Review of Jesus and the Victory of God, by N.T. Wright

JVG“Na, I’ve read that already. I want the good stuff. I want what you read,” I said to the pastor as he tried to hand me C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity in response to my request.

That’s how I came to be introduced to N.T. Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God series, of which this volume is book two of five. Reading others’ reviews on Amazon, however, almost prevented the purchase. As such, I’d like to do the opposite and encourage it.

Why should you read this series? Because you’re smart. Not just smart, you’re educated. You know things. You know science. You know history. And you know facts. You know that the simple truth is there is no god. You know Jesus of Nazareth was nothing more than a man and that the cross, nothing more than one of the earliest name brands. You know that you have or would have come to the conclusion to “love your enemy” naturally. And you’re pretty sure that you just read a long-form article which proves that forgiveness is practiced in the animal kingdom.

And yet you feel there is something strangely unsettling if not outright irritating about that name–Jesus.

In his book/series, Wright unabashedly starts in the present. His question: What has to be true for the story to be true? As in, say someone claims that the Lord of the Rings is based on the historical record. What would have to be true for them to be right? There’d have to be evidence of wizards, elves, orcs, hobbits, a place called Mordor–lots of things. The same goes for the Bible and other non-canonical sources of ancient history. A lot of things have to fall onto the “likely to be true” side of the ancient history continuum in order for the radical claim that Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and whatever is meant by resurrection somehow altered the very real space-time universe that we find ourselves amid.

I’ll share two ways that the book has changed my perspective. First, Tolstoy wrote a book on Christianity that captured my attention for some time. One of his arguments, therefore mine, was that Jesus taught timeless truths. I no longer believe that. Wright repeatedly makes the compelling argument that Jesus of Nazareth was not a teacher of timeless truths. He lived in the first century, not the twenty-first. He was Jewish, not Christian. He delivered his message almost exclusively to Israel and the Jews, not Rome or the pagans. He did not know post-modernism, the same as how we do not know ancient history, more specifically first century/Second Temple Judaism.

Second, I am a believer in Wright’s argument that all is narrative. Wright deals exclusively in narrative, in story. As a historian he is concerned with building a story that makes sense. Many other historians disagree with him. That doesn’t absolve any of us of the burden of answering for ourselves, “Of all the competing stories about Jesus of Nazareth, which one do I believe?”

In the end, on a practical note don’t read this book without reading the first volume.

Oh, one last and probably obvious point. While I exclaimed aloud, “Yeah buddy!” as I advanced to Chapter 12 “The Reasons for Jesus’ Crucifixion”, it’s doubtful you’ll find it a page turner. What can I say? I just wanna know stuff. Maybe you do to. If so, pick up the series. If not, I still love you.

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6 comments

  1. noelleg44

    I’m a Catholic, which presumes a lot about beliefs. You might want to read a book by Bart Erhman, professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research, as described by him, focuses on the New Testament and the early Christian movement from Jesus to Constantine from a historical perspective. His most recent popular book is called How Jesus Became God (HarperOne; 2014). In it he tries to show how an apocalyptic preacher from the backwoods of rural Galilee who was crucified for crimes against the state came to be considered the Lord God who created the universe, all within a few years after his death. Ehrman was a friend of a very close friend of mine, the Reverend Peter J. Gomes of Harvard, who wrote some wonderful books on the bible and a compilation of his sermons. He was named by Time magazine one of the ten best speakers in the US at one time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lucy Furr

    Glad you like to know things Pete. When you’re done with those volumes, I recommend reading:
    1) The End of Faith
    2) The Holy Writ as Oral Lit
    3) Sense & Goodness without God
    4) The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man
    5) Richard Dawkins as devil’s chaplain
    6) The Jesus Puzzle
    7) The Raving Atheist

    I also recommend the following films:
    1) The God Who Wasn’t There
    2) Unbelievers
    3) Zeitgeist
    4) Religilous

    I mean, after all, finding truth requires one to ask questions…not turn a blind eye to the questions within.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Brother Dave

    Bart Ehrman was exposed to the truth as a believer but became biblical skeptic after being indoctrinated by the vain philosophies of men who would set themselves as authorities above the scriptures. He knew from the onset of his beliefs that there are no contradictions in the Bible, but he was trained, quite falsely, to interpret the non-contradictory nature of the Bible in modern, scientific, post-Enlightenment terms. He was encouraged to test the truth of the Bible against a verification system that has only existed for some 250 years.

    I could list hundreds of commentaries that would disprove his errant thinking, but it would not convince those who have chosen to follow the path of worldly scholarship; thinking that knowledge trumps an omnipotent God. In a nutshell, it one truly believes there is an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God then why would you be so lacking in faith to believe that such a God could place the context text into into your hands?

    The church (body of believers), science (the scriptures are full of such), the pope (not the Vicar of Christ), philosophy (man’s opinions and theories), professors (mostly those who have set themselves up as demigods) and non-believers are not the final authority.

    Erhman, and most other skeptics (those who would attempt to correct the scriptures), seldom dispute the Old Testament. And it is there that they would have discovered two verses to negate their errant opinions, theories, fantasies, rejection of the truth, conventions, camps, clubs, cliques, etc. that have cause them to be “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:7.

    The scriptures clearly show the omnipotence of God in Psalms 12:6,7 “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” There is no antecedent in the content of that chapter. Obviously, God has shown that it is applicable to ALL generations.

    Liked by 1 person

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