How God became king
All wrong except Wright?
HOW GOD BECAME KING
Getting to the heart of the gospels
By Tom Wright
SPCK. 282 pages. £12.99
ISBN 978 0 281 061 464
The author could well have entitled the book, ‘What the Gospels really say’, following the pattern set by his popular early work on Paul. Believing that we have all ‘misread’ the Gospels (and that includes everyone from the Early Church to the present!), Wright seeks to put us all right. This 11-chapter paperback is a semi-popular version of his academic work intended primarily for preachers, teachers and students.
The book progresses in four stages. It starts by drawing attention to the neglect of the ‘middle bits’ in the Gospels between the birth narratives and Jesus’s death and resurrection, bits that the ancient creeds ignore. Liberal, modernistic, evangelical and Reformed have all failed to appreciate what the record of Jesus’s public career is about.
Part Two shows how all four Gospels deal with four big issues: the Jesus story is the climax of Israel’s story; in Jesus Israel’s God came back to rescue his enslaved people; the launching of God’s renewed people; the story of God’s kingdom clashing with Caesar’s. In an extremely engaging way, using his fondness for music, Wright believes that the Gospels are like four speakers in a living room sound system. Due to our misreading, the sound is distorted with some speakers too loud, others too soft or turned off altogether. He believes that the middle two items have tended to drown out the first and last points. All four echo the exodus theme.
In Part Three, Wright shows how two vital themes often separated are essentially one — the kingdom and the cross, while Part Four considers how the ancient creeds can be recited when the Wright message is in mind. Among his interesting one-liners concerning Jesus are: ‘He didn’t give them a theory; he gave them a meal’; ‘a one-man walking temple’; ‘a one-man apocalypse’.
As often in Tom Wright, there is much that is fresh and profitable. Among this reviewer’s chief concerns are the undervaluing of what is constantly emphasised in the Gospels, namely, individual faith in Jesus as Saviour and the questionable political side to the church’s mission.
Philip H. Eveson,
London Theological Seminary and Wrexham