Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters

Rate this book
In Simply Jesus , bestselling author and leading Bible scholar N.T. Wright summarizes 200 years of modern Biblical scholarship and models how Christians can best retell the story of Jesus today. In a style similar to C.S. Lewis’s popular works, Wright breaks down the barriers that prevent Christians from fully engaging with the story of Jesus. For believers confronting the challenge of connecting with their faith today, and for readers of Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God , Wright’s Simply Jesus offers a provocative new picture of how to understand who Jesus was and how Christians should relate to him today. 

240 pages, Hardcover

First published March 9, 2020

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

N.T. Wright

324 books2,346 followers
N. T. Wright is the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England (2003-2010) and one of the world's leading Bible scholars. He is now serving as the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews. He has been featured on ABC News, Dateline NBC, The Colbert Report, and Fresh Air, and he has taught New Testament studies at Cambridge, McGill, and Oxford universities. Wright is the award-winning author of Surprised by Hope, Simply Christian, The Last Word, The Challenge of Jesus, The Meaning of Jesus (coauthored with Marcus Borg), as well as the much heralded series Christian Origins and the Question of God.

He also publishes under Tom Wright.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,055 (41%)
4 stars
1,839 (36%)
3 stars
758 (15%)
2 stars
204 (4%)
1 star
135 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 466 reviews
Profile Image for Tom LA.
604 reviews234 followers
May 1, 2020
This is a much better version of Reza Aslan's "Zealot", in that both books try to focus on the historic figure of Jesus, but Wright's approach seems to me more subtle and deeper. Aslan's focus on the "revolutionary" aspect, although not incorrect, does not provide the 360 degrees image that Wright creates here.

The key to a real and deep understanding of Jesus as a man who lived in history is in contextualizing his life in the contemporary Jewish world. The moment you understand how intensely and for how long (many centuries) the Jewish people had been waiting for the Messiah, you start to get the first real vibration about the man Jesus Christ.

Wright uses the very effective analogy of a furious "perfect storm" to explain the confluence of 3 enormously powerful currents into Jesus' times:

1. The Roman storm was the wind of Caesar’s imperial power and good news (i.e., “gospel”) that followed as he brought pax.
2. The Jewish storm was building expectation of a new exodus that would usher in the judgment of the Gentiles and the re-instatement of the honor and power of Israel and her God. These clashing tempests would be trouble enough, but we see the
3. “wind of God” (as Wright calls it) coming in Jesus himself – “as he came to Jerusalem he was embodying, incarnating, the return of Israel’s God to his people in power and glory”. Wright connects the coming of Jesus with the promise of YHWH that he would rule as king again, solely, over his people and his creation. Even with David, while this man was “king,” it was actually God reigning as king through David. However, no Israelite, it appears, was capable of predicting that Jesus would combine in himself “both the Davidic king and the returning God”.

See a good comment and summary of the book here:

and its second part, even more interesting and well-written, here: https://www.google.de/amp/s/cruxsolab...

Jesus found himself at the point of convergence of these forces, and, as a man, not only he decided to take on the burden on his shoulders (in fact, some others had already tried and failed), but he was the only one to actually do it in "the right way", or let's say in a convincing way.

Wright explains that "The kingdom of God" was never quite well defined in the Old Testament, and therefore many Jews were literally hoping in a Messiah who would lead a rebellion against Rome and reinstate the throne of David.

Instead, in Jesus's understanding, that was not the Kingdom of God as explained by the prophets. The kingdom of God would see him as Lord, however NOT in the sense of any material power. This is why his "descent into Jerusalem", at the height of his fame, was done on the back of a donkey, to signify (following ancient scriptures) that he was not coming to fight for any temporal power, but for the soul of his people.

When I was 30, I remember still being sometimes too shy to speak to a girl. At the same age, this man had the guts to go through with incarnating a narrative that had been told for centuries before, fully knowing right from the start that he would have ended up nailed on a cross. Different perspectives.
Profile Image for Trevor.
70 reviews7 followers
May 1, 2013
This book should be titled: "Jesus: It's Complicated"

As could be expected, in this book Wright attempts to open up his dense and nuanced arguments from Jesus and the Victory of God for the non-academic audience.

Trouble is, he has already boiled down those arguments in The Challenge of Jesus. Basically the conclusions in this present work are the same as those he's already put forward several times before (so I can't see why the subtitle mentions a "new vision" etc.), but Wright has a brilliant mind and is able to say the same thing in new ways. The new image here is that of a "perfect storm." I liked that imagery and I think it created some coherence as he proceeded through his proposals about who Jesus was/is and what he did/is doing.

Personally, I think that if you're not going to read the big academic book (Jesus and the Victory of God), then you should read The Challenge of Jesus instead of this one. Whichever book about Jesus you choose to read, I don't think you'll ever walk away thinking "that was simple" - if you do, then it probably isn't the historical Jesus you were reading about!
955 reviews29 followers
February 27, 2015
When I read this book in 2012, it was my first Tom Wright book, which in my tradition comes with all sorts of baggage. Add to that, I had been a pastor for about 7 years, and had little interest in any book touting a "new" vision of anything related to Christ or Scripture. But I'm never one to allow my tradition to define for me how I feel about something, so I bought this book as an entry into Wright's work.

I was stunned. Despite having been a well read pastor with a college degree in biblical studies, I read this book and my ideas about exactly how Jesus relates to the world, the church, and the covenant were completely turned upside down. Wright perfectly blends historical critical analysis and exegesis with theological insight, and explains the Christ event through the analogy of "the perfect storm," a collision of the Roman Empire, Jewish expectations, and the purposes of God. His insights about the life and work of Jesus are penetrating.

Since reading this book I've read much more of Wright's work, I've met him, and as I've moved on in academia I've been able to dialogue with him over email about my work. He is charitable and helpful, and this book was a perfect popular level entry point into his views on Scripture.
118 reviews2 followers
January 21, 2013
If you could rate a book by how much underlining you do, this one would be among the highest rated in my collection. Wright takes a position on key debatables (e.g. "when did Jesus realize what his role was in history?") But he goes farther than this, tying together key themes that cross the boundaries of covenant, history, struggle, and place. His key theme is that there is not so much of a difference in the place of Heaven and Earth, and that the reign of God on earth has already started. The implications for the Church to be the Body of Christ and to have impact in the "making Your kingdom come on earth" prayer something more than the words in the first third of the Lord's prayer.

This is not a great "welcome to Christianity" apology for the Gospel. But it is a great place for mature believers to dig into some of the big questions that linger after faith as taken hold of your life.
Profile Image for Shane Wagoner.
96 reviews
January 3, 2016
N.T. Wright is something of a modern C.S. Lewis. By bringing his scholarly expertise to the public realm, he has opened the door for a whole new generation of Christians to explore theology and history outside of the ivory tower. Simply Jesus is a story that Wright has told many times before and, like many stories, it has been perfected over time. This is Wright at his most focused, concentrated, and concise. He lays out the message of Christ (as many of his early followers understood it) with as much verve and expertise as could possibly be hoped for. Unfortunately, his refusal to engage with contemporary scholarship leaves a small question mark on many of his more controversial points. Overall, Wright has crafted an all-encompassing journey through Christ and Christianity that deserves to be read by just about anyone.
Profile Image for Kris.
1,373 reviews179 followers
March 4, 2017
I probably could have gotten more out of this book if I'd worked harder to pay attention, but frankly I tuned out after a while. He makes some good points and creates some good connections, but overall I didn't feel like I was learning anything new. It's not apologetics, it's not really an investigation into evidence... I'm still not sure what Wright actually set out to do with this book. Apparently it's a follow-up to Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, which I thought was even worse. I can see how some would appreciate this book, but I wasn't impressed, I didn't take away much, I couldn't reiterate Wright's main points after having read it, and I've no desire to read more of his works after this. I think Wright just isn't for me.
Profile Image for Katrina.
56 reviews
January 8, 2016
Wow, his writing is so unclear, circular, repetitive, and by the end I still wasn't entirely sure what he was trying to say. While reading I was constantly wondering: "But why do you think that? Where did that come from? What led you to that conclusion?" I didn't find that he covered the historical background he was trying to convey particularly well or concisely either. If you have no Biblical/church background before reading this, you will just end up confused; if you do have the background, this probably isn't anything you haven't heard before.
Profile Image for Karen.
502 reviews
December 2, 2012
I took my time over this because I had the feeling that at some point it was going to say something 'really important' but I was disappointed that it never really did, it just seemed to put across what has been taught in many other places. I cannot say that it made it into a bad book as such but I think it was perhaps my expectations that were amiss. For a book written by a theologian (NT Wright) attempting to present something to the non academic (why else style himself Tom Wright for this otherwise?) this book seemed to fall between two stools, for it was surely too complex for the average churchgoer and too populist for the serious theological student. The word 'Simply' in the title probably implies something straightforward to one and enlightening to the other, when it is neither. The repeated use of the 'Perfect Storm' metaphor also did not help me as I had found the film of this story thoroughly miserable and depressing - hardly the image to assist with a story of life-giving hope. This all sounds as though the book should be 1 star for me, but NT Wright presents the basic (simple?) story of Jesus with excitement and relevance and it is the style rather than the content which grate with me. I will keep this book on my shelves and pick it up again in a few years and no doubt have a completely fresh reaction, perhaps with the revelation I wanted but missed on this reading.
967 reviews53 followers
October 10, 2020
Wright’s book is about a perfect storm, metaphorically speaking. As Wright explains it, “. . .the perfect storm: the buildup of pressure from the Roman Empire in one direction, the thousand-year hope of Israel from another direction, and the cyclone itself, the strange and powerful purposes of God sweeping in from yet a third angle.”

For the Romans Israel was a small but strategic province in the middle east which had to be controlled through a system of local surrogates who imposed taxes, and the threat of force in the form of the Roman Army For the Israelites, the hope was to create an independent kingdom which would be free from Roman domination. The third force was the appearance of Christ which caused initial confusion. He was either seen as a rebel, or as the promised messiah who would deliver Israel, or subsequently as a divine figure who through his resurrection would establish new “kingdom”, one of spiritual, not material values. All of this has caused , confusion and controversy, and Wright attempts to create clarity as to what Christ was all about.

His hope is that he can clarify the questions implied in the title of his book, and suggests in the end that the question of Jesus is important, not only in religious or spiritual terms, but in all areas of western cultural life such as justice, beauty, friendship, ethical norms. Wright is humble and readily admits that he cannot even begin to discuss all of these areas in one book , but he does want to give a fresh glimpse of Christ’s life.

He emphasizes that Christ’s mission was not “to rescue people from this world for a faraway heaven, but in order that God’s kingdom may be established on earth as in heaven.” That implies such bedrock essential values as forgiveness and healing, a message that is repeated throughout Jewish history by the prophets, and is brought to fulfillment in Christ’s crucifixion on the cross.

That would be the culmination of the Jewish hope for a king and the restoration of the Temple where God would make his presence known. Christ’s body, his life, if I understand Wright correctly, would be a redefined “temple” and his teachings wold represent a type of “kingdom”, never completely realized on earth, but one that aspires to the presence of justice, tempered by love. Attempts to establish such a kingdom meant harsh recriminations from the Romans who considered it political rebellion.

It’s always difficult when talking about Christ to strike a balance between seeing him as an enormously gifted human being, but still human, and a divine and transcendent being truly sent from God. All of which would lead to later theological disputes about the essential nature of the “god-man.” It is impossible to totally escape from such speculation, but Wright is not interested in such disputes, only in depicting the historical meaning and lasting reality of Christ, and his is a very creditable effort.

Profile Image for Adam Smith.
40 reviews8 followers
September 26, 2013
(From my blog - http://disciplernetwork.blogspot.com/...)

One thing I can certainly say about N.T. Wright is that he is consistent. So far, across the four books I have read by him, he challenges the conventional notions that Christians have accumulated over the years about Jesus. Wright indeed gives a new vision of who Jesus really was, what he did, and why he matters.

Conservatives need not fear, Wright is not pushing some liberal agenda. He is trying to help us take a historical and theological approach in our understanding of Jesus. Wright does affirm the trinity. He does affirm the second coming of Jesus. What he does not do is parrot either the liberal Christian agenda nor the conservative fundamentalist agenda.

Wright contends that the gospels are more than theological. They require us to use good historiography when we interpret them. He says concerning history:

"The third element is the sheer historical complexity of speaking about Jesus. The world of first-century Palestinian Judaism - his world - was complex and dense in itself. Anyone who has tried to understand today's Middle Eastern problems can be assured that life was every bit as complicated in the first century as it is now."

This should tell us that Wright is not pushing some agenda, except the agenda of trying to get the story right. He is trying to get a more accurate picture of who Jesus was, what he did and why he matters.

There are three strands that he picks up in this book. He uses the picture of the perfect storm. A storm where three large storms combine into one to make one gigantic storm. The three storms are the Roman state, the Jewish state, and the purpose of God. A good historian should take all three of these into consideration when studying first century history.

He says of the purpose of God (page 54-55): "This claim can never be, in our sense or indeed in the ancient sense, merely "religious." It involves everything, from power and politics to culture and family. It catches up the "religious" meanings, including personal spirituality and transformation, and the philosophical ones, including ethics and worldview. But it places them all within a larger vision that can be stated quite simply: God is now in charge, and he is in charge in and through Jesus. That is the vision that explains what Jesus did and said, what happened to Jesus, and what his followers subsequently did and said. And what happened to them too."

In light of the above statement, we see that Jesus: "commands his hearers to give up their other dreams and to trust him instead. This at its simplest is what Jesus is all about."

So the bottom line is that Jesus wants his followers to see everything from his point of view and refuse to follow the state or culture. Instead we are to submit to the kingdom of God and the agenda of Jesus in the world. Jesus was not just about salvation, he was, but he was also about ministering to the needs of the world.

One other point Wright makes in the chapter "Space, Time, and Matter" is interesting. Wright's understanding of heaven is different than the typical evangelical understanding. Heaven in a sense intersects this world in a way we don't realize. Heaven and earth are joined in Jesus. Wright says: "In other words, the joining place, the overlapping circle, was taking place where Jesus was and in what he was doing. Jesus was, as it were, a walking Temple. A living, breathing place - where - Israel's - God - was - living."

In this sense the evangelical understanding of "going to heaven when we die" is misguided. Heaven is not so much a place we go to, but is found in a Person. Jesus promises in the Bible that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. It may be like Eden in Genesis, where men will walk with God in the cool of the day. The point is not that heaven is some ethereal place way out there in outer space, but is firmly planted in this context.

So who is Jesus? We need to see him not only as the Savior from sin, but also the redeemer of that which is broken. Jesus is the great healer and restorer. Jesus embodied heaven and earth in himself. He is the ruling authority, the great King. The world's agenda and culture must bow before the kingdom of God. Jesus provided a way of reconciliation, not only with God in his sacrifice on the cross, but also with the world in the sense that we are to live out the kingdom in the world. We are to love those ensnared by the world. We are called to redeem the time because the days are evil. God has prepared good works for us to do that show God's love and his healing power for a broken world. Finally, Jesus matters because his way is the only way that leads to eternal life. Not in some ethereal place way off in space, but eternal life that is the intersection of heaven and earth in the Person of Jesus Christ.
Profile Image for Sten Anderson.
33 reviews1 follower
January 5, 2012
It pains me to give a "two stars" to a Wright book, but given Goodread's guidelines, "It was OK" is my honest reaction.

I generally enjoy Wright's books quite a bit and feel that he has a very honest, likely accurate interpretation of how the people at the time were receiving the events around them.

I think I felt, perhaps cheated, this time around, for lack of a better word…or maybe just disappointed. The book touches on the "New Atheists" as a competing voice in the conversation, a coming storm, as it were. I would love nothing more than to hear Wright respond to, or otherwise dialog with any of these authors.

But there was none of that. The book quickly turns to the theological interpretations and implications of the gospels. This isn't a response to Dennett/Dawkins et al, it's simply ignoring them.

I wasn't expecting a book of apologetics, but since this theological material had been addressed already in "Simply Christian", "Surprised by Hope", and "The Challenge of Jesus" (to say nothing of his scholarly works), I was expecting something…more, especially given that he spends so much time outlining the analogy of a "perfect storm".

Wright briefly bobs above the surface of the theological into the apologetical toward the end of the book in talking about the resurrection by offhandedly mentioning that the best explanation for the empty tomb was the resurrection given that the Romans were expert killers, etc. He glosses over it because he already went over it in more depth in "Surprised by Hope" (I think?), which is fine…but also seems completely wrong.

The answer can't be "The combination of empty tomb and definite, solid appearances [of Jesus postmortem] is far and away the best explanation for everything that happened subsequently" (p.192). Actually *any* other explanation is a better explanation. Even saying "we don't know what happened" is a better explanation than the resurrection.

As Carl Sagan wrote, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". You can't just brush aside the "atheist storm", especially after devoting pages of analogy to it. Perhaps it's unfair to expect the book to be something it wasn't intended to be. I think Wright missed an opportunity though, to write a book truly "for the masses", and not simply for believers. He has enough books written for them. The Christian community needs an intellectual powerhouse like Wright to respond to the "growing atheist storm".
Profile Image for Jim.
195 reviews37 followers
December 31, 2019
At first, I was kind of disappointed as I read through this book. Wright walks us through what Jesus was trying to teach about the "kingdom of God," who he thought he was, etc. This is all ground Wright has covered before. But what I didn't realize was that he was laying the groundwork for a thrilling last section of the book.

In the last 50 or so pages, Wright gives an explanation of the Christian's current role in the kingdom of God - what we should be focused on and doing, what specifically our mission is until his return. But he zeroes in on something more specific - How should we view the *current* kingdoms of this world in light of God's kingdom? What is our role in them? What kind of governments and leaders should we be pulling for, and how should we be involved? How does God use them?

This is the first time I've ever heard a good, clear, biblical answer to any of these questions. It's a powerful book that hit me like a thunderbolt. It will definitely change how I vote in elections moving forward, and that was probably the biggest takeaway for me from the book. But I hope it also causes me to adjust how I see myself in the coming/current kingdom.

(One small gripe - "Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters" is a terrible title for this book. This isn't a "new" vision of anything, and the original British version of this book leaves the word "new" out of the title. I assume the word was put in there to sell more books, but it gives the impression that this is something no one has ever thought of before. In reality, Wright is giving an original, biblical view of God's kingdom.)
Profile Image for Cameron.
10 reviews3 followers
July 18, 2013
N.T. Wright's Simply Jesus, though slow in the beginning, shows a refreshing new (or old) way of looking at Jesus. The book is aimed at putting Jesus in his historical and cultural context, and thereby showing Jesus' purpose in his ministry and how his actions across Israel contributed to that ministry. Resulting from this analysis of Jesus' life, is a more down to earth figure that is very different than how many Christians view Jesus today.

Having originally come from a Christian faith that believed that Christ just came to show us a way to heaven, I found this book' incredibly helpful as it gives the Christian faith a more practical significance. Moreover, N.T. Wright seems to have struck the middle as it were between the theological left and the right (though I would argue it is leaning more to the left), expressing that Jesus' life and resurrection has just as much significance right now as it will in the end.

My one complaint about this book was the pacing. When reading through this book, I found myself heading into numerous sorts detours before getting to the actual substance. It seemed that as soon as you thought you were about to get to a key point, you were introduced to some supplementary material that you were not expecting. The book takes a while to deliver, but it does well in the end.
Profile Image for Daniel Wells.
128 reviews14 followers
May 22, 2013
There may be no one better on 'Jesus and the gospels' today than NT Wright. It's hard to put books like this down.

The only critique is that Wright's polemical style surfaces every so often when it is unnecessary. And I think this gets him into hot water where some folks claim Wright denies the divinity of Jesus. (Which he doesn't.) I think Wright was his own worst enemy in some ways with the NPP debate in North America.

I contend that Wrightian Christology is coherent with Reformed Christology in their best forms.
Profile Image for William Hope.
5 reviews
June 15, 2019
An inviting and compelling book. I've come away with the opinion that Jesus is far more interesting, far more controversial, far more political, in lots of ways 'far more' than I previously understood. Tom Wright opens up speaking of perfect storms, winds coming from different directions from which the collision creates something of a spectacular event. Likening the winds of liberal scepticism versus the winds of conservative Christianity, we can be caught up in the storm from when these winds clash with each party demanding you hold their view of faith, Christianity and Jesus himself. Tom would argue that both have some merit in their argument, but have missed the message, the build up, the historical context, the long awaited hope, the failures of other would be messiahs, which when known makes the gospels far more vibrant in meaning. The viewpoint and expectations of 1st century Jews is an important one to understand. From it, we can see better how Jesus' role and fulfilment as the Messiah fits into God's plan to rule as King, with a Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and how through his people he will transform the world.

It's a book that gave me joy in reading as I learned new back stories, giving context to a lot of what is said by key figures in the Gospels. However, at the same time it caused worry and a sense of loss that I didn't know or understand these things sooner. The book gently warns me that there is a Western perception of who Jesus is and what he came to do, which isn't entirely accurate. The reading of some chapters flowed swiftly, others needed rereading again; and still I would want to read it all again later this year. I walk away knowing Jesus better, wanting far more to engage in his Kingdom plans for the world, through the function of his body - the church.
Profile Image for Brandon Foster.
83 reviews
February 1, 2022
I really love N.T. Wright's perspective on Jesus as it pertains to Kingdom Theology. Wright approaches scripture from a Jewish perspective, which is crucial in understanding texts of Paul and the Gospels in their original context. I think that's what makes this book so good, he spends a lot of time building up the context of the Greco-Roman world of the first century and spends ample time describing some Jewish Messianic thought prior to the time of Jesus (primarily from Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah) - i say some because i think he could've gone way deeper, but he described at length his opinion on Jesus as the Messiah, which is God becoming King on earth through the human, Jewish Messiah. While I love all of this set up, I found that the actual time spent discussing Jesus and his teachings to be a bit too "simple" (pun intended) and wish he would've dug deeper. I understand that is the consequence of reading a popular 250 page book and not a 500 page academic work, of which Wright has plenty. But that minor criticism is why I give this book 4 instead of 5 stars, and I highly recommend Christians to give some of Wright's works a read, he is very smart and biblically sound in his approach. Understanding this is more of an introduction to the study of Jesus and not a fully detailed walk through the Gospels is important to note, that this is more of a starting point.
Profile Image for Maitland Gray.
83 reviews
August 30, 2021
“The crucifixion was the shocking answer to the prayer that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven.”

There's a lot in this book, and I'll need to read it again in order to digest it more. I appreciated the deeper understanding of how 3 major ideologies crashed together when Jesus entered the scene (Jews/Pharisees, Rome/Pilate & Jesus). There's also a focus on what the kingdom of heaven is that Jesus so frequently talks about. Here's part of how N.T. Wright describes it:

“‘Blessings on the poor in spirit! The kingdom of heaven is yours’ (Matt. 5:3) doesn’t mean, ‘You will go to heaven when you die.’ It means you will be one of those through whom God’s kingdom, heaven’s rule, begins to appear on earth as in heaven. The Beatitudes are the agenda for kingdom people. They are not simply about how to behave, so that God will do something nice to you. They are about the way in which Jesus wants to rule the world.”
Profile Image for Rhidge Garcia.
28 reviews
December 15, 2020
Wright beautifully and elegantly invites his readers to consider a different perspective of Jesus.

Jesus is so much more than the Western church paints Him to be. He is riveting, challenging, beautiful, wonderful, and so much more.

I would recommend this book to anyone.
544 reviews4 followers
October 5, 2019
2019 Pop Sugar reading Challenge-Book with 2 word title.

I'm not sure if it was my mood or I had too much else going on in my brain, but this book left me confused more than anything else.
Profile Image for Sara.
545 reviews7 followers
March 4, 2020
Dense and nuanced, a refreshing way of looking at an old figure. Wright is adept at skirting the heretical, while challenging long held notions and suppositions.
Profile Image for Chicken.
206 reviews
September 13, 2022
A little theology here,
but mostly pure exegesis
of Jesus story, OT to NT,
propped with cultural contexts
to better comprehend
the audacity of Jesus interrupting
those powers attempting to commandeer
earth, even humanity, from Creator.
Thanks to Meredith Perryman
for this one. I'll be returning soon.
Profile Image for Jake Litwin.
143 reviews9 followers
February 5, 2022
Simply fantastic. Wright gives us in clear language how to look at Jesus in His historical context and the establishment of the kingdom of God. Part 2 is where all the excellent meat is to chew on, especially about the Temple and what it meant to the original audience of Jesus.
Profile Image for Peter Spung.
79 reviews4 followers
September 26, 2023
Simply Jesus by NT Wright was my Lent 2023 book selection for this annual time of spiritual renewal for all Christians. I learned of this book from the author’s podcast, Ask NT Wright Anything, which is excellent.

The Preface lays out the approach, which is to answer central questions about Jesus: who he was in historical context, what his central project, "the kingdom of God", was all about and how did he go about it, what does it all mean for us now, and what role do we play, through our roles as his followers.

I gave it 4 stars instead of 5, because the title Simply Jesus did not prepare me for the complexity and depth that Wright presents. A better title for the book may have been, “Jesus: It’s Complicated”. There is nothing simple about the life, times, political and cultural milieu in which Jesus’ project began, was carried out, or culminated in his death and resurrection. This is a complex book and set of ideas, supported by in depth scriptural underpinnings and analysis, that one must consume and contemplate carefully. I liked this book a lot, because I learned a lot — my brain is happiest when it’s learning and contemplating action from the lessons.

What follows is a review and summary of the key lessons I took away from each chapter.

Part 1 - Framing the key question about Jesus’ kingdom of God project, why they matter, and why they are difficult to answer

Ch 1 describes the author's wrestling with the central questions about this odd sort of king Jesus - someone very different from a king that a first century jew would observe. What did he say, do, and mean, in his own day? Why and how was he redefining kingship itself? And since he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), Why does that kingship matter to us now?

Ch 2 presents 3 puzzles that must be solved to understand Jesus: the values and culture of the time and place of his earthly ministry, the nature of the God who Jesus was speaking about, and his behavior. That was characterized by Jesus acting in charge and as a king who was teaching and leading a spiritual and political transformation and revolution.

Ch 3 discusses the tumult, the perfect storm, of studying Jesus. Modern people have two worldviews: modern skepticism, and conservative true believers. The third element is the zeitgeist of Jesus himself and the turbulent, complex world of first century Palestine where he lived. A fresh new look at Jesus has to factor in the worldviews and biases, and lack relative dearth of historical evidence and reporting

Ch 4 digs in to two of the three elements of the perfect storm Jesus was caught in. First was the gale from the west: the Holy Roman Empire with its self proclaimed gods on earth as kings Julius and then Augustus Caesar. And the 2nd the high pressure system of the jews -- the Israelites quest for fulfilling a millenia long quest for a kingdom in the middle east after the exodus and diaspora.

Ch 5 describes the third element, the hurricane from the southeast: "the longing by the people of Jesus's day for God alone to be their king. That Israel’s God would return to be with his people, to rescue them, to restore them, to condemn their oppressors, to take charge, to do justice, to sort things out, to rule over them like a good king should, but unlike any actual human king they had ever known."...

..."Jesus of Nazareth launched his public" ministry "and stepped into the eye of the" perfect "storm, proclaiming that the time is fulfilled, that God’s kingdom is now at hand. He commands his hearers to give up their other dreams and to trust his instead. This, at its simplest, is what Jesus was all about."

the third great storm, the hurricane from the southeast—and the final type of “king” that people in Jesus’s day were eager to see. The people who were longing for God alone to be their king were clinging to the hope set out in scripture: the hope that, after all these years, Israel’s God would return to be with his people, to rescue them, to restore them, to condemn their oppressors, to take charge, to do justice, to sort things out, to rule over them like a good king should, but unlike any actual human king they had ever known.

But, from the moment Jesus of Nazareth launched his public career, he seems to have been determined to invoke the third part of the great storm as well. He spoke continually about the hurricane of which the psalmists had sung and the prophets had preached. He spoke about God himself becoming king. And he went about doing things that, he said, demonstrated what that meant and would mean. He took upon himself (this is one of the most secure starting points for historical investigation of Jesus) the role of a prophet, in other words, of a man sent from God to reaffirm God’s intention of overthrowing the might of pagan empire, but also to warn Israel that its present way of going about things was dangerously ill-conceived and leading to disaster. And with that, the sea is lashed into a frenzy;

Jesus himself strides out into the middle of it all, into the very eye of the storm, announcing that the time is fulfilled, that God’s kingdom is now at hand. He commands his hearers to give up their other dreams and to trust his instead. This, at its simplest, is what Jesus was all about.

Part 2 - Wright explains as simply as he can what Jesus’ public ministry and career were all about, what he was training to accomplish, and how

Ch 6 positions Jesus’ public ministry into the themes of the Exodus story, the Passover, which is the history the Jews had been bearing witness to and telling each other for centuries: Wicked tyrant; Chosen leader; Victory of God; Rescue by sacrifice; New vocation and way of life; Presence of God; Promised/inherited land. It is the story of the realization of the promise of God taking charge; of God becoming king. And Jesus rode in to Jerusalem in triumph on Palm Sunday.

Ch 7 returns to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the bold, his unexpected messages, and those of John the Baptist who was clearly aware and also messaging. The message was forgiveness and healing, not kingly trappings, robes, and proclamations. And those who needed healing the most, from sin and other ailments, were the most attracted and showed the most love to Jesus.

Ch 8 describes Jesus' use of stories, and the major themes of them from scripture for his radical agenda. God's Kingdom on earth will require us to undergo a many-sided transformation; a new creation. Through this, Jesus will cure our hardened hearts from which evil and sinful behavior come forth. Following him and God becoming king means changing our ways, in many ways, which are the messages of Jesus' stories

Ch 9 chronicles four characters at the center of would-be royal movements: Judah the Hammer aka Judas Maccabeus, Simon the Star, Herod the Great, Simon Bar-Giora. Their careers embodied similar present-and-future tensions that Jesus did, in the throws of a wicked king, intense suffering, and a hero emerges to fight battles and cleanse the temple.

Ch 10 frames the battle and temple Jesus engaged: the fight against satan and his dark force, and the dramatic action of cleansing the Temple of money changers and dealers selling animals for sacrifice. The battle started early in his public ministry, with his 40-day fast and the temptation of satan in the desert, and continued as he died on the cross. Each would have been seen in its day as royal action: the King is here!

Ch 11 since it was quite different from today, this chapter explains how people around first-century Palestine would view the Temple — the sacred space, time and matter where God dwells in Jerusalem. It was not only the center of the world, but where heaven and earth met. Jesus was behaving as a walking Temple, where Israel’s God was living and joining heaven and earth. And, he was leading a movement against the rich rulers and violent national revolution rooted in and symbolized by the physical Temple. What mattered was how Jesus became king on earth and was bringing God’s kingdom on earth as it was in heaven, and this is what the gospels were about.

Ch 12 returns to the perfect storm and the Exodus backdrop echoed throughout scripture: the tyrant, the leader, the divine victory, sacrifice, vocation, the divine presence, and the promised inheritance. Key sections of Isaiah, Daniel, and Zechariah are interpreted using these themes, and through the behavior and teachings of Jesus. How the leader accepts his vocation and becomes king, and overcomes the kingdoms of the world “and establishing through his faithful people, his own sovereign rule over the whole world instead”.

Ch 13 explains why the Messiah Jesus must die on the cross: to fight the last battle and defeat the anti-creation power of satan, “to take the full power of evil an accusation upon himself, to let it do its worst to him, so that it would thereby be exhausted, its main force spent”. What an act of love - to roll back the sickly tide of sin and death for the people Jesus represents, especially the sick, the weak, the vulnerable and the sinners.

Ch 14 highlights the meaning of Easter, which is the birth of new creation. The power that had tyrannized the old creation has been broken, defeated and vanquished. “God’s kingdom is launched, and launched in power and glory, on earth as in heaven” and it overflows with the power of love. Jesus is the prototype and first part of the new creation, and his ascension is his enthronement tells us that he as the one who is now in charge. And since heaven interlocks and permeates earth, Jesus is present and reigns everywhere. He sends out his followers as ambassadors to make his kingdom a reality. Wright also explains the misconceptions he sees in the Rapture.

Part 3 and one final, long Chapter 15 focused on “So What?” — What does this all mean for us now. Through four fictitious characters each taking somewhat opposing views, Wright attempts to explain what Jesus as king means today, on earth and heaven; what he is up to in the present time. Andy believes it’s all meaningless — Jesus’ project is lost, the church has a made a mess of things, and it’s over. Two of them, Chris and Davie, are playing out a much older debate, framed by the ancient Stoics: that God and the world and its people Are more or less the same thing. Billy believes that only God can build God’s kingdom on earth, and is looking for the second coming. The crucial factor in Jesus’ kingdom project is that God intended to rule the world through us; that’s why he rescued us, so that he may rule his world in a new way. And we must respond by boldly following his lead and example, as forgiven sinners repaying their unplayable debt by working for his kingdom in every way that we can, unworthy of the task. We must upstage power structures and speak truth to them and call them to account — i.e., cleanse the Temple and demonstrate that God and Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) are Lord, not them.
Profile Image for Craig Bergland.
344 reviews8 followers
September 4, 2017
My main problem with N.T. Wright has finally become clear to me. He has what I call an Anglican Hernia. Anglican Hernias develop when a person straddles the fence and tries to please everybody for so many years that their intellectual integrity begins to give way, and POP! - you have an Anglican Hernia. There is a subtle inconsistency in this book and its predecessor, Simply Christian. Wright tends to vacillate between endorsing contemporary biblical scholarship and a need to believe everything in the Bible really happened the way it is described. You simply can't have it both ways, and I believe he only tries because of his Anglican Hernia. Intellectually, I suspect he's much better than that, but his Church Politics won't let him express a consistent view. It's a shame, really.
Profile Image for David .
1,266 reviews161 followers
February 16, 2017
Reading NT Wright is good for my soul. When I read his books it makes me think, makes me want to know Jesus, and makes me want to do something.

This is another sensational offering from Wright. He places Jesus in his first-century Jewish context and gives us a vision of what this Jewish peasant was trying to say, do and accomplish. Wright goes against the grain of two popular ways of looking at Jesus. On one side are conservatives who say Jesus simply came to die in our place, taking God's wrath that we deserve, so we can float off to heaven when we die. On the other side are liberals who say Jesus taught a lot of good that we can follow to work for social justice. Wright's view of Jesus goes right down the middle. Both sides are right in some things: Jesus was concerned with spiritual truths and ultimate destinies (though going to heaven when you die is not the point) and Jesus was also concerned for justice in this world now. But both sides are also off in other things.

What I appreciate most about Wright's work is that he shows how Jesus understood himself as a human with a mission, but through this how Jesus also represented God. Many Christians I know tend to read the Gospels through the Council of Nicea, so they at times make statements like, "well we know Jesus was God so..." That is not taking the Gospels in their own context. Wright instead tells a story of how God's presence had deserted the Temple and in Jesus, God was returning to the temple. You end up in the same place, with Jesus being God, but you get there in through the Gospel stories, not in spite of them.

Overall, this book should be read widely. Pastors and Christian leaders should read it to get a better, broader, understanding of Jesus. Lay readers interested in the subject could benefit too. It could be used in Bible studies and Sunday school classes or any other venue where people are discussing Jesus.
Profile Image for Joel Sam.
65 reviews4 followers
March 8, 2021
In Simply Jesus, N.T. Wright delivers a refreshing vision of Jesus' life and mission on Earth, as well as the larger role Jesus plays in God's grand narrative. Wright expertly places Jesus in his first-century Jewish context, something most modern Christians fail to adequately consider. Jesus' role as the perfect fulfillment of the meta-narrative of the Old Testament offers both validation and surprise to the various competing views of the Messiah among first-century Jews. Wright describes Jesus's life and mission as the perfect response to a "perfect storm": the Jewish hope in a Messiah figure, the dominance of the Roman Empire, and God's grand plan for redeeming humanity to himself. The vision that Wright weaves through a combination of history, Hebrew theology, early church thought, the first-century culture, and the meta-narrative of Scripture reveals the beautiful tapestry of God's work in the hearts and lives of humanity throughout time. Reductionistic formulations of the gospel as "going to heaven when you die", "salvation from the penalty of individual sin", and "Jesus as a moral example" pale in comparison to the holistic perspective of Jesus offered in this book. Readers will finish the text inspired and impassioned to share the mission of Jesus among a world (and a Church) that misunderstands and undersells what he was all about.
Profile Image for David.
102 reviews
March 8, 2015
Wright shines in his background analysis of biblical times. The reader will find great value in the contextual factors brought to light in this work. Additionally, the identity and purpose of Jesus are articulated and argued very well.

The sum conclusion of this book seems to be: the work of Jesus today = social activism. Fortunately, that's an almost non-sequitur conclusion to Wright's arguments concerning the identity and purpose of Jesus. This is fortunate because the reader who understands social justice as byproducts extending from the gospel rather than central to it will nonetheless find great value in the central arguments presented in this work.

This, of course, is not to marginalized the church's important social work; it simply keeps it in its rightful place as consequent and instrumental rather than subsequent and central
Profile Image for Rev Ricky.
59 reviews2 followers
July 24, 2021
Most Christian books give you the main point up front. Typically once you have read the first two chapters, you have the point and can skim the rest.

NT Wright does the opposite. He uses the first 2/3 of the book building a case, and the real thrust of the book comes at the end. In this case the final three chapters should get your full attention.

Wright teaches that Jesus died to fully regain control over creation, conquering sin, Satan and death. Jesus' resurrection and ascension enthroned him over all things. And Jesus rules all things today through his people.

Page 212: this is how Jesus puts his kingdom achievement into operation: through the humans he has rescued.

I recommend this book, especially the final three chapters. I wish the beginning were more concise and the end more fully developed, but it is an important and valuable book to understand.
Profile Image for Ben De Bono.
471 reviews79 followers
November 10, 2011
For anyone looking for a popular level introduction to Wright's thought, this is 5 stars and highly recommended. For anyone who is more familiar with Wright and prefers his more scholarly work, this is about 3 stars as many of the themes are repetitive of what he's explored in his other works. I definitely all in the latter camp and as such didn't enjoy the book quite as much as I'd hoped. That said, this will be a very powerful and important read for those who find Wright's scholarly work a bit too daunting.
24 reviews
May 1, 2021
I think "Simply Jesus" is a wonderful and insightful book. N.T. Wright did a great job explaining who Jesus was and did through first-century eyes, then applying what this vision means in today's world in a fresh, new perspective. Definitely a must-read for anyone interested what being a Christian means and what we believe, if you would like to challenge your Christian theology, or both! Highly recommended!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 466 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.