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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes some good points but others I find unconvincing, 6 July 2014
This review is from: Jesus and the Victory of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God: v. 2 (Christian Origins & the Question of God) (Paperback)
This is the second book in a scholarly series by N.T. Wright (who later became bishop of Durham). In contrast to Wright's books for the general Christian public, these books are somewhat difficult to read, with lots of footnotes. You will need to have your Bible at hand if you really want to understand what Wright is saying because he often refers to passages by chapter and verse without giving you any other indication of what passage he is referring to. Sometimes his language is a bit difficult to understand as well – I puzzled several minutes over one sentence (p. 634) before realizing that it was a subtle plaisanterie! And you'll have to put up with his insistence on not capitalizing the word "god". But if you are willing to make the effort, the book is a worthwhile study of what Yeshua was really doing and saying – which should be important to every Christian. And sometimes his conclusions are quite different from what is usually taught.

The book starts with a review of couple centuries of the "quest for the historical Jesus", leading to the recent "Jesus Seminar". In the remainder of the book Wright finds (using the methods of a historian) that the accounts in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) are probably pretty accurate, rather than being the invention of the early church, as many scholars have proclaimed. (There is so much disagreement among the scholars! One is forced to the conclusion that at least half the things they confidently assert are wrong.)

Wright concludes that Yeshua, through his actions and parables, was proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom, the end of Israel's exile, and the fulfilment of the Biblical prophecies concerning Israel. However, this was in a paradoxical way, because many in Israel were to be destroyed due to their "taking the sword" (against the Romans) instead of following Yeshua and his way of peace and of being a light to the nations. And Yeshua was replacing the strict observance of kashrut and shabbat with his own ethos of community and forgiveness. The Pharisees opposed him and the chief priests wanted him dead because he claimed to be Messiah the King. But he believed he could conquer Evil and the Evil One by taking upon himself the kind of death at the hands of the Romans which many Jews would later face due to their rebellion.

Wright explains that because of the risk of being arrested Yeshua spoke cryptically and in parables. One is nevertheless left with the impression that if he was really saying all the things that Wright says he was saying, then he didn't do a very good job of communicating. For instance, if he was really announcing the end of the exile, why does he never even use the word?

Yeshua did not see himself as God, but according to Wright did see his journey to Jerusalem as symbolizing the prophesied return of God to Zion (Isaiah 52:8 for example).

One of the vexing questions about Yeshua is whether he really did predict his own Second Coming within one generation, with the sun and moon darkened and "the stars falling from the sky". Wright ridicules the idea of "the Son of Man coming on the clouds". He says that is symbolic (based on Daniel 7, which shouldn't be taken literally) and the bit about the signs in the heavens was just Jesus using standard prophetic metaphor for some sort of very important event – namely the "vindication" of Jesus by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.

The most disturbing thing about the book, for me, is the idea that the Kingdom of God spoken of by Yeshua and the reign of God spoken of by the prophets came about in the year 70. If this evil world we live in is what was promised, then I'm a bit disappointed. I should say however that Wright has indicated (for example, in a 2008 Time interview http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1710844,00.html) that he does believe in a future return of Jesus and the renewal of the Creation.
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