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The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,673 ratings  ·  179 reviews

Today a renewed and vigorous scholarly quest for the historical Jesus is underway. In the midst of well publicized and controversial books on Jesus, N. T. Wright's lectures and writings have been widely recognized for providing a fresh, provocative and historically credible portrait.

Out of his own commitment to both historical scholarship and Christian ministry, Wright ch

Hardcover, 202 pages
Published November 14th 1999 by InterVarsity Press (first published October 1999)
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Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book continues the gulf between NT Wright's academic works and his summarized works meant for a popular audience, at least in my opinion. Wright sort of tries to plug his entire "New Testament and the People of God" series into a thin paperback. It's not that anything he says is's just that a lot of the fascinating things he's saying come out simplistic and easily misunderstood when he omits the great deal of context that allowed him to derive those things in the first place. Als ...more
Jacob Aitken
Aug 04, 2011 rated it really liked it

N.T. Wright?s aim in this work is to explore the person of Jesus from post-Enlightenment eyes. He addresses the issues from a different stance than the typical liberal or fundamentalist: He affirms that Jesus actually existed but that He (Jesus) saw himself differently than we see Him. Wright says that he has three concerns in this book: historical integrity in talking about Jesus, Christian discipleship that professes to follow Jesus, and empowering Christians with a vision that will transform
Dec 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a great book, one of the best theologically-oriented books I've ever read. The idea behind it is to look at how the things Jesus did and said would have challenged his 1st century audience and then from that discuss how Christians are called to follow in His footsteps today. There was a lot here that was enlightening, including how the resurrection functions as a symbol for the renewal of the Covenant between God and His people, the significance of the temple in the Gospel, and in what ...more
Sep 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This book, as the title would suggest, is a challenge, for a couple of reasons. First it is a challenge because Wright's intense historical analysis leads him to say some unexpected things about Jesus and early Christianity, casting doubt on the traditional understandings of certain passages in the bible, and on some aspects of how the church understands Jesus. Wright, for his part, insists that what he is doing is worth it, and I am inclined to agree on that point. You may not agree with all of ...more
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the reasons I appreciate N.T. Wright is that he asks the most important questions about Jesus (who he was, why he died, etc.), and gives new insights and details into the answers that are rooted in Christian Orthodoxy. My understanding of Jesus comes into sharper relief when I read Wright's work, and I'm grateful to him for his efforts. ...more
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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But as we do this, we must remind ourselves again and again—as the liturgies of the traditional churches do in so many ways—that when we are telling the story of Jesus, we are doing so as a part of the community that is called to model this story to the world. –N. T. Wright

The Challenge of Jesus challenged my understanding of who Jesus was and is. In a way that Wright often does, he chops the feet off both conservative evangelicals and liberals. This can be both a strength and w
Mary Fisher
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I first heard this book as the original lecture series at the December 1998 InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Graduate Student Conference in Chicago, Illinois. I had been invited to return from England to be involved in the conference and introduce NT Wright. I then used the book for teaching purposes from 1999 to 2005 while teaching at Asbury Theological seminary. Most students found it extremely helpful and challenging, many hated Chapter 5 as they basically were Docetists. I am someone who is ...more
Dec 01, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh. If you like your theology to be dryly academic in tone; for it to drone on endlessly, forever beating around the bush without ever actually getting to the point; for it to make constant arguments against the works of other authors you've never heard of and will probably never read; then this is the text for you. For all others, stay away.

I read this book as part of my small group that focuses on the history of Christianity. The problem being there's precious little history to be found here
Douglas Wilson
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
Jan 03, 2021 rated it liked it
I started off really liking this book, especially since the first half is about establishing a historical perspective of Jesus, Jewish culture, etc. But the second half of the book was extremely difficult to follow & I felt like it was riddled with a lot of “replacement theology” when talking about Israel. Some things definitely went over my head while some things I just didn’t agree with. The final chapter was the book’s redeeming feature.
Adam Parker
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my second book by N.T. Wright and I found it nearly as eye opening as the first: Surprised by Hope. I love learning about the scriptures through the lens of the first century audience, and this book did not disappoint. While I found the writing to be a bit convoluted at times, for the most part it was to the point and understandable for this non-seminary trained student of the Bible. He really helped me understand the parables of Jesus in a new light and supplemented my understanding of ...more
Laurel Hicks
I don’t think Mr. Wright and I read the same Bible.
Greg Atkins
Jul 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
I wanted a book about the historical Jesus written by a Christian author. This book appeared on many people's lists of top books on the subject.

It was awful. It veered between speculative details that can't be known and generalities. The number of time the author wrote something to the effect of "but that topic is out of the scope of this book" was infuriating.

This book is the Christian-Rock of books: a crappy product that people fool themselves into thinking they like because it praises Jesus.
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Not done yet but this book is opening my eyes to the historical context of what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God in a way that totally makes His parables and actions intelligible.

Jillian Armstrong
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
N.T. Wright’s brilliant work about the historical and spiritual meaning of Jesus is definitely going in my favorites of the year pile. This is one that I’ll come back to time and time again both because it took all my mental space to absorb what I could and because his writing is beautiful and meaningful. It’s not a light read by any means, but if you’re wanting to dig deep and challenge yourself, I highly recommend it! I listened to the majority on audiobook which I don’t recommend only because ...more
May 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Few New Testament scholars are able to write a book that is at once scholarly, inspirational, and well-crafted, but N.T. Wright has such a gift. This book sometimes seemed to jump around quite a bit, but tackling major themes and nimbly jumping from one part of Scripture to another seems to be Wright's style (as in Paul in Fresh Perspective). I appreciated a lot of the thought-provoking material, and the last chapter on what it means to be a Christian in our postmodern culture is absolutely outs ...more
Angus Mcfarlane
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was a challenge worth taking! The endeavour to discover the historical Jesus has been attempted by many and there are probably few people in the world without some opinion on it. Forming an opinion about Jesus that finds agreement from someone else is therefore pretty easy: Investing the time and effort to dig into the facts much harder (both emotionally, intellectually and, well, financially!). NT Wright belongs in the latter category, making the read a treat and regardless of 'faith', wor ...more
Aug 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was my first exposure to N. T. Wright, and I left it with nothing but respect for him as a scholar. Wright writes for a conservative audience, assuring them that Christians ought not to be afraid of applying biblical ibscholarship to their understanding of the scriptures. He warns them not to assume that all there is to know about Jesus is already known. Wright then proceeds for the rest of the book to take a second look at the world of the Jews, to understand what these first century ...more
Aug 26, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An edifying exposition of the first-century Jewish mindset--Wright reminds us to be careful not to read our modern and postmodern assumptions into the New Testament. He explains what words like Messiah and resurrection meant to the Jews of Jesus' day. He also fairly challenges liberal theologians' views of Jesus, recognizing that their questions are important but that they can be answered on the side of orthodoxy from a careful study of New Testament history.

Among the particularly remarkable poi
Aug 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Explores the question of the historical Jesus, not from the usual fact gathering and making a case for, but rather starting with the question of the implications of seeking the historical Jesus and the Evangelicals' resistance to that study. Wright also discusses at length the milleu of the first century and makes a point that unless we have some understanding of that the basis of our understanding of things like "salvation", "Kingdom of God", "Son of Man", etc. are all skewed by some 21st centu ...more
Jan 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Although I read "The Challenge Of Jesus" for the first time nearly 11 years ago, in early 2003 (while I was in seminary), I just finished reading it again this afternoon (as part of my goal to read and/or re-read as much of N.T. Wright's written work as possible in 2014).

So, that said (or written here), I appreciated and enjoyed this book as much - probably more - on this second time around and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in looking for a solid biblical, theological and, e
Dec 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
What exactly did Jesus mean when he said, "Repent and believe!" What is the Kingdom of God according to the first century Jews and Jesus? Why exactly did the Pharisees set out to kill Jesus? What is the exact nature of the Messiah? This book looks at Jesus, the culture, and the people with whom he interacted to give a wide portrait that can answer all these questions; and the answers surprisingly describe different mindsets, different scenarios, and different definitions from what most believers ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book I've read by this author, and I will definitely read more. Wright challenges us to look at Jesus as he was (and is) and not how our traditions and culture desires for him to be. It is in that change of perspective that whole new avenues of "being Jesus with skin on" for our world open up. The book is always not an easy (or comfortable) read, but it is well worth the effort. The last chapter of the book alone is worth the price of the book. But you have to read the whole bo ...more
Nov 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Mixed thoughts. Mixed feelings. At times, N.T. Wright, *The Challenge of Jesus,* has great insights, and at other times, he leaves me scratching my head. The chapter, *The Challenge of Easter,* is worth the price of the book (a summary of a larger, academic work). But, the arrogance of some passages leave me feeling angry and frustrated. Wright writes as if he is the only person in all of the history of the church who sees what he sees and knows what he knows. Nonetheless, Wright does widen our ...more
Adam Shields
Jun 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short review: Great book. Good example of why we need to continually look at research into scripture. The biggest complaint that some will have is that Wright likes to explain things and not give simple answers. But that is the point of research like this. Highly recommend you pick it up if you are at all interested in biblical studies or the person of Jesus.

A MUCH longer review is on my blog at (almost 1100 words unfortunately)
Nov 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-reading
The whole book was enlightening (historically and spiritually) for me, but the final chapter, "Light of the World" was especially so. I've reread the chapter three times now and underlined significant points--- most of it is underlined. Now to not just know it in my head, but live it in my heart and life; there's the challenge of Jesus! ...more
Joel Gn
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A robust, yet highly readable defence of the life and work of Jesus. Through a conversational style that brings together history and orthodoxy, Wright takes us back to the worldview of first century Palestine, to encounter a Jesus who is not just significant, but surprisingly different from what many today have come to expect or even assume.
Eric Blessing
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Such a great! Honestly the best book I've read in awhile. Wright painted a picture of the historical Jesus, and his vocation, in such a way that it was like making a 3-D pop-up book of the Gospels. Another thing I enjoyed was his conviction of studying the historical Jesus not to question scripture and God, but out of love for Christ and a desire to know him more. ...more
Josh Long
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you've ever wondered who N.T. Wright is and what he's all about, this is a good place to start. Wright briefly criticizes some of the outlandish interpretations of the historical Jesus and more importantly opens up some of the most critical themes Jesus promoted; like the kingdom of God. He brings a holistic understanding to scripture, as if that is how it was always meant to be read. ...more
Jan 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Another wonderful N.T. Wright book. Wright uses his expertise in 1st century Palestine to help the reader "rediscover who Jesus was and is." I highly recommend this book to anyone who is trying to understand and follow Jesus better. ...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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What will you do when it's your turn to pick your book club's next read? Well, this is what you won't do: panic. Why not? Because we've dug...
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“Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion...The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even--heaven help us--Biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way...with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, "if not now, then when?" if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, "if not us, then who?" And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?” 80 likes
“On the seventh day God rested
in the darkness of the tomb;
Having finished on the sixth day
all his work of joy and doom.

Now the Word had fallen silent,
and the water had run dry,
The bread had all been scattered,
and the light had left the sky.

The flock had lost its shepherd,
and the seed was sadly sown,
The courtiers had betrayed their king,
and nailed him to his throne.

O Sabbath rest by Calvary,
O calm of tomb below,
Where the grave-clothes and the spices
cradle him we do not know!

Rest you well, beloved Jesus,
Caesar’s Lord and Israel’s King,
In the brooding of the Spirit,
in the darkness of the spring.”
More quotes…