Bishop N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God

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Bishop N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God

“We can summarize Jesus’ beliefs in terms of the three most fundamental Jewish beliefs: monotheism, election and eschatology.

“Jesus believed that there was one God who had made the world and who had called Israel to be his people; that this one God had promised to be with his people, and guide them to their destiny, their new Exodus; that his presence, guidance and ultimately salvation was symbolized, brought into reality in and through the Temple, Torah, wisdom, word and spirit. He was a first-century Jewish monotheist (p. 224).

“Speaking of Jesus’ ‘vocation’ brings us to quite a different place from some traditional statements of gospel Christology. ‘Awareness of vocation’ is by no means the same thing as Jesus having the sort of ‘supernatural’ awareness of himself, of Israel’s God, and of the relation between the two of them, such as is often envisaged by those who, concerned to maintain a ‘high’ Christology, place it within an eighteenth-century context of implicit Deism where one can maintain Jesus’ ‘divinity’ only by holding some form of docetism. Jesus did not, in other words, ‘know that he was God’ in the same way that one knows one is male or female, hungry or thirsty, or that one ate an orange an hour ago (p. 652).

“I suggest, in short, that the return of YHWH to Zion, and the Temple-theology which it brings into focus, are the deepest keys and clues to gospel Christology. Forget the ‘titles’ of Jesus, at least for a moment; forget the pseudo-orthodox attempts to make Jesus of Nazareth conscious of being the second person of the Trinity; forget the arid reductionism that is the mirror-image of that unthinking would-be orthodoxy. Focus, instead, on a young Jewish prophet telling a story about YHWH returning to Zion as judge and redeemer, and then embodying it by riding into the city in tears, symbolizing the Temple’s destruction and celebrating the final Exodus. I propose, as a matter of history, that Jesus of Nazareth was conscious of a vocation: a vocation given him by the one he knew as ‘Father,’ to enact in himself what, in Israel’s scriptures, God had promised to accomplish all by himself. He would be the pillar of cloud and fire for the people of the new exodus. He would embody in himself the returning and redeeming action of the covenant God” (p. 653).


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