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The Challenge of Jesus [Paperback]

N. T. Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Jan 2000
This text answers the scepticism about the need for a historical understanding of Jesus and shows how this can affect Christian discipleship today. It explores Jesus' preaching, his Messiahship and death, and his self-understanding in relation to God. The book goes on to ask: what does this imply? What should this mean for us? What, in fact, is the mission of the church grounded in this Jesus and this resurrection, to our postmodern world?

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The Challenge of Jesus + Simply Jesus - Who He Was, What He Did, Why it Matters + How God Became King - Getting to the heart of the Gospels
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Product details

  • Paperback: 173 pages
  • Publisher: SPCK Publishing (21 Jan 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0281052867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0281052868
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

"We cannot assume that by saying the word Jesus," writes NT Wright--Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey and formerly Dean of Lichfield Cathedral--"still less the word Christ, we are automatically in touch with the real Jesus who talked in first-century Palestine." Even less are we automatically in touch with "the Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and forever." Wright's goal in this volume is to present in a simplified form the findings that are occupying him in his monumental six volume series entitled Christian Origins and the Question of God, and in particular in the second volume, already published, Jesus and the Victory of God. Distinguishing himself from the "Jesus Seminar" theologians, who question the literalness of the resurrection (among other things), Wright affirms the absolute centrality of both the Last Supper and the Easter experience as historical events. Through these experiences with Jesus, Wright suggests, the early Christians came to see that "Jesus--and then, very quickly, Jesus' people--were now the true Temple, and the actual building in Jerusalem was thereby redundant."

Written with refreshing clarity and passion, The Challenge of Jesus serves as an excellent introduction to the thinking of this influential New Testament historian. --Doug Thorpe --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"[NT Wright] writes eloquently, stating the importance of a historical interest in the Gospels from the perspective of Christian faith." -- The Bible Today (US), May/June 2000

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
87 of 92 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The eschatological debate between liberal and conservative scholars is so deeply entrenched, so polarised, so emotionally charged that any reconciliation seems unlikely - at least this side of the Parousia! But what would happen if a theologian with impeccable academic credentials consciously set out to transcend these factions? The chances are, of course, that such an author would get shot at from both sides, even as both sides tried to claim him as an albeit wayward member of their own camp. And that is rather what is happening to N. T. ("Tom") Wright, Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey.
Wright has recently completed the second volume of a projected six-volume re-assessment of Christ's teaching and its relationship to the early Christian Church entitled "Christian Origins and the Question of God". In the shorter book reviewed here, "The Challenge of Jesus", Wright has produced a fascinating introductory overview of his thesis that will appeal to the general reader without underselling the author's status as one of the leading British theologians of his generation.
Wright's starting point is the familiar and widely accepted truth that we must understand how Jesus and his contemporaries understood his teaching and his actions before we can apply them to our own setting. But Wright goes a stage further: Even with a sound understanding of this principle, the way the Church has traditionally acted out its mission does not do justice to the uniqueness and particularity of Jesus' works. Individual emulation of Jesus' actions and the lifestyle application of popular interpretations of his teaching, however culturally adjusted, are inadequate.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish I'd read this a long time ago 3 Dec 2010
Format:Audio CD
I found this an excellent book. Whilst explicitly written from a faith perspective, I would recommend this to any reader interested in Jesus as an historic person. It engages the intellect but in a clear and economical form. I had always struggled to link aspects of the early church with the Gospel narrative. Tom Wright's lucid explanation of what Jesus said about himself - and more importantly, what he did - clarifies the continuity. It roots Jesus in his culture and makes it easier to relate to Jesus as a man. At the same time it helped me to grasp new aspects of the incarnation. Vitally, Tom wright also calls for individual and corporate response to these understandings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars N. T, Wright - The Challenge of Jesus 7 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book, as well as a few others by N.T. Wright, are very clear, uplifting, erudite, and bring the Bible, and here, Jesus to life in His own times, and then in our own. Look out for other books by this author! I do.
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
A look at the message and mission of the historical person Jesus Christ. I have to recomend this book to everyone serious about their commitment to be a follower of Jesus. The book is well written and very accessable.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  59 reviews
154 of 160 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book true to its title 6 May 2000
By J. E. Stoebner - Published on Amazon.com
The author is Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey, and this book represents a distillation of ideas he presents at length in lengthy scholarly publications, which engage in "mainstream" historical debate about Jesus and first-century Christianity. Wright debates, however, without setting aside personal commitment to and belief in the essential truth and genuine historicity (of Jesus's resurrection, for example) which the New Testament books and letters claim. This does not mean that he feels bound to toe any particular line defined as orthodox. "I am someone who believes that being a Christian necessarily entails doing business with history and that history done for all it's worth will challenge spurious versions of Christianity, including many that think of themselves as orthodox, while sustaining and regenerating a deep and true orthodoxy, surprising and challenging though this will always remain." (p 16) I would have to let theolgians offer opinions on the orthodoxy of Wright's arguments; but these arguments are in any case stimulating and bring fresh air to scriptural study and devotional contemplation. There are three areas where Wright challenges what he feels are common misunderstandings about Jesus. First, he argues that "Jesus remained utterly anchored in first-century Judaism" (p 73), and that everything he said and did was a "unique challenge to his contemporaries" and was "related uniquely and specifically to that situation" [i.e. in the first century] (p 174). Wright feels that this approach closes off the possibility of Deism, or of seeing Jesus merely as one of several `great men' of a certain type in human history, a type of deeply wise, gentle moral philosopher preaching timeless aphorisms. By setting studying Jesus in his historical context alone, and shutting off (at least for the moment) the universality of his words and deeds, we come to a better understanding of their profound radicality and significance. Jesus was casting himself as the culminating nexus of everything that Jewish history and prophecy had been pointing to. Wright shows how this approach helps us to understand better why the first Christians (who were Jews) became utterly convinced that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, whose message had to be taken to the Gentiles. Wright cautions that his approach does not mean that Jesus loses his relevance for today - "this fear is groundless". "The key I propose for translating Jesus' unique message to the Israel of his day into our message to our contemporaries is to grasp the parallel, which is woven deeply into both Testaments, between the human call to bear God's image and Israel's call to be the light of the world. ... Jesus came as the true Israel, the true Jew, the true human." (p 184) The author also challenges what he considers a creeping Docetism into our modern understanding of who Jesus was, and of how he understood his vocation and what he believed himself to be. Wright's arguments in this book, although shortened from his methodical treatment in other books, are still to complex - challenging - to outline in a review. He urges Christians to "forget the `titles' of Jesus, at least for a moment; forget the attempts of some well-meaning Christians to make Jesus of Nazareth conscious of being the second person of the Trinity" (p 122-123), as these approaches can reduce Jesus to almost a ghostly, supernatural presence, when in fact he was a breathing, sleeping, walking man who suffered and died. Third: in the final two chapters of the book Wright explains why he feels that postmodern philosophy has discredited modern philosophy (modern = 18th, 19th, early 20th centuries), with its claim that science can uncover objective truth, and why we should not fear this. Rather, he considers that Christianity can fluorish as well or better in the postmodern intellectual world, and mixes the argument with personal, devotional reflections on what it means to be a follower of Jesus today. I recommend the book espcially to anyone who wants to read an intellectually rigorous challenge to the conclusions of those historians who wish, however tactfully, to debunk Christianity.
75 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars flawed, but still worthy of the highest rating 15 Jun 2001
By NotATameLion - Published on Amazon.com
"Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18 ) Jesus Christ came to reconcile us with the Father. Through his wounds we are healed.
In "The Challenge of Jesus," N.T. Wright does a good job of helping us to try and look at Jesus with our blinders off. Rejecting the thesis of Wrede, and following in the footsteps of Schweitzer, Wright believes that we can learn a good deal about the actual, "Historical" Jesus (my, how that phrase has been abused in the last half-century) through doing the work of history.
I praise Wright for attempting this grand task. "The Challenge of Jesus" is a shorter distillation of Wright's larger ongoing work which at the time of my writing consists of two published volumes (The New Testament and the People of God; Jesus and the Victory of God) with the series length now projected at six volumes total. This volume is no doubt aimed at a broader audience than Wright's more scholarly work.
Wright attempts to look at Jesus without the lens of a controlling theology. I like this a lot. We should always read the Bible for what it actually says, remembering the context in which they were written, and then build our theology from that foundation. Too often, we make up a theology and then try and fit its square peg into the round hole that the Word of God confronts us with...there is a word for this kind of thing: idolatry.
Wright manages to do a fairly good job of interacting with the Bible and history. He does disappoint me on his views of Jesus knowing whether he is God or not...he gives a waffling answer with unsatisfactory support.
Wright's Jesus comes out looking a lot like the Jesus of orthodoxy in the things that he did: proclaiming the Kingdom, Dying a sacrificial, atoning, and reconciling death, making clear claims to divinity (in spite of Wright's own weird view on the matter,) and being Bodily Resurrected on a Sunday morning...the startling part of the book is the perspective...Wright solidly locates Jesus and his message within the milieu of second temple Judaism...the results give a whole new spin on the Message of Jesus. For me, this book has strengthened my walk with the Savior.
In spite of its flaws, I'm giving this one five stars...it is incredibly thought-provoking. I recommend this book most highly.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It Is Dangerous to Walk the Middle of the Road 10 Feb 2004
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
PREMISE: We have at least two camps (actually more) of persons who study the life of Jesus. There are those who search for the historical Jesus. This camp is too often made up of historians who come at the issue with a bias against traditional Christianity that was born of the enlightenment. Hence, they discount stories of the miraculous because they don't believe in miracles. A second camp is made up of conservative Christian scholars who approach the life of Jesus from a theological bias, born of centuries of Christian tradition. They do believe in miracles, because they have faith. Surprise! Both camps find the Jesus they set out to look for. N.T. Wright is aware of both camps, but writes somewhere outside of either. He approaches Scripture and the life of Jesus through the eyes of Second Temple Period Jewish Politics. His version of the historical Jesus is VERY political. He puts forth a rational case for his thesis, then examines the impact this new vision of Jesus should have on the church in this postmodern world.
AM I CONVINCED? I'm not sure I would say he convinced me, intrigued would be a better word. His case is too unusual to accept at first reading, but he certainly offers the reader a lot to think about, and delivers his message well. I will keep my eyes open a little wider for future discussions of this nature.
RECOMMENDATION: If you like to be challenged, you might like this book. If you are too accepting, you might be tempted to accept his well written premise too easily. If you tend to be a "Defender of the Faith" you might find this book threatening.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And You Thought You Knew the Real Jesus 6 Aug 2004
By D. Powers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book if you want a quick overview of Wright's thought, yet you are not ready to purchase and read the books in his Christian Origins series. For most Christians, the ideas expressed in this book will be unsettling.

The goal of the book is to view Jesus (and the Gospels) from a first century Jewish perspective, not from a 16th century Reformation or 21st century Christian perspective. Wright attempts to peel away the theological and historical layers that have accumulated around the actual, historical figure of Jesus.

The sections in the book are: (1) Wright's methodology used, (2) a 1st century view/understanding of the Kingdom of God, the Parables, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, and (3) how should a 20th/21st century Christian live now they have a historically more accurate view of Jesus.

Though no biblical scholar, I have a background in theology, biblical studies, and history. I found Wright's methodology correct and refreshing. In my Interpreting the Bible class, we were pounded with the dictum that (1) we must first understand what the author of a book in the Bible thought they were saying, (2) what the intended hearers/readers thought was said, and (3) once 1 and 2 were completed accurately we should move to what does the biblical passage mean to us in the 21st century. This is exactly what this book does for the Gospel portrayal of Christ.

Wright focuses on what a 1st century Palestinian Jew living in Galilee would think if they did and said what Jesus said and did. He also looks into what a 1st century Palestinian Jew living in Galilee would think when they heard and saw what Jesus said and did.

Wright makes a good (though not obvious) point that what we Christians hear and think when reading/studying the Gospels is based on a long trail of historical interpretation of the Gospels. The Reformers interpreted the Gospels from a 15th century perspective and had very little evidence to understand the 1st century perspective. A pastor/preacher/priest giving a sermon today sees the Gospels from a historical perspective that has been changed by 20 centuries.

Based on this, how can Wright know the real Jesus? Wright and other scholars have the good fortune of living in a time when 1st century documents have come to light. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library are two examples. Both of these were discovered after 1940. Wright (and other scholars like Geza Vermes) are using these new discoveries to get a more historically accurate view of Jesus and the times he lived in.

If you are an evangelical or have an interest in Jesus, read this book! It will be unsettling and disturbing as (like me) you may find many of your cherished, long held views of Jesus undermined and dismissed. Wright is not out to destroy Jesus or the Christian religion. Wright is not out to make a name for himself by putting forth crazy theories. He is very conservative in his thinking. I think his goal is to try to discover the true meaning of Jesus and the gospels. I don't agree with everything in the book, but I agreed with much of it.

This is the rare book that makes you think. It does not contain the same re-hashed arguments and evidences. Also, the last two chapters examine what it means to live the Christian life today. Unlike most academics, Wright does not give generalities but goes into specifics where he can. This was great! I am always annoyed when I read a self-help or Christian living book and all they give are basic generalities that everyone knows. Wright does not do this, he lets the rubber hit the road and gives you much to think about on living the Christian life in the 21st century.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent! 4 May 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
N. T. Wright is undoubtedly one of the most important scholars in the field of New Testament Studies today. This book is a shorter, more accessible book of the ideas and research that he fully presents in "Jesus and the Victory of God." Wright's great achievement, in my opinion, is that he takes up the critical questions concerning the historical Jesus (posed by radical skeptics like John Dominic Crossan)...yet he proposes an answer that is at once intellectually credible and yet more faithful to the witness of the Gospels and the testimony of the Christian church. It would be an overstatement to call him a traditional conservative scholar, for he does not shy away from the issues posed by Biblical critics. Yet it is evident that his scholarly endeavor is motivated by a deep, abiding faith that Jesus of Nazareth is the unique revelation of the God of Abraham. This book will offer any serious layperson an enjoyable and challenging read.
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