Friday, April 5, 2013
Killing Jesus by Stephen Mansfield
Latest project: Killing Jesus: The Unknown Conspiracy Behind the World’s Most Notorious Execution (9781617951879, Worthy Publishing).
Why did you choose to write Killing Jesus? We can’t allow a gloss to form over the brutality of the crucifixion. It is the central event of our faith. Everything that leads to the death of Jesus was redemptive. I wanted to tell this story beyond what can be said in an Easter sermon or the usual Bible study. Frankly, it is a very gruesome tale, more gruesome in some cases than Mel Gibson’s film [The Passion of The Christ].
Why did you think it important to explain Jesus’ execution in gritty realism? The story demands it. The sacrifice demands it. My gratitude for what Jesus endured demands it. We are told in Scripture that, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search it out.” I don’t want to be guilty of laziness in searching out anything concealed about the sufferings of Jesus.
What research did you conduct? I relied on scholars in Israel, Turkey and at major universities here in the United States. I also used “old school” scholars like Alfred Edersheim and “new school” scholars like Marcus Borg. Of course, any book of this kind has to involve Josephus and Tacitus—all the classical writers who shine light on the pages of Scripture.
You did not write this book in your office, as you typically do. Where did you write? I found it too gritty and disturbing to put on the page in my very comfortable office. I know this sounds odd, perhaps even contrived, but I did genuinely write in public places. It seemed fitting. I wrote in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station and sitting with Israeli troops at the Citadel of David, for example. I just had to be among crowds and human drama to get this on the page.
How is the material organized? It is chronological with several of what I call “periscope” chapters. These are chapters in which I stick my head out of the historical moment and look back over Jesus’ life in summary fashion.
Will you explain your use of present tense and multiple perspectives in the narrative portion? I did it for dramatic effect, certainly, but I also did it so that the reader can better imagine himself on the scene. Some very wise professors of mine taught me to read the Bible “architecturally,” meaning actually inside the story looking around. It has made a profound difference in my orientation to the Bible.
You write that the conspiracy to kill Jesus should not be read hastily. Why do you think this caution is necessary? Understandably, we Christians read about the crucifixion of Jesus a bit overly eager to get Him in the tomb. We tend to miss the meaning of what comes before. For example, is there any connection between Jesus driving moneychangers out of the temple courts and His death? I say there is and that it is extremely important, but we often miss this in our eagerness to get to the victorious moments in the story. I share that excitement—I’m a Christian! But every word in Scripture was written for a reason and we should take time understand the meaning intended.