Interesting Book: Scripting Jesus – L. Michael White

I received a notification from Harper this morning, and I thought I might pick one up for review.  This book appears to fall into line with my own research; I look forward to reading it and offering some perspectives about it shortly.

Here’s a blurb:

In Scripting Jesus, famed scholar of early Christianity L. Michael White challenges us to read the gospels as they were originally intended—as performed stories of faith rather than factual histories. White demonstrates that each of the four gospel writers had a specific audience in mind and a specific theological agenda to push, and consequently wrote and rewrote their lives of Jesus accordingly—in effect, scripting Jesus to get a particular point across and to achieve the desired audience reaction.

The gospel stories have shaped the beliefs of almost two and a half billion Christians. But the gospel writers were not reporters—rather, they were dramatists, and the stories they told publicly about Jesus were edited and reedited for the greatest effect. Understanding how these first-century Christians wanted to present Jesus offers us a way to make sense of the sometimes conflicting stories in the gospels.

One gospel’s version of events will be at odds with another.  For instance, in Jesus’s birth narrative, there is no mention of a stable in Matthew or Luke, but then there are no wise men in Luke and no shepherds in Matthew. Jesus has brothers in some gospel accounts, and sisters in others, and their naming is inconsistent. Depending on which gospel you are reading, the disciples shift from bumbling morons to heroes of faith. Miracles alter or disappear altogether, and whole scenes get moved around. Such changes from one gospel to the next reveal the shaping and reshaping of the basic story in the living world of the first followers of Jesus.

via Scripting Jesus: The Gospels in Rewrite 9780061228797: L. Michael White: Books.

5 Responses

  1. I checked this book out from the library. He has some interesting comparisons. However, he seems to think that Paul’s telling of the origin of the eucharist relates back to a historical event.

    Is it the mainstream opinion of scholars that Jesus actually predicted his death and told his followers to eat his body and drink his blood?

  2. I don’t think that is the mainstream opinion, no. But I believe that most scholars feel that there was a historical meal of sorts. I don’t believe that, of course.

  3. A meal of sorts? So … most scholars believe that Jesus ate food. Good to know.

  4. A last supper, Evan. You know what I mean. ;-)

  5. Greetings,

    I notice that I am coming in late to this.

    I really enjoyed Scripting Jesus, specifically White’s emphasis on understanding how stories develop in oral culture while reading the biblical tales.

    Ift you’ve had a chance to read the book, I would be interested in your perspectives.

    I’m also now curious about Evan’s point and will check back with the book to see exactly what it was that White was saying about Paul and the Eucharist, but I certainly don’t see that mainstream scholars, including White, would imply that Jesus would have told his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood. But I’ll need to check back with the book.

    Nice work on the Jordon Codex fiasco, BTW.

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