cover image Jesus for Everyone: Not Just Christians

Jesus for Everyone: Not Just Christians

Amy-Jill Levine. HarperOne, $29.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06221-672-4

Understanding how Jesus’s teachings have been misinterpreted can shed light on “everyday hassles [and] global problems,” according to this flawed study from historian Levine (The Difficult Words of Jesus). Delving into such topics as healthcare, race, and immigration, Levine details how Jesus flouted traditional gender roles by remaining a bachelor, accepting single female followers, and “commending” men who made themselves eunuchs (via what the author suggests would today be called “gender reassignment surgery”). Elsewhere, Levine examines how Jesus healed the sick without regard to their social status, thereby opening “the conversation about... how so often those with economic resources receive better, and quicker, care.” Rather than maligning the rich, Jesus emphasized that they must use their resources constructively, Levine claims (“Jesus states, ‘You cannot serve God and wealth,’ but he is also aware that one can serve God with wealth”). Unfortunately, the author spends more time criticizing existing textual interpretations than providing her own, and the links she draws can feel forced and underdeveloped, as when she claims that a woman who “took a risk” by approaching Jesus from behind to seek healing “reminds us of those who enter drug trials, which may cure or kill, ease suffering or increase it.” Despite its worthy aims and a few bright spots, this stumbles. (Aug.)