In his attempt, Fanous makes use of our great heritage of patristic literature as well as contemporary scholarly work on the topic. He also uses his knowledge of first century Jewish customs which he demonstrated in his earlier book, The Person of the Christ: the Early Context of the Savior. The book is divided up into four parts. The first part entitled, “The Righteousness of the Kingdom,” discusses the different Jewish laws as understood and practiced by first century Jews e.g. (Laws concerning, Sabbath, Food, Purity, Marriage…etc).
In these contexts he discusses some hard sayings of Jesus concerning the law such as, “whoever divorces his wife” and “It was said to old.” The author discusses all these issues with the underlying statement in mind, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Mat 5:17).
The second two parts of the book speak of statements relating to the kingdom and deals with sayings such as, “Blasphemy against the spirit,” “I did not come to bring peace but a sword,” “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence,” “The Kingdom of God has come.”
In these chapters Fanous sheds light on the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven in first century Judaism, and thus gives context to the sayings of Jesus. In the last part of the book the author discusses the difficult sayings of Jesus that he said of Himself: “My Father is greater than I,” and, “My God why have You forsaken Me” What is interesting about these chapters is that they reveal how different such statements sound to us today in contrast to what they really meant to a first century Jew.
In total, this book seeks to answer many of the heard to understand sayings of Jesus that we read in the Gospels. While it does not claim to be the final word on the topic it provides an excellent introduction to the questions.
Readers will find that they have different opinions on the different chapters, and others will find themselves more confused after reading some chapters than they were before reading it. But we must have in mind that these are the hard sayings of Jesus, and being confused can be an important and necessary step in entering deeper into the scriptures. I highly recommend this book for general readers who decided to take the Gospels seriously.
Book Review By Fr Anthony St Shenouda Dr. Daniel Fanous, Taught by God: Making Sense of the Difficult Sayings of Jesus, 2010 pp 260 paperback. ISBN: 9781933275505. US $19.95.