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Simply Jesus: Who He Was, What He Did, Why It Matters

4.2  ·  Rating details ·  2,477 Ratings  ·  281 Reviews
Modern critical biblical scholarship often points out how the church's teachings about Jesus have become encrusted with tradition so that it is hard to see what the New Testament really says about him. Now, with the insight of 200 years of modern critical scholarship and assuming an audience that includes both the well-churched and the non-churched, how should the church p ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by SPCK Publishing (first published 2011)
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Tom Tabasco
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Danny Daley
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2011
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 m
Paul Mullen
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Shane Wagoner
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 a ...more
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 wors ...more
Oct 03, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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, t ...more
Adam Smith
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(From my blog -

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
Sten Anderson
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,
Craig Bergland
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 ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: faith
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 othe ...more
Jul 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 b
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 so
Daniel Wells
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Haiko Eitzen
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book presents a respectable analysis of the social, cultural, historical, political, and religious factors relevant to the Jews that lived during and witnessed Jesus' ministry. Simply Jesus, as the author points out, isn't that simple, and helped me again understand that without placing myself in the cultural and religious context of first-century Jews, I will have a hard time understanding the gospel of Jesus.
Brenda H.
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A "simply" in-depth exploration of what Jesus' ministry meant amidst the political and religious context of his time. He uses the metaphor of a perfect storm/hurricane to describe how he uprooted what most people believed to be true and how they anticipated the Messiah's arrival to look like. Very substantial read.
I did not enjoy this book for a large variety of reasons, both literary and theological.

Throughout the book, the pace is really slow, and I believe that this book could be cut down to half of its size, and yet, retain all of the details that Wright wanted to address. This book was painstakingly redundant, especially with the themes of the Exodus. These themes are important, but you do not have to remind the reader of them after every few sentences! Also, I was frustrated with the presentation o
Dean Summers
This has become my new #1 favorite book! Though I’d give it a different title. I’d call it Who Does Jesus Think He Is? A Straightforward Reading of the Gospels in their Historical, Literary, and Cultural Context.

That’s just one of many reasons why N.T. Wright sells more books than I. His editors are much better at coming up with good titles.

That said, the subtitle they chose, A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, could be a little misleading. It certainly is if you under
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
***2016 Reading Challenge - A book with a blue cover***
I'll tell you right from the start that this book was better than I can describe in a review. It took me a good while to read the whole thing because it is dense with new interpretations of things I've heard before. It took time for me to sort through some of the ideas and really digest them. The first part of the book was somewhat slow, since the author was carefully laying the foundation for the rest of the book. Depending on a reader's ba
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating book that made me look at Jesus' coming with new eyes. N.T. Wright sets Jesus in historical context, noting he came into a "perfect storm" created by the confluence of Roman imperialism, Jewish nationalistic hopes and the power of God - delivering His redeemer in an unexpected way. He showed the people of His time that, as Wright is fond of saying, "this is what it looks like when God is in charge." Jesus held dominion over the rulers, the wind, the sea; but He didn't lord it over ...more
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Neîndoios această traducere e cea mai succintă, totodată și completă relatare despre Isus-ul din Evanghelii. O călătorie în lumea și cultura a ceea ce a fost iudaismul secolului I. A fost o lectură ușoară, Wright a încercat o sinteză pe înțelesul tuturor a tomurilor teologice scrise în trecut despre Iisus. Folosește multe imagini, metafore, analogii astfel încât orice om nefamiliarizat cu limba teologilor să o poată citi lesne.

Subtitulul cărții ne revelează conținutul cărții: O nouă viziune desp
Eric Chappell
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-reading
I'm too timid to jump into Wright's more academic stuff, so I keep reading his pop-theology. This book sounds to me (and Wright admits as much) like a condensed version of some of his other work written for a broader audience. In Simply Jesus, Wright intends to reorient our view of Jesus to something that more closely resembles the real thing. As Wright argues, "We have reduced the kingdom of God to private piety, the victory of the cross to comfort for the conscience, and Easter itself to a hap ...more
Michael Jones
Yes, I think this is definitely a good book to start with for somebody who really wants to understand the historical Jesus. Being God, Jesus is obviously so multifaceted that no one volume could even come close to filling the bill for everyone.

You say, "well, what about the Bible?" Yes, that's right. That's the place to start.

And if you really want to get to know Jesus, fall on your face for at least 5 minutes and after which, resolve to go to some Trinitarian Christian church as soon as you ca
Tim Hatfield
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Relistening to this started today 3.6.2013

Taking more in the second go round. I already know the basics of the tour so I think I'm able to pay attention to the scenery a bit better so far.

I love Wrights exegesis and his writing style in this book. Wright is very repetitive but you won't miss his points.

Jesus is the new Moses, the new Joshua, the mobile temple of God, the new meeting place (ladder) between heaven and earth. He is leading THE exodus from THE Egypt which will conquer Satan and al
Sep 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jesus introduced himself and identified himself as a king. Today we greatly marginalize the significance of this through a spiritualized gospel that focuses on personal morality for entrance into an other-worldly after-life, upon which the author drily comments, "will not do."

Wright elaborates at length upon the Jewish messianic expectations and teachings from the OT, the strife and political culture in the Roman world, and upon God's intervention within and beyond these two, all culminating in
Lena Morrison
This was a truly amazing book. I read through it quickly last time, but during this reread, I took it slow.

N.T. Wright is an amazing biblical scholar. The way he describes orthodox Christian beliefs makes sense and is much more inviting. I learn so much from him regularly, and this book was no exception.

Wright takes us through some of the Old Testament expectations about Jesus first. The Old Testament is (unfortunately) often rejected by many Christians, or at least neglected. Though there isn't
Caleb Jones
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
In "Simply Jesus", NT Wright expertly immerses the reader into the time of Jesus to create the setting and framework necessary to understand Jesus the way his first disciples understood him and, more importantly, to get at understanding how Jesus understood his own work and mission. Much of the book is spent painting this historical canvas which constantly must be cleared of our modern way of thinking. In doing so, Wright isn't seeking to say Jesus is irrelevant to modernism or that modernism is ...more
Adam Shields
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short review: I have a hard time being objective about Wright's work. I really find it fascinating. In part because he is hitting in areas that I really am looking for. This is a great illustration of the Christological Hermeneutic that Christian Smith is looking for in A Bible Made Impossible. It is a very good companion to Scot McKnight's King Jesus Gospel. I have read Wright's Challenge of Jesus fairly recently and this is a completely different book, not just a revision. And there are severa ...more
Erik Manning
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The middle chapters contain the meat. Wright shows us just how radical Jesus claims and works are by putting him in his historical setting. But this book contains much more than so called "head knowledge ". I came away with a deeper love for Jesus as both King and servant and a desire to bring his kingdom into greater visibility on earth. My tiny gripe is that while Wright drives the point home that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not, he seems to encourage some Constantinian like approaches to huma ...more
Ben De Bono
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
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 ...more
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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, McGi ...more
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“The church is not supposed to be a society of perfect people doing great work. It’s a society of forgiven sinners repaying their unpayable debt of love by working for Jesus’s kingdom in every way they can, knowing themselves to be unworthy of the task.” 6 likes
“Here, then, is the message of Easter, or at least the beginning of that message. The resurrection of Jesus doesn’t mean, “It’s all right. We’re going to heaven now.” No, the life of heaven has been born on this earth. It doesn’t mean, “So there is a life after death.” Well, there is, but Easter says much, much more than that. It speaks of a life that is neither ghostly nor unreal, but solid and definite and practical. The Easter stories come at the end of the four gospels, but they are not about an “end.” They are about a beginning. The beginning of God’s new world. The beginning of the kingdom. God is now in charge, on earth as in heaven. And God’s “being-in-charge” is focused on Jesus himself being king and Lord. The title on the cross was true after all. The resurrection proves it.” 4 likes
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