This is the second day in a row an NT Wright book makes the list. Yesterday I listed one of his more recent works, his magnum opus on Paul. Today is probably the work that truly impacted my reading of the Gospels more than any other. I read this book right after finishing seminary in 2005. It was probably the second Wright book I had read the first being the first in the series of which this is second, The New Testament and the People of God). In seminary I recall learning the importance of context for interpreting scripture. Wright took this the next step, helping me place Jesus squarely in his original context.
For example, when Jesus speaks of a king going away and returning, the assumption I always had was that he spoke of his second coming. This assumption was shared by most Christians I know. Wright asked, why would Jesus speak of such a second coming when his followers had no concept yet that he’d even be leaving? After all, they did not expect the Messiah to die. The story of a king leaving was one they were familiar with – it was their story. They believed God had left them due to their own unfaithfulness. So when Jesus speaks of the king returning, it is his first coming to Jerusalem as God’s representative that he spoke of!
It was ideas like this that I found mind-blowing. I spend much of the next ten years reading NT Wright books. While my list includes two of his academic tomes, he has written many shorter books that I think any Christian could appreciate: Simply Christian, Surprised by Hope, After You Believe, Simply Jesus, How God Became King and more. I am truly thankful for Wright’s work.