Looks at Jesus as a figure not only of his time but also of the present day
In Who Is Jesus? Leander E. Keck discusses the quest for the Jewish Jesus of history and challenges readers to think seriously not only about Jesus' historical existence but also about his ongoing moral and theological significance. Rather than asking and answering questions solely about Jesus as a historical figure, Keck considers Jesus' current identity as well and, in doing so, responds to and expands upon the historians' reconstruction.
Setting the context for his study, Keck clarifies the difference between the way Jesus is presented in the gospels and the way critical historians portray him. He then explores, from four perspectives, Jesus' contemporary moral and theological pertinence. Keck looks initially at Jesus as a first-century Jew, conscious of the difficulty and importance of recovering Jesus' particular form of Jewishness. He then considers how Jesus' mission was energized by his grasp of the kingdom of God. Taking issue with current assertions that Jesus did not expect the imminent arrival of God's kingdom, Keck contends that Jesus clearly expressed a conviction that God's definitive reign was impending and would transform the lives of those who responded affirmatively to his message.
Keck goes on to probe the meaning of the crucifixion of Jesus, in light of the biblical understanding of God's holiness, a theme largely neglected today. Keck concludes his discussion by looking at Jesus' role in the moral life of the Christian community. Noting that Jesus' influence is not limited to his teachings or deeds but includes the entirety of his being, Keck eschews the phrase "ethics of Jesus" in favor of "Jesus ethic." He suggests that it adequately accounts for the centrality of the person of Jesus in the lives of his followers and for their willingness to suffer voluntarily for others.
Leander E. Keck is the Winkley Professor of Biblical Theology emeritus at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut, where he also served as dean from 1979 to 1989. He is the senior New Testament editor for the twelve-volume commentary The New Interpreter's Bible. Keck lives in Bethany, Connecticut.
"This book is vintage Keck—cogent, learned, instructive, nuanced, stimulating, provocative. A good antidote for facile answers to hard historical and theological questions about the reality and significance of Jesus of Nazareth, it is critically acute and theologically perceptive. The book is an essential addition to the library of anyone interested in the Jesus of history and his contemporary meaning. Take and read!"—Paul J. Achtemeier, Union Theological Seminary
"Leander Keck invites readers into his own exploration of major issues in the study of Jesus: his Jewishness, his teaching, his death, and his significance for the moral life. While it engagingly maps the scholarly quest of the Jesus of history, Who is Jesus? is equally attentive to the present tense. A welcome contribution for students and scholars alike."—Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Princeton Theological Seminary
"By focusing on the theological as well as the historical significance of Jesus, Keck sets the discussion of Jesus on a new and better track. Written with clarity and insight, this work shows the significance of Jesus for faith as well as scholarship. Put aside all those other books and read Keck!"—Frank J. Matera, The Catholic University of America