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“The Last Adam”: Brandon Crowe’s new book

March 15, 2017

Relevant to the recent discussion here about the portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels, note also Brandon D. Crowe’s new book, The Last Adam:  A Theology of the Obedient Life of Jesus in the Gospels (Baker Academic, 2017; the publisher’s online catalogue entry here.  As does Kirk, Crowe (one of my former PhD students) overtly offers his study with a theological concern that the life-stories of Jesus in the Gospels should be taken seriously, both in theological reflections and in preaching.  But Crowe doesn’t seem to make so much of a contrast between his emphasis on the human career of Jesus and the emphasis on him as having a divine status and as rightful recipient of worship.

As hinted in the title, Crowe’s book has a central thesis that in all four Gospels Jesus is implicitly or explicitly presented as the new/last Adam, Jesus’ life and actions depicted in relation to (and in contrast with) the (failing/disobedient) Adam of Genesis.  In Crowe’s judgement, the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ ministry emphasize his obedience (to God), making his life salvific, and not only his death and resurrection.  Crowe pushes back against depictions of the Gospels as “passion narratives with extended introductions” (Martin Kähler), urging (cogently) that the authors of the Gospels must have intended their narratives of the Jesus of Galilee to be meaningful, and not simply preparations for his crucifixion.

Crowe draws upon a history of scholarship to argue that his thesis is not so much new as insufficiently noted in some recent scholarly work.  His intended readership includes particularly students and pastors, hoping to offer the latter in particular some practical help in preaching from the Gospels narratives.



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  1. Justin permalink

    Greetings Larry
    I’ve been reading through your posts on pre-existence and how the gospels portray very much the humanity of Jesus. They don’t emphasise ideas surrounding Jesus which we find in the letters, ideas which in fact emerged well before the gospels were written. It seems to me then that the gospels were not clearly written in the light of developments however quickly these emerged and that this has value in discussing the reliability of the gospels in their portrayal of Jesus. You suggest the writers may have wanted “to maintain (or re-establish) a balance, underscoring that the exalted Jesus of early Christian devotion is also the man of Galilee .” The alternative is that the gospels may have been written by individuals ignorant of what was being said in other circles (which you suggest in your response to Kirk is implausible). A further option I suppose is that the synoptics were written to counter ideas in the letters, although we might then expect those ideas to be more clearly expressed or represented in the gospels before they were then rejected. Do you therefore consider it reasonable to suggest that since the gospels were not clearly written in the light of developments that we can make positive inferences about the reliability of the gospels?

    I hope what I’ve written is clear. Many thanks indeed.

    • Justin: (1) There’s no indication in the Gospels that they are working to oppose some other Christological stance, so why invent such a conflict? (2) It is highly implausible that the authors of the Gospels could have been ignorant of developments in the richly networked early Christian movement that erupted in the 30s! (3) The Gospels aren’t theological tractates, but narratives of the earthly career of Jesus. So of course Jesus isn’t treated in these narratives as recipient of cultic devotion, for all evidence makes the latter a post-easter development.
      All this has nothing to do with the “reliability” of the Gospels, and I fail to see how you pose this as an issue. If anything, the emphasis on Jesus’ historical placement in time, space, culture, etc., makes them look impressively committed to not falsifying things.

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