N.T. Wright offers a penetrating assessment of the major scholarly contributions to the current 'quest' for the historical Jesus, and then sets out in detail his own account of how Jesus himself understood his mission.
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But more seriously, there's real depth here. Wright paints a picture of Jesus which is solidly rooted in history, and after reading this book, a lot of the odd little stories and sayings in the gospels suddenly make sense. I'm talking about those difficult to understand bits, which generations of preachers and lecturers have 'explained', but whose explanations have left us feeling dissatisfied and unconvinced.
By placing Jesus solidly in his political/religious setting, and by seeing him as being in line with the Old Testament prophets, suddenly a lot of things begin to make sense.
In some sections, the book *is* hard going, because Wright is such a careful and meticulous scholar. But there are real nuggets of knowledge to be mined here.
An enlightening and important book. Highly recommended.
Wright's thesis, for all his conservatism, is both bold and distinctive. He holds to an "eschatological" Jesus, one who has a future aspect to his theology and also one who, in Crossan-like ways, has compassion for the poor and the outcast of Palestinian society in his acts of healing and eating. Wright though, in distinction from Crossan and the Jesus Seminar, is, it seems, looking to give an historical account of the historical Jesus which can dovetail nicely with a more traditional reading of the Synoptic Gospels and the New Testament more generally. In this book you will not find a plethora of references to either the Gospel of Thomas or to the Q Gospel. Instead, you will find historical argument, replete with numerous biblical and extra-biblical Jewish quotations and texts, which aims to build up a picture of a Jewish prophet and more than a prophet. This does not, in my opinion, spill over into worship or sycophancy but the argument is carefully pitched so as not to upturn too many applecarts. One might almost call it "historical evangelism" but I hope that by using that term readers wil not think that this book is either crassly evangelistic or proselytizing; it is neither. But Jesus is clearly here a hero of sorts and someone who, for the writer, answers questions of deep and meaningful significance which can only be understood by present readers within the matrix of Christianity (though Wright goes out of his way to show Jesus off as a Jew in every sense of the word).
I really liked this book and valued its argument. I think Wright procedes along the correct line of interpretation to view Jesus as eschatological(in a future sense, though not simplistically so) and I think he argues correctly for a Jesus who saw himself connected both to the Jewish God and to Israel. I also think that Jesus fits into the paradigm of "leadership prophet" and I think that he had a distintive "prophetic consciousness". So I think that on a number of things Wright is right. But the reason I would recommend this book is because it offers a coherent and cogent opposition to a nascent belief in the Jesus of the Jesus Seminar. That Jesus has many aspects which I would disagree with, and disagree with on historical grounds. This book critiques and causes damage to the arguments of the Jesus Seminar ON HISTORICAL GROUNDS and if that is where the battle takes place then Wright's book should be welcomed and read by all who have an interest.
The second volume of his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series, this volume picks up where The New Testament and the People of God left off.
Wright encourages Christians, Jews, and people of all faiths to look at Jesus as he would have been understood by those who lived during his time.
Wright begins by responding to the "Jesus Seminar" and other quests for the "Historical Jesus," demonstrating that the documents we have (both within Scripture and without) do in fact tell the story of Jesus in a way that calls us to declare him risen from the dead, Savior of the world, and King over all of creation.
Wright then moves on to examine in greater detail the question, "Who was/is Jesus?" Wright's mastery of 2nd temple Judaism and the New Testament documents themselves come through in this work as he presents Jesus from Jesus' own perspective on his calling as the Messiah, as well as from the perspective of the apostles and the early church.
Wright's work will challenge all of its readers:
To those who discredit Christianity--take another look at the history of Jesus.
To today's Jewish people--recognize that Jesus has been given the blessings that were originally promised to Abraham and his descendants, join in Jesus' inheritance, for it is yours!
To the Christian church--recognize the meaning of the Bible and the meaning of Jesus for first century readers/hearers BEFORE you seek to find out what it means for YOU today. Doing this will give you greater insight into the Scriptures and enable you to more closely follow Jesus, continuing the ministry which he began.
Finally to the Reformed Church--re-examine the "ordo-salutis" terms used in your creeds to describe the process of salvation. Understand these terms in a way that is more consistent with the way the Bible (and first century Judaism and Christianity) used them.
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