Bible Review 8:4, August 1992

Bible Books

The Most Important Thing Jesus Did

Dying, We Live: A New Enquiry into the Death of Christ in the New Testament

Kenneth Grayston (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) 496 pp., $39.95

Early Christian literature nearly unanimously affirms that the most important thing Jesus ever did was to die. Of all the weighty theological questions the early Church confronted—the value of God’s law, the acceptability of uncircumcised gentiles in the Christian community, the relationship between the church and the synagogue, the delay of the Parousia (the Second Coming)—none was so compelling as the death of Jesus. If, as Christians claimed Jesus was God’s Messiah, it was necessary to explain not only why his career had been so unlike what traditional messianism had led Christians to except, but specifically why Jesus died the death of a criminal.

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