May 26, 2020

Recommendation: Judas and the Gospel of Jesus by N.T. Wright

Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth about Christianity?I frequently receive inquiries from readers wanting to know where to start reading N.T. Wright. I have a standard list that includes Simply Christian, The Everyone Commentaries and The Challenge of Jesus.

Now I have a new recommendation: Judas and the Gospel of Jesus is Wright’s smallest book yet, but is his most direct and one of his most readable. In many respects, this book is an extended “question and answer” to the subject “What are the implications of the gnostic Gospels for our knowledge of Jesus?” Wright is the leading figure in the “Third Quest for the Historical Jesus” and is a historian with a skill in speaking about difficult material to ordinary people. This book shows Wright at his best in answering a specific contemporary challenge to the traditional creedal view of Jesus.

Wright gives a superb overview of gnosticism, gnostic Christianity and the gnostic scriptures. He covers how gnostic writings like the Gospel of Judas both challenge and confirm the church’s ancient and orthodox faith in Jesus. His response and answers will help any layperson or student see the weakness in the current radical revisionist view of Jesus and the misplaced faith those radical scholars are placing in the gnostic Gospels.

Wright’s view of Jesus and his relationship to the Biblical Gospels is compelling and practically helpful. While this book doesn’t cover as much ground as even one of his smaller books, it is a great way to encourage curious, questioning people to hear and read Wright’s other work.

I can’t think of a better book to give to an educated skeptic. Because it is so brief, specific and interesting, it comes at the issue of “who is Jesus?” sideways, and is unlikely to offend, but very likely to lead to more reading and discussion.

If you’re interested in the Gospel of Judas, all you need to know is here. If you want a good first book on the current Jesus debates and a taste of Wright’s formidable participation, this is exactly what you need.

Comments

  1. You’ll be proud of me. I got my first two NT Wright books in the mail today from your recommendation.

  2. Thanks, bro. I have “Following Jesus” by Wright in my library, and I’ll DEFINITELY get this title as soon as possible. One the young guys at our church just asked me about those Gnostic writings. I appreciate the info!

  3. Thanks for the recommendation. I read anything Wright puts out. This one is next. I have friends who are totally into the whole revisionist thing, swallowing it hook, line and sinker! It is amazing. I read books they loan me like “The Laughing Jesus” or “The Pagan Christ”, and just can’t believe it! I agree with Wrights approach though, that we must hear the valid critique it aims at the church and Christianity, etc., but we must also critically dissect what the gnostics are saying, both ancient and modern, eat the meat and spit out the bones. thus spoke churchpundit!

  4. Just fyi–I think you might mean “While this book doesn’t cover as much ground as even one of his [larger] books”.

    Now here’s something to spice things up a bit: I assume from your post that you are at least in general on board with Wright’s view of scripture. This, in my short form, is that the Bible is the story of God’s interaction with the world as told by His people and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Emphasis for Wright is on the narrative of Scripture, and the impact of genre and historical setting on interpretation. The role of the church is to carry on this narrative, empowered by the same Spirit, in congruence with the narrative we have before us (the first 4 acts in ntpg), yet not merely recapitulating it.

    On the basis of this view of scripture, it only makes sense that things like slavery which are taken for granted in OT legislation need not be taken for granted today in a world that has a more robust understanding of the equality of all peoples. In the same way, the role of women in the church need not simply recapitulate the oppressive patriarchy taken for granted in the Bible (there was no alternative for these Spirit inspired authors to consider). Rather, in a world with a more gospel-ized understanding of the full humanity of women, the church is now able to affirm the Spirit’s gifting of women and men for all kinds of ministry.

    The above, it seems to me, is a very likely conclusion for most people who who are NT Wright fans. So my question is this: How do people who like NT Wright, yet do not support women in pastoral ministry, deal with (what I see as) the inevitable cognitive dissonance?

    Any thoughts?

    Matt

  5. Matt –

    The simple answer is that these people see embracing our god-given identities as male and female as part of the thrust of the story. To capitulate to the sexual steamroller of our culture is seen as being unfaithful to the gospel. You need not assume disagreements stem only from cognitive dissonance.

  6. WFO,

    Okay, I can see the argument for that. However, I would read the narrative thrust differently. I believe that the Genisis account presents us with two sexually different but fully equal beings who participate equally in the divine mandate. The gender role thing starts as a consequence of the fall. And it’s been “the man’s in charge” and “women are fragile followers” throughout the (sinful) world ever since. So it’s part of God’s work of re-creation (another big Wright theme) to work *counter-culturally* to bring men and women back into equality. I like your phrase, “sexual steamroller of culture,” but I think it’s driving in the opposite direction than you do! Western culture has been, for many centuries, deeply patriarchal in some very damaging ways, and it’s hardly become egalitarian (esp. not in a biblical sense!) over the last four decades. Don’t misread me, I’m not supporting the idea that sexuality is a wash–that’s the world’s version of egalitarian sexuality. But I don’t think God is patriarchal, either.

    Anyway, you answered my question as to the approach of NT Wright fans who are complimentarian, and I appreciate that.

  7. Matt –

    See if you can test your argumentative empathy skills, and imagine what the response would be to your statement, “the gender role thing starts as a consequence of the fall”. Or how a Christian who disagreed with you might charactarize a view that a calling as a “fragile follower” is a negative thing.

    😉

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