Now Available for Review: Witness at the Cross

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Place Yourself as a Witness at the Cross
Dr. Amy-Jill Levine leads readers in a study
of those present at the crucifixion

(Nashville, Tenn.) – In her latest Bible study, Witness at the Cross: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Friday, New Testament and Jewish Studies scholar Dr. Amy-Jill Levine explores the importance of the various witnesses—human, divine, and from nature—to the death of Jesus. She leads readers in a study of these figures in both their historical and literary contexts and shows how they might be interpreted by and for readers of the Bible today.
Dr. Levine invites readers to experience Holy Friday from the perspective of those who watched Jesus die:

  • Simon of Cyrene, forced to carry Jesus’s cross
  • Mary, his mother
  • The Beloved Disciple from the Gospel of John
  • Mary Magdalene and the other women from Galilee
  • The two men, usually identified as thieves, crucified with Jesus
  • The centurion and the soldiers
  • Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus
  • God and nature
  • Jews and Romans, friends and strangers, the powerful and the powerless, the hopeful and the despairing.

The story of Jesus’s death is not something we just read: we think about it, and we experience it. As the author writes, “We hear the taunts of the soldiers, the priests, and the passersby even as we hear the famous ‘seven last words’ (there are actually more) from the cross. We taste the gall held up to Jesus’s lips even as we feel his thirst. We inhale the fetid smells of sweat, of blood, and of death, and then the hundred pounds of spice Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea use to provide Jesus’s body a royal entombment. We touch each other, as did the Beloved Disciple when he took the mother of Jesus to his home. We feel the wind blowing in the darkness, and we sense the Holy Spirit. With the tearing of the Temple curtain, we recognize that the universe is in mourning. We filter these visions through the witnesses at the cross. Each saw something different.”
In Witness at the Cross, Levine shows how the people at the cross each have distinct roles to play. Each Gospel writer presents a distinct picture of the death of Jesus. Each portrays different individuals and groups of people at the cross, each offers different images and dialogues, and so from each, readers will learn how those meanings and messages cross the centuries to any who would come to the cross today. Levine’s unique perspectives both as a Jew and as an historian adds a layer of insight that readers may not have considered before.
“Each Gospel has a different story to tell. Such distinctions, which occur throughout the Gospels and not just at this climactic moment, reveal that the story of Jesus’s death, like that of his life, was refracted through the different experiences of those whom Luke calls the ‘eyewitnesses and servants of the word’ (Luke 1:2),” Levine explains. “The story was also developed as Jesus’s followers, retelling the events at the cross, understood them through the Scriptures of Israel and, in particular, Psalm 22.”
Witness at the Cross can be read independently or used with the companion study resources in a group setting. Components of the study, each available separately, include a book, a Leader Guide, and video sessions (with closed captioning). The Leader Guide includes session outlines for each group meeting with Scripture, prayer, opening activity, discussion questions, activity, and closing call to action. The 10-12 minute videos feature Dr. Levine guiding participants through each chapter. The video sessions, when combined with the six book chapters, make an ideal six-week group study. The videos are available on DVD, via digital download from, or streaming through a subscription to Amplify Media.


Witness at the Cross: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Friday
Available December 28, 2021 from Abingdon Press
Paperback ISBN: 9781791021122 / $17.99
eBook ISBN: 9781791021139 / $17.99

Leader Guide Paperback ISBN: 9781791021146 / $14.99
eBook ISBN: 9781791021153 / $14.99
DVD ISBN: 9781791021221 / $39.99



Advance Praise


“In each chapter of Witness at the Cross, Levine parses out the Gospel’s witness accounts of Jesus’s crucifixion and invites readers to be transformed by this theological symphony of the cross. This informative, witty, and accessible study provides a welcome preaching and teaching resource for clergy and laity. Small group leaders will also appreciate its six-chapter format ideal for a Lenten study.”
- Rev. Dr. Deborah Appler, Professor of Hebrew Bible, Moravian Theological Seminary
“Amy-Jill Levine reminds us that the story of Jesus’s death is something we do not just read; we are meant to experience it. In Witness at the Cross, she takes us by the hand and walks with us through the story, pausing alongside each of the characters to see and hear and feel how they individually experienced it, how each was affected by it.
- Larry J. Beasley, Presbytery Leader and Stated Clerk, Presbytery of Utica


About the author


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 Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial RabbiEntering the Passion of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy WeekLight of the World: A Beginner’s Guide to AdventSermon on the Mount: A Beginner’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven, and The Difficult Words of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to His Most Perplexing Teachings. Her latest release is Witness at the Cross: A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Friday. She is also the coeditor of the Jewish Annotated New Testament.
Levine 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.
Professor Levine has done more than 500 programs for churches, clergy groups, and seminaries on the Bible, Christian-Jewish relations, and Religion, Gender, and Sexuality across the globe.