AUSTRALIAN BIBLICAL REVIEW
BOOK REVIEW Published in Volume 51, 2003
W. R. G. Loader, Jesus and the Fundamentalism
of His Day. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001).
Pp.Vi+156. $US 14.00.
William Loader, Professor of New Testament and Head of the School of Social
Inquiry at Murdoch University in Perth, West Australia, loves the early records
of the Church and how Jesus, Paul and first century Christians stood by the
best in the scriptures, applied them to their circumstances and made changes
of lasting value. Loader states things simply and invites his readers to
reflect on the attitudes of Jesus, Paul and early Christians to the scriptures
and suggests the precedents they set can help people today adopt the best
attitudes to the Bible.
From the pre-Markan tradition he cites the evidence that Jesus was an ‘observant’
Jew: He kept the ‘law’, the Sabbath, the temple festivals and the ritual
requirements of purity and priestly observance; and sent his disciples only
to the lost/straying sheep of the house of Israel (Mt 10:6). But he differed
from those who adopted a literalist stance on the law — the ‘fundamentalists’
of his day: Jesus was not a fundamentalist.
Though Jesus had a very high regard for the Hebrew scriptures as given by
God, he also believed that God gave the law and the scriptures because God
loves people. So the law should always benefit people: the Law (like the
Sabbath) was made ‘for man’. If the application of any law conflicted with
the love of God for a person, Jesus like God chose love and care: ‘People
matter most, not laws’. Loader contends that the ‘Sayings of Jesus’ (Q) holds
much the same position, as do Matthew and Luke — but each has its own emphases.
Mark goes further: In the Gentile Church about forty years after Jesus’ time,
Mark interprets Jesus’ pithy comment on eating unclean foods as ‘thus making
all foods clean’. In this one comment he dismisses the ritual food laws as
irrelevant to Christians, as repealed by Jesus and their observance not required
by God — thus making it much easier for Gentiles to be Christian. Christianity
was now no longer a Jewish sect — thanks also to Paul who had earlier dispensed
with circumcision too, as an obstacle to accepting the Jewish-Christian faith
and way of life. John treats the Hebrew Scriptures differently again. The
law came through Moses as a gift of grace but the grace and truth the world
really needs was anticipated in the scriptures and came through the Word
of God incarnate in Christ.
Loader’s paperback contains a wealth of warm, wise, scholarly, compassionate
and illuminating insights into the attitudes of Jesus and the early church
towards the scriptures. One suggestion: the coming of ‘the son of man’ in
Mark 13 would appear to originate in the context of Daniel 7 (where it is
interpreted) and has nothing to do with any supposed second coming of Jesus
but the coming of the kingdom of God through faithful Jewish people.
This book shows ‘fundamentalists’ of today where they depart — most probably
unwittingly — from the faith and love of Jesus and the early Christian church.
Rev. H. Arthur Stamp
6 Garden Street