The Moral Teachings of Jesus

My New Book: The Moral Teachings of Jesus

My newest book, The Moral Teachings of Jesus: Radical Instruction in the Will of God, will be out from Wipf and Stock Publishers (Cascade Books) on September 10. Pre-orders are now available.

What I do in this book is dig into forty moral teachings of Jesus as presented in the Gospels. Each of these teachings is addressed in concise reflections lasting around 1500-2000 words.

Sayings that are offered in multiple Gospel accounts are considered together, with attention to their differences and similarities. While my approach tries to focus on Jesus’ moral teachings themselves, readers only receive those teachings through the mediation of the four Gospel writers, each with their own perspective, which also must be considered.

This is a work at the intersection of New Testament and Christian ethics, and has found very kind endorsements from recognized experts in both fields, such as (NT) Alan Culpepper, Pete Enns, and Angela Parker, and (Ethics/Theology) Miguel De La Torre, Dion Forster, and Grace Ji-Sun Kim. I am hoping it can be used as a textbook in both fields.

The goal of the book is to bring the content of the teachings of Jesus to the center of attention for honest, unflinching engagement, however challenging and even disorienting these teachings may be. The words of Jesus set the agenda, and I try to let the chips fall where they may in terms of what he had to say.

The need that drives the book is my sense that these teachings of Jesus are strangely neglected across much of the community that bears his name and proclaims its loyalty to him. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it seems to me that Jesus himself often has become a vague cipher—or a definite inconvenience to Christians with other agendas they seek to pursue. (When fighting wars, cultural or otherwise, Jesus’ call to peacemaking and to love enemies is a real problem. Just for example.)

The book is written with special attention to serving those responsible for preaching and teaching, with a special heart for the post-evangelical pastors and leaders shepherding flocks of people who are spiritually and morally reconstructing after leaving evangelicalism. I am grateful for endorsements from key leaders in that world such as Keri Ladouceur, Zach Lambert, and Ken Wilson.

To that end, I am very happy also to announce that a detailed study guide for teaching the book has been developed by my protege and research partner, pastor-scholar Jeremy Hall. It will be brought out concurrent with the release of the book.

I believe that all of Jesus’ most important moral sayings are addressed in the book, including the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount, the Greatest Commandment, the Golden Rule, Love Your Enemies, and the Great Judgment.

I examine key parables of moral significance, such as the Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, the Rich Fool, Lazarus and the Indifferent Rich Man, the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, and the Widow and the Unjust Judge.

Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God, Sabbath, law, family, self-denial, children, temptation, marriage, sex, divorce, wealth, peacemaking, prayer, piety, taxes and the state, judging, division, unity, forgiveness, fear, and love are all addressed.

I also address the moral implications to be drawn from several of Jesus’ most famous encounters, including with the woman who anoints him, the so-called Rich Young Ruler, the woman at the well, the woman facing execution, and events that occur during Jesus’ occupation of the Temple in the last days of his earthly life.

Throughout the book, special attention is offered to situate Jesus’ teachings on these and all matters within his Jewish context and with a presentation that rejects historic, damaging anti-Jewish tropes. Diverse research sources including but going beyond standard commentaries aim to make sure that multiple and quite diverse voices speak into the interpretation process.

I am pretty excited about the distillation offered in the conclusion, in which I felt compelled to take this less well-known saying of Jesus as paradigmatic of his moral radicalism: “What is prized by humans is an abomination in the sight of God” (Lk 16:15).

Jesus appears to look at the world almost entirely upside-down from the way most of us do—including most of us who say we believe in him. And what are we to make of that?? One thing I make of it is that Jesus offers a radical challenge to all of us, perhaps especially those who claim to be his people.

I am grateful to my agent David Morris, my editor Rodney Clapp, and to Michael Thomson and Wipf & Stock for releasing the book, which will be my 29th. I am especially grateful to my employer, Mercer University, for the time they offer me to write and especially for the environment of academic freedom in which I work. Most academics reading this post will know what a precious, and fragile, gift that is to a scholar.

I hope you will check out and then enjoy the book. I will be happily available for events, sermons, podcasts, etc. as far as possible after the release of the book.

Thanks for being on this journey with me,


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