A review: ‘Banned Questions about Jesus’

Self-proclaimed “God nerd” Christian Piatt and his crew of witty theologians are back with a new edition in the Banned Questions Series (Chalice Press).

Like the previously released Banned Questions about the Bible, Banned Questions about Jesus (2011) is a collection of questions ranging from clever to controversial. The responses come from a diverse cast of scholars, each of whom weaves their unique expertise and personality into the task of tackling difficult questions about God’s son.

  • Did Jesus ever have sex?
  • Was Jesus ever sick?
  • Did Jesus really live a life without any sin?
  • Was Jesus ever wrong?
  • Was Jesus a pacifist?
  • Did Jesus study other religions?
  • What happened during the “missing years” of Jesus’ life?
  • Did he condone drinking?
  • Is it possible Jesus married and had children?
  • Does it really matter if Jesus was born to a virgin?

Who hasn’t asked, or at least considered, questions like these about Jesus? And not just during our inquisitive Sunday school years, but also throughout life … even into our years of professional ministry!

The questions are both thought-provoking and significant, yet unlike books and articles in which the topics seem too hefty for the author to handle, the writers in Banned address the questions head on, without any academic side-stepping or literary tricks. Best yet, the responses are succinct, making this a great resource for busy ministry leaders who may occasionally need information in a hurry.

Many of the questions address specific passages of Scripture, while others focus on cultural or historical understandings of who Jesus was, what Jesus taught, and what that means for people of faith today.

With 18 contributors there are multiple responses to each question, creating a more balanced collection of interpretations. A few examples: when discussing the Shroud of Turin and whether it was wrapped around Jesus’ body following the crucifixion, Sherri Emmons shares results of carbon testing, Becky Garrison quotes an official from the Catholic Church, and David Lose keeps it real (“I don’t give a hoot”); in the end, they all agree it is only through faith that we can believe Jesus was the Son of God anyway. When interpreting Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine and whether it means Jesus condones drinking, Mark Van Steenwyk points out that Jesus didn’t just turn water into wine (he turned it into good wine) — enhancing his understanding of miracles as an expression of God’s “deep passion” for us — while Christian Piatt suggests the miracle is likely a metaphor of God’s kingdom as a place where no one goes thirsty or hungry (he also points out the Bible never really tells us not to drink).

Piatt has put together another great resource for pastors, youth ministers and ministry leaders. Because of its open format and the variety of contributing voices, this is a book you could sit and read for hours or grab off the shelf when you need help with a specific topic or text.