N. T. Wright’s Jesus And The Victory Of God: A Review Article -- By: Robert H. Stein
JETS 44:2 (June 2001) p. 207
N. T. Wright’s Jesus And The Victory Of God:
A Review Article
[* Robert Stein is professor of New Testament interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2825 Lexington Road, Louisville, KY 40280.]
This work is the second volume of a planned six-volume series entitled “Christian Origins and the Question of God.” The first volume, The New Testament and the People of God, was published in 1992. The present book, published in 1996, is even larger than the first and consists of 662 pages, not counting the appendix, bibliography, and various indices. 1 The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 is entitled “Introduction” and consists of four chapters dealing with a succinct and extremely useful survey of research into the life of Jesus. In it Wright talks about the importance of such research and divides the history of Jesus research into two main camps. The “Wredebahn” or “Wredestrasse” is typified by a great skepticism as to whether we can know anything about the historical Jesus, because the Gospels are seen as reflecting the concerns and situations of the early church rather than the historical Jesus. The second camp is the “Schweitzerbahn” or “Schweitzerstrasse.” It argues that a great deal can be known about the historical Jesus and that one must understand Jesus in the context of apocalyptic Judaism, that is, from an eschatological perspective. Wright clearly sides with Schweitzer. He believes that “first-century Judaism … can be understood only within a climate of intense eschatological expectation” (96). However, he believes that the apocalyptic language used by Jesus and first-century Judaism should not be interpreted “in a crudely literalistic sense” (24) but as metaphorical language to describe this-worldly events.
Wright argues that the original quest for the historical Jesus was “an explicitly anti-theological, anti-Christian, anti-dogmatic movement” (17). After a period of the “no quest,” dating roughly between the two World Wars, a new quest for the historical Jesus arose in the 1950s initiated by Ernst Käsemann. Wright divides this new search into two camps, the “New Quest” and the “Third Quest.” The “New Quest” is a continuation of the skepticism of the “Wredestrasse” and is represented by the Jesus Seminar. In his analysis of the “New Quest,” Wright gives a brilliant and devastating critique of the Jesus Seminar. The non-Jewish cynic philosopher of proverbs and aphorisms of the Jesus Seminar is “(w)rightly” criticized and its absurdity “(w)rightly” pointed out. The non-Jewish Jesus of the Jesus Seminar is
JETS 44:2 (June 2001) p. 208
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