Reviews of

Jesus Becoming Jesus

In Catholic University of America Press, Gospels, Nathan Charles Ridlehoover, NT Theology, Synoptic Gospels, theological Interpretation of Scripture, Thomas G. Weinandy on April 16, 2020 at 1:00 pm

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2020.04.07 | Thomas G. Weinandy, Jesus Becoming Jesus: Theological Interpretation of the Synoptic Gospels. Washington: CUA, 2018. 

Review by Charles Nathan Ridlehoover, Columbia International Seminary.

Thomas G. Weinandy is an author of more than fifteen books and recently completed his appointment with the Vatican International Theological Commission. The following volume initially started as Weinandy’s attempt at a one-volume systematics text suggested through the gentle nudges of John Webster. Weinandy worried that starting in the Synoptics would obscure his plan to stress God’s saving activity but felt it was extremely important to begin with the first recordings of the incarnation/infancy narratives. As Weinandy admits, what initially was perceived as a problem became an opportunity to write a thorough theological and doctrinal interpretation of the New Testament. As a result, the subtitle could very well read “Theologian Interprets the Synoptic Gospels.” Weinandy states that the three components that assisted his writing were: (1) the text of the Bible itself, (2) theological and academic history, and (3) the light of the Holy Spirit. In what follows, one will be exposed to the work of someone committed to the “study of the sacred page as […] the soul of sacred theology.”

Weinandy’s project follows a four-part progression that closely resembles the chronology of Christ’s life: Part 1-The infancy narratives and the baptism of Jesus; Part 2-Jesus’s public ministry; Part 3-prefigurements of Jesus’s Passion, death, and resurrection; and Part 4-the Passion narratives. An interesting aspect of the commentary is Weinandy’s focus on Jesus’s acts. As a result, very little commentary is reserved for Jesus’s teaching. Even when the teaching is addressed, it is explained in terms that relate it back to Jesus’s life as the embodiment of the teaching. Also, the saving events within the life of Jesus are narrated with all the parallel Gospel material considered together. The four-fold parts consist of individual chapters.  These chapters also follow a loose chronology. For example, the three chapters in part 1 are as follows: the conception of Jesus (chapter 1), the birth of Jesus (chapter 2), and the baptism and temptation of Jesus (chapter 3). The same can be said about parts 3 and 4. Part 3 discusses Peter’s profession of faith and transfiguration (chapter 7) and Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (chapter 8). Part 4 consists of accounts of Jesus’s anointing and last supper (chapter 9), Jesus’s agony, arrest, and trials (chapter 10), Jesus’s crucifixion and death (chapter 11), and Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (chapter 12).  On the other hand, part 2 is more thematically organized. In this section, Weinandy discusses Jesus’s priestly salvific acts (chapter 4), Jesus’s prophetic salvific acts (chapter 5), and Jesus’s filial relationship with the Father (chapter 6). The book concludes with an overview of the theological foundations of Jesus’s salvific acts. Also included is a suggested reading list and very short subject index.

I must be honest. When I initially approached the volume, I was under the impression that the book would be a literary approach to the Scriptures, written by a biblical scholar, explicating the theological significance of the Synoptic Gospels. The recommendation came from a biblical scholar whom I highly respect and typically suggests books within the above criteria. I decided to give it a read without checking any details. What I found was an illuminating, confessional, moving, and highly devotional account of the Gospels. One section that I particularly enjoyed was the explanation of the Lord’s Prayer. Weinandy describes the Lord’s Prayer as a “coming of age” moment for the disciple. By committing to pray the prayer, one is being tutored in becoming more like Jesus. This educational aspect of the prayer is almost completely absent in modern scholarship of the Lord’s Prayer but seems to capture the reasons the early church had its new converts commit the prayer to memory and habitual practice.

Although the book is commendable in many areas, one area which could be improved is the implementation of scholarly “additions.” It is clear that Weinandy is a top-notch scholar and that the book is written for a certain type of readership. Yet the book still lacks some small things that would enhance its usefulness. There are zero footnotes to biblical scholars. The only footnotes are explanatory notes and references to Weinandy’s other work. Undoubtedly, these omissions are to avoid unnecessary arguments in biblical studies, but the references would provide readers with guides for further study. The “suggested reading” section at the end of the volume attempts to remedy this problem but only give the inquisitive reader thirty-two options after reading a 473-page book. Without these items, the book is a long read in biblical studies and systematic theology for a layperson and lacks too little academic interaction for scholars. On the other hand, volumes of this nature are an honor for the writer and should be afforded to senior scholars. One must spend years in the academic guild to be afforded opportunities to write without the burden of interacting with “everything out there.”

In the introduction, Weinandy expresses his desire to continue what this “one-volume systematic theology” started. He wants to use this book as the first of a multivolume theological interpretation of the New Testament. I think the possibility is welcome and exciting for those who enjoy the marrying of biblical scholarship and systematic theology. These types of projects may be signaling an emerging trend that what once has been broken will soon be made whole again.

Charles Nathan Ridlehoover
Columbia International Seminary
nathan.ridlehoover [at] ciu.edu

  1. […] via Jesus Becoming Jesus — Biblical and Early Christian Studies […]

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