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The application of the Bible to moral and ethical issues has been a source of contention through the history of the Christian church. Scripture has been used in support of both sides of varying issues, to support political agendas, to tear apart denominations. With Imitating Jesus Richard Burridge takes a closer look at New Testament ethics and how they play out in various issues, most specifically examining apartheid in South Africa during the twentieth century. First, Burridge approaches the development of New Testament ethics from what he considers its foundational level - the deeds and words of Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection. Next he moves on to the exploration of how Christ affected Paul by examining the apostle's letters. He here finds Paul's underlying Christological understanding which supports his theology and writing. Following this, Burridge delves into each of the four gospels, following the same Christological analysis as he uses for both Jesus and Paul. Finally, he brings the conclusions of all this study to examine the contemporary example of how the ethical material in the New Testament was used in South Africa to justify and support apartheid. It is by undertaking such an exhaustive process and applying it to a modern test case that Burridge is able to provide answers for what ethical material the New Testament does contain and how we may use that, if at all, in following and imitating Jesus today.
In contrast to many studies of New Testament ethics, which treat the New Testament in general and Paul in particular, this book focuses on the person of Jesus himself. Richard Burridge maintains that imitating Jesus means following both his words ? which are very demanding ethical teachings ? and his deeds and example of being inclusive and accepting of everyone.
Burridge carefully and systematically traces that combination of rigorous ethical instruction and inclusive community through the letters of Paul and the four Gospels, treating specific ethical issues pertaining to each part of Scripture. The book culminates with a chapter on apartheid as an ethical challenge to reading the New Testament; using South Africa as a contemporary case study enables Burridge to highlight and further apply his previous discussion and conclusions.
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