Reading Journal

What I'm reading

Saturday, November 21, 2009

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

I loved this book. He talked about how Jesus would have been viewed as a prophet by his contemporaries. I felt like I was reading Jesus's sayings and parables for the first time and getting to know him without the veil of churchiness. The air of mystery Jesus surrounded himself with clearly came through.

Jesus persists in veiling himself in indirect references and metaphors... It is almost as though Jesus were intent on making a riddle of himself.

In Wright's view, Jesus came to announce judgment on the Temple and Jerusalem, and this is how many of the "coming of the son of man" parables and sayings are to be interpreted. Wright made a convincing argument that these passages can not be seen as referring to the end of the space-time universe itself. Instead, like the prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus invested military conquest with its "earthshaking" theological meaning via metaphors like the sun and moon being darkened.

Jesus approaches Jerusalem in a quasi-royal manner.. as the crowd descends the Mount of Olives, he bursts into tears and solemnly announces judgment on the city for failing to recognize "its time of visitation". YHWH is visiting his people, and they do not realize it; they are therefore in imminent danger of judgment, which will take the form of military conquest and devastation. This is not a denial of the imminence of the kingdom. It is a warning about what that imminent kingdom will entail. The parable functions, like so many, as a devastating redefinition of the kingdom of god. Yes, the kingdom does mean the return of YHWH to Zion. Yes, this kingdom is even now about to appear. But no, this will not be a cause of celebration for nationalist Israel.

Jesus therefore staked his prophetic name on his prediction that the Temple would be destroyed within a generation. And indeed it was.

He spent the last part of the book on what Jesus thought about himself being the Messiah and even the Son of God. Wright focused (rightly I think) on Jesus's symbolic actions more than on specific proof-text snippets. Anyway, some of it was pretty speculative but it could be true.

Jesus did not, in other words, "know that he was God" in the same way that one knows one is male or female, hungry or thirsty, or that one ate an orange an hour ago. His "knowledge" was of a more risky, but perhaps more significant, sort: like knowing one is loved. One cannot "prove" it except by living by it.

The next book in the series is The Resurrection of the Son of God, which I've already read. I believe he's releasing another book about Paul soon.


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