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Jesus and His Earliest Followers

By Greg Carey

Paperback, 235 pages $29.95
Published: 15th March 2009
ISBN: 9781602581463
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Biblical Studies, New Testament

How did early Christians remember Jesus—and how did they develop their own “Christian” identities and communities? In this accessible and revelatory book, Greg Carey explores how transgression contributed to early Christian identity in the Gospels, Acts, Letters of Paul, and Revelation. Carey examines Jesus as a friend of sinners, challenger of purity laws, transgressor of conventional masculine values of his time, and convicted seditionist. He looks at early Christian communities as out of step with “respectable” practices of their time. Finally, he provides examples of contemporary Christians whose faith requires them to “do the right thing,” even when it means violating current definitions of “respectability.”


Chapter 1:  “How Do You Know She’s a (Sinner)?”

Chapter 2:  Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Chapter 3:  Jesus and Impurity

Chapter 4:  We Were Deadbeats, Me and Paul

Chapter 5:  Jesus the Convicted Seditionist

Interlude:  The Sinless Jesus?

Chapter 6:  The Scandal(s) of the Cross

Chapter 7:  Flirting with Respectability

Chapter 8:  Persecuted

Epilogue:  Sinners in the Life of the Church

“Carey effectively challenges and re-scripts common narratives of Jesus's life…. After absorbing Carey's interpretations, readers will want to have their views shaken even more."

—Brooks Berndt, Ph. D., Homiletic (2012, 37:1)

"Carey writes with an inviting style. Distilling currents in contemporary scholarship, he challenges readers to consider the implications of the identification of Jesus and his followers with and as sinners."

—Jennifer A. Glancy, Interpretation (2011, 65:2)

"... students and laypersons will find much food for provocative thought presented in a lively and academically responsible fashion. C[arey] adroitly canvasses key biblical and scholarly sources, spiced with illuminating insights from modern film, literature, and pop culture."

—The Catholic Biblical Quarterly (2010, 72)

"With economic stress feeding anti-immigrant prejudice, debates over sexuality heating up, and fear of terrorism percolating, Christians would do well to consider that Jesus fraternized with misfits and was himself a social deviant. Greg Carey—winsome communicator and professor of New Testament at Lancaster Theological Seminary—offers us colorful and compelling evidence that Jesus and his early followers often did not fit the mold."

The Christian Century (June 1, 2010)

"In lively prose, this book blends today’s cultural idioms with serious biblical scholarship. The result is a provocative read that will surely challenge the many easy assumptions we consumers of American pop culture make about Jesus, Paul, and the early followers of the Christ-movement. Greg Carey is a public theologian of the most serious sort."

—Sze-kar Wan, Professor of New Testament, Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology

Many in our culture seem deeply interested in the question “What would Jesus do?” yet largely uninformed about “what Jesus did” two thousand years ago. In this smart and accessible book Greg Carey offers an illuminating sketch of the first century social landscape, allowing readers to see Jesus as his contemporaries did: as a transgressor of cultural norms. By explaining and celebrating the perception of Jesus as one who associated with fellow “sinners,” this book provides a way of understanding the New Testament that can deliver Christians from their crippling tendencies to pursue respectability instead of imitating Jesus.

—Matthew L. Skinner, Associate Professor of New Testament, Luther Seminary, Saint Paul

"Greg Carey sets forth an excellent and innovative example of how to read the character of Jesus from a literary, historical, and theological perspective, with an emphasis on ethics of interpretation for the postmodern world."

—Francisco Lozada, Jr., Associate Professor of New Testament and Latina/o Church Studies, Brite Divinity School

"Carey's book is written in a lively and engaging manner that offers non-specialists an enjoyable and provocative look at the way in which Jesus and the first Christians frequently violated conventional social norms. ... The book proceeds in some unexpected directions along the way but is very enjoyable and overall succeeds in making the reader think about the unconventional nature of early Christianity."

—Gary W. Burnett, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, (2010, 32:5)

"Carey’s argument challenges contemporary Christians to reconsider the relationship of the church with sin, shame, respectability and risk."

—Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Associate Professor of New Testament, The Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest

Greg Carey (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is Professor of New Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary. Carey has also written: Ultimate Things: An Introduction to Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Literature (2005) and Elusive Apocalypse: Reading Authority in the Revelation to John (1999).

Publication Details:

 Paperback , 235 pages
 9in x 6in

  REL006100, REL006220, REL006710
 Baylor University Press

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