New Testament students have not always been well served by study of the historical Jesus, which tends to segregate Jesus from his significance vis-à-vis Israel’s scriptures and God’s agenda as this is developed among the New Testament writers in the living context of a faith community’s memory.  The witness of scripture does in fact help us remember Jesus well.


From beginning to end, the Bible tells the story of God putting God’s family back together. The plot develops in multiple, sometimes competing, ways. It exhibits the full range of human emotions and, perhaps surprisingly, it claims that these are also God’s emotions. But on every page, we hear the call of a God whose family has chosen an early inheritance instead of an intimate relationship. That God – pictured as a parent, often a father – beckons God’s children, inviting them to return and to sit at the table, clothed by mercy and affirmed as God’s very family.

“Rafael Rodríguez changes the conversation about what we know about Jesus, and how we know it. Jesus Darkly recognizes that memory is never an act of simple recall. Instead, it is a complex process in which the past is reconstructed in light of present interests that are defined and shaped in community. Decades of neuroscientific study have emphasized the degree to which memory is malleable and dynamic, especially as our recollections of people and events are cast within a narrative that runs from the past into the future. Accordingly, social memory studies, on which Rafael Rodríguez builds, rejects old ways of trying to divorce history from theology, while acknowledging that all memory is an indissoluble concoction of past and present, of event and interpretation” (from the foreword by Joel B. Green, Fuller Theological Seminary)

Hear Rafael Rodriguez discuss Jesus Darkly on the "OnScript: Conversations on Current Biblical Scholarship" podcast.

What people are saying about Jesus Darkly:

“Jesus Darkly is a compelling account that shows how the New Testament not only sheds light on the past but also fills in for Jesus’s absence in the present.”—Matthew Thiessen, associate professor, Department of Religious Studies, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

“For people of faith, Jesus Darkly gives a thorough, readable, theological grounding for understanding the New Testament’s multiple memories of Jesus, probing our own knowledge of Jesus, now darkly, but one day face to face.” —Judith Stack, Minister for Faith and Community Life, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN

“Jesus Darkly is a remarkable achievement, which brings together cutting-edge memory research and literary study to offer an artful mosaic of Jesus. This book is a dynamic, original, and fascinating contribution to biblical scholarship.”—Anthony Le Donne, executive editor, Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus; associate professor of New Testament, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, OH

Read the Foreword by Joel B. Green

Rafael Rodriguez

Rafael Rodriguez is Professor of New Testament in the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University in Knoxville, TN.  His Ph.D. is from the University of Sheffield. His research has focused on questions of early Christian tradition, especially on the interface between Hebrew biblical tradition and the stories from and about Jesus.