Justin Taylor is is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway. With Andreas J. Köstenberger, he's also the author of the just-published The Final Days of Jesus,a chronological arrangement of the Gospel accounts of Holy Week. We catch up with Justin to talk about fuzzy timelines for the modern reader, and our false cultural familiarity with the last week of Jesus
1) Christians seem to know a lot about Passion Week and yet the timeline, for many, is still a bit fuzzy. Is one of the reasons you put the book together?
Yes, that's certainly one of the reasons. We have a twofold challenge when it comes to the timeline of the events of Scripture. First, there are four different (though ultimately complementary) accounts, each selectively highlighting aspects of Jesus's life. Second, the gospel accounts often do not include explicit time or day markers. So our book tries to take the best of evangelical scholarship on these issues and make them as accessible as possible. Further, we put the complete Bible text for Jesus's final week in harmony format, so that you can see all the parallel passages together. Finally, we put it all in chronological order, using a day-by-day approach. All of this, we hope, helps to make the events of the final week—their order and timing—clearer for the modern reader.
2) Did anything surprise you about the last week of Jesus?
On the one hand, the story is so familiar to many of us that there are no blockbuster surprises. But it's one of those stories where there is always more to see in what we see. For example, it makes the doubt and skepticism of Thomas all the more poignant and ironic when we remember that he had already witnessed Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead not that long ago (cf. John 11:16).
Or, as another example, take the two thieves on the cross who hung on either side of Jesus. If you only read only Luke 23:32, 39–43, you might get the impression that one starts off open to the gospel of grace, while the other is already hardened in his rejection. A close reading of Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32, however, demonstrates that both men started off by reviling Jesus, mocking him, wagging their heads, using their diminishing energies to hurl insults at the only man who could save them. But only one of them had his eyes opened to see himself as a sinner in need of a Savior.
And as we vaguely recall the story, we tend only to remember him asking Jesus not to forget him in paradise. But if we read Luke 23:40–42 carefully, we see that this mocker turned seeker now had new spiritual eyes to see, and that in a very short while he really understood the heart of the gospel, that (1) the holiness of God was to be feared, (2) the sin in himself deserved condemnation, (3) the innocent one was being punished, (4) Jesus was the king, ruling from the cross, and (5) only Jesus could offer him mercy and eternal salvation.
The more we read these stories, and the more closely we read them, the more details like these come into high definition.
3) There is some dispute among scholars about the timeline--even competing timelines. How do treat that in the book?
In the beginning of the book, we provide a detailed chart showing when everything took place in chronological order, with Scripture references. But we don't get too bogged down in internal debates about the precise details, in part because this book is meant to be accessible, not an academic resource. Our book mainly builds on the general evangelical consensus regarding the chronology and timing. We do, however, strongly favor a date of April 3, AD 33 for the exact date of the crucifixion, though many scholars opt for the date of AD 30.