The Disturbing Galilean: Essays About Jesus
By Malcolm Tolbert
Review by Fisher Humphreys - This review comes by courtesy of Baptist Today.
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The Disturbing Galilean is a great book by a great man about the greatest subject of all.
Malcolm Tolbert, now 85 and living in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La., was a teenager when he began serving as pastor of Baptist churches. He has served as a missionary to Brazil and as a professor of New Testament at Baptist seminaries in New Orleans and Wake Forest.
He has written books on the church, the charismatic movement, Matthew, Luke, Acts, 1 John, and on the epistles to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon.
The Disturbing Galilean is about Jesus’ life and teachings as displayed in Gospel texts that have grasped Tolbert’s mind and heart. The first sentence is, “I am captivated by Jesus.”
The book overflows with wisdom about Jesus and about our lives. “Why did people believe what Jesus was saying?” It was because “the sayings of Jesus possessed an inherent authority” — they still do.
Jesus’ baptism was “the ordination of the Messiah,” and his temptations were a test to see what kind of Messiah he would be; ministers today are tested to see what kind of pastors they will be.
Of Psalm 8:5 he said: “No evaluation of a human being’s worth exceeds God’s.” The only alternatives to forgiveness are retaliation and withdrawal. Jesus’ demand for perfection is a call to maturity.
“Jesus gave us our clearest understanding of God.” His teaching about God differed from the Judaizers’ legalism and from Marcion’s rejection of the God of the Old Testament.
Jesus’ political views fell midway between the positive attitude toward government of Romans 13 and the negative attitude toward government of Revelation 13.
In Jesus’ world as in our own, “Wealth was a possible rival to God.” We western Christians are the rich man in the parable about Lazarus and the rich man.
“Jesus’ inclusiveness reached Zacchaeus like nothing else.” Jesus doesn’t call us to brag about him but to follow him.
“The greatest commandment has two aspects, love for God and love for neighbor. However, the illustrations given by Jesus have to do only with loving our neighbor. He does not illustrate how we express our love for God. There is a simple reason for this. The way we show our love for God is
by loving our neighbor. No pious activity or churchly duty can substitute for that.”
Dr. Tolbert thinks there are two kinds of knowledge about the Bible. Most church members already know how to live faithfully, but they can benefit from the information Scripture scholars can give them.
“What I tell you that you do not know is important, but it is not as important as what you already know.”
I agree, and in this book I found help for faithful living. I bet you will, too.
—Fisher Humphreys is a retired theology professor from Beeson School of Divinity
at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
The Disturbing Galilean can be ordered from Smyth-Helwys