Item description for Jesus and the Pleasures by J. Christian Wilson...
Overview Jesus was not hostile to pleasure as such, says Wilson, but celebrated what was good in the natural world---food and drink, sound health, friendships, the arts and creativity, and, most of all, love. He wants all the best for his creation, anxious to bring to fulfillment its original intent.
Publishers Description Jesus and the Pleasures explores Jesus and his attitude toward the pleasures of human life. Wilson contends that Jesus, fully human, accepted the pleasures of life, and that denying them runs counter to God's desire that we live abundantly. The pleasures-the natural world, healthy human relationships, food, drink, good health, music, and the greatest pleasure, love-provide the framework for joy and fulfillment, for living what we call the good life. Jesus and the Pleasures presents Jesus as the guide to living within that framework.
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More About J. Christian Wilson
J. Christian Wilson is Professor of Religious Studies at Elon University in North Carolina. An ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, Wilson is a New Testament scholar with several advanced degrees from Duke University and expertise in such languages as Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic, and Latin.
Reviews - What do customers think about Jesus and the Pleasures?
Solid Material, Not Always on Topic Nov 18, 2005
When I picked up this book, I had high hopes for the material. I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor (ELCA) and in my seminary days, a notoriously clever professor did a January course called "Lutheran spirituality." On day one we were all told we failed for taking a course with such a name. No such thing as Spirituality for a Christian, he said: we are enfleshed, so we would study "Lutheran carnality." The author of our book is not Lutheran, but shares this same understanding of Jesus as an enfleshed person, and approaches "worldliness" in a way that is refreshing and rare among Christianity in America today.
The beginning chapters lay out what is meant by "the pleasures" and establishes our discussion.
The third chapter starts off our list well, with one of my favorite topics, Jesus and wine. I'm a home vintner, so I am a bit biased. Excellent chapter.
Chapter four is out of focus. Using the classic phrase "wine women and song" as a basis for discussion, the chapter on women does not fit in this book. It is a fine collection of material about Jesus' out-of-the-box attitude toward women. It is important material for any Christian to study. It's just not right for this book. This is a book about Jesus and worldly pleasures, and the format sets up the expectation of a sexist objectification of women. While that is reversed by the discussion of Jesus' egalitarianism, what is lost in the shuffle is a chapter relevant to the title of the book. As an awkward afterthought, the author suddenly remembers the theme and says "he reveled in the pleasure of their company." This was the easy way out. How about a chapter on the speculation over Jesus being married? The fact that he is called Rabbi would infer a married man, yet no mention of his marital status is mentioned. We assume that means he was single. A first century Jew would assume that meant he was married. Being single would be strange enough to have been mentioned. And if he was, why would that make him less than what he was? Why is a later third century attitude toward sex and the doctrine of original sin our lens on which we view Jesus? Nothing about being married and remaining faithful in marriage would have made him inherently sinful, holding with most Christian orthodoxy that he was without sin. My point is that this chapter could have been about the serious question of sexuality, but instead a fine chapter from another book was put in its place.
Chapter five has good material, but again, gets way off focus. The central thesis is that Jesus was no dour puritan, singing and dancing are part of celebrating the kingdom. A good admonition is offered against those Christian traditions who have lost the ability to celebrate. However, much of the chapter is dedicated to an Old Testament history of music, as well as a crash course in Western music which is wholly unnecessary for this book. This is where my main critique of the book is levied. There's nothing I would disagree with, it's simply a case of trying to hard to fit the theme. This book would have been a fine journal article, but in attempting to make it into a book, too many side routes are taken.
Chapter six on health is a solid chapter, and gets more into the ramifications for believers, of Jesus' actions. The restoration to health and wholeness for those touched by Jesus were not just physical, but restored the "unclean" to community. Discussion on how this translates to our healing ministries is appreciated. But once again,. the author gets off track with a a real stretch on the "pleasure of scientific learning." While I agree with the author's assessment of how the science-faith discussion is playing out in current culture, I don't see it as part of THIS book.
Love, chapter seven, addresses the various forms of love in Biblical Greek. A good discussion on how Jesus affirms them all.
Chapter eight, "the good life" is more in depth reflection on the theme of the book. And yet, while the author continually affirms the idea that Jesus did not need money for the good life, he would have to readily admit the picture here is severely biased to the tastes of educated upper middle class intellectuals with leisure time. Classical music, fine wine, literature, and come on now, golf?
The final chapter is a fine essay on our modern pleasures and what Jesus might think of them.
Overall, my suspicion was that this book had started as a paper or journal article, and was expanded to a book. The acknowledgements bear that out. I find the material in the book well worth reading, but not always central to the theme. The beginning and end say it all. Each chapter of "evidence" has a varied level of convincing power or even data to work with. It's not surprising the author gets off topic, it's easy to do in chapters where there isn't much to say directly on topic.
I have seen no other book with even a similar title in current press, and I would encourage people to read this in spite of my editorial misgivings.