Whoever divorces his wife…
It was said of old… but I say to you…
I desire mercy and not sacrifice.
Blasphemy against the Spirit
Throw not the children’s bread to the dogs.
I was not sent except to the House of Israel.
I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
He who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.
Say nothing to anyone.
The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence…
My Father is greater than I.
My God, why have you forsaken me?
Taught by God grapples with the difficult sayings of Christ. The author uses all the resources of the patristic tradition and modern biblical scholarship to put these sayings in a clearer light. If we are able to delve into the deeper meaning of these hard sayings, then we will truly be taught by God.
About the Author: Rev. Dr. Daniel Fanous is dean and lecturer in Theology & Biblical Studies at St Cyril’s Coptic Orthodox Theological College in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of The Person of the Christ and A Silent Patriarch (SVS Press).
I first heard from Rev. Dr. Daniel Fanous when he was interviewed on Ancient Faith Radio's "Ancient Faith Today with Kevin Allen" live call-in show. This was several years ago, and I remember being fascinated by his discussion of some of the confusing statements in the Gospels. This year I came across his Taught by God in a list of books available from St. Barbara Monastery, and I decided to purchase it. My husband, Ariel, and I really want to understand everything we read, and, in the Bible, that especially matters! We read the book together, and it was truly fascinating!
I absolutely loved the methodical way in which the author built each of his arguments. He illuminates the context of the Gospels, which modern readers struggle to understand simply because we don't live in the same time and place. While the details of the explanations could get confusing at times, the author laid everything out step by step so that I was able to follow his logical progressions. I felt like he thinks the way I do, and I found that I had a much greater understanding of a topic once I finished reading his discussion of it.
One of my favorite sections sheds light on the scene in Mark 7 and--the more detailed version--Matthew 15, when Jesus is approached by a Syro-Phoenician woman, who begs him for healing for her demon-possessed daughter. First the author describes in detail why the passage is confusing and can even cause embarrassment for Christians at Jesus's seemingly harsh response to the Gentile woman. He talks about suggestions that some people have made for interpreting the scene in a less shocking way, and he explains why he thinks those approaches miss the mark. Then, he lays out his interpretation: the Lord is giving the woman an opportunity to develop and demonstrate humility and faith, so that she can become a believer and be able to receive His healing for her and her daughter. As Fr. Fanous writes, "He seeks not to hurt a woman in need, but to bring her to glory. He places her in abandonment, and watches in amazement as the mustard seed within her becomes a majestic forest. As he insults her, his heart weeps. As she grows, his heart rejoices" (p. 115). I love that this section demonstrates how God allows struggle in our lives *in His love for us*, so that we can become more fully the holy people He created us to be.
I highly recommend Taught by God: Making Sense of the Difficult Sayings of Jesus for anyone who wants to think carefully through the difficult-to-understand parts of the Gospel. This book deepened my ability to connect with the Gospel text and, most importantly, with who Jesus is, from my own time and place that are so far removed from Jesus's earthly context. I was very impressed with Fr. Daniel Fanous's work, and I am looking forward to reading more from him.
It is heartening to see the treasures of Orthodoxy come together with modern biblical
scholarship…. The encounter is fascinating and, for both Church and academy, full of promise.
Fascinating and informative. . . . This book illuminates the background of Jesus’ controversies
with the Jewish religious leaders and makes Jesus’ difficult sayings come alive for the modern
reader. The author has done his homework and provides exciting insights into Jesus’ ministry.
Taught by God is well researched and speaks clearly and informatively to many of the
most difficult aspects of the biblical witness…. Students, clergy, and lay people could all
greatly benefit from a close reading of the book’s arguments and the evidence provided
to support them. Daniel Fanous… has provided a highly useful tool for people who read
Scripture in depth and find themselves troubled or perplexed by these passages.