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Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2) Paperback – February 7, 1997
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In this highly anticipated volume, N. T. Wright focuses directly on the historical Jesus: Who was he? What did he say? And what did he mean by it?Wright begins by showing how the questions posed by Albert Schweitzer a century ago remain central today. Then he sketches a profile of Jesus in terms of his prophetic praxis, his subversive stories, the symbols by which he reordered his world, and the answers he gave to the key questions that any world view must address. The examination of Jesus' aims and beliefs, argued on the basis of Jesus' actions and their accompanying riddles, is sure to stimulate heated response. Wright offers a provocative portrait of Jesus as Israel's Messiah who would share and bear the fate of the nation and would embody the long-promised return of Israel's God to Zion.
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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 Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews and is a regular broadcaster on radio and television. He is the author of over seventybooks, including The New Testament and the People of God (1992), Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), and The Resurrection of the Son of God (2003), published by Fortress Press.
- Publisher : Fortress Press; 5th or later Edition (February 7, 1997)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 770 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0800626826
- ISBN-13 : 978-0800626822
- Item Weight : 2.19 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.18 x 1.56 x 9.21 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #39,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mostly using the canonical gospels, N.T. Wright provides a unique perspective on this enigmatic personality. Jesus is well known as meek and humble, the suffering servant who offers his life on the cross. But rarely is he thought of as someone with a profound intellect.
In the Victory of God, Wright argues that Jesus was immersed in the texts of the Hebrew Bible. He then offered a unique interpretation in which all the institutions of the Jewish people are seen to be fulfilled in him.
This isn’t the trite quoting of a passage and then claiming that it is fulfilled. Instead, it is a understanding at the deepest level of the meaning of the Temple, the prophets, the giving of the law, etc. Jesus, Wright argues, used the three years of his mission to impart a exegesis that is by no means surpassed even by the rabbis of the Talmud.
Whether one agrees that Jesus truly interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures with the profound understanding Wright imparts to him is up to the judgement of every reader. But it is a perspective that deserves a hearing. With Jesus remaining at the center of much of Western religious culture, it’s interesting to view him as a creative genius—albeit one whose mind was shaped by his particular place and time. Well worth reading by all who find the man from Nazareth a person of perennial interest.
Top reviews from other countries
It was refreshing to read and to be able to see Jesus for who he was. There are some real nuggets in this book. So why then not give it 5 stars? There were times when the discussion felt long-winded, especially when it came to discussing the views of other scholars and it took a bit of ploughing through. I was more interested in what he had to say rather than when he agreed or disagreed with other scholars.
I have read the previous book which was helpful when reading this book but not essential. (The previous book sets out some of the approaches to discussing the subject.) This book was definitely better than the previous one, and I'm looking forward to reading the next two books.
This is a book for the patient reader, yet it is well worth it. The one drawback to the book, which is highlighted early on, is that, for the most part, the testimony of John's gospel is ignored. This may frustrate many readers as it seems as though Wright is dismissing one of the key witness statements. Part of the reason given for this was one of brevity, as the book is over 600 pages long (plus bibliography and index) on the basis of the 3 other gospel accounts.
Wright's portrait of Jesus is that of a man who understood himself, and was understood by others, as being a prophet, using as his foundation passages such as Mark 8: 27-30 and its parallels. The key theme to the book is what Jesus meant by the "kingdom of god" - a topic that I've often found glossed over in many different churches, presumably on the assumption that everyone knew and agreed what the referent was, even if it somewhat hazy.
After his "portrait of a prophet" Wright moves on to look at the aims and beliefs of Jesus. Much of this is tied in with what has gone before. It is here that Jesus moves onto the end of Jesus' life.
In trying to understand Jesus in his historical context, Wright does seem to be missing a very big side of the story. He is keen to stress that in order to understand Christology you must first get "Jesusology" or else risk putting the cart before the horse. But I cannot feel that by focusing exclusively on Jesus' reformation of the Jewish worldview and ignoring the impact on Gentiles and at any time and place other than 1st century Israel/Palestine, that Wright is painting a portrait of the horse and cart, only without legs and wheels, so that Jesus is so firmly rooted in his setting that he is static and has nothing of relevance to say to 21st century westernised christians. Only at the very end of the book is this problem acknowledged. The proposed solution is that everything changes with the resurrection, so the reader is referred onto the next volume.
In his discourse of Jesus in relation to "apocalyptic" Wright swims against the tide of 2,000 years of theology to deny that there will be a "second coming." Though hints are dropped throughout the book, the core argument is given in Wright's exegesis of Mark 13. Rather than consider this a new form of apocalyptic, Wright chooses to read this as a strictly Jewish apocalyptic in exactly the same vein as Daniel.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to christians, jews, muslims and atheists. To understand christianity (and how it relates to Judaism) one has to study the figure of Jesus. And though this doesn't cover all aspects of Jesus' ministry and life, it certainly covers a lot and in a lot of depth. It is at once both enlightening and challenging, asking us to look at our worldview in a different light - just as Jesus did in his day.
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.
But more seriously, there's real depth here. Wright paints a picture of Jesus which is solidly rooted in history, and after reading this book, a lot of the odd little stories and sayings in the gospels suddenly make sense. I'm talking about those difficult to understand bits, which generations of preachers and lecturers have 'explained', but whose explanations have left us feeling dissatisfied and unconvinced.
By placing Jesus solidly in his political/religious setting, and by seeing him as being in line with the Old Testament prophets, suddenly a lot of things begin to make sense.
In some sections, the book *is* hard going, because Wright is such a careful and meticulous scholar. But there are real nuggets of knowledge to be mined here.
An enlightening and important book. Highly recommended.
However, this is not a book for people who seek an easy read.