What Tom Wright thinks of the Pope’s “Jesus of Nazareth”

Searching for other material this morning, I came across this book review of Pope Benedict’s “Jesus of Nazareth: Volume 2” by N.T. Wright: The Pope’s Life of Jesus in the Times Literary Supplement. It is actually a review of three books (including Maurice Casey’s book by the same title and Bruce Fisk’s amusingly named “Hitchhikers Guide to Jesus”), but the most space is given to Pope Benedict’s work.

What we have, rather, in general and in the writings surveyed here, is a bewildering range of viewpoints, which with only a slight stretch could be described as pre-modern, modern and postmodern: in this case, a German, an Englishman and a North American. As Barack Obama said of a different trio (recent guest speakers in Westminster Hall), this is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke. Curiously, the Pope features in both trios.

His comments are very interesting – especially in regard to the relationship between history and faith and between the Gospel and politics. It shows up at least the differences in approach to the Gospels between Wright and Ratzinger. At the same time, one can sense a good deal of admiration in Wright’s review of “Jesus of Nazareth”, despite his reservations.

In his concluding remarks he says:

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?

This is very interesting, because, apropo our discussion, what Jesus said and meant about the Kingdom is very much pertinent to what he meant when he came “proclaiming the Gospel”.

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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8 Responses to What Tom Wright thinks of the Pope’s “Jesus of Nazareth”

  1. Christine says:

    I downloaded Jesus of Nazareth 2 a couple days ago on my Kindle. Haven’t gotten to reading it yet but I will keep this post in mind when I do.

  2. Hannah says:

    David this thread of yours is difficult to post on because I havent read the book in question however, this comment “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? ”
    Of course Jesus and his people were steeped in Jewish tradition he was born into it and for whatever God’s reasons He chose this particular tradition for Jesus to be born into with all its teachings and nuances etc. Following Torah and “types” we as Christians can “see” Jesus and His coming to complete something, a history maybe. But perhaps others looking at the same works do not see the same because they would not be looking for a tradition or types which prefigure Jesus.
    Did he announce and launch the “kingdom of God?” Well if Ressurrection does not mean that what does it mean?
    Announcing different way of seeing things “Beatitudes” Announcing forgiveness of sins, announcing the need for repentance. Announcing a time of grace. All these speak of announcing something new.

    • Schütz says:

      The Resurrection is key to Wright’s understanding of what Jesus meant by “the Kingdom of God” and whether or not Jesus was successful in launching it. He takes two very big volumes to get to this point, so I think he might be being a little unfair on the shorter volumes he is reviewing!

  3. Hannah says:

    hmmmm mulling over my previous post “announcing a time of grace” are we living in the “day” of Grace or even in the Day of Shabat?…. I wonder!
    I go away on these thoughts.

    • Schütz says:

      Again, part of Wright’s understanding of Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom is that he was announcing the true day of the Sabbath rest. I expect that to play out a bit more in his volume on the Resurrection.

  4. Hannah says:

    I have been mulling over the idea of humanity living in the day of “Shabat” for many years. God Created all creation with its own instruction to continue with Him and then He Created Shabat where all of that creation would continue. There is nothing new. He Has created the originals and the journey of the human is toward Shabat.
    I dont think I am making myself clear, but in my head its perfectly clear.

    • Schütz says:

      Start with Psalm 95 (the invitatory psalm) and reflect on what it means to enter God’s rest.

      • Hannah says:

        David this is as you say the Invitatory Ps . I belong to a Catholic Community and we are encouraged to pray the Divine Office daily so over 25 years I have said this Ps one or a few times.

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