Amy-Jill Levine models responsible biblical interpretation. This time with skill, humor, and autobiographical insights, she shows how to contend with biblical texts that seem too hard for us. As always, with wisdom and grace she shows us a way through.

 – Carolyn Osiek, Professor of New Testament Emerita, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas

The Difficult Words of Jesus: A Beginner's Guide to His Most Perplexing Teachings

By Amy-Jill Levine





Interpret six of Jesus’s most challenging teachings in this six-week study by biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine.


Jesus provided his disciples teachings for how to follow Torah, God’s word; he told them parables to help them discern questions of ethics and of human nature; he offered them beatitudes for comfort and encouragement. But sometimes Jesus spoke words that followers then and now have found troubling.

In The Difficult Words of Jesus: A Beginner's Guide to His Most Perplexing Teachings, Amy-Jill Levine shows how these challenging teachings would have sounded to the people who first heard them, how have they been understood over time, and how we might interpret them in the context of the gospel of love and reconciliation.


More praise for The Difficult Words of Jesus

In this excellent and thought-provoking book, A-J Levine addresses not only what some of Jesus’ difficult sayings might mean for the lives and worlds of contemporary readers, but also how to make meaning of difficult Gospel texts thoughtfully and generously in our complex and diverse global village

 – Warren Carter, Meinders Professor of New Testament, Phillips Seminary, Tulsa, Oklahoma


In this study, Amy-Jill Levine goes for the doozies, sayings that puzzle not only beginners, but even seasoned students of Scripture. With her bold signature style, she combines her sharp intellect with humor and a bit of imagination to bring these challenging texts alive for us and invite us in as active participants in the gospel story.

 – Jaime Clark-Soles, Professor of New Testament, Perkins School of Theology, Dallas, Texas


Amy-Jill Levine is a masterful guide leading readers across difficult terrain, but she is at heart a storyteller, and her skillful, knowledgeable hand brings the gospels’ characters to life. Her personal vignettes enliven the journey, and her fearless, honest questions reflect her sense of freedom to explore a “Gospel of love.” She trusts Jesus as a wise teacher who invites his students to become better. The Difficult Words of Jesus challenged and inspired me; I highly recommend this quest for deeper understanding.  

– Lynn H. Cohick, Provost/Dean of Academic Affairs, Northern Seminary, Lisle, Illinois

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The Difficult Words of Jesus Sample Chapter 1

Amy-Jill Levine

Amy-Jill Levine (“AJ”) is Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford Seminary and University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies Emerita, Mary Jane Werthan Professor of Jewish Studies Emerita, and Professor of New Testament Studies Emerita at Vanderbilt University. An internationally renowned scholar and teacher, she is the author of numerous books including The Difficult Words of Jesus: A Beginner's Guide to His Most Perplexing Teachings, Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi, Entering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week, Light of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to Advent, and Sermon on the Mount: A Beginner’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven. She is also the coeditor of the Jewish Annotated New Testament. AJ is the first Jew to teach New Testament at Rome’s Pontifical Biblical Institute. In 2021 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. AJ describes herself as an unorthodox member of an Orthodox synagogue and a Yankee Jewish feminist who until 2021 taught New Testament in a Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt.