Jesus Behaving Badly: The Puzzling Paradoxes of the Man from Galilee, By Mark L. Strauss alt

Jesus Behaving Badly

The Puzzling Paradoxes of the Man from Galilee

by Mark L. Strauss

Jesus Behaving Badly
  • Length: 223 pages
  • Published: September 25, 2015
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 9811
  • ISBN: 9780830898114

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Everybody likes Jesus. Don't they?

We overlook that Jesus was

  • Judgmental—preaching hellfire far more than the apostle Paul
  • Uncompromising—telling people to hate their families
  • Chauvinistic—excluding women from leadership
  • Racist—insulting people from other ethnic groups
  • Anti-environmental—cursing a fig tree and affirming animal sacrifice
  • Angry—overturning tables and chasing moneychangers in the temple

He demanded moral perfection, told people to cut off body parts, made prophecies that haven't come true, and defied religious and political authorities. While we tend to ignore this troubling behavior, the people around Jesus didn't. Some believed him so dangerous that they found a way to have him killed.

The Jesus everybody likes, says Mark Strauss, is not the Jesus found in the Gospels. He's a figure we've created in our own minds. Strauss believes that when we unpack the puzzling paradoxes of the man from Galilee, we find greater insight into his countercultural message and mission than we could ever have imagined.

"In Jesus Behaving Badly, Mark Strauss provides a clear and compelling portrait of Jesus in his own terms and historical context. Strauss skillfully guides the reader through the maze of current questions about Jesus, such as 'Was Jesus a revolutionary?' and 'Why did Jesus curse a fig tree?' Students and pastors alike will find Jesus Behaving Badly an enriching read and invaluable tool in understanding the Jesus of the Gospels."

Lynn H. Cohick, Wheaton College

"Mark Strauss provides a wonderful account of Jesus full of wit and wisdom that shows that the meek and mild Jesus is Sunday school fiction. The Jesus of the Gospels is a much more complicated character who felt compassion and anger, who preached peace and kicked over tables, who made friends with prostitutes and offended the religious establishment, who resisted family values of the day and even started a revolution in Judaism. Reading this book could be like meeting Jesus for the first time."

Michael F. Bird, lecturer in theology at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia

"We have rehabilitated Jesus so much today that we can't imagine how anyone wouldn't admire Jesus. How could anyone hate this lovable guy enough to scream, 'Crucify him!'? Yet, a fuller reading of the Gospels reveals a tree-hating, name-calling troublemaker who often didn't play well with others. Maybe the home crowd at Nazareth wanted to stone him because he was a 'stubborn and rebellious son' (Deut 21:18-21). Yet, in a delightfully written book, Strauss treats fairly these typical objections to Jesus and guides the reader to a fuller understanding of this complex man from Galilee. Anyone wanting to understand Jesus better, whether in a classroom or Bible study, should read this book."

E. Randolph Richards, dean, school of ministry, professor of biblical studies, Palm Beach Atlantic University

"Many people have the view that Jesus was basically a friendly and warm teacher. Those who have read the Gospels closely recognize, though, that Jesus said and did things that upset this rosy portrait. Jesus Behaving Badly engages the hard 'sayings' and 'doings' of Jesus, not by merely explaining them away, but by representing a fullness of Jesus in the three dimensions of a real historical figure and in the fourfold portrayal of the Gospels. If the aim of this book is to reckon with the whole Jesus and not a mere caricature, Strauss has accomplished this with sense and wit."

Nijay K. Gupta, George Fox Evangelical Seminary

"Strauss tackles these issues with honesty, humility, and occasional humor. He provides a wealth of political, cultural, and historical background information that clarifies the meaning of Jesus' words and deeds. He addresses the tough questions that arise, drawing implications for Christians today. . . . Jesus Behaving Badly offers insightful information for seekers, new Christians, and longtime believers."

Daniel Johnson, CBA Retailers+Resources, November 2015

"The author crafts chapters with an eye toward orthodoxy, posing questions first in a negative, then a positive light. His underlying agenda is made plain: 'Knowing about Jesus is one thing; knowing him is something else.' . . . In a day and time when many people are trying to get a handle on life, Jesus Behaving Badly provides a clear, thoughtful and engaging forum to begin framing a new or renewed relationship with the Word made Flesh. This book is a treasure."

Thomas W. Blair, The Presbyterian Outlook, March 17, 2016


1. Everybody Likes Jesus
2. Revolutionary or Pacifist?
3. Angry or Loving?
4. Environmentalist or Earth Scorcher?
5. Legalist or Grace Filled?
6. Hellfire Preacher or Gentle Shepherd?
7. Antifamily or Family Friendly?
8. Racist or Inclusivist?
9. Sexist or Egalitarian?
10. Was Jesus Anti-Semitic?
11. Failed Prophet or Victorious King?
12. Decaying Corpse or Resurrected Lord?
Discussion Questions
Scripture Index


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Mark L. Strauss

Mark L. Strauss (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary San Diego. He is the author or coauthor of several books and numerous articles, including How to Read the Bible in Changing Times, Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels, How to Choose a Translation for All It's Worth (with Gordon D. Fee), The Essential Bible Companion (with John Walton), and commentaries on Mark's Gospel in the Zondervan Exegetical Commetary Series and Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol. 9.

He is New Testament editor of the Expanded Bible and the Teach the Text Commentary Series. He also serves as vice-chair of the Committee for Bible Translation for the New International Version and as an associate editor for the NIV Study Bible. Strauss has a heart for ministry and preaches and teaches regularly at churches, conferences, and college campuses. He is the weekly teacher at the Cove Bible Study at The Church at Rancho Bernardo. He lives in San Diego with his wife, Roxanne, and three kids.