by Brandon D. Crowe
Paperback, 215 pg.
Baker Academic, 2017
Read: February 19 – March 19, 2017
I just don’t know how to sum up this book succinctly honestly. After a few attempts that are best never seen by anyone, I decided that no one does it better than Crowe does in the first three paragraphs:
What is the purpose and significance of the life and ministry of Jesus in the Gospels? At one level, this may seem like an obvious question. The Gospels are all about Jesus. Moreover, given the structure of each of the four Gospels, it is difficult to miss the central role played by the Passion Narratives. And yet there is much more in the Gospels beyond the Passion Narratives. Jesus is amazingly active. He preaches, heals, exorcises, prays, rebukes, forgives, calls, authorizes, confounds, challenges, rejoices, weeps, blesses, curses, prophesies, and more. In addition, he consistently draws attention to himself as he does these things.
And then there are the Christmas stories (that is, the infancy narratives). These are among the more familiar parts of the Gospels in today’s culture. But what is the relationship between the infancy narratives and salvation? Jesus appears to be quite passive lying in the manger as he is adored by shepherds, and we do not find him to be very active when the magi come and prostrate themselves before him in Matthew 2. But can we look even to the infancy of Jesus and say that Jesus was somehow already beginning to accomplish something of significance? To ask this question is to lead us back to the driving question of this volume, since Jesus did not bypass infancy, childhood, adolescence, or adulthood on his way to the cross. Why? What was it about the life of Jesus that was necessary for salvation—from the manger to the cross and everything in between? Do the Evangelists themselves give us any indications that this is a question they have in view as they write their Gospels? I will argue that they do.
In this volume I will argue that we find a shared perspective among the diversity of the four Gospels that the obedient life of Jesus—in its entirety—is vicarious and salvific in character. More specifically, I will argue that Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels as the last Adam whose obedience is necessary for God’s people to experience the blessings of salvation. In pursuit of this thesis, I will consider what the Gospels themselves say about the lifelong obedience of Jesus, which concomitantly involves considering how Jesus’s life and ministry are related to his passion. By concentrating on the Gospels I do not intend to imply that these are the only documents in the New Testament that speak to this issue. I do believe, however, that a focus on the Gospels qua Gospels is important because of the way they narrate the life of Jesus, and because their testimony to the significance of Jesus’s life for salvation has often not been given sufficient attention. Thus a sub-aim of this book is to help us read and interpret the Gospels theologically.
So, there’s his aim, rather, there are his aims. How does he go about it? Here’s the Table of Contents to give you a look at how he’s approaching his arguments (yeah, I’m quoting a lot here, but you try to tackle this book in a blog post rather than a dozen or so page review and see how easy it is):
1. A Tale of Two Adams in the History of Interpretation
2. The Last Adam and the Son of Man in the Gospels
3. The Last Adam as the Obedient Son of God
4. The Last Adam and the Fulfillment of Scripture
5. The Glory of the Last Adam in the Gospel of John
6. The Last Adam and the Kingdom of Righteousness
7. The Death and Resurrection of the Last Adam
8. The Last Adam and Salvation: Theological Synthesis and Conclusions
This is primarily an exegetical work — dealing with the text of the Gospels directly. But Crowe leans upon historical and systematic theology as well (especially in Chapter 8). Outside of Chapter 5, he’s primarily dealing with the Synoptics — but not exclusively. It is not impossible to read for the dedicated layman — I’ve read more difficult works in the last few months, but it’s not something you can skim with profit. There are issues that I’m not sure I understand the purpose of addressing, as I’m not aware of all of the academic controversies he’s addressing, but even when you don’t understand everything about those portions of the book, you can still gain from working through them.
I learned a lot. I thought about passages in a way I haven’t before — seeing things in a new light, or at least a different light. I really don’t have a lot to say about this particular book — primarily I just wanted to post about it to maybe get a reader or two to look at it that might not have otherwise. I loved it, even when I had to work a little harder than usual to get what he was saying, it was worth it. This is the kind of thing the Church needs more of.
This is written from a Confessionally Reformed perspective, but not necessarily for the Confessionally Reformed any more than other Evangelical/Evangelical-ish readers. Although, the Reformed will be more used to thinking in some of the categories he uses than others (as Crowe indicates late in this interview).
This is not an easy read, this is not a quick read, but it is a good read (why do I feel like Lewis’ Mr. Beaver now?). This is theology that will lead to doxology — as well as more theological and doxological reflection and study. I wasn’t sure what I expected to get out of this book, but Crowe delivered it and more. I’m not doing a good job summing things up here, just get this book and read it (as well as all the books Crowe writes that you can afford, I’m pretty sure I never got around to posting about his book on the General Epistles which was almost as good as this one (and easier to read)).