Rafael Rodríguez – Jesus Darkly

We see but a poor reflection, dimly. How does social-memory theory change how we think about the New Testament? In Rafael Rodríguez’s Jesus Darkly, the Jesus that emerges from the shadows is surprisingly bright and relevant. Yet even when he remains mysterious, the darkness helps us anticipate the ultimate face-to-face encounter. Rodriguez talks candidly about how a foot-washing ceremony–which should not be confused with foot-licking–changed his life, while offering reflections on Jesus’s significance for the church today. Hosted by Matthew W. Bates.

Guest: Rafael Rodríguez is a professor of the New Testament at Johnson University in Knoxville, Tennessee. He grew up in Colorado Springs. Dr.
Rodríguez holds a B.A. from Cincinnati Bible College and an M.A. from Cincinnati Bible Seminary. He received a Ph.D. from The University of Sheffield, in the United Kingdom for his dissertation that was subsequently published as Structuring Early Christian Memory (Bloomsbury T&T Clark). Beyond that he has penned or edited four additional books: Oral Tradition and the New Testament (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014); ​If You Call Yourself a Jew (co-edited with Matthew Thiessen; Cascade, 2014); The So-Called Jew in Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Fortress, 2016); and the book we are discussing today, Jesus Darkly.

The Book: Rafael Rodriguez, Jesus Darkly: Remembering Jesus with the New Testament (Nashville: Abingdon, 2018).  New Testament students have not always been well served by study of the historical Jesus, which tends to segregate Jesus from his significance vis-à-vis Israel’s scriptures and God’s agenda as this is developed among the New Testament writers in the living context of a faith community’s memory.  The witness of scripture does in fact help us remember Jesus well. From beginning to end, the Bible tells the story of God putting God’s family back together. Its plot develops in multiple, sometimes competing, ways. It exhibits the full range of human emotions and, perhaps surprisingly, it claims that these are also God’s emotions. But on every page, we hear the call of a God whose family has chosen an early inheritance instead of an intimate relationship. That God – pictured as a parent, often a father – beckons God’s children, inviting them to return and to sit at the table, clothed by mercy and affirmed as God’s very family. (Publisher’s description).

The OnScript Quip (our review): In Jesus Darkly, Rafael Rodríguez paints using the rich, earthy hues of social-memory theory. Jesus remains shrouded in deep mystery. Yet there is fresh light amidst the darkness. Readers will discover that Jesus shines brighter due to the starkness of the contrast. — Matthew W. Bates, Quincy University, OnScript

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