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The Surprising Genius of Jesus: What the Gospels Reveal about the Greatest Teacher (Williams)

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When someone thinks of Jesus, “genius” is not likely the first word that comes to mind. But when studied in detail, Jesus’s teachings and interactions with others combined high levels of knowledge and insight, verbal skill, and simplicity—showing his genius. 

In The Surprising Genius of Jesus, Peter J. Williams examines the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15 to show the genius, creativity, and wisdom of Jesus’s teachings. He used simple but powerful stories to confront the Pharisees and scribes of the day, drawing on his knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures to teach his audience through complex layers and themes. Williams challenges those who question whether Jesus really was the source of the parables recorded in the Gospels, pointing readers to the truth of who Jesus is and why that matters for them today. 


Peter J. Williams (PhD, University of Cambridge) is the principal of Tyndale House, Cambridge, the chair of the International Greek New Testament Project, and a member of the ESV Translation Oversight Committee. He is the author of Can We Trust the Gospels? and Early Syriac Translation Technique and the Textual Criticism of the Greek Gospels.


“This fascinating study shows how Jesus’s parables, such as that of the prodigal son, are not only powerful stories but also treasure troves of suggestive allusions to the Old Testament. Although short, this book contains a wealth of wisdom to give today’s readers insight into Luke’s parables, thereby helping them understand more of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. A gripping and illuminating read!”
Simon Gathercole, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of Cambridge  

“In this thought-provoking and compelling book, Peter J. Williams digs under the topsoil of the parables attributed to Jesus in the Gospels and helps us see both how expertly these stories integrate Old Testament allusions and how all the evidence points back to Jesus of Nazareth himself as their Creator.”
Rebecca McLaughlin, author, Confronting Jesus: 9 Encounters with the Hero of the Gospels

“Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son is a masterpiece in the history of storytelling. Not only does it make a powerful impact on people of all cultures, it is intricately and poetically composed and rife with allusions to Old Testament narratives, especially about Jacob and Esau. Other parables demonstrate these same characteristics. Whoever composed them deserved to be called a genius, and Jesus (rather than one of his followers) is the best candidate for that individual. The Surprising Genius of Jesus, though a little book, is chock-full of observations about Jesus’s teaching that should make readers admire him even more than they may already do.”
Craig L. Blomberg, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Denver Seminary