Simply Jesus, by N.T. Wright. Hardcover.
New Testament scholar N.T. Wright is one of the leading scholars of the New Testament of the last fifty years. His mix of scholarship (currently a department chair at the University of St. Andrews) and practical church work (formerly the Anglican Bishop of Durham) gives him a unique position among teachers.
His ability to write "up" to the scholar and "down" to the layman is again on display in this latest work, an unoffical sequel to his Simply Christian. This work places the life and work of Jesus in its proper first-century, Jewish context, explaining the "perfect storm" into which Jesus walked. The "perfect strom" metaphor is utilized by Wright throughout the book, referring to the culture of the Roman Empire occupying Palestine, the belief of the Jewish peole that a Messiah was coming to set things right, and the movement of God, working in Jesus.
Wright's discussion of the prior messianic movements, including those of Judah the Hammer and Simon the Star, is one of this book's stronger points. The context he puts these movments into helped me understand the potent mix of expectations and hopes that Jesus walked into.
As always, Wright's theology is shot through the concept of the Kingdom of God. His view is that Jesus' work was not to "lead people to heaven," but instead to bring Heaven to the Earth. This view of the now-and-net-yet Kingdom makes sense in the light of Wright's explanations.
This was a profound, and profoundly interesting, book.