of giving proper attention to the emotions of Jesus as they are described in the Gospels, Spencer not only enriches his readers' understanding of the passionate Christ but also illuminates often overlooked emphases in each pericope discussed. In short, this book is a highly valuable interdisciplinary approach to the study of the Gospels' portrayals of Jesus."

Kathy Barrett Dawson, East Carolina University

The Author

  1. F. Scott Spencer
    James Webber

    F. Scott Spencer

    F. Scott Spencer (PhD, University of Durham) is the New Testament general editor for The SBL Study Bible. He was a tenured professor at both Wingate University (North Carolina) and the Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond (Virginia). Spencer is the...

    Continue reading about F. Scott Spencer