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ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 60, 2012

STEPHEN VOORWINDE, Jesus’ Emotions in the Gospels (London and New York: T&T Clark, 2011). Pp. xiv + 255. Hardback: 65.00; paperback: 19.99.

This book is a welcome complement to Stephen Voorwinde’s previous volume, Jesus in the Fourth Gospel: Human or Divine? (London and New York: Continuum, 2005), which was reviewed in ABR 55 (2007) 89–90. The present book gives a balanced treatment to each of the four Gospels. Full pericopes are quoted in translation (NIV) before discussion of each of the terms for Jesus’ emotions. Essential Greek words (verbs and nouns) for the emotions are transliterated. The bibliography is reduced in length and in the number of articles and monographs in foreign languages. Since the author aims to make the new book accessible to a wider range of readers, some parts have a more pastoral tone. The previous volume gave an implicit preference to Markan priority, but the present book assumes no particular theory of Synoptic relationships. Voorwinde sees all three Synoptics as having an Introduction, followed by three Major Divisions (Galilee, Journey, Jerusalem) within which the emotions of Jesus are mentioned. Table 1.2 with notes (pp. 10–11, corresponding to pp. 48–49 in the previous book) gives a very clear summary of the total number of Jesus’ emotions in the Synoptics, their distribution among the three Major Divisions, the lack of reference to the emotions of the risen Jesus, and the correlation of certain emotions with the “miracles” of Jesus and of other emotions with his Passion.

Each of the chapter headings for the four Gospels includes a characterisation of Jesus appropriate to the group of emotions mentioned and to the evangelist’s “Presentation of Jesus” in the Introduction. Thus in Matthew Jesus is “The Compassionate King” who “is simultaneously the son of David, the son of Abraham and the Immanuel” (15). The name “Jesus” denotes salvation, “David” marks his Jewish descent, “Abraham” his Gentile descent and “Immanuel” his divine status. The “compassionate” aspect of Voorwinde’s designation rests on the predominance of this emotion in Matthew.

The “Man of Sorrows” is the title for Jesus in Mark, in keeping with the prominent emotions of Jesus especially in Gethsemane and on the cross. But Voorwinde also sees in the Markan Jesus “the Davidic king from the Psalms overlaid with features of Isaiah’s suffering Servant who in turn is the Yahweh-Warrior figure” (118). Mark, although the shortest Gospel, attributes to Jesus a wider range of emotions than does any other Gospel. In sum, Mark provides “the most emotionally detailed picture of Jesus to be found anywhere in Scripture” (118).

Although Luke’s is the longest Gospel, he has the fewest references to Jesus’ emotions. But these few are “both varied and largely unique to his Gospel” and they range “from the very bright to the very dark” (120). Luke’s Introduction presents Jesus as Mary’s son, whose name implies “Saviour,” as well as “Son of the Most High,” “Son of God” and “Son of David.” These characteristics, when combined with the emotions of Jesus in Luke, prompt the designation “The Sympathetic Son.”

The Gospel of John does not conform to the Synoptic pattern of Major Divisions (Galilee, Journey, Jerusalem). For the overall literary structure after the “Prologue and Introduction,” Voorwinde prefers: The Book of Signs (Chaps 2–11), Transition (Ch. 12), The Book of Passion/Glory (Chaps 13–20), Epilogue (Ch. 21). Within this structure the emotions of Jesus are “largely confined to two major events—the raising of Lazarus (Ch. 11) and the Farewell Discourse (Chaps 13–17)” (155). John has more references to Jesus’ emotions than any of the Synoptics, but only six different emotions are mentioned. The designation of Jesus as “The Loving Lord” in John is not so clearly explicated, but seems to be based on the prominence of love among Jesus’ emotions and on Voorwinde’s discussion of Jesus as both human and divine, as both “covenant sacrifice” and “covenant Lord” (emphasis added).

The section heading 2.1.1 should be 2.2.1 (the only noticeable typographical slip, p. 68); Past Aorist Indicatives of agapan occur only at John 13:1 and 15:9, not 13:34 or 15:10, 12 (212). But this is not a basis for “functional differences” of Jesus’ love for the Beloved Disciple and for disciples in general. Not all readers will agree with every exegetical choice of the author nor with every facet of the theological prism through which he reads the text of the Gospels. But all will appreciate his careful setting out of the evidence for Jesus’ emotions in the Gospels, his attention to the narrative context of the emotions, and his reporting of the different portrayals of Jesus by the evangelists.

Review by
Centre for Classics and Archaeology
The University of Melbourne VIC 3010