‘Simply Jesus’ by Tom Wright (book review)

sjMy Christian faith is constantly challenged by the rational view I have of God.  Nevertheless, I find myself wanting to immerse myself in theological writing, as I find discussions about Jesus fascinating, and there is no doubt that Jesus is such an important figure in human history; I feel enticed into exploring His life, death, and resurrection, and the significance of all this according to different authors.

Tom Wright (known to some as N.T. Wright) is a New Testament scholar who has apparently authored over fifty books.  He also used to be the Bishop of Durham.  He is currently Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Saint Andrews.  I find it hard to imagine how anyone can write fifty books but it seems that this author has spent a lifetime immersed in research into New Testament theology so he obviously has a lot to shout about.

The book is in three parts.  The first part discusses the myriad influences that were impacting on first-century Palestine when Jesus was embarking on His earthly ministry.  Wright discusses how the influence of the Roman Empire clashed with the hopes of the Jewish people creating the complex web of circumstances into which Jesus was born.

The second part of the book is concerned with, amongst other things, the Kingdom of God (a phrase Jesus used a lot) and what that really means.  In Wright’s view, it means a world where because of Jesus, God is now in charge in a way He wasn’t previously.  Part three (which is only a single chapter) discusses what it means for Jesus to be ruler of the world in the present day.

The book is easy to read, but in my humble opinion, isn’t gripping.  When reading one has the impression that Wright knows what he is talking about, but I would struggle to say that there is much that I have taken away from reading the book.  I was hoping to be enthralled and nourished, but the discussion is at times quite vague and there doesn’t seem to be a depth of thought and a passion behind the words.

One can’t help but wonder why on earth any author would want to write fifty books.  Is there really so much to say?  Could the thrust of what the author wants to communicate about Jesus, God, and the world, not be explained in a more concise way?  One wonders whether Simply Jesus really serves a purpose in its own right.  Perhaps, as an introduction to Jesus and the New Testament it might help some people.  But as someone who has studied theology and reflected a great deal on the New Testament, I found that this book had little to offer me.

In summary then, Simply Jesus is a book that is easy to read and is written by an author who is clearly very knowledgeable about the subject matter.  Having said that, for those people who are already immersed in the Christian faith, I don’t think this book offers more than a leisurely read that will take up some time; I don’t believe it’s a book that will change your life.

I will endeavour to pass on my copy to someone who knows little about Jesus but is keen to learn more, as I’d imagine the scripture quotations throughout the book, coupled with Wright’s honest reflections, will help some people to learn more about the mysteries of the New Testament scriptures and the ever-interesting story of Jesus Christ.

4 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing. One of the books which as with the Bible some passages reveal new thing each time I visit them again, is The Cloud of Unknowing and other works. a penguin classic. I have chapters 55 and 62 marked to keep going over, in The Cloud of Unknowing, but am on ch 8 of The book of privy counselling . These are so helpful in grounding me in the fact that my true nature is not mortal human, but eternal Godly spiritual. Blessings and love to you. Your bro Peter.

  2. An interesting review. Sounds like it’s more of a ‘basics for beginners’ book and perhaps was badly-marketed

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