I finished N.T. Wright’s book The Original Jesus: The Life and Vision of a Revolutionary yesterday. He divides the book into two parts. The first part introduces Jesus’ life and ministry. The second part deals with how to read the gospels effectively and for the purpose they were written for.He brings the reader in close with the culture of Jesus’ day and the impact that has on how the text is read. This book is a good introduction to the Gospels and would be a good read for someone who is not very familiar with them but who would like to learn more. There are also tidbits that are of interest to those who are more mature in their faith and further along in their Bible study. I would give a small warning to say that there are a few things that should be handled with care. He handles the differences in the gospels and how we view inspiration that could throw someone young in their faith for a little bit of a loop. Overall, his treatment of that topic is helpful in understanding the issue and is crucial for helping us be informed on these issues.
Wright goes into some detail to tell how Jesus was different than the other “would be” Messiahs who met untimely deaths by the hands of the Romans. Many of those groups fell apart at the death of their leader or gave their allegiance to the relatives of the deceased leader. Christianity did not follow that pattern because they understood that their leader had come back to life. He does an adequate job of linking Jesus’ role with how people viewed the temple and the authority that Jesus brought in his person. He debunks the Jesus’ seminar and even makes some application, “You see, when we explore the question about Jesus and God, we discover another question: What might it look like today if people were captivated by the Spirit of this Jesus?” (p.87).
In the second half of the book Wright talks biases, the reasons the gospels differ on some details, the Greek and Jewish roots that are important to understand to “get” the gospels, and brief descriptions of each of the gospels/what makes them unique. Finally he gives four tips for “Reading the Gospels for Yourself.”
Overall it was a good read and useful on several levels. The only thing I would really be in contention with him on was how he mentioned that the patriarchs in their culture didn’t run as it was not dignified and how that has an impact on how we read the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. We don’t really know that is the case. That theory came out of observing modern day cultures that are still somewhat similar to the world of the New Testament and not from any ancient documents. Wright is normally a lot more careful than that.
For more from N.T. Wright see the N.T. Wright page.