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Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters Hardcover – October 25, 2011
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“N. T. Wright’s introduction to Jesus is erudite (and yet also entertaining), and decidedly thought-provoking. Somewhat to my surprise, I felt that, in reading Simply Jesus, I was really coming to know Jesus better; reading Simply Jesus, I actually felt Him near.” (Lauren F. Winner, author of Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis)
“Tom Wright is, as always, brilliant at distilling immense scholarship into vivid, clear and accessible form. This book is yet another of his great gifts to the worldwide church.” (Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury)
“No one living today is writing more thoughtfully and compellingly about Christian theology than N.T. Wright. With Simply Jesus, he takes readers on an illuminating intellectual expedition to recover the Christian Messiah. If you have not read Wright, start now, and start with this book.” (Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House)
“Tom Wright has a fresh way of presenting the story of Jesus, the one and only Savior and Lord of the four canonical Gospels. This book retrieves Jesus from the margins of contemporary ideologies and places him once again at the heart of biblical faith. A compelling read!” (Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University, general editor of the Reformation Commentary on Scripture)
“Wright patiently explains the world views that Jesus stepped into, how his parables point to his mission, and, finally, what this truth means in today’s world. Wright’s direct style, reminiscent of C. S. Lewis’ writings, invites readers in but allows for internal argument.” (Booklist (starred review))
“When today’s leading New Testament theologian has something new to say about anything, readers pay attention. In his latest work, he again exhibits his gift for making in-depth scholarship vivid and accessible.” (Kimberly Mauck, The Christian Chronicle)
From the Back Cover
We have grown used to the battles over Jesus—whether he was human or divine, whether he could do miracles or just inspire them, whether he even existed. Much of the church defends tradition, while critics take shots at the institution and its beliefs. But what if these debates have masked the real story of Jesus? What if even Jesus’s defenders have been so blinded by their focus on defending the church’s traditions that they have failed to grapple with what the New Testament really teaches?
Bible scholar, Anglican bishop, and bestselling author N. T. Wright summarizes a lifetime of study of Jesus and the New Testament in order to present for a general audience who Jesus was and is. In Simply Jesus, we are invited to hear one of our leading scholars introduce the story of the carpenter’s son from Nazareth as if we were hearing it for the first time.
“Jesus—the Jesus we might discover if we really looked,” explains Wright, “is larger, more disturbing, more urgent than we had ever imagined. We have successfully managed to hide behind other questions and to avoid the huge, world-shaking challenge of Jesus’s central claim and achievement. It is we, the churches, who have been the real reductionists. We have reduced the kingdom of God to private piety; the victory of the cross to comfort for the conscience; 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.” As the church faces the many challenges of the twenty-first century, Wright has presented a vision of Jesus that more than meets them.
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In the same way that the Koreans watching Shrek missed a lot of things the creators fully expected the American audience to get without any explanation, the Gospels are full of cultural references 1st century readers would have understood immediately without any explanation, but that we modern readers deeply separated by centuries of time and culture don't even realize we are missing. In this book, NT Wright gives a crash course in 1st century thinking. He tries to help us modern readers step into the shoes of a Hebrew living in the Roman empire and see Jesus through those eyes. He takes us back and sets the tone politically (as those living at the time would have seen it). And it is amazing the things we modern readers miss just because we are so separated from that culture.
I found this one of the most easily read of NT Wrights longer books I've read. I like his For Everyone New Testament Commentaries because they are easily readable. I have found some of his deeper books more scholarly and much slower reads. But this one is written more like the For Everyone series. Anyone can pick it up and easily get through it. You don't need a theological academic background. And what Wright lays out here is extremely important and helpful for the modern Church. In the same way you can't really understand a work of Shakespeare without some help understanding the original historical context and audience and way language worked in Shakespeare's day, you can't profess to fully understand the Bible without understanding it's original context and audience. But the modern Church often forgets that and it leads to a lot of misunderstanding and misinterpretation of Scripture. Hopefully this resource will help clarify some of those misunderstandings, and even lead people into a deeper, more rich understanding of the Gospels and who Jesus was and is. I know it helped me see things I've never seen before (and I even have a Bible minor and would read books from my husband's seminary classes with him).
even if we only have contact every few years. Some of his work is very lengthy and scholarly, but I think his real talent
is in his popular works, which are very readable in the style of C.S. Lewis, but also communicate the deeper ideas of
his scholarship. From a Catholic perspective, we don't always agree but he's as reliable as most of ours.
Simply Jesus is largely a meditation on the line from the Our Father, "Thy Kingdom Come On Earth As It Is In Heaven".
This is what Wright uses to approach who Jesus was, what he did, what he was about, how his followers understood
him, and what he means for us. Wright also uses the metaphor of the "perfect storm" to understand both our conditions
in the 21st century, and the lifetime of Jesus in the 1st century. He paraphrases the kingdom of God as God becoming
king, or God being in charge. Jesus understood his mission in terms of the books of Isaiah 40-66 (the suffering servant
songs), Zechariah (riding on a donkey) and Daniel (the son of man). Heaven and earth are not completely separate
as in the understanding of Plato, but dimensions that interpenetrate, first through the temple where God's presence
enters the earth, and then in the person of Jesus.
N.T. Wright is respected among Protestants, Catholics and all kinds of Christians, but will be challenging due to the
perfect storm of the 21st century, where many are partisans of the left and the right. For instance, the discussion of
the rapture will be challenging for many American Christians whose literature has focused on a literal interpretation
of one passage of 1 Thessalonians. Wright's Christology doesn't talk much about "divinity", preferring to focus on Christ
bringing God's kingdom on earth so that God becomes king and God is in charge. The same is true of incarnation and
atonement, where he shows how substitution and representation for the people are not opposites but actually go
together. The later developments of theology are legitimate, but to understand Jesus it is necessary to enter into the 1st
century Jewish worldviews. As for the modernist liberal Jesus who brought revolution, it is true that his mission was very
political, but that's exactly what his followers got wrong, because the Messiah wasn't political in the way that they expected.
He brought a deeper level of transformation than the Pharisees tried to do with their legal reforms. The problem wasn't that
the Pharisees had rules but that they didn't bring the transformation that Christ did. When he said "my kingdom is not of this
world" a better translation would be "...from this world", because it is from God but is active here in this world, not just to
give proofs of divinity or get to heaven. And the risen Jesus is equally at home on earth and in heaven. The Spirit
and the Church-Tom shows how some theologians seem to think the Spirit is everywhere except the Church, so
it's good apologetics to show some of the ways that Christians show love of neighbor. This is part of "God becoming
in charge" even though much is wrong in the world, for we have hope that it will be brought to fulfillment in the end.
So it is also about heaven, but it is beginning here on earth with Jesus.