Christianity often looks like a lot of things. Many people call themselves Christians and “Christian” as an adjective is slapped onto all sorts of ideologies. I have met people who think the term is so watered down that it has little meaning anymore. What is “Christianity”?
A simple answer – if it looks like Jesus, it is Christian. Christianity, ultimately, is about Jesus Christ.
Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola did a great service in reminding us of the supremacy and centrality of Jesus Christ in their previous book, The Jesus Manifesto. That book diagnosed problems and issues in the contemporary church and offered a renewed look at Jesus as the solution. Their new book, Jesus: A Theography is a sort of next step. Sweet and Viola seek to tell the story of Jesus as the thread that holds all of scripture together. Thus their story begins long before the birth of Jesus, examining the role Jesus Christ played in creation. That is one of many aspects of the book that make it worth a read and much more than just another book about Jesus.
This book is unlike any other book I’ve read about Jesus. It reads almost like a treatise from the early church fathers filled with allegorical interpretation. This is not a bad thing! Their interpretation of scripture, the way they find traces of Jesus on every page of the Bible, is creative and inspiring. But t is not your typical historical-critical analysis. They are not interested in what the original author of Genesis or Isaiah or Leviticus meant, though they do find value in such scholarship. Sweet and Viola are clear in their bias, they come to scripture looking at it through the lens of Jesus. The stories, laws and prophecies of the Bible find their fulfillment, their real meaning, in Jesus Christ.
I found this book engaging and inspiring. Sweet and Viola make it clear early on that their book is not for academics, it is for the general Christian population. I believe that any Christian who picks this up will find it to be a rewarding read. As a sidenote, if the 424 pages appear intimidating, know that about 1/3 of the book is end-notes. So while the book is for the general population, academics or others interested can find a wealth of footnotes if they desire.
This is no light and fluffy “Christian living” book. Such book are quickly read and just as quickly forgotten. If those books are junk food, this book is a feast. Once completing it, the Bible will be understood in a whole new light. Perhaps it sounds cliched, but you could almost say that after reading this book, you’ll never read the Bible the same way again! Highly recommended!