Tom Wright,
The Original Jesus: The Life
& Vision of a Revolutionary

(Eerdman, 1996)

In The Original Jesus, author Tom Wright examines Jesus in the historical perspective. He attempts to take you back to Jesus's own time in order for the reader to recognize the message Christ was actually proclaiming and to interpret it and the Gospels in the context of those times.

In other words, Wright tries to "take you there" to see Jesus as he was 2,000 years ago. It is a short and seemingly uncomplicated book, filled with a number of illustrations of Jesus in the Holy Land, yet it does succeed surprisingly well in its aims.

I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the subject of Jesus's words and deeds, and Wright gave me new perspectives that certainly enhance my understanding. He calls Jesus a revolutionary in the subtitle, and he does a great job of showing just how revolutionary his message was based on the context of the time. Under Wright's guidance, even as seemingly esoteric a fact as the nature of the area in which Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount becomes theologically important. The history of Israel and her covenant with God serve as the lynchpin of the message Wright gleans from the Gospels. He argues that the Gospels were written for two main reasons: to tell the story of Jesus and to address the contemporaries of the individual Gospel writer. It is in this context, he says, that the discrepancies between the Gospel accounts can be explained, and he offers a helpful summation of the purposes and target audiences of each of the four books. By understanding the worlds out of which the Gospels were penned, one can gain greater insight into the good news revealed in each book.

Wright mentions the ideas of the Jesus Seminar and clearly disagrees with their practice of questioning everything in the Gospels hypercritically. He clearly believes the Gospels are meant to show us the true life and work of Jesus, despite any differences in facts between their accounts, and that one's depth of comprehension can be greatly increased by understanding the historical context of Jesus's time on Earth. This book can easily be read in one sitting and is a great starting point for anyone interested in pursuing his or her own search for the historical Jesus. Wright includes a bibliography of recommended sources for those who wish to continue the quest.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 9 July 2005

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