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Engaging Jesus with Our Senses

An Embodied Approach to the Gospels

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Jesus took on flesh--he was embodied. And the Gospels use multisensory language to reveal that his teaching, ministry, and interactions with people engaged the senses. Consider the raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, the perfume filling the house as Mary anointed Jesus's feet, the significance of touch as Jesus healed people. Jesus even described himself in sensory terms--as the bread of life, the light of the world, the vine to whom his disciples are connected. Our physical senses are crucial to gaining knowledge of the world around us. Yet when it comes to Bible reading, we often reduce it to a mere cognitive experience, ignoring the Psalmist's invitation to "taste and see that the Lord is good."

This book offers a fresh way to read the Gospels with an emphasis on embodiment, focused on a life abiding in Christ. The goal is a greater, more tangible knowledge of God. Jeannine Hanger points to the importance of engaging our physical senses in Bible reading, shows an approach to doing so with an emphasis on sparking the imagination, and looks at how utilizing our primary senses plays out in reading the Gospels. Each chapter includes sensory practices and questions for personal reflection. The book includes a foreword by Grant Macaskill.


"It is not easy to write about texts and yet evoke all the bodily senses. But Jeannine Marie Hanger succeeds brilliantly where most would fail. In this vivid and engaging yet well-researched book, utilizing recent shifts in scholarship, she draws us into the rich sensory world of the Gospel narratives and encourages the use of all our senses in encountering the Word made flesh. This is an excellent resource for a fully embodied life of faith."

John M. G. Barclay, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University

"Insightful. Intriguing. Invitational. Engaging Jesus with Our Senses is all this and more. Hanger explores the intersection of the Gospels and sensory experience, building on scholarship from both arenas. The results are both thought-provoking and experientially rich."

Jeannine K. Brown, David Price Professor of Biblical and Theological Foundations, Bethel Seminary

"While the theological content of the Gospels is highly significant, the tactile witness of their accounts packs a powerful punch. From the flesh wounds of Jesus to the smell of the nard at the anointing, the Gospels not only exhort us to 'listen up'; they invite us also to 'come and see.' In this lucid treatment of engaging the senses by Jeannine Hanger, the Gospel narratives form a literary bridge between sensory experience back then and experiential encounters with the subject of the texts--Jesus--in the here and now."

Paul N. Anderson, professor of biblical and Quaker studies, George Fox University; cofounder of the John, Jesus, and History Project

"In this very insightful book, Jeannine Hanger skillfully shows us how to appreciate the sensory aspects of the biblical world as perceived by the earliest believers. Christians often narrowly focus on the otherworldly promises of the gospel without also considering how we are to experience the physical world of God's creation. By illuminating this important, but often neglected, area of biblical studies and spiritual formation, Hanger invites us to more fully engage with God and Scripture as embodied people made in the image of God. This is a wonderful work that brings to life the cultural world of the Bible and guides us to a deeper level of transformation."

Michelle Lee-Barnewall, affiliate professor of New Testament, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University

"An enjoyable and accessible introduction to the sensory qualities of the New Testament writings. I hope that all who read it will find themselves thinking in fresh ways about what it means to participate in God and the world."

Grant Macaskill, University of Aberdeen (from the foreword)

The Author

  1. Jeannine Marie Hanger

    Jeannine Marie Hanger

    Jeannine Marie Hanger (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is assistant professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, in La Mirada, California. She is the author of Sensing Salvation in the Gospel of John. Her research interests...

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