Recovering Jesus

The Witness of the New Testament

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Word Guild 2008 Writing Award

"This is an excellent book, and would be a superb textbook for courses on Jesus and the Gospels."--Bruce Longenecker, Journal for the Study of the New Testament
 
Who is the real Jesus, and why does he matter?

In Recovering Jesus: The Witness of the New Testament, respected New Testament scholar Thomas Yoder Neufeld offers an accessible and thorough introduction to the life of Jesus. Yoder Neufeld starts with the Jesus revealed in the Gospels, covering his birth, teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection. He builds on this account by assessing recent scholarly and popular studies, including the argument that the historical Jesus is revealed in the Gnostic gospels and other noncanonical texts. The result is a useful guide into the morass of current scholarship.

In a true teaching spirit, the author provides a comprehensive approach without overwhelming the introductory reader or student. He clearly explains the nuances of complex issues without oversimplification. Recovering Jesus is thus an invaluable text for undergraduate and seminary students, as well as a helpful resource in nonacademic settings for both believers and nonbelievers. In the end, readers will come to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and why he matters.


Endorsements

"Thomas Yoder Neufeld has provided readers with 'the raw material and some of the skill with which to jump into the fray' of the debates about Jesus. This highly readable book has been carefully honed through years of undergraduate teaching by a scholar who often preaches and teaches in church settings. Well informed and with enviable clarity, Neufeld presents the fruit of the best critical Jesus scholarship--hospitable for students in the pluralistic context of the university classroom. Anyone interested in the Jesus we encounter in the New Testament will turn these pages with great interest and profit."--Graham H. Twelftree, Regent University

"Not just another Jesus book, Thomas Yoder Neufeld's Recovering Jesus integrates sound scholarship with a profound and reflective faith. Written with a wide spectrum of contemporary college students in mind, Yoder Neufeld's accessible and engaging prose will also attract thoughtful laypeople as well as busy church leaders. His centering the Jesus story in the ethic and theology of the kingdom of God is not only refreshingly true to the heart of our written Gospels but will be especially helpful for those who long to follow Jesus in life. Few scholars of Yoder Neufeld's breadth and depth write with this clarity of thought and joy on discipleship."--Mary Schertz, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary

"Recovering Jesus is a difficult task in our day. Skeptical words abound on many sides. Thomas Yoder Neufeld does a good and accessible job of clearing the decks and showing the way in this introduction to Jesus and his teaching in the context of the scholarly cacophony that surrounds Jesus. Nicely done."--Darrell L. Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary

"A superb guide--unmatched for clarity and accessibility--into an 'encounter' with the Jesus of the New Testament and other early Christian writings, offered in gentle, engaging prose by a seasoned teacher whose scholarship and faith complement each other, to the benefit of believers and inquirers/seekers alike. Thanks to its comprehensiveness, sound scholarship, and excellent organization, with subsections clearly labeled, it will also serve as a valuable reference work after the first engrossing read."--Harold Remus, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario (Emeritus)

"Respected scholar, masterful teacher, man of faith--Tom Yoder Neufeld has combined these qualities to produce a solid, eminently readable, and informative study of the New Testament witness for the man, Jesus, and for the early development of christological reflection in the second century. Using the analogy of archaeology, Yoder Neufeld examines carefully the different layers of New Testament evidence, giving particular emphasis to the historical context of the world of the first century and then following the biographical framework of Jesus's life from birth to death and resurrection. He puts at the center, as well it should be, Jesus's proclamation of the kingdom of God, and in successive chapters he treats 'Announcing the Kingdom,' 'Teaching the Kingdom,' 'Enacting the Kingdom,' and 'Living the Kingdom.' His is a sensitive and nuanced handling of such difficult issues as the virgin birth and the challenges of understanding well the meaning of resurrection. As every good teacher does, he provides an abundant use of analogies and explanatory examples. Never have I read a more skillful presentation of the organic growth of New Testament Christology from low to high, with fine treatment of the origin and function of the various titles applied to Jesus in the New Testament and beyond. The text is unencumbered by laborious footnotes, while clearly reflective of the diverse, ongoing scholarly dialogue of which this book is part. Each chapter concludes with a summary box of 'Key Terms and Concepts' and suggestions for further reading. This is a superb text--one I will surely use with seminary students to their certain profit and delight."--Barbara E. Bowe, Catholic Theological Union

"A lucid, engaging treatment of Jesus and the Gospels, attending well to sources and methods. Yoder Neufeld laudably combines faith and scholarship. His lists of reading sources at the end of each chapter are valuable for further study. This book is well designed for introducing Jesus and current scholarship to university students, and to laypeople who want to understand how we know what we know about Jesus."--Willard M. Swartley, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary

"Tom Yoder Neufeld is an outstanding writer! An extraordinarily engaging teacher, Tom guides us with gripping vitality on an invigorating and exhilarating tour through the biblical accounts. Throughout the adventure he achieves the perfect voice--undergirding our faith even as he imparts necessary skills to sort through various scholarly debates concerning Jesus. This exceptional book is superb for both new and seasoned students of the Scriptures."--Marva J. Dawn, author of Talking the Walk

"Here is a trustworthy guide through the theological thicket in which Western culture encounters Jesus. Readers wearied by the recent parade of Jesus-debunkers will find clarity and inspiration for new understanding. With the mind of a scholar and the heart of a believer, Yoder Neufeld surveys a wide range of perspectives in language a non-specialist can understand."--J. Nelson Kraybill, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary

"For too long, students of the New Testament were forced to choose between the Jesus of scholarship and the Christ of faith. In lively and accessible prose, Dr. Yoder Neufeld skillfully integrates both courses into a helpful road map for those serious about negotiating the tortuous turns on their way to rediscovering Jesus. He presents all possible historical and theological options available to his readers with competence, never shrinking back from questions that might scandalize the believer or embarrass the scholar. His greatest virtue, however, is that though he is quite clear about his personal convictions on Jesus, he never imposes his views on his readers, content with leaving them with enough directions to find their way home. This is the text I will use next time I teach a course on Jesus."--Sze-kar Wan, Andover Newton Theological School

"Thomas Yoder Neufeld has written the right book for students and laity who find themselves baffled by the quirky Jesuses produced in recent years by popular writers, pseudo-scholars, and academics who love to push the envelope. Recovering Jesus is just what the doctor ordered. Buy this book, read it, and then share it with a friend."--Craig A. Evans, author of Jesus and His Contemporaries


The Author

  1. Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld

    Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld

    Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld (ThD, Harvard Divinity School) is professor of religious studies (New Testament) emeritus at Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including...

    Continue reading about Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld

Reviews

Word Guild 2008 Writing Award

"[Yoder Neufeld's] subject is complex, but he succeeds nicely in simplifying terms and explaining difficult ideas in understandable language. Describing himself as both a 'believer and a scholar,' Neufeld finds the real Jesus in both history and theology. Readers at all levels will enjoy this fine volume."--Publishers Weekly

"A very helpful introduction to the New Testament, its contemporary scholarship, and its cultural milieu. [Yoder Neufeld's] introduction outlines the most critical issues, their importance both to biblical studies and to Christian theology, and the chief arguments supporting and opposing various conclusions. Neufeld's Christian commitment and fair-mindedness are evident as he considers various sorts of first-century evidence--canonical, noncanonical, and oral tradition, as well as Jewish and Roman influences. He is especially adept at comparing the four canonical gospels. Each chapter is supplemented by suggestions for further reading and a list of key terms and concepts. The book is engagingly written and guides both believers and nonbelievers into analytic and exegetical thought. Neufeld's own position is centrist: finding both historical probabilities and symbolic and theological language in the New Testament, he encourages readers to come to their own conclusions. Highly recommended for academic, seminary, and public libraries."--Carolyn M. Craft, Library Journal

"Yoder Neufeld offers a helpful and readable introduction to the life of Jesus. He deals with the New Testament accounts and confronts more recent arguments about the historical Jesus. It is a useful guide to who Jesus was and why He matters."--PreachingNow

"[Yoder Neufeld] wants to 'treat the scholarly task respectfully and emphatically,' a goal he accomplishes extremely well. The author carefully explains how critical studies, developed in Europe during the time of the Enlightenment, have shaped and modified people's understanding of the New Testament, and how one goes about uncovering its message. Neufeld effectively shows the history of the Jesus traditions, and how through the centuries the layers of interpretation have affected hermeneutics. While explaining the theories of sources that were used to develop the Gospels, and describing the history of Jesus's time period, he unpacks the Jesus of the Gospels in a way that preserves the sacredness of the text. The book offers a refreshing look at Jesus and the message he preached. Overall it is a good source for research and preaching. Higher criticism sometimes is seen as an attempt to disqualify and deny the validity and veracity of God's word, but Neufeld uses his scholarship while maintaining a high view of Scripture. . . . Recommended. Lower-/upper-level undergraduates and general readers."--M. D. Trujillo, Choice

"[An] amazing book. . . . We are invited to dig through the layers of tradition that have accumulated over the centuries to try to find an authentic tradition about Jesus. . . . [Yoder Neufeld] offers surefooted guidance as he digs with us. What is amazing is the skill with which he digs and explains the consequences of what he finds. When we remember how very much has been written about Jesus before Schweitzer and after him, and see how this is patiently explained in an edifying way, we can only recognize what a very good accomplishment this is. For once we have a book that is not a simplification, but one that comes from a mature enough mind that options are fully faced and the reader is respected for an ability to think through the issues. . . . It has been a long time since we have been given such an intellectual treat and invited to test it. . . . The book is one of the very best studies of Jesus published in the last 50 years."--William Klassen, TheRecord.com

"Neufeld attempts to present and navigate a middle path through the subject of Jesus research that seeks to be both academically rigorous and personally honest. To his credit, Neufeld does an admirable job. Specifically Neufeld excels in two areas: 1) the number of relevant and pertinent topics covered; and 2) the use and inclusion of excellent and helpful bibliographic material. With limited space, Neufeld manages to cover a wide variety of topics. . . . Neufeld engages the current strands in the field of Jesus research and in so doing provides a clear way forward for the reader to continue in further study. In the end, Neufeld presents a clear and effective book that is well suited for introductory level students and one that works as well in the classroom as it does at home."--Justin Marc Smith, Theological Book Review

"[A] fine contribution to our encounters with Jesus."--Rene Baergen, Canadian Mennonite

"In the bewildering mix of sensationalizing declarations and novelistic embellishments of the story of Jesus, Recovering Jesus comes as a refreshing resource. . . . Both the scholar and the believer are everywhere evidenced in what the author communicates. A foundational hermeneutic of trust in the scriptural sources does not deter him from asking the tough historical questions, nor does his scholarly enterprise cause him to refrain from theological reflection and exploration of ethical implications. . . . Several features of the book are self-consciously pedagogical in their intent, obviously constructed to facilitate student exploration and learning. Each chapter includes an inset listing but not defining some 'Key Terms and Concepts' pertaining to its primary subject. Brief bibliographies at the conclusion of each chapter point students to resources for further reading. Helpful charts and diagrams appear throughout the book. Recovering Jesus will potentially have an audience beyond the college students for whom it was written. Scholars . . . will find in this volume a remarkably comprehensive discussion of interpretive issues in current debates about Jesus. Interested and motivated youth and adults in congregational study groups will find this to be a compelling guidebook to help them sort through the maze of competing interpretations currently promoted by scholars and the media. Pastors and teachers can also benefit from consulting this book, especially because of the breadth of its scope in discussing Jesus and his world. . . . Yoder Neufeld models a remarkable integration of scholarly clarity and Christian conviction. His model has the potential of furthering a recovery of Jesus and his vision of liberation in our fractured world."--Jacob W. Elias, Conrad Grebel Review

"[This book] commend[s] [itself] because [the] author walks the narrow path between scholarship and the needs of ordinary folks who want to be apprized of the findings of scholarship without being overwhelmed by the details. . . . Yoder Neufeld is very careful. He reviews repeatedly the scholarly assumptions that thus and so about Jesus is impossible or not likely. . . . From time to time he reviews scholarly challenges to the tradition and then states his opinion, not generally as dogma, but more as possibility. . . . Recovering Jesus is a carefully organized presentation, one to read and think about."--Daniel Hertzler, DreamSeeker Magazine

"Provides a refreshingly honest exploration of issues surrounding the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith. Throughout the book, [Yoder] Neufeld shows himself to be knowledgeable of New Testament scholarship, yet he does not bore his readers with pedantic descriptions of methodology. He gives concise summaries of issues and works with them faithfully as both a scholar and a confessing Christian. . . . Recovering Jesus requires careful thought. . . . Those who seek to explore the life of Jesus with integrity, who face intellection questions and ask about the relevance of these questions to the life of faith, will discover much value in this book. . . . I am impressed with the fair way that [Yoder Neufeld] deals with his discipline and with his personal faith. . . . I would recommend it to my own students."--Michael R. Cosby, Brethren in Christ History and Life

"Meant as a textbook for undergraduates, [this book] purports to live in both the scholarly and the populist worlds. . . . To an extent, Yoder Neufeld succeeds where others have failed--making excellent scholarship accessible to a wider range of people. To his credit, his intentional use of clear language together with creative metaphors is a tremendous strength and would allow the book to be used in a more focused educational setting. . . . Yoder Neufeld's very personal and confessional approach provides a solid overview of complex topics."--Brad Sumner, Mennonite Brethren Herald

"As a three-books-in-one introduction to the historical Jesus, the Gospels and New Testament Christology, Recovering Jesus succeeds admirably and leaves its readers with a clear path through some difficult and debated issues. The references for further reading and lists of key terms and concepts that conclude each chapter make the book especially valuable for readers new to these issues."--William R. Herzog II, Christian Century

"Yoder Neufeld seeks to bring into a coherent presentation of Jesus historical, theological and, to a lesser extent, literary perspectives (while respecting the integrity and particular 'toolboxes' of each), convinced that theology has to contend with history and that history has to contend with theology. This is a daunting task, with a multitude of controversial questions at stake. But Yoder Neufeld has impressively brought together 'hospitably' what many interpreters have chosen to keep separate. . . . This well-written and engaging book will be well worth the read by scholars and by interested inquirers about Jesus, especially in settings in which theological questions remain central to the inquiry."--Gordon Zerbe, Toronto Journal of Theology

"As a textbook for a course on Jesus of the New Testament, this book is well-suited to the task. . . . The language and style are lucid and the concepts easy to grasp. Entry-level students would find this book inviting. . . . A sprinkling of diagrams and charts make for good pedagogical complement, together with a short selection of books 'for further reading' and a highlighted box of 'key terms and concepts' at the end of each chapter. . . . I have no doubt this book will find a welcome place in entry-level college courses on Jesus in which biblical faith makes him 'real.'"--V. George Shillington, Review of Biblical Literature

"This is an excellent book, and would be a superb textbook for courses on Jesus and the Gospels (not least since good textbooks in that area are few and far between). The author is fully informed of academic debates, and his assessments of issues are generally fair and balanced. He guides his readers through issues with a deft and careful hand, with helpful charts, tables and diagrams at key points. Moreover, he is fully sensitive to matters of the Christian faith, which will be refreshing to some audiences. This will certainly be a key book in all my future courses on Jesus and the Gospels."--Bruce Longenecker, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"This is an excellent textbook, produced by an experienced teacher. . . . The author compresses into thirteen chapters all that an interested enquirer might need to wrestle with concerning the figure of Jesus as presented in the New Testament. . . . Whilst an introduction to historical Jesus research and the Jesuses of the Gospels, it is also a guide to New Testament Christology as a whole. . . . The book is well written and includes a number of well-presented and judiciously used charts and maps, together with text boxes in each chapter. An educational intent shines through in many ways, not least via pithy, sharp questions which the teacher invites his students to pose along with him. The book is a useful guide to recent writing on Jesus."--Clive Marsh, Journal of Theological Studies

"Neufeld's book will make an outstanding introduction for undergraduates and serious Christian readers to the study of the Gospels and Jesus. Well written and engaging, it seeks to introduce the Jesus we encounter in the New Testament, rather than the one reconstructed by modern historians, taking seriously the 'deep and profound convictions' of the biblical witness. . . . [Neufeld] skillfully introduces the reader to the critical questions that arise when reading the Gospels, without ever either overwhelming and confusing or oversimplifying. . . . This book combines beautifully thorough scholarship and inquisitive and reflective faith and will be welcomed by a wide readership."--Gary W. Burnett, Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"The Jesus of the New Testament is . . . buried beneath deposits of history, church tradition, and myriad theological agendas, so 'recovering' him is a shrewdly worded and vitally necessary task. Yoder Neufeld rises to his own challenge, crafting a work that fits nicely between research monograph and course textbook: his presentation is clear and original in its phrasing, accessible to undergraduates or occasional students, and refreshing for journeyman instructors. Readers of all levels will find supportive resources in his lists of key terms and concepts . . . and in the supplementary partially annotated booklists for further reading."--Matthew Forrest Lowe, Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism