N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996

a belated review by Robert Brow (www.brow.on.ca), May 2000

This is the sequel to The New Testament and the People of God, 1992. It is not a book to help us with Sunday preaching. But scholars will appreciate the 741 pages of massive historical studies, including 78 pages of bibliography, indexes, and appendices, in addition to the footnotes helpfully located at the bottom of each page.

By far the most important part of the book relates to Jesus words about the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Wright systematically rejects the model of the parousia used by Schweitzer and adopted by most New Testament scholars (102, 223-224, 341 657-658). No Jews at that time expected the ending of our world's space-time continuum (321, 345, 362). Nor do these chapters speak of a last judgment (329), the end times, or 'a second coming' (635) as has often been assumed by Christian churches (329, 341). The chapters speak of temporal events which occured in the life time (generation) of Jesus' hearers (330, 365).

Jesus is warning of an impending national disaster in the style of the great Old Testament prophets (167, 323, 325, 329, 341, 345 ). And the result of the fall of Jerusalem is that "the present regime will be judged and Jesus vindicated (325).

Parousia does not mean 'the second coming', and/or the "He is downward travel of Jesus and/or the 'son of man (340). Parousia means 'presence' as opposed to apousia, 'absence' (341). And the presence is the vindication of what Jesus had said would happen and the faithfulness of his followers (635).

The view that Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 refer to the fall of Jerusalem in that generation is not new. It was argued for example by R.T.France in Jesus and the Old Testament, 1971. I was teaching and preaching it at St. James' Anglican Church about 1980, and set it out in the chapter on "Advent" in the book on Model Theology (1994 digital, 1996 web publication). What N.T. Wright has done is give us massive Old Testament documentation for this genre of prophetic preaching (348, 354-359). He also shows how many of the parables and other puzzling words of Jesus fit this model (175-197).

Wright said that "The godly are likely to accuse me of scholarly trickery, designed to get round what seems to them seems a clear statement of the future second coming of the Lord" (342). Either we have to accept Wright's 'hypothesis' that the words of Jesus in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 were fulfilled in the destruction of the Jewish religious establishment in AD 70, or we have to dethrone him as our most scholarly apologist. In any case the exegesis of Jesus words about parousia will be greatly enriched by this monumental work.

The book proceeds in the manner common among British evangelical scholars. You begin by being as skeptical as any of the historical accuracy of anything the Gospels record. Then you demonstrate that you have a meticulous knowledge of every scholarly position held in the twentieth century since Schweitzer. This enables you to pick and choose to pit one critical scholar against another. And finally you end up with a plausible proof that the Gospels as written more or less fit the evidence of historical studies. Obviously no ordinary preacher can match that astonishing tour de force.

Most of us go straight to the Gospels as given to us, and explain as best as we can. But I certainly appreciated evidence that the Gospels as written can be taken so seriously by historians. I would want to add that Jesus was not only right about his parousia in AD 70, but he continues to make his advents in day of the Lord comings among the nations.

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