[*] 1 of 3: Who Was Jesus?

Well, OK: after a week of doing other things (like watching both discs of the Incredibles 3 times -- which should be mandatory for anyone who thinks they like either animation or comic books), I've finally gotten back to the blog, and to the matter of NT Wright's book Who was Jesus? Sadly, this is actually a rather old book (c. 1992), but I think that its implications are just seeing the light of day in popular conversations, and it is worth thinking about them for that sake.

Really, I think I have 3 things to say about this book, and this is the first: Wright asks 5 questions in the first chapter of his book that any self-respecting Christian ought to ask. They are:

(1) What was Jesus' relationship with Judaism of the day? Readers of this blog will recognize this question in substance if not form, but Wright asks specifically what Jesus shared with his fellow Jews, where did He contrast them, and most importantly, what did Jesus "say and do that related to Jewish hopes for the immediate future"?

(2) What were Jesus' actual claims? Wright "turns this question around" to ask what Jesus expected people to do if they were listening to Him.

(3) Why did Jesus die, and was a violent death part of the vocation He himself anticipated for what He set out to do?

(4) Why did the early church begin? In other words, what really happened at Easter?

(5) Why are the Gospels what they are? Are they, as Wright asks, "like the better newspapers, substantially true but slanted? Or are they, like the worse newspapers, substantially slanted and untrue? Or what?" And what does this tell us about Jesus and His followers?

It is important to note, I think, that at his foundation, Wright is coming up with his questions from and through the right place: an honest faith. That is to say, Wright is unwilling to advocate his position(s) at all costs. I have touched on this in other forums before, but if one is an advocate (or, as in the realm of the Christian faith, and apologist) for something, one cannot advocate for the truth with a lie. So, for example, if we say that Jesus was the Son of God but He himself denied such a thing, well, that seems to be a pretty big problem if we want to say our belief is true.

Fortunately, Wright does not believe that Jesus denied He was the Son of God. But what is more important is that Wright advocates that Christians ought not to be afraid of the truth about Jesus, whatever it might actually be -- and we should reform our beliefs based on what is actually discovered (or re-iterated) to be true.

So after all that, let me be clear that any self-respecting Christian ought to ask and ought to be able to provide some kind of factual answer for Wright's 5 questions. I think the answers are available at a rudimentary level from the Scriptures, but they are also available by reading some basic Christian history, like Schaff or Kelly -- so you cannot be distracted by ignorant tongue-wagging. If you cannot answer Wright's 5 questions, you probably need to go back to your books before you start arguing with anyone about what you think you think.

Stand by for part 2 …