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A Three-Dimensional Jesus

An Introduction to the Synoptic Gospels

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Westminster John Knox Press
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In A Three-Dimensional Jesus, Clifton Black offers a fresh, critically sympathetic reading of the New Testament’s first three Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Intelligent and accessible, conversational and whimsical, this volume helps readers consider the questions that are basic to the Synoptic Gospels’ interpretation. Black addresses their literary genre and origins; portrayals of the figure of Jesus and other central characters; the relationships among these three books; and the social, political, and religious worlds from which they emerged and to which they were addressed. Individual chapters on each Gospel highlight their likely audiences, literary structures, and primary theological themes. Throughout, Black’s presentation is clear and engaging, making use of topical sidebars, charts, and illustrations as well as wit and good humor to draw readers into these Gospels’ interpretations. The volume also includes such original features as conversations with other well-established scholars, which help the reader appreciate a range of perspectives on topics like the historical Jesus and the Gospels’ depiction of women, and interviews of experts on these Gospels’ afterlife in the history of Christian thought, sacred music, fine art, and preaching.

A Three-Dimensional Jesus is a concise, approachable study of the New Testament’s first three Gospels viewed from multiple angles—historical, sociological, literary, theological—with attention paid to their history of interpretation. In as much, Black invites readers to better understand and appreciate the Synoptics, while guiding them to learn even more.

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Clifton Black is Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary. He is a renowned New Testament scholar with more than thirty years of teaching experience, shaping theological education and ecclesial leaders in mainline denominations. He is an ordained elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. He has authored or edited twenty books and more than two hundred essays, articles, and reviews, including The Lord’s Prayer in the Interpretation series and The Rhetoric of the Gospel: Theological Artistry in the Gospels and Acts, Second edition. He was elected to the presidency of the American Theological Society (2022–2023).

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"If you’ve ever wondered why the Gospels are so similar and yet so different, this book is for you! Black navigates the complex relationship between these Gospels without ever losing sight of their subject: Jesus. With theological depth and good humor, Black draws readers into each Gospel’s distinctive expression of Jesus’s message." - Susan E. Hylen, Almar H. Shatford Professor of New Testament, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

"As one of the many students who has had the privilege to learn the Gospels in the classroom of Black, I can attest that this volume has all the humor, verve, and faithfulness of his matchless persona. A perfect volume for students, A Three-Dimensional Jesus distills what really matters in Synoptic studies and presents it with clarity that arises from years of faithful and honest friendship with these writings. Rich historical data provides a sense of the ancient ethos, geographical rootedness allows the imagination to locate the stories in real places, visual aids in both charts and artwork stimulate the mind for maximal apprehension, and conversations with a wide range of Gospels scholars stretches the reader to see different fruitful ways of studying these texts. Black frees to reader to admit with him that there are many things we do not know about these accounts of Jesus, but that lack, instead of inhibiting, actually empowers faithful response to the good news proclaimed therein." - Amy Peeler, Professor of New Testament, Wheaton College

"Black first sparked my scholarly interest in the Gospels decades ago when I was a master’s student in one of his classes. To this day I know of no better guide to these texts. Here he offers an introduction to the first three Gospels that is informed by high-level scholarship but is also accessible to non-specialists. In witty prose he walks the reader through the major themes of these texts, highlighting the distinctive ways each proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ. If you’ve been looking for a measured, informed, and practical guide to the Synoptic Gospels, look no further. This is your book." - David F. Watson, Academic Dean and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Professor of New Testament, United Theological Seminary

"In a world where no one knows what is true and most intelligence seems artificial, Black enters the fray with an impassioned and well-tempered reading of the Synoptic Gospels. With precious insights and deft prose on every page, Black offers an inspiring reading of the synoptics while showing his work in such a way that the reader is not just entertained but informed and empowered. Punctuated with anecdotes, interviews, and other witticisms, this book is not your typical introduction to the synoptics; it is an invitation think about the Gospels and the Christian faith in a new way." - Micah D. Kiel, Professor of Theology, St. Ambrose University

"Black is a winsome and learned guide; he will take you on a delightful and stimulating tour through the Synoptic Gospels while inviting you to eavesdrop on conversations with a host of friends (who also happen to be experts) along the way. If you are interested in discovering or rediscovering the worlds of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in all their complexity—from political settings to preaching challenges—this book is for you." - Rebekah Eklund, Associate Professor of Theology, Loyola University Maryland

"In A Three-Dimensional Jesus, Black shares his love of reading the Gospels in engaging, memorable ways. Using a wide variety of illustrations drawn from television, classical music, and art, as well as a review of Roman history featuring ‘Big Julie and the Imperials’ and interspersed conversations with other teacher-scholars, he invites readers to delight in encountering Jesus and the Synoptic Gospels in all their varied dimensions." - Laura C. Sweat Holmes, Professor of New Testament, Wesley Theological Seminary

"Black’s A Three-Dimensional Jesus is an informed and engaging introduction to the Synoptic Gospels. It is written in a style that is accessible to students, pastors, and lay people. The reader encounters careful and balanced analyses and is enriched by insightful conversations with scholars, preachers, and artists—an important reminder that Scripture must be read in community. I am excited for this book and highly recommend it." - Robert E. Moses, Associate Professor of Religion, High Point University

"Black has written an invaluable resource for studying the Synoptic Gospels for students at every level. The present volume reflects the culmination of lifelong study, combining cutting-edge research with Black’s contagious enthusiasm to read Matthew, Mark, and Luke with a stubborn, insatiable curiosity." - J.P. O’Connor, Associate Professor of New Testament, Northwest University

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