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Was Jesus a Friend of Unrepentant Sinners? A Fresh Appraisal of Sanders's Controversial Proposal

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The proposal of E.P. Sanders that Jesus befriended sinners and promised them the kingdom without requiring that they repent has been rejected out of hand by many scholars but has not received a systematic evaluation. This article critiques six points that Sanders believes supports his conclusion, distinguishing between points that do not hold up to scrutiny, points that merely cohere with Sanders's claim without necessitating such a conclusion, and points that actually do indicate the viability of his proposal in ways that have not yet been refuted. The article concludes with a restatement of the argument that is more systematic than Sanders's original presentation. This restatement may be more acceptable to many Jesus scholars and, in any case, will delineate where those who continue to reject this controversial proposal should focus their critique.


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