Tom Wright Reviews Three Jesus Books

Tom Wright Reviews Three Jesus Books December 19, 2011

Over at the Times Literary Supplement, Tom Wright review three books on Jesus by Benedict XVI, Maurice Casey, and Bruce Fisk. He regards these books as pre-modern, modern, and post-modern. A rather amusing review of three very different books about Jesus. Wright concludes:

Despite their radical differences, these three books share one positive feature and one disturbing one. First, all stress (against one recent strand of opinion) that Jesus and his followers were steeped in the Jewish Scriptures, and understood what they were doing in relation to the intricate web of meaning thereby available. Second, however, in no case do we really face the central question of the gospels: what did Jesus mean by “God’s Kingdom”, and was he or wasn’t he successful in launching it? Pope Benedict highlights the “kingdom of truth” announced by Jesus to Pilate, but it looks as though this “kingdom” is, effectively, the Church, those who (supposedly) live under Jesus’s rule. Maurice Casey suggests that Jesus picked up the notion of “kingdom” that was around at the time, but then says that he told “pretty stories” about it, which we now find difficult to interpret because “we do not always understand the aspect of God’s kingship which they were intended to illustrate”. Bruce Fisk, who focuses on the standard questions (can we trust the gospels? was Jesus God incarnate? did he die for our sins? and did he rise again?), gives plenty of hints about “God’s rule” breaking in, but never provides the full-on discussion he gives to other topics. Perhaps the problem is that wherever you are in Western culture today – pre-modern, modern or postmodern, German, British, American or anything else – the dreaded word theocracy, even when radically redefined around Jesus and his cross, is a bridge too far. But until we’ve been round that loop, we have not really been paying attention to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Or, arguably, to Jesus.

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