What Did Jesus Mean?

The Difficult Sayings of Jesus by William Neil (Eerdmans, 1975, 105 pp., $4.95), and The Hard Sayings of Jesus, by Albert McClellan (Broadman, 1975, 135 pp., $3.95), are reviewed by William L. Coleman, author and lecturer, Aurora, Nebraska.

Anyone who has taught the Bible regularly realizes that the “simple truth” is not always so simple. The greatest teacher who ever lived left many of his students scratching their heads and talking to themselves. It was the very complexity that caused many in his audience to stop following him.

The truth that Christ taught was not always in short, unequivocal terms, like “no parking.” While some of his teachings were edicts, others were like a fisherman’s tangled line. They need patience, thought, and humility to untie.

These two volumes grasp at some of the tough things Christ said, and the authors make gallant and often helpful attempts at focusing them. The books total fifty-three chapters but only brush against the surface. The reader should not expect a technical handling of the text such as may be found in Sidlow Baxter’s Problem Texts. William Neil seems capable of such exegesis, but he shows the results of careful study without incorporating the details.

Neil reminds one of Roosevelt. Those who visited with him often felt he completely agreed with them but later discovered his position was the exact opposite. Neil exerts himself so to be fair to all possible positions that the reader often wonders what his solution really is. One cannot help but agree with his interpretation of the divorce issue, since Neil hints at practically every position. He will disappoint some readers by his reasoning denying a six-day creation and yet defending the sanctity of God’s ratio ...

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