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Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I read "The Challenge of Jesus" by N.T. Wright last year and wasn't impressed. I decided to give Wright a second chance by reading "Simply Jesus" and this time I found it much more interesting but still a rather dry read.

However, I was particularly struck by Wright's historical knowledge and insight into 1st century Palestine. His use of various illustrations to explain things also resonated with me. For instance, his use of the "perfect storm" to explain the three-fold conflict that was brewing upon Christ's entrance upon the world stage: 1) The Romans looked to Augustus Caesar as the "son of god" (son of Julius Caesar who was deified). 2) The Jews were in the midst of a 1,000+ year drama awaiting for their messiah to deliver them once again from their new oppressors. 3) The Jews were looking for the establishment of a new Jewish kingdom and expecting God to rule the world and essentially be king over all the earth.

Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah did indeed usher in God's kingdom upon the earth, but not in the way that the Jews were expecting. Instead, Jesus healed people and made them right, He forgave sins... something only God was able to do. Those who sensed God's presence in their lives were now healed, forgiven, and essentially set free... the new Jubilee. And, God truly became in charge with the establishment of His new kingdom on earth. He didn't rule from the temple instead He ruled through Christ, not by might, but through peace and forgiveness... as King over the Jews and the world.

Overall, not a bad book, but lacks anything new or riveting. The beginning was interesting but towards the middle of the book it became somewhat mundane and I struggled to finish it. When I crossed the finish line it left me wondering if Wright could have reduced the size of the book by at least 1/4 of the space it took to write it. After reading two of Wright's books I've come to the conclusion that Wright just isn't for me. Do I recommend the book? Probably not. But, I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it neither.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover
N.T. Wright has begun a new series that is much easier to read. He's known for his deeply theological books and also his New Testament commentary "for everyone". Simply Jesus is written somewhere between these two styles.

It is very assessable for anyone to pick it up and enjoy.

He calls this "a new vision of who Jesus was, what he did and why he matters" but it's really based on the writings of Jesus in his previous books.

Divided into three parts. In part one, Wright uses the imagery of The Perfect Storm with its three storms coming to a head to explain the culture in which Jesus confronted the Romans, the Jewish religious leadership and God's plan.

In part two, Wright explains what Jesus believed to be the Kingdom of God and how that was brought about by his actions, words and death on the cross.

Part three serves to talk about how Jesus can be Lord while it seems that evil continues to run rampant. This last section felt like Wright returned to his thick/deep writing and I was initially confused before catching on to his rhythm.

This book is terrific as the first of a new series on Jesus in the First Century and how the Jewish community viewed heaven, God and His kingdom. However I think I've read most of these ideas before...from Wright's earlier work. But I'd rather read Wright repeating himself before picking up most other books on Jesus.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by HarperOne Publishing
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
If you've not read the first three volumes of his Christian Origins and the Question of God (The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, and The Resurrection of the Son of God) this is the place to start to understand Tom Wright's work on Jesus.

This man is incapable of writing an uninteresting word (and is simply incapable of not writing!) and his breadth of scholarship across the OT, intertestamental Judaism 1st century Judaism, apocrypha, psuedepigrapha, classical studies and the NT would be hard to parallel.

This is big-picture stuff, the stunning grand narrative of God-with-us and the Kingdom right here and now in Jesus. All the incarnational symbols of Israel's history finding their apogee in Jesus, both Messiah and Shekinah. This may whet your appetite to read NTPG, JVG, and RSG and a host of articles he's written as well (find them on the NT Wright page via Google search).

Finally, you're going to have to ask yourself what it means for you to be to the world what Jesus was to Israel ("As the Father sent me, in the same way I am sending you") or, from another perspective, "What would it be like for me/us if God was in charge."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
When reading the New Testament, I have often found myself wondering what it would have actually been like to live in the 1st century and listen to Jesus of Nazareth. N.T. Wright puts the reader in this world, not only in terms of what the Jewish people were expecting based on historical events, but also with respect to how Jesus must have viewed his mission in establishing God's kingdom on earth. This book provides thorough detail of what the Jewish people were expecting in a king, and why Jesus came to establish his reign in a much different way. If much of your exposure to Christ has been at the superficial level, this book will open your eyes to something much larger and much greater. Jesus's role in proclaiming God's reign went much further than the widely held view of allowing his followers to inherit a life after this one. Wright details what Jesus was about then, what he is about now, and what he will be about in the age to come.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters by N.T. Wright surveys the historical background of Jesus and presents our Savior from a variety of angles. While it is not a simple read, there are a few features that make it worthwhile.

The Emphasis on the Kingdom of God

Wright's focus on the kingdom of God is refreshing as he promotes an all-ready, not yet framework. For instance, he adds, "The Beatitudes are the agenda for kingdom people. They are not simply about how to behave, so that God will do something nice to you. They are about the way in which Jesus wants to rule the world." He continues, "The Sermon on the Mount is a call to Jesus's followers to take up their vocation as light to the world, as salt to the earth - in other words, as people through whom Jesus's kingdom vision is to become a reality."

The emphasis on good works is refreshing component that emerges in Wright's eschatological framekwork: "In the New Testament, 'good works' are what Christians are supposed to be doing in and for the wider community. That is how the sovereignty of Jesus is put into effect."

Rejection of Platonic Vision of Heaven

I especially enjoyed Wright's frustration with the so-called Platonic vision of heaven that is embraced by so many evangelicals. In many ways, he picks up where Randy Alcorn left off in his magnificent work, Heaven. Wright helpfully notes, "Heaven in biblical thought is not a long way away from 'earth.' In the Bible, 'heaven' and 'earth' overlap and interlock, as the ancient Jews believed they did above all in the Temple ... Most people in today's Western world imagine that 'heaven,' by definition, could not contain what we think of as a solid, physical body. That's because we are Platonists at heart, supposing that if there is a 'heaven,' it must be nonphysical, beyond the reach of space, time, and matter."

While much of the work in Simply Jesus is helpful and encouraging, as a premillenialist, I found the ammillenial eschatological framework interesting but not very helpful, in the final analysis. Wright has a way of making his readers think, especially readers that disagree with him. His writing is winsome, thought-provoking and worthy of a careful read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I had read some mixed reviews on this book before starting it myself. Some were saying it was complicated, some saying it is a rehash of stuff from a couple of his previous books, books which presented it better. However, I found it to be a great read. Having read a handful of Wright's stuff before, I have found some to be very deep theological (which I enjoy), and others not so much. This for fall into the category of the not-to-deep.

The more I read, the more I felt like I was becoming a part of the first-century era, and started to see the actions and words of Jesus in a new light. Of course having just finished reading two other similar books on the first century life around Jesus' time may have had an influence on the enjoyment factor for me.

I was really intrigued by the history lesson of those before and even after Jesus, who had stood up and made the claim to be the anointed one, and how they went about fulfilling that claim. Based on the expectations of the first testament scriptures, they had a plan, and of course ultimately failed. Jesus came on the scene, and we see parallels in his plan, but with a serious twist that shows his plan to be the real one. Understanding that really brought a better understanding to why they placed a sign saying "King of the Jews" on the cross of Jesus; whereas not knowing this past history it made a bit less sense.

The section on exactly what it meant to stand up and claim to be king, and what that meant at that time was also similarly enlightening. What exactly that meant and how it played out, which is the heart of the book, was a real thrill ride.

Of course the whole journey comes to a real head with the closing section which wraps this package up beautifully and should challenge believers to be a part of the kingdom and stop trying to escape the world. The church has failed its mission over the past few hundred years, and men like Wright are steering the "sinking ship" back on course to the kingdom mission Jesus left his followers to do.

I finished the book inspired and desiring to be more engaging in the culture around me. A much needed read by pretty much anyone claiming to be a disciple of Jesus.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This is vintage N.T. Wright; that fact alone makes it 4 stars. Wright offers the Cliff's Notes of his much larger, longer academic works in Simply Jesus -- a shortened form of his research for digestion by the mainstream populace. I'd recommend this book to those unfamiliar with Wright as a good introduction. It lacks the cutting prophetic edge found in Surprised by Hope (which is my favorite) but it does offer a great introduction to the historical-critical method and places the life and ministry of Jesus in the context of second temple Judaism -- revealing fresh insights for the church today (which too often tends to dehistoricize Jesus of Nazareth). I love that Wright is an equal opportunity offender: he refuses to toe the party lines of either conservative evangelicals or mainline liberals. And that is remarkably refreshing. The final chapter is the best in which Wright unpacks some of the practical implications for the church today in believing that Jesus is, in fact, king of this world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
N.T. Wright is an Anglican bishop and a leading scholar of the New Testament. Wright is Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary's College, University of St Andrews in Scotland. He is also the author of over 30 books.

Wright's book seeks to better understand, who is Jesus. It is about the church, Israel, archeology, history, government, anthropology, the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, the bible and outside sources. More specifically, Wright uses all these resources to tell the reader what Jesus is and us who he was. The author condenses a lifetime of studying Jesus and the New Testament to provide for a general audience how Jesus life and death impacted the world 2,000 years ago and today. By providing an analysis of the time Jesus walked the earth Wright helps to impart a infrequent contextual understanding of Jesus' words and actions.

This three part, 200-page examination of Jesus Christ is a comprehensive intellectual exploration. Whether a skeptic or a follower of Jesus, the reader will be taken on a journey of discovery where Wright navigates controversy, humanism, folklore and fact. The reader may not agree with the author's conclusions, but nobody can challenge is intellectual honesty.

Wright tells us we have reduced the kingdom of God to private piety. He says the victory of the cross has been diminished to comfort for the conscience, and Easter itself to a happy, escapist ending after a sad, dark tale. Piety, conscience, and ultimate happiness are important, but not nearly as important as Jesus himself. Jesus is larger, more impactful, more urgent than we in the modern church can imagine.

This is an astounding and thorough examination of all major facets of Jesus Christ. The reader should not expect a light and easy reader. Many will get bogged down in the author's academic minutia. Wright's style is scholarly and analytical. He does not write to entertain, but to edify.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Having read most of what Wright I expected this book to simply be a layman's edition of Jesus and the Victory of God with nothing new or fresh. Yet I was pleasantly surprised at how fresh the book was and how it was filled with such common sense interpretations. I found myself saying "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?!" quote often as I read it. This is great news for me because I'm often frustrated by the popular level books about Jesus that get published. One thinks of Bart Ehrman or Deepak Chopra for example.

In part 1 Wright uses the analogy of a perfect storm with different currents of contemporary culture all converging around the person of Jesus to produce a perfect storm. The secular atheistic current eager to stamp out the religion they don't have, claiming Jesus was just a man whose followers made into a god to justify their agenda. Or even worse, Jesus was just a good teacher, one of many through the ages. That current clashes with the conservative Christian current which is eager to affirm traditional orthodox Christianity. Wright was correct to say that both of these groups are eager to answer the question "Did it happen or not". For Wright this is reductionistic and we've missed out these events might mean. Wright then continues the analogy by describing the world of the first century into which Jesus was born and in which his actions make sense. There was the Roman storm with their own Gospel of the Lordship of Caesar with peace at the end of a sword. And there was the Jewish storm which told the story of them as God's chosen people, returned to the land but still under "exile" awaiting the return, awaiting the time when God would fulfill his promises. Wright argues that it is in this world that we can make sense of Jesus' words and actions, why he did what he did.

In part 2 Wright then fleshes out the picture of Jesus. In and through the person of Jesus God was indeed taking charge of his world because it was through Jesus that God's kingdom was coming to earth as it was in heaven. It is through Jesus that we see what God taking charge looks like. It looks like people being healed, set free from demons etc. Wright's discussion of Jesus' parables was also excellent. Jesus told parables not just as illustrations but full of echoes to the Old Testament story and promises that were close to Israel's heart. Through these stories he communicated his revolutionary message of God's kingdom. I was pleased to see Wright's frank discussion of Jesus' battling Satan. Wright carved a path through the demon obsessed and demon-dismissive skeptics that was very well argued. For Wright the Battle with Satan and the forces of evil was the true battle as these are the forces that stood behind the empires of the world, and were even holding Israel captive as they continued in their zealous and violent nationalism.

What I love about Wright is that fresh interpretation doesn't mean heretical as it so often does with others. How often do we hear the claim that the Church has misunderstood Jesus for 2000 years only to be presented with a Jesus that looks more like the 21st century author than a first century Jew? Thank the Lord for the British and their common sense. Lord knows where we'd be without it! Rather Wright establish the orthodoxy but sets it in the larger framework of God's kingdom project to rescue his good creation gone bad. One of the most helpful points was on Jesus' divinity. Jesus through his life and work was embodying the return of YHWH to Zion. Not that YHWH was to return at a separate time and that he was simply a herald. Rather it was through his own work and ministry. Jesus himself was the return of YHWH to Zion.

This book is highly recommended to anyone seeking to cut through all the popular level rubbish out there. This book will satisfy your mind as well as your heart and will give you plenty of meat to chew on. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Not a book to recommend for non believers. It does contain small pieces of apologetics, but this is a book to call those who call themselves Christians, to challenge themselves on what that really means. Wonderfully intelligent but gentle, and very informative.
This book uses excellent scholarship and writing style to extract and explain, who Jesus was, what he was really saying, and how the early church understood that message.
For example the Beattitudes aren't about how everything will be OK in the end, they are the codes for living life NOW, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Then the world will know that Jesus really is King of this world now and not just heaven.
I will reread immediately and singing its praises to Christian friends. I also feel better prepared to take on the stresses of this life without feeling so overwhelmed.
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