Publishers are delving into complex and provocative aspects of God, Jesus, and his teachings, from theological reflections on ancient Christian atonement rituals to modern issues such as the experiences of refugees and victims of violence. New books offer readers the chance to deepen their personal faith and learn new frameworks for understanding Christian theology.
Out now from Westminster John Knox, When Did Jesus Become God? A Christological Debate is a conversation between noted scholars Bart D. Ehrman and Michael F. Bird, featuring a historical introduction by philosophy and theology scholar Robert B. Stewart. Ehrman and Bird take opposing perspectives on the divinity of Jesus: Ehrman, who teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, argues that neither Jesus nor the apostles believed Jesus was God during his lifetime, and Bird, an Anglican priest and academic dean at Ridley College in Australia, asserts that Jesus believed himself to be the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and “the divine Son” during his lifetime.
Calling the book “smart, conversational, and cordial,” Daniel Braden, senior editor of academic books at WJK, says readers can expect “an interesting and simple entrée into historical, and to a lesser degree, theological, debate about a very important Christian topic—the divinity of Jesus—or, more specifically, the timing of the divinity of Jesus.”
In January 2023, Fortress Press will publish Jesus the Refugee: Ancient Injustice and Modern Solidarity by D. Glenn Butner Jr., an assistant professor of theology and Christian ministry at Sterling College. The book examines Jesus’s infancy and his parents’ flight to Egypt through the lens of modern legal conventions around refugee status and protections. “If the holy family would be turned away under today’s refugee laws, what hope is there for the rest of us?” asks Ryan Hemmer, editor-in-chief at Fortress. “Jesus the Refugee will challenge both asylum skeptics and advocates to move beyond talking points to transformation.”
From IVP, Flood and Fury: Old Testament Violence and the Shalom of God (Feb. 2023) by Matthew Lynch, associate professor of the Old Testament at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, explores the misogyny, racism, and nationalism associated with violent episodes described in the Hebrew Bible, such as the flood narrative and the story of the conquest of Canaan. In the process, Lynch uncovers critiques of violence within the text as well as insights into the “goodness and mercy of God,” according to the publisher.
“Questions around Old Testament violence continue to divide readers of the Bible both in the church and in the academy,” says Rachel Hastings, associate academic editor for IVP. “Lynch does a superb job of exploring methods of interpretation for numerous troubling texts in the Old Testament.”
Author Tomáš Halík, a Czech Roman Catholic priest, theologian, and scholar, wrote the preface to the English translation of his book Touch the Wounds: On Suffering, Trust, and Transformation just as Covid was beginning to devastate the world. The timing was meaningful for a book that argues that Christians can discover the clearest vision of God by confronting suffering directly. “Halík calls upon Christians to touch the wounds of the world and to rediscover their own faith by loving and healing their neighbors,” says Emily R. King, senior acquisitions editor for the University of Notre Dame press, which is set to publish the book in March 2023. “Rather than demanding impossible, flawless faith, we can look through our doubt to see, touch, and confront the wounds in the hearts of our neighbors and—through that wounded humanity, which the Son of God took upon himself—see God.”
Finally, David M. Moffitt, associate professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, closely studies sacrifice and atonement, resurrection and ascension, and Jesus’s role as a priest in his new book, Rethinking the Atonement: New Perspectives on Jesus’s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, out from Baker Academic in 2023. Bryan R. Dyer, senior acquisitions editor at the press, says the book considers the fullness of how Jesus atones for Christians’ sins, beyond the crucifixion. He adds, “This insight offers readers a greater appreciation of Jesus as not only our savior who died for us on the cross two millennia ago, but also our present high priest who continues to intercede before the Father on our behalf.”