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Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study

ISBN: 9780801027192

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Crucial to a proper understanding and interpretation of Scripture is an awareness of the historical, cultural, and religious context in which the Bible was written. But the passing of two millennia often prevents the modern student from fully understanding the significance of various actions and teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. For instance, the controversy over Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath must be understood against the backdrop of the Mishnah’s detailed list of forbidden Sabbath activities.

The diligent researcher can cull such information by poring through numerous early Jewish and Christian texts or by referencing Strack and Billerbeck’s six-volume Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch. But in Jesus in Context, Darrell L. Bock and Gregory J. Herrick have identified and compiled into one handy volume the key extra-biblical texts that provide the necessary cultural background for understanding passages in the Gospel narratives. Brief comments from the editors precede each selection, noting its relevance to the biblical text.

Sources quoted include Josephus, Philo, the Mishnah and Talmud, the Old Testament Apocrypha, Eusebius, and classical authors. These excerpts are organized according to the section numbers from Bock’s earlier Jesus According to Scripture, although Jesus in Context is designed to be used as a stand-alone resource.

Save more when purchased as part of the Baker Gospel Studies Collection (25 vols.).

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“Another Jewish source contemporary with Jesus’ time is Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BC–AD 50). His primary value lies in the information he gives us about how Jews in the Diaspora (that is, Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire) viewed their faith, and we learn little from him about the views of Jews within Israel/Palestine. Nevertheless, Philo is still significant for revealing how some intellectually oriented Jews thought.6 He gives us a glimpse of how some Jews borrowed from the world of Hellenism and yet still vigorously defended their faith and people.” (Page 19)

“These texts are crucial because they give us insight into how a major figure living in Jesus’ day viewed Israel’s history and key political events. His discussions are full of treatments of everyday life and give examples of how terms were regularly used.” (Pages 19–20)

“The earliest post-New Testament writings are the New Testament Apocrypha and the ante-Nicene fathers (fathers who lived and wrote before the Council of Nicea in AD 325, which includes the Apostolic Fathers).19 Another extensive collection is that of the Nicene and post-Nicene fathers.20 Since patristic texts are later than the Gospels, they must be used with care, but they do tell us how the Gospel material was interpreted by those in the early church.” (Page 23)

“‘in order to fulfill all righteousness.’ Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, picks up that comment in his letter to the Smyrnaeans as he relates to them the certainties of the traditions they have received concerning Jesus’ genuine humanity, deity, virgin birth, crucifixion under Pontius Pilate (and Herod), and resurrection. The fact that Ignatius cites Matthew (here in his comments to the Smyrnaeans and later in his comments to Polycarp) makes a date around AD 107 necessary for Ignatius’s remarks (the approximate dates of Ignatius’s death run from 107 to 139, with the earlier date reflecting tradition).” (Page 27)

This very useful book is full of information for the readers of the Gospels. Jesus in Context matches Gospel texts with interesting parallels from other ancient Jewish and early Christian sources, illuminating the biblical texts. It is indispensable for pastors and students of theology.

—Martin Hengel, University of Tübingen

Students of the Gospels will find this collection invaluable. It will be a crucial tool for those who do not work regularly with ancient Jewish sources and should also prove useful for those who do.

—Craig S. Keener, professor of New Testament, Eastern Seminary

How often, when reading a commentary or work on the historical background of a portion of Scripture, have you seen a plethora of references to ancient extra-biblical sources and wondered what they actually said? Few readers, even scholars, have the time to look up many of these, even if they have access to the primary literature. Bock and Herrick have supplied scholars and laypeople alike with an invaluable tool. Jesus in Context introduces and presents the full texts of all the extra-biblical references in Bock's Jesus According to Scripture. One gets almost an entire course in the ancient historical, religious, and philosophical thought outside the Bible that is most relevant to interpreting the Gospels

—Craig L. Blomberg, distinguished professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary

The more a person understands the first-century Jewish world, the more easily he or she can understand Jesus and the Gospel writers. Bock and Herrick have given readers one of the quickest and easiest paths into that world, and they have done so by showing systematically how specific Jewish, Greco-Roman, and early Christian texts throw light on the Gospel narratives.

—Klyne Snodgrass, Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies, North Park Theological Seminary

Current historical Jesus research rightly emphasizes the importance of the background of Jesus and his followers. Bock and Herrick have assembled the essential material and have presented it in an attractive and accessible format. This book will serve well both student and scholar.

—Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia

  • Title: Jesus in Context: Background Readings for Gospel Study
  • Authors: Darrell L. Bock, Gregory Herrick
  • Publisher: Baker Academic
  • Print Publication Date: 2005
  • Logos Release Date: 2009
  • Pages: 288
  • Language: English
  • Resources: 1
  • Format: Digital › Logos Research Edition
  • Subjects: Bible. N.T. Gospels; Criticism, interpretation, etc
  • ISBNs: 9780801027192, 0801027195
  • Resource Type: Monograph
  • Metadata Last Updated: 2023-05-03T17:05:11Z

Darrell L. Bock (Ph.D., University of Aberdeen) is research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is the author or editor of many books, including the volumes on Luke in the The Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament | BECNT and the IVP New Testament Commentary Series | IVPNTC.

Gregory J. Herrick (Ph.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) is a researcher and writer with the Biblical Studies Foundation.


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  1. Alessandro



  2. JB  Murrah

    JB Murrah


  3. Matt DeVore

    Matt DeVore


  4. kevin stanfield
  5. Kyle



  6. Aaron



  7. Jose de la Cruz
  8. Maryellen J Lewis
  9. Daniel Perera Santana
  10. GregW



    I got this book thinking it would be helpful as a way of learning more about the general cultural background of the Gospels. It doesn't actually do that. What it does do very well, however, is to collate material from Jewish and Patristic sources on specific aspects of passages in the Gospels. It is not an easy book to read, as it is a collection of ancient texts. It is, however, an excellent and valuable reference work to use as an exegetical tool when doing work in the Gospels, and that is what I will certainly be using it for in future. It is divided into sections dealing with specific passages in the Gospels. This book is probably not a work for exegetical beginners: you do need some outline understanding of what the various ancient sources are (Mishna, Tosefta, Talmuds, Josephus & Philo, Dead Sea Scrolls, Church Fathers, etc) otherwise they will just look like random texts with no context. Darrell Bock does, however, introduce each of the main sources in the Introduction to the book. My one criticism of this work is that it wasn't always apparent to me why the author had chosen a particular reading to illuminate his point, but this could be a problem with my understanding rather than his writing! In summary - a valuable exegetical resource, but not an easy read.
Save 25% off during the Memorial Day Sale!


Print list price: $28.00
Regular price: $27.99
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