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Review: Jesus the King

Jesus the King
Jesus the King by Timothy Keller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you're looking to study the life of Jesus as told in the Gospel of Mark -- maybe you're Christian, maybe you're interested in biblical studies, maybe your name is Mark -- this is a great place to start, because of the author's clear and methodical exposition and attention to the text and its ramifications.

Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, is well known in Reformed Christian circles; he's a founding member and vice president of The Gospel Coalition, among other ties, and sometimes called the next C.S. Lewis after the publication of his earlier work "The Reason for God." Lewis he is not -- he's not Anglican, and holds to more evangelical Christian theology than Lewis did, not to mention his style is not as clear-cut as Lewis's -- but his writing is certainly worth the read. Keller does his homework, quoting from theologians, philosophers and novelists spanning hundreds of years (including a lengthy quote by N.T. Wright which has inspired me to seek out that theologian's work).

In "Jesus the King," first published as "King's Cross," Keller frames Jesus' life as the approach of the King to the crisis of the Cross, separating the book into two sections of nine chapters each. In a conversational style, he mixes insight into Jewish and Roman culture of the time with philosophical and theological conclusions he exhorts his readers to consider seriously. He tackles such topics as the problem of evil and pain, how God can be both loving and angry, absolute vs. relative moralism, and the Reformed understanding of the Cross as atonement, among many others. One of the more interesting aspects of this book is Keller's dives into the meanings of various Greek and Aramaic words used in the Gospel of Mark, along with the cultural connotations they would have held for the gospel writer's original readers.

Extensive quotations from the Gospel itself and Keller's attempts to keep them in context are commendable. In all, evangelical Christians will likely be challenged by Keller's book whether they're Reformed or not. As my youth pastor said over and over, the Bible is like a bowtie, with the Old Testament pointing to the Cross and most of the New Testament recording the Cross's impact. Given that, studying the Cross itself and the King who hung on it could not be more worthy an endeavor.

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