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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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If you are a non-believer looking to honestly assess the life and impact of Jesus Christ, give the works of Tom Wright a go - you will be honestly engaged and have vital reflection, while engaging with one of the most understandable and scholarly minds of Christianity today, yet someone with whom you could have a great conversation. He delves into the history and context of Christ's life, while pointing out the greater impact and why
Christians regard "this Jesus stuff" as important to everyone.
What I don't like, is that he leaves you with more questions unanswered than any other book I have read, but maybe that's on purpose. I don't like it when he says everyone else has missed the point, and only sometimes explains it. I don't appreciate that he spends a few pages to answer his toughest question, namely, why and how does the cross bring about his kingship of the world. But, even though I have issues, I still give it a 5 star. It's a must read.
Part 1 of review: Content-What was most important or interesting?
The story of Jesus is the story about how God became King on earth as it is in heaven, argues first century historian, pastor, professor and former Bishop Tom Wright. Jesus was and is a first century Jew and therefore we must see him for who he is and not study him from our own cultural view. Wright uses the analogy of two perfect storms to describe first, the modern day view of Jesus and then the storm to which Jesus entered into the eye of during his day. The latter I found most interesting and learned the most from. Israel's story is in the exodus and they believed the time was right for God to come and fulfill Biblical prophecy. He will come to his house, the temple in Jerusalem, riding on a cloud of fury to rescue his people from the tyrant Rome. Yes Israel was correct, "the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15 NASB). Fifteen hundred or so years before, Israel crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land. God had delivered his people Israel from the tyrant of Egypt through a miraculous series of plagues. Now Jesus is being baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan, symbolizing his anointing as king (pg. 170). Israel's King had arrived to deliver them from the real tyrant, Satan, and from the power of sin and death. Yes the "time" is right, for the kingdom has come on earth as in heaven, but not in the way you thought it would come. Heaven and earth have come together alright, but not at the "space" at which you thought it would come (the temple in Jerusalem). Heaven and earth have come together in me, the Word made flesh! God had arrived in space, time and matter. Then Jesus showed them what that kingdom looks like-it looks like celebration, healing and forgiveness. "Matter" was transformed by Jesus as he did miracles. Jesus gave a poke in the eye to both Herod Antipas, the unofficial "king of the Jews" (pg. 68) and to the chief priests, who ruled the temple; both of whom tried to kill Jesus, Herod failed, but the chief priests succeeded. This too was to fulfill prophecy and signify Jesus's kingdom, as he was enthroned on the cross.
Part 2 of review: My assessment based on the author's objectives.
In the preface Wright asks the following questions about Jesus: Who exactly was he? What did he think he was up to? What did he do and say, why was he killed, and did he rise from the dead? Since he called people to follow him, and since people have been trying to do that ever since, what might "following him" entail? How can we know if we are on the right track?
I think Bishop Wright did a great job of answering his own questions. Who exactly was Jesus? Jesus is the new temple-the place where heaven and earth meet. He replaced the old incarnational symbol, as Wright puts it (pg.133). Jesus is the jubilee, the time when God's kingdom is coming on earth as it is in heaven (pg. 137). As Jesus said, "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15 KJV); the kingdom of God is already among you" (Luke 17:21 NLT). Jesus was up to being King on earth as it is in heaven and everything he did was to fulfill that calling, "the kingdom project," as Bishop Wright states. Jesus baptism is his anointing as King and the miracles he did show how heaven and earth have come together in his person. This is why Jesus died and ascended to heaven, because in doing so he gained the victory over death, sin and Satan (pg. 126). His resurrection is the beginning of the new creation. Jesus's followers are an extension of the temple-where heaven and earth meet and thus should be about the work of the kingdom-helping, loving, serving the oppressed, impoverished and the sick (pg. 218). Jesus is working in and through spirit filled followers to advance the kingdom of God on earth (pg. 215).
Part 3 of review: My assessment based on my own criteria. 1) What have I learned?
2) What areas are helpful to me in the ministry and how is it helpful? 3) I'm not convinced with...?
Simply Jesus was a very interesting book, which I read on Kindle for PC. Yes Jesus was a first century Jew and I've learned from Wright that we need to place greater emphasis on what this means. Salvation comes through Israel and its history is in the exodus story. Wright states that Jesus fulfilled the exodus story: the tyrant, the new leader, the sacrifice, the victory, the way of life, the inheritance, and the presence of God (pg.64, 174). Jesus defeated sin, death and Satan. He is the Passover sacrifice who provided the victory in his death and resurrection. He offers us a new spirit filled life. He gives us a new creation - heaven and earth as an inheritance and he is the presence of God in the flesh. Yes the kingdom of God is a present reality which will be concluded at Jesus' second coming. This point helps me to understand the Biblical narrative. It also helps me to see our inclusion in what God is doing. As was stated earlier, followers of Jesus are an extension of the temple and this is how God's kingdom has come on earth as in heaven.
Although Jesus was a first century Jew, and the time was fulfilled for him to come as God in the flesh so that the kingdom would come on earth as in heaven, I'm not convinced that Jesus now looks at the world from that standpoint any longer. Jesus has become the reality of all of the signposts, declares Wright. Long before Jesus was a Jew, he was the Word God (John 1). For it wasn't a first century Jew who came to die for our sins, it was God himself. He said, "Before Abraham was I am (John 8:58). Jesus's consciousness of who he was and is as God is greater than the consciousness that he has of being a Jew.
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