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Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2) Paperback – August 1, 1997
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About the Author
N. T. Wright is the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and one of the world's leading Bible scholars. He is now serving as the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews. He is the author of over 50 books including the highly acclaimed series Christian Origins and the Question of God.
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It is very disappointing that such a scholarly work does not include page numbers in the Kindle edition. Such an important and huge work is inevitably referred to in many other works, generally by page numbers. I had to get the print edition from my local library just to figure out which sections were referred to by page numbers, then search within the Kindle version to find those sections. Seriously annoying, and for just $4 more you can get the print edition thereby avoiding this problem. Which raises another question. Surely the paper and delivery for such a large book is worth much more than $4? Why is the Kindle edition so expensive?
Similarly, in the Kindle edition, footnotes are incorrectly formatted, such that if you touch a footnote marker in the text, you are taken to the second line of the footnote at the back, so you need to turn back a page to get to the footnote. This should have been easily spotted in the editing process.
Jesus and the Victory of God (JVG) is volume 2 in Wright's multi-volume project entitled "Christian origins and the question of God." It's unclear how many volumes his research will yield. His first volume, The New Testament and the People of God, explained Wright's method of research in painstaking detail. But it's well worth it! It lays the groundwork for overturning one of the most abused and dubious doctrines of modern biblical studies: the criterion of dissimilarity, sometimes called the criterion of embarrassment. Simply put, this criterion says that anything embarrassing to the early church in the gospels must be true because you don't make up embarrassing things about yourself or your founder. Likewise, if something in the gospels is dissimilar from early church teaching, it's likely true. There are many problems with the criteria used by modern (mostly secular) biblical studies in studying the historical Jesus, too many in fact to cover here.
Wright argues, however, that Christians should not shrink before the historical task. He then defends a criteria of double SIMILARITY and double DISSIMILARITY. Jesus, he argues, should be both appropriately similar to the Judaism of his day and to the early church, and appropriately dissimilar from the two, respectively. Example: Judaism had a variegated expectations of a Messiah. Though there was no one definitive expectation, it was largely assumed that the Messiah would violently overthrow Israel's enemies (re: pagans like Rome) through military means. In this regard, Jesus was similar to his Jewish context. However, though Jesus explicitly acted in certain ways characteristic of the Messiah, he also did so in ways to subvert the very militarism that he saw as counter to Israel's God-given mission to be the source of God's blessing to all nations. Other examples of this kind abound in JVG.
Wright behaves a bit like the Jesus he describes. Wright comfortably fits both his academic context and church context (he is a bishop, after all) in many ways. However, he also subverts traditional expectations in each. Wright refuses some assumptions of modern biblical scholars, such as ruling out of hand that any sort of "god" can exist and act in human history. On the other hand, though Wright affirms the core of Christian theological orthodoxy, he also denies particular readings of the Bible long held by many evangelicals and Protestants in general. For example, Wright does not believe that Jesus ever predicted what we call "the second coming." The texts most often pointed to (Matthew 24, Mark 13, etc) refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and Jesus' vindication by God, not to his floating back to us on a cloud. But Wright's goal is never to overturn treasured interpretations for the sake of change. His goal is always to discover how we moved from Second Temple Judaism (i.e. 1st AD) to the early church.
At the end of the day, Wright discovers a Jesus that bridges that divide. It may surprise some but Wright's portrait of Jesus manages to include what we actually find presented in the gospels. He doesn't blacken out bits of the story that disagree with his own assumptions. In fact, Wright has publicly said again and again that the Jesus he finds in the gospels constantly challenges his own creaturely comforts.
I find Wright's description of Jesus compelling and intellectually coherent. I was first introduced to Wright's work in college when I read The Challenge of Jesus. Challenge distills JVG into a more accessible popular format. I then read "The New Testament and the People of God." Volume 3, The Resurrection of the Son of God is on my soon-to-read list. It's unclear how many volumes Wright will complete. He plans at least one more to address Paul.
I'm not sure how he finds time to complete these tomes of biblical exegesis, given his other writing projects of distilling his exegesis into accessible theology (cf. Simply Christian, Surprised by Hope) and his translation-commentaries of the entire New Testament (his "For Everybone" series).
One thing is sure. If Wright doesn't complete this series, generations of Christians will be the lesser for it.
Most recent customer reviews
Wright is making a solid and positive contribution to the world of Christian theology in a secular age.