Good news for the pagans

Because of debates about the New Perspectives on Paul (NPP), I (Andrew) had steered entirely clear of N.T. Wright.  My only reading of him was to better understand his views on Paul so as to not misrepresent him while critiquing the NPP.  This was actually pretty unfortunate since his work on the gospels is quite excellent.

A couple months back, Modern Reformation featured a review of Wright’s book Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters (HarperOne, 2011). The review, written by John Bombaro, offered some fair critiques of the book, but was largely positive.  Could it be that I had thrown the baby out with the bathwater?

In light of this, I’ve been reading Simply Jesus and have found it to be a good read.  Confessional Reformed Christians should be aware of their surroundings while reading Wright, but they should not refuse to read him simply out of fear of getting sucked into anything.  Michael Horton models a good use of Wright throughout his own writings.

In light of this preface, I wanted to post one of the many gems I came across in Simply Jesus:

[W]hen Jesus expanded on his own jubilee program (Luke 4:24-27), he explained that this wasn’t about God simply forgiving Israel its debts and punishing its ancient or contemporary enemies, the pagan nations all around.  Rather, this was a message that would be good news – for those pagan nations themselves!

That went over like a lead balloon in his local synagogue.  They all knew him and his family.  Who did he think he was?  Jesus was run out of town and luck to escape with his life. Indeed, his final fate hovers over Luke’s narrative from that point onward.  Somehow the message of forgiveness is doing more than simply reassuring God’s people that they will be all right after all.  In fat, it’s not really doing that at all – it’s warning them that they may not be all right after all.  Their God isn’t simply coming to endorse their national ambitions.  He’s doing what he said he would, but it won’t work out the way they thought it would.  That, over and over again, is the burden of Jesus’s song.

Simply Jesus, Pg. 77.

There are many really nice sections in this book.  Wright has fine prosody and makes for an enjoyable read.  He’s very thought provoking; the book is reminding me just how exciting the gospels really are!

Andrew Compton

2 thoughts on “Good news for the pagans”

  1. Hi Andrew,
    I would agree that Wright’s work on the Gospels is quite good. His massive volumes The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, and The Resurrection of the Son of God are all excellent (though I lean towards JVG as being the best—His explanation in that volume of Jesus’ Palm Sunday ride is simply amazing: YHWH’s long promised return to Zion!).

    It is a crying shame that many Reformed folk avoid him because of his work on Paul. Whether one agrees with him or not, he always forces you to pull out your Greek New Testament and work through the text one more time (there are worse things to prompt people to do!). In some ways he reminds me of Brueggemann. While I don’t always agree with him, he always makes me think and often has delightful insights.


    1. Thanks for the comment, Nevada. Good to hear from you again!

      Ditto and ditto. I’d like to read his larger works, though this is a nice intro. I’ve been told by an NT buddy that he can get a bit verbose in the larger books. But wordy or not, he’s really bringing together some of these larger themes in really fine ways!


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