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on 2 June 2003
Like the previous two books in the series this is not a light read, but worth the effort. In spite of NT Wright's obvious learning it remains approachable to more 'normal' readers. Section 2 (Resurrection and Paul) left my head particularly spinning, but the problem is excess of detail - sight of the larger picture is always firmly in view. While the size of the book is a bit of an obstacle it has meant that the idea of resurrection has been with me long enough to have had its impact on my worldview. In short: if you want light entertainment, buy a novel; if you are serious about Christian beliefs and want to have your worldview changed, buy this book.
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on 25 March 2011
At the outset, Wright declares that "Our target is to investigate the claim of the earliest Christians, that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead." He then takes us under his wing and guides along a journey of scholarship of the highest order. Leaving no stone unturned, he first of all investigates the idea of resurrection, first of all being extremely precise about what he means by resurrection. We then review resurrection traditions in pre-christian paganism and of judaism, constantly asking the question "is it probable that the early christians adapted an earlier tradition to suit their own story, or did something really happen that was of major significance." Towards the end of the first section, one can become bogged down in the detail. I think this section can be skipped over with little loss overall, but it is was necessary in order for Wright to be thorough in his work, so that any accusations of taking shortcuts or ignoring certain schools of thought would be unfounded.

Having finished his survey of Pagan and Jewish beliefs, he then moves on to look at the early Christian beliefs into resurrection, attempting to chart the writings in a roughly chronological order, thus analysing the writings of Paul before those of the gospel writers. The aim here is to contrast the views of this emerging religion with those of the old and ask what could have prompted the transformation. Then, having seen the changes, the inevitable question that must then be asked is this: what caused the change? Wright is not presumptive in his answer, as I can tell a great many christians would at this point be jumping up and down saying "I know the answer." But Wright is far more considerate and gives due care and attention to his scholarship. This level of detail may frustrate some readers, as much of the early part of the book discusses resurrection in general, with very little mention of Jesus who only starts to come into the picture after about page 200; even then, much of the focus is really on the hope of a resurrection for all, rather than focussing on the resurrection of Jesus. So in that respect, those expecting a detailed analysis of Easter will have to get through several hundred pages of background before getting what they are looking for.

But it is certainly worth the effort of getting to, once his analysis of the gospel accounts finally begin at page 587. But once he gets under way with it, there seems to be no stopping him. Wright is in his element, giving well-considered, evidenced and thoughtful consideration to the claims and counter-claims that have surrounded Easter for many years. Here, as throughout the book, he uses footnotes to acknowledge and counteract the conclusions of many other theologians, whilst agreeing with some. Foremost in his crosshairs is Rudolph Bultmann. Because much of the groundwork had already been laid, the gospel accounts may appear to be a little short. But do not be deceived; these chapters are immensely rich and in order to take them in I have had to go over them in conjunction with several translations a few times, which takes a fair while to do.

Having finished his survey of beliefs and narratives, the question is then asked: So what? Even if you skip over the first 600 pages and jump straight to last section (though you will be missing out) what you will find is the work of an honest historian who, having looked at the best available evidence, concludes that Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead. Not only is this a striking conclusion, but the consequences of it, as expounded in the theology of the earlier sections (most notably Wright's exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15) demand careful consideration by everyone.

In his final flourish, Wright looks at the reasons for calling Jesus the Son of God and what this means both in terms of direct referent and its implications, though the latter part is the lead on to part 4 in his series which, at the time of writing this review, is currently due sometime in 2012.

This is certainly a `meaty' book and though at times you may need a dictionary on hand, it is written in an accessible way and is an immense joy to work through. I would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in resurrection theology and of the future hope (either in heaven or a new earth) for christians.
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on 15 September 2008
This was the most exciting book I have read for years. I couldn't put it down (didn't sleep for a week!)! People constantly say to Christians, "where is your evidence?" expecting that we would be floored! Here is the evidence, with a long and careful discussion of all the details, including Homer and Virgil, Philo and Pliny, Josephus and Plato, the Dead Sea Scrolls and lots you haven't heard of. And he goes through the Gospels and the Letters too, very carefully and hugely informatively. And I have been reading the Bible for many years!

His thesis is, what historical explanation is there for the sudden large and demonstrable change in how people thought about resurrection, other than that Jesus Christ actually rose from the dead as the Gospels tell us? The book is a cold historical examination of the facts, and also addresses the concerns of a huge number of modern commentators.

This is that rare and beautiful thing: a work of true scholarship that really makes a difference to the way we think. Before, we believed it for pretty good reasons, now we believe it with copper-bottomed first-class unassailable reasons.

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on 10 February 2004
Here we are with book three in the series (which we are told is an addition to the originally planned five books) and things are starting to get really exciting. As before to read this is to join a project that is well underway, having built up a good head of steam and now plunging ahead.
Having found the first two books personally ground breaking and formative, this volume came more as a steady building on established themes than breaking fresh ground. Which was no bad thing as I found myself firming up on some ideas introduced a few thousand pages ago in the series.
Being an additional volume has meant Wright has had space to write an exhaustive review of Resurrection thinking and thouroughly formulate his own rendering. Whilst this did at time bog me down, the effort to finish was well worth it.
In particular Wright paints a clear picture of what Ressurection really is, and why it mattered to Jesus. I found myself discovering what I had hoped for about life after death in unlikely places. Ideas originating back to the first century, forgotten or at least covered over (for me) until now.
And again I find myself in posession of more tools to know and discover Jesus on the ground and why ressurection matter to him.
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on 2 December 2013
The paperback version of this book is 817 pages long. Obviously I haven't read it all in one sitting, but I have read it all in pieces, over a very long period. I consider this book the closest thing to irrefutable evidence of the Resurrection that I have found. Consequently, I consider it a very important book indeed. For those in a hurry, I would suggest you concentrate on Parts IV ("The Story of Easter") and V ("Easter and History"). He describes, in part IV, the narratives in each gospel, including those which most people (including Wright, I suspect) consider totally ludicrous, e.g. Matthew 27: 51-54 - a whole collection of corpses waking up, waiting 3 days, then calmly walking into the city. Page 633 certainly implies scepticism of this on Wright's part.
My inference from part IV is that, as most of these incidents are only recorded by one gospel, they are not "core", and can be discounted without denying the historicity of the Resurrection itself; this is dealt with in part V, where he concentrates on the 2 incidents reported by all 4 gospels; the empty tomb, and the post-crucifixion appearances. His case rests upon the proposition that, both of these taken together, but not singly, give necessary and sufficient reasons for the disciples' conviction that Jesus was alive. He further argues that they are sufficient for us, too, seeing that the gospels were written so soon after Jesus' death - and that there was therefore no time for embellishment. But in addition (and this is crucial), he gives very thorough critiques of many of the persuasive alternative views (by Crossan, Festinger, Schillebeeckx, Goulder and others), and to my mind does a pretty thorough demolition job on all of them. This I found really important, because I have read a lot of these, and found many of them pretty convincing (I was especially attracted by Michael Goulder's writings). It may be a long read, but shorter apologetic writings always leave questions unanswered. This book does not. And if the Resurrection is really true, then surely it is worth investing any amount of time in verifying it?
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on 13 March 2012
This is a very important book indeed for those who wish to assert the truth of the ressurection but are unsure whether it is possible to do this with "academic rigour".

Many Quakers will perhaps not think about these issues at all or go along with mainstream liberal theology. This book is a stimulating challenge. It is not for the faint hearted with over 700 pages of closely argued text.

In Part 1 it examines the contemporary views of Jews and Pagans in the context of which the resurrection accounts need to be understood. The second part deals with the understanding of the resurrection of Jesus in the letters of Paul. The third part looks at other early Christian writings and the fourth at the accounts of the resurrection itself, principally in the gospels. The final part explores the significance of resurrection under the heading "Belief, Event and Meaning".

The work is well written but the argument is dense and takes a lot of absorbing! Not since C.S. Lewis have we had such a lucid writer on the central points of Christianity. Unlike Lewis, Wright's primary discipline is new testament scholarship which makes him, in my eyes, even better vlue. Like Lewis, he can be waspish in dealing with those who do not share his thinking.

In the end this is not, however, a mere academic treatise. As Wright himself writes (page 713):

"What if the resurrection, instead of (as is often imagined) legitimating a cosy, comfortable, socially and cuturally conservative form of Christianity, should turn out to be, in the twenty-first century as in the first, the most socially, culturally and politically explosive force imaginable..."

What if, indeed?
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on 24 July 2009
I'm only half way through this book but, regrettably, have had to lay it down temporarily to attend to more urgent business. As an evangelical lay preacher I found the breadth and depth of Tom Wright's assessment of the resurrection of Jesus to be deeply satisfying. His analysis of 1 Corinthians chapter 15, in particular, thrilled me. We need to hear more of this kind of material suitably presented for the laity from the pulpit.

I will get back to the book as soon as possible, then, hopefully, re-read it through without an extended break. The other books in Tom Wright's series I have yet to lay hands on. What a prospect is in store!
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on 21 July 2014
I cannot claim to have read the whole of this large book; but it seems to me that Bishop Wright has too narrow a focus on the actual resurrection. So far as I can see he does not go into the surrounding circumstances, which may have a bearing. Why, for instance, was Jesus laid in a tomb so close to the site of the crucifixion (only about 50 yards away if the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem is correct in its placing of the crucifixion)?

The answer lies in the time constraints. Let us suppose that Jesus died about 3.0 pm at the earliest. The Passover Sabbath would start at sundown, say 6.0 pm. That doesn't leave much time for Joseph of Arithmathea to get Pilate's permission to take charge of the body, to arrange for a nearby tomb to be available, to obtain the 14 ft length of fine linen on which the body of Jesus was to be laid, to take down the body from the cross (with the sudarium, a cloth about 4ft 6ins square, to wrap round his head to stop the worst of the blood from marking those concerned), to lay the body in the tomb and to close it by rolling the stone across the mouth of the tomb. It appears that Joseph may have had the assistance of Nicodemus, but not of any of the disciples - we don't meet him in any other context, and there is no reason to suppose that the disciples, lower class people from Galilee, would have had any conversation with Joseph, a senior member of the establishment. Some of the women who accompanied Jesus saw where the body was laid, but again there is no reason to suppose that they spoke to Joseph or Nicodemus.

It is plausible to suppose that the use of a rock-cut tomb so near to the site of the crucifixion (which was just outside the city walls) was not intended to be a permanent resting place for the body of Jesus, but was chosen for the occasion because of the shortage of time. The sabbath ended at sundown on the Saturday, but there would have been enough light for some time after that for Joseph's servants to have moved the body to a more permanent resting place, possibly some way away. The women who wished to give Jesus' body a more suitable dressing would not have known this; so it is entirely understandable that Mary of Magdala should have run to Peter and John and said "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him."

Peter and John ran to the tomb and found that the body was not longer there, although the shroud and the sudarium were still in the tomb - there was no point in burying them elsewhere. But their puzzlement was soon put at rest by the appearance of Jesus himself, first the Mary and later that day to all the disciples. Their joy at this was such that there was no reason for them to go and find Joseph of Arimathea and ask or tell him what had happened; and Joseph, being in secret a supporter ofJesus, did not disabuse them when they began to speak of having seen Jesus on the Sunday.

Much the best written evidence of the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection is Paul's account in 1 Cor.15, with which Bishop Wright deals exhaustively; while the change in the disciples, from despondent and leaderless men to the bold preachers we find after Pentecost is only explicable by their conviction that Jesus was alive after he had been crucified and they had seen and conversed with him. Subsequent appearances of Jesus throughout history, including some 30 in the last 50 years which are examined in detail by Phillip Wiebe in his book Visions of Jesus, are just as convincing to those to whom he appeared, notably Hugh Montefiore, who knew virtually nothing of Jesus as he had been forbidden by his father to read the New testament, and indeed was at one time thinking of becoming a rabbi. His appearance to Hugh, with the words "Follow me", converted him in an instant from being a Jew to being a Christian, and he later became Bishop of Birmingham.

Bishop Wright does not mention the numerous appearances of Jesus in history up to the present day; but I have no doubt, for what seem to me better reasons, that the story if the Resurrection was in essence true, if not for the very learned reasons he gives.
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on 22 October 2015
Great book, I was wary of reading NT Wright as had heard his views weren't particularly orthodox. I was also put off by the thought of ploughing through 800+ pages. But I'm glad I did actually read the book Wright's a very good lucid writer and it was a pleasant read.

It was really eye-opening to understand the Gospel accounts within the context of beliefs about bodily resurrection held at the time in greco-roman and second temple Judaism communities. It was also great just to think and meditate on a comprehensive account of all the passages on the resurrection both in the New and Old Testament.
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on 30 June 2013
If you are a holiday reader then get Tom Wrights wonderful 'For Everyone' series. This book has to the be most thorough I have ever read, if you have the time and want every i dotted and t crossed then this for you. But, it is about 2 inches thick, the type is small and there are no pictures...
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