Mauro Pesce and Adrianna Desto, Encounters with Jesus: The Man in His Place and Time.

Fortress Press, 2011. Chapter Three Who were the sorts Jesus encountered and what influence did he have on them? Those are the core issues addressed in this chapter. P. and D. are wise to insist that … it is impossible for us to really know the effects his preaching had (p. 42). From there, our writers discuss Jesus in his encounters with John the Baptizer, followers, the 12, relatives, friends, supporters, women, sinners, the sick, the demonized, adversaries, the rich and poor, and finally, the lost of Israel. And though that sounds like rather a lot, P. and D. treat each relatively briefly (and some more briefly than others) and yet quite thoroughly. Their overarching point is, though, that Jesus preferred personal encounter and spent his ministry seeking exactly that. Why that’s his m.o. is the interesting bit. So, for example, why did he adhere to the work of the Baptizer? …Jesus wanted to experience an act of conversion, and that on this occasion he received a revelation and a supernatural consecration that determined the course of the rest of his life (p. 44). Why the Baptizer though? [Jesus] was attracted by … a person who denounced his own world and invited people to change and renewal (p. 45). And so throughout the chapter P. and D. show the impulse of Jesus to have been engagement. One of the most interesting examples of this engagement which at the same time created distance is the reaction of Jesus to the arrival of his family as related in Mark 3:20ff. These blood relatives were not actually putting pressure on him, but they claimed the right to take charge of him, and he wanted to remove himself from them (p. 59). It’s quite intriguing that Jesus wishes to withdraw from his family while at the same time he seems so intent on engaging others. What’s the dynamic underlying this behavior? What went on at home that drove Jesus to such displays of ‘indifference’ to his own relatives? Our authors don’t answer that question because they can’t. They do , though, oddly assert

… it seems legitimate to suppose that James and the mother of Jesus were religious figures who enjoyed some measure of autonomy vis-à-vis Jesus, not simply persons who owed everything to his initiative and to his life story (p. 62). I don’t buy that. Absent Jesus, the story of James or Mary have no context and make no sense. Nor, must I admit, do I buy their translation of Mark 10:25 which they render …it is easier for a hawser to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (p. 72). I had to look hawser up too, so don’t feel too oddly if you aren’t familiar with it. It’s a nautical term for a large or heavy rope. Their textual foundation for that reading is extraordinarily thin: For the normal καμηλον P. and D. adopt the far lesser likely καμιλον f 13 28. 579 pc geo. The first rule of textual criticism is that the more difficult reading is to be preferred. It is far more likely that ‘camel’ would be changed to ‘hawser’ than ‘hawser’ to ‘camel’. Further, the textual evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the more difficult reading. There is, in sum, no reason to adopt the inferior reading. In spite of these stumbles, P. and D. recover very nicely a few pages on when they discuss Jesus’ preference for direct encounters. In their view this preference explains why Jesus didn’t write anything. The written word interposes itself between the author and the intended reader… Jesus, on the other hand, wanted to enter into a concrete and unique exchange. … Jesus aimed at evoking a response and a decision that involved the totality of a person’s existence, and that must be immediate. Only the spoken word can communicate how urgent it is to make this response, and can elicit adherence or dissent (pp. 74-75). This is quite true, isn’t it, and it really does make perfect sense. Tone of voice trumps text any day. On to the fourth chapter next, and looking forward to it very much indeed.

Jim West Quartz Hill School of Theology

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