Book Notice: Interpreting Jesus: Essays on the Gospels

N. T. Wright. Interpreting Jesus: Essays on the Gospels. Collected Essays of N. T. Wright. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2020. 345 pages. $15.98 (Hardback).

One day when the trumpet sounds, the dead are raised, and the judgment books opened, we will find out how N. T. Wright wrote so many books during his lifetime. Since the late 1970s, Wright, Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall at Oxford University, has put his thoughts to paper on Scripture, Jesus, and Paul. Most readers know him through the magisterial four volume series, Christian Origins and the Question of God. But in this new volume, Interpreting Jesus, readers will become reacquainted with him through his essays on the Gospels and Jesus.

Interpreting Jesus is one of three volumes that make up the Collected Essays of N. T. Wright set, published in America by Zondervan Academic and in Britain by SPCK. The other two volumes in the series include essays on Scripture and Paul.

The book has no structure, but is a compilation of Wright’s essays on the Gospels leading up to the publication of Jesus and the Victory of God in 1996. Readers will come across republished past essays on popular subcategories of Jesus and Gospels research—the Third Quest, the Jesus Seminar, Q, the Son of Man, temple, kingdom, and more. What comes as a pleasant surprise is the two essays on John, given N. T. Wright’s previous narrow focus on the Synoptic Gospels.

Before each essay, Wright has added autobiographical material. In these short introductions, Wright revisits what led to the writing and publication of each essay. This not only provides helpful context to each essay and the events surrounding it, but is a window into how N. T. Wright works and thinks. For example, chapter 4 contains Wright’s brilliant and humorous response to J. Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus at the 1992 annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. In the introduction, Wright talks about sneaking out of his hotel room in San Francisco at 3 a.m. and finding breakfast at an all-night diner around the corner from his hotel to work uninterrupted for four hours.

This book will likely only be of interest to those in the academy. Pastors and lay people will probably find themselves putting something else in their shopping cart on Amazon. However, for those who have read and benefitted from N. T. Wright’s work on the Gospels, this will be a welcome addition to their library. For those who have waded through Jesus and the Victory of God, they can expect nothing new in these essays. Wright has already said what he has to say about Jesus and the Gospels and this book appears to be published more so for legacy’s sake. However, to have his thoughts in bit-sized, one-off pieces is a delight for anybody thinking seriously about Jesus and the Gospels.

Quinn R. Mosier is the Content Manager for the Center for Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


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