Who was Jesus, what did he do that was so important, and why does he matter? These are three important and often unaddressed questions that N.T. Wright attempts to conceptualize in his book Simply Jesus. In Simply Jesus, Wright attempts to answer these questions by first analyzing both first century and contemporary claims about Jesus. Then, Wright provides historical background for these statements, and through the use of textual evidence, Wright creates claims of his own that either augment or debunk the analyzed assertions. Finally, Wright wraps everything up by circling back and effectively answering the three original questions with his evidence-based claims, effectively identifying Jesus for who he was, what he did, and why he matters.
First off, Wright attempts to explain who Jesus actually was, stating that many Christians aren’t completely grasping his true identity. Wright uses his “perfect storm” analogy to explain the reasons people don’t fully understand Jesus. Skepticism of Christianity, extreme Christian conservatism, and the complexity of Jesus’s history create the ultimate combination that entrenches the difficulty of understanding Jesus as a person. In order to know who Jesus was, we must focus on understanding how people in his day knew him, the events that were taking place at the time, and how Jesus’s idea of God was different than the people’s.
In addition to this storm of clashing ideologies and historical complexity, there was another storm brewing around Jesus, and in order to comprehend Jesus, one must know the forces affecting the world around him. The first of the three forces was Rome and its empire. Rome was very important in Jesus’s time, possessing a large amount of resources, as well as political and military power over the eastern world. Right around Jesus’s time, Rome had switched from a republic to an empire after Julius Caesar. Caesar’s son, Octavian, was dubbed “the son of God”; this gave divinity to the seat of the emperor of Rome. Thus the fact that Rome’s emperor would be called a “son of God” created some quarrel once Jesus claimed he was of divine descent.
Another factor of Jesus’s first century storm was the Jewish storm. The Jews had their own vision of God’s return; in their minds, God would return to directly effect them in a manner similar to the story of the Exodus. Jews in Jesus’s day believed that God would bright about a “new Exodus”, that God’s deliverer would replace the tyrant rulers, and lead them towards prosperity. Unbeknownst to the Jewish, God had his own plans on how he’d intervene.
Finally, Wright explains the third and final component of the storm. The metaphorical hurricane that was quickly encompassing Jesus was wind brought on by God himself. Rome believed that the son of God, their emperor, would bring their nation power and glory, while the Jews believed that God would lead them into salvation and grant them glory through a new divine king. Jesus on the other hand, was...