What Did Jesus Do? Gospel Profiles of Jesus' Personal Conduct

By Skinner, Matthew L. | Interpretation, October 2004 | Go to article overview

What Did Jesus Do? Gospel Profiles of Jesus' Personal Conduct


Skinner, Matthew L., Interpretation


What Did Jesus Do? Gospel Profiles of Jesus' Personal Conduct by F. Scott Spencer Trinity Press International, Harrisburg, 2003. 279 pp. $19.95. ISBN 1-56338-392-6.

WHETHER A PERSON BRANDISHES "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets or dismisses the pop slogan as a misguided or jejune question, nevertheless most regard Jesus as some kind of model for how to live. Spencer, a New Testament scholar, wants discussions about Jesus' role in ethical discourse to take careful account of the ways that the Gospel narratives depict Jesus interacting with others within the social matrices of his time. Written in a vivacious tone, this book focuses not on Jesus' ethical teachings but on his actions as a moral agent. It offers a composite yet complex portrait of the biblical Jesus as one who, in his conduct, urgently participates in a life of service to others, while in the process openly contravelling many values and conventions of his society.

Spencer explains what Jesus' activities reveal about him as a person in relationship to others and to the world, examining his regard for family members and familial identity; friends and associates in ministry; physical matters pertaining to purity, diet, sexuality, and pain; material wealth; work, vocation, and expressions of service; and public virtues of honesty, humility, and dignity. Analyzing what Jesus does in relative isolation from what he says makes for a peculiar and difficult project, but the author manages it well. Spencer never entirely divorces Jesus' spoken and enacted communication; occasional comparisons of Jesus' sayings and dealings highlight the rhetoric inherent to both kinds of expression. …

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