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Jesus: The Complete Guide

Jesus: The Complete Guide
Edited by Leslie Houlden
RRP $69.95

Notwithstanding its slightly over-ambitious subtitle, this is an impressive book. Leslie Houlden has assembled 117 scholars to produce a 922-page encyclopaedic overview of Jesus’ life, mission, context and historical impact. The range of the more than 200 alphabetically-arranged entries is vast and transcends the categories usually covered in one volume.

There are predictable entries on each of the gospels, the social context of ancient Palestine, and the various christological debates of the early church. There is also a wide range of entries which cover the accounts of Jesus given by Christianity’s seminal thinkers in the medieval and modern eras.

Reflections about Jesus in contemporary schools of thought are well presented with high-quality entries on, for instance, feminist theology (written by the UCA’s Dorothy Lee), radical orthodoxy and liberation theology.

Although the contributors are largely from the UK, USA and Europe, a wider horizon is achieved through the inclusion of articles which consider the understandings of Jesus in African Christianity, Indian Christianity and Chinese Christianity. Specific entries consider the approach to Jesus in Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. These are especially valuable in the contemporary context.

The book is not limited to a narrow academic agenda. There are helpful entries on the representation of Jesus in film, the media, art and music.

A series of entries on the main themes of the New Testament accounts of Jesus (origins, teachings, parables, miracles, death, resurrection, and achievement) are the heart of the book. Despite a certain historicist bias, they give a good overview of the study of these themes in contemporary scholarship.

An impressively comprehensive index and a well-organised glossary add to the book’s usefulness. I would recommend the book not only to ministers and students of theology, but also to congregations as a one-volume theological resource for use by leaders of study groups.