A radical reappraisal of the story of Jesus’ family before his ministry began.
The tree of Christianity has branched into many different denominational directions throughout history. Debut author Schulz contends that these myriad divisions are the result of faulty biblical scholarship; there are translation-related problems with various texts, he says, and the back stories of some important figures have been lost. In this book, he excavates Jesus’ complex family relations, leading up to the beginning of his ministry in his 30s. When Mary announced her immaculate pregnancy, he notes, Joseph was at first understandably skeptical, although he prudently chose not to publicly challenge her claim; Jesus’ brothers, however, rebuked the child and chose not to be among his disciples when he later began his ministry. However, Schulz writes, the family members on Mary’s side did believe her, partly because of the miraculous birth of Jesus’ first cousin, John, from an elderly mother. Jesus chose some of his apostles from that group, says Schulz; John, in particular, was exceedingly close to Jesus because he grew up with him. The author also emphasizes Jesus’ devotion to his kin; after Joseph died, he says, Jesus delayed his divine mission in order to take care of them. Overall, Schulz meticulously argues his main point: that the centrality of family to Jesus’ life should also be a central Christian teaching: “As a believer, if I can’t see the love in the Gospel, what do I have to share with non-believers?” His study is rich in iconoclastic interpretations, boldly but carefully delineated by his scholarship. At one point, for example, he asserts that Judas was influenced by his Pharisee father to betray Jesus. Sometimes the prose can be uneven, though; for instance, the final chapter, which uses a mathematical metaphor to explain humanity’s relation to Christ, is more confusing than instructive. By and large, though, this is a provocative, original contribution to biblical studies.
A brief but powerful revisionist look at Jesus’ early life and times.