It’s all to do with context


Books to read while waiting for surgery?

This time last week I spent most of the day, some 6 hours, in a side ward on G Ward waiting for the rumble of the trolley. (As it happened, I walked to the theatre suite.)

Thankfully, I remembered to bring a book which had arrived only the previous day, “Simply Jesus” by Tom Wright from SPCK, his first book since standing down as the Bishop of Durham to become a full-time academic at St Andrews.

Very simply, a masterpiece. Tom Wright is unique – a leading biblical theologian on top of his subject with the ability to communicate. This is the book to read. In fact I managed to read the first part in one go.

You get the impression that Bishop Wright managed to write the book in one go – there is a flow, a sustained argument which is very readable.

“Jesus—the Jesus we might discover if we really looked,” he explains, “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’ central claim and achievement.”

What has happened in recent new Testament scholarship is the discovery of how people actually thought in the time of Jesus. To understand this remarkable man, you always needed to have a working knowledge of Jewish society in the first century – what is a Pharisee, for example.

But it was American scholar Ed Sanders, then professor at Oxford, who changed everything in 1977 with his book “ Paul and Palestinian Judaism.” He began to examine how the contemporaries of Jesus and of Paul actually thought, their world view. For it is very different one to ours.

Tom Wright, for example, in chapter 11 examines how Jewish people in the time of Jesus thought about geography. For them Jerusalem, its temple, is at the centre of the world and it is here that heaven and on earth intersect. And more, Jesus was the embodiment of the Temple.

“Jesus seems to be claiming that God is doing, up close and personal through him, something that you’d normally expect to happen at the Temple. And the Temple – the successor to the tabernacle in the desert – was, as we saw, the place where heaven and earth met.” (p.79)

This is a highly readable book, to be read thoughtfully and at a certain pace to get the overall argument. Wright comes to orthodox conclusions but it’s the way he gets there which is so exciting. A book to read for Easter.

Just two more quotes to whet your appetite

“The disciples wanted a kingdom without a cross. Many would-be “orthodox” or “conservative” Christians in our world have wanted a cross without a kingdom, an abstract “atonement” that would have nothing to do with this world except to provide the means of escaping it.” ~ p.173.

“When he wanted fully to explain what his forthcoming death was all about, Jesus didn’t give them a theory. He didn’t even give them a set of scriptural texts. He gave them a meal” ~ p.180

Along with the notices, I am attaching this week’s mailing from Andrew Leake in Argentina (with whom I had a half-hour chat on Skype


PS I am still using my speech recognition software. Just see how Dragon Dictate handles this short sentence:
Tom Wright writes the right book!
(Amazing – 2nd attempt. It’s all to do with context)