Book review: Simply Jesus

A new vision of who he was, what he did, and why he matters

By N T Wright (Harper Collins, 2011)

NT WRIGHT is the former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and one of the world’s leading Bible scholars. He serves as the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St Andrews. He has featured on ABC NEWS, Dateline, The Colbert Report,, and Fresh Air. He is the award winning author of ‘The Day the Revolution Began’, ‘Surprised by Hope’, ‘Simply Christian’, and more.

Jesus is under-utilized in the Christian discourse. Anglican bishop NT Wright espouses a compelling thesis of tapping into the potential of Jesus more effectively in contemporary life. There has for too long been a pre-occupation with a biblical faith where Jesus is absent and the full significance of his teaching supplanted by negative pre-Jesus thinking. A focus on ‘the second coming’ also has meant that the work he gave to his followers to complete has been neglected. Postponing the development of the ‘kingdom’ ignores the Pauline precept (1 Cor) of the reign of Jesus in the present age. The God-givenness of authority needs to be constantly acknowledged as Jesus did with Pilate (John 19:11).

He points out how relevant this is when it comes to ‘winning an election’. We have come to think of political legitimacy in terms of the method of gaining it – eg winning an election . The ancient Jews and early Christians were more interested than today’s Christians in holding rulers to account in the name of appropriate values.

He says there are millions of things that the Church should be getting into that the ruling elites don’t bother about or don’t have the resources to support. No one would have thought of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission if Desmond Tutu hadn’t pushed to make it happen.

(In Australia, we could add no one would have listened hard to isolated rural communities as John Flynn did – a situation I have been looking at on a trip through the Outback.)

He rebuts the argument that most of the reforms are small with a reflection on Jesus explaining his own actions in terms of the smallest seeds that eventually grow into the largest shrubs. He describes this as ‘cascading grace’. His idea of the ‘good news’ is that all people can participate in the many small things that make for the kingdom that Jesus foreshadowed.

I am not sure if Wright realized it, but he was also demonstrating how ‘good things and good thinking’ are even now changing the Church.

The central part of the present day meaning of Jesus’s universal kingship is the many varied ways in which each generation or each local church can ‘figure out wise and appropriate ways of speaking the truth to power’ in ways that can’t be ignored by the powerful.


Dr Paul Inglis July 2019


3 thoughts on “Book review: Simply Jesus

  1. Wayne Sanderson

    Thanks. I have a deep and abiding respect for the scholarship and public witness of NT Wright.
    The fruits of his work in Christology and Christian origins are sorely needed in our current Australian scene.
    Within the UCA and our recent controversies over SS marriage, I’ve been astonished at the reluctance of so many I’ve met who will go anywhere but the gospels for guidance and support for their exclusionary and condemnatory stance. I’ll have this book soon, expecting that I and others will be promoting it in study groups with local congregations.
    Wayne S.

  2. Paul Inglis Post author

    Thanks Wayne. He is certainly brilliant. At the same time for many he is outside the parameters of progressive thinking. But we have a broad and extensive audience in our growing group. I really enjoyed Wright for the way he sees Jesus as under utilized. Paul

  3. Lorraine Parkinson

    N.T Wright is finally ‘seeing the light’ concerning the non-christological Jesus.
    For that I am thankful.
    Lorraine Parkinson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *