The Surprising Genius of Jesus: What the Gospels Reveal about the Greatest Teacher, by Peter J. Williams

This is an excellent reflection on the literary genius of Jesus with a focus on the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

My favorite part is the first chapter where Williams slowly walks through the textual details of the story and the way that it functions in Luke's overall strategy. The parable is "clever" and "artful" in the way that it engages and confronts the immediate audience (the scribes & Jewish leaders) while also conveying a message of gospel hope to those with ears to hear. 

In this way, Williams shows how the parable is framed by "two sons" (not just one!). This allows us to see the fullness of the Father's response to both the son who was lost but now has been found (like the sheep who was rescued) & the son who never left but who has nevertheless "lost" his way (like the gold coin that was lost within the house).

Williams next shows the way the entire parable draws upon the imagery and themes of the book of Genesis. Williams also surveys the many other parables that draw upon the OT in a variety of ways.

The book concludes with an apologetic defense of the reliability of the witness of the Gospels. It is more than reasonable, Williams insists, that the teaching and words of Jesus in the Gospels are reliable and that Jesus himself is the genius behind these stories.

I would warmly recommend this little volume to anyone. 

It gives a brief but profound glimpse into the literary beauty and theological depth of the NT's witness to Jesus and his life-changing message.

Book Review
November 8, 2023


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