How would our understanding of Jesus change if we abandoned our preconceptions and focussed on his words alone? How would this wisdom compare with that of ancient Israel and the early first-century church? Such questions pose serious difficulties. Everything in the early Christian gospels is either derived from historical memory, or is borrowed, or invented, argues Charles W. Hedrick. Of the many sayings attributed to Christ, historians can only agree on a few as having been spoken by him – and those few are far from certain.
In The Wisdom of Jesus, Hedrick overcomes these challenges, presenting a picture of Jesus as expressed through his own words. The Jesus that emerges is a lower-class man of the first century; a complex figure who cannot be considered religious in a traditional sense. Liberated from theological explanation and interpretation, his discourse is revealed as belonging to the secular world, and his concerns to be those of common life.
1. The Problem of the Historical Study of Jesus
2. Jesus and the Language of the Gospel
3. Early Christian Wisdom
4. Surveying the Sages of Ancient Israel
5. The Sayings of Jesus: A Preface
6. Vestiges of a Discourse
7. Parables: Fictional Narratives about the Ordinary
8. A Case Study of a Parable: The Fired Manager
9. Jesus between the Wisdom Canons of Israel and the Church
Epilogue: Pondering the Unreliability of the Gospels
List of Abbreviations
Index of Ancient Sources
Index of Modern Authors
Endorsements and Reviews
Hedrick distils a lifetime of learning as he invites and equips us to learn from the wisdom of Jesus in the only way one can learn wisdom: by thinking along with it. Those willing to benefit from Hedrick’s expert guidance and ponder the historical Jesus’s shrewd observations, dark humour, and paradoxical perspectives, run the real (and exhilarating) risk of changing their minds about what they thought they knew.
Robert J. Miller, Professor of Religious Studies, Juniata College, Pennsylvania
An analysis that is informed by Israel’s literary context as much as by its historical context, Hedrick respects the enigmatic quality of Jesus’s teachings; he does not attempt to impose a normative meaning upon them. This truly is an important book for scholars, and it is accessible for laypersons.
Perry Kea, Associate Professor, University of Indianapolis, Indiana