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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Open your eyes to Jesus, 6 Jun. 2010
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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 wonderful book published in 1996 is from the (to my mind) foremost Biblical scholar today. It is over 600 pages long, with 32 pages of bibliography and another 35 pages of citations of ancient texts, most of which are Biblical but including 6 pages of Jewish sources (including Apocryphal, Pseudepigraphy, Philo, and rabbinical works), nearly 2 pages of Christian (and Gnostic) writings, and nearly a page of Roman and Greek writings. If you want an index on who has said what, and how, this book is a good place to start!

Many scholars have written popular books on Jesus, largely, it seems, from a point of view seeking to discredit the "traditional" orthodox account. N.T.Wright (who is now Bishop of Durham) writes here from a purely historical standpoint, but he takes detailed issue with the revisionist scholars, and in particular those of the Jesus Seminar.

Wright states that his aim is to take account of all the evidence (including Biblical, extra-canonical, Jewish and pagan sources), and reconstruct the events in a way that incorporates all of this evidence naturally. He takes the New Testament text effectively at face value, carefully explaining where doing this is contrary to "received wisdom" and why his reading is at least as plausible as those of the revisionists.

It is a book of history, not theology. He does not get into Christology (hence "Jesus" in the title), but he is centrally interested in exploring the important historical question, why did Jesus die? The "Victory of God" in the title is referring to the various different ways in which the Jews then thought of the "Hope of Israel", and the way in which Jesus thought of it which was at once continuous with the Jewish traditions and radically different at some vitally important points.

Looming over the whole discussion is the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 after the first disastrous Jewish War. Wright's thesis is that Jesus saw this coming, and interpreted it similarly to the way that Jeremiah interpreted the foreseen fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. But Jesus is preaching the Kingdom of God realised in himself! "Something greater than the Temple is here!" he says (Matt.12:6).

Whoever you are, if you want to understand our society with its Christian heritage (for better or worse!) you need to know who Jesus really was. And in this long and complicated book a historian of the very first rank leads us through a huge mass of primary and secondary sources, astonishing us at every turn. He makes perfect and disturbing sense of the Gospel accounts, which are today overlain with so much anachronistic and sentimental assumptions that it is often hard to see what was going on and what the Evangelists are getting at.

This book, with the two others in the series (I have already reviewed the third, "The Resurrection of the Son of God"), is the most exciting thing I have read for many years. I can't recommend it enough.
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