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Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament Essay Sample

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Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament Essay Sample

     The book entitled Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament by Christopher J.H Wright focuses on the face of Christ in the textual tapestry of the bible’s old testament but it also outline’s God’s plan for the Israelites as it lives out the story of Jesus.

      Wright tries to trace the Holy Spirit throught he pages of the old Testament. It is reflected within the stories of prophets and psalmist, in the actions of judges and crafts people, in the anointing of kings and the promise of a new creation. Those things that are knowable and discern able within the Old testament, the Holy Spirit becomes eminently knowable for us. The witness of what the scripture is all about from the first upto the last page directs us to a Holy Spirit empowering us as God’s people. Sustaining and renewing the face of the earth.

     Talking about Jesus in the present times, the debate who really He is rages on. One good source for us to trace his life and God’s plan through him is by reading the bible and other books like this one. We cannot know Jesus without knowing his story. Bible bounds Christians to specific notions who he is and tells us if we should listen to other gospels, other sayings of Jesus, through this book it enlarge and correct a mistaken story? Is the real Jesus entangled in a web of the church’s Scripture, awaiting liberation from our childhood faith so he might speak to our contemporary pluralistic world?To answer these questions we need to know what story Jesus claimed for himself.

     Christopher Wright is convinced that Jesus’ own story is rooted in the story of Israel. In this book he traces the life of Christ as it is illuminated by the Old Testament. And he describes God’s design for Israel as it is fulfilled in the story of Jesus.

     Christopher J.H. Wright provides a comprehensive, though sometimes meandering and difficult, look at Jesus through an Old Testament perspective

            Whenever western people thinks of Jesus, they do not visualize the real Jesus who walked through this earth two thousand years ago. According to the author Jesus has become a “photo montage composed of a random mixture of Gospel stories, topped up with whatever fashionable image of him is current cut off from the historical Jewish context of his own day, and from his deep roots in the Hebrew scriptures.”

            In Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament , Wright tries to reconnect the modern individual with the genuine, historical Jesus. He makes  a strong and convincing case that a deeper, more contextualized, picture of Jesus is essential. On the first seventeen verses of Matthew the author sees it as perhaps the most significant passage in understanding the cultural origins and identity of the historical Jesus. While many Christians breeze by, or completely ignore, Matthew’s rendition of Jesus’ genealogy fro a reason. In Jewish society, genealogies were an important way of establishing your right to belong within the community of God’s people.

            Accordingly, Matthew’s genealogy not only identifies Jesus as the son of Abraham and David but it also positions Him as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s people. Wright shows how Matthew’s genealogy identifies Jesus clearly as the Davidic Messiah, thus holding out promise of Jewish liberation and ascendancy.

            Matthew also shows Jesus as the son of Abraham which positions Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s covenant with the great patriarch. This aspect of Jesus’ lineage was almost certainly lost on most first-century Jews, but was significantly relevant fro the succeeding generations of Christians, especially the Gentile converts. The testaments record the history of God’s saving work for humanity.

            Meanwhile, this Salvation History aspect of the Old Testament opens a disturbing debate into the nature of God and the process by which He saves sinners.

            Wright cited that “Not everyone relishes the idea of one single chosen people of God enjoying a unique history of salvation, as over against all the rest of the nations who seem to get a rather poor deal on the whole.” God chose Israel to be a blessing to the other nations. Thus, God’s relationship with Israel should be “seen as the pursuit of His unfinished business with the nations.”Choosing Israel was not therefore an arbitrary and exclusive invitation to heaven, but rather a means to an end.

            Through Matthew, Wright says that even the birth of Jesus is used to demonstrate this universal mission to Jesus ministries Though he wrote the “most Jewish of the Gospels”, Matthew wastes no time at all before getting to the point that when Messiah came, he had visitors, gifts and worship from the east, and was personally, if temporarily resident in Egypt.” In other words, Matthew clearly wants us to see Jesus as more than merely Israel’s messiah, but as the fulfillment of God’s saving purpose for the nations beyond Israel.

            One of the most interesting part of the book that catches my attention is the explanation as to Jesus’ statement came to fulfill and not to abolish the Law. Jesus doesn’t countermand the central purpose of the Mosaic Law, which was to establish a right relationship with God in our everyday living. Rather Jesus enhances this purpose with his own expanded teachings on the spirit of the Law, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. Hew also deemphasize systematic theology in favor of inductive biblical scholarship in presenting Jesus to us Thorough the Old Testament lens.

            This book however has a weakness. It meanders and wanders, taking longer than necessary to make some of its points. In addition, it seems to double-back and reiterate some points already made in previous chapters.

            In his first chapter (, pp. 1-54), Wright presents a fairly conventional survey of Old Testament history and literature. I use the term with no pejorative meaning, for Wright is convinced the average Christian knows little of this material, and so his task is essentially remedial. Indeed, his method has biblical precedent, for example in Peter’s speech in Acts chapter seven. The author takes his cues from the manner in which the gospels frame their protagonist in terms of his relationship to a heritage that we know principally from the pages of the Old Testament. It is evident from the outset that Wright will read Jesus with rather than against the grain of the Old Testament and the Judaism of his own day, an argument that will be developed in the book’s final chapter.

            Wright gives due attention to the ‘inter-testamental literature’ and, to this reader’s satisfaction, attempts a brief rehabilitation of the Pharisees, a matter that requires attention in the light of his chosen readership of ‘typical Christian carol-singers’. Wright is eager to establish that the Old Testament sets the basic definitions of terms like ‘redemption’, ‘salvation’, and the like that will be bandied about in the New in the expectation that readers will know to what they refer. He is particularly attentive to the character of the Old Testament as ‘story’, a tale that will not be fully told by the time the first testament comes to its end, and so points forward to God’s subsequent redemptive activity in Jesus himself. Indeed, ‘the Messiah was Israel’, an affirmation that for Wright seems to hint more at the continuity between the two literary sections of the biblical story than at the discontinuity that is evidenced by them.

            The relationship of story to promise is critical for a work of this kind, not least because a popular view of the Old Testament as a context-less ‘book of promises’ about Messiah is strong among many Christians. The architecture of Wright’s book already suggests a more organic link between Old Testament story and promise, a matter to which the author turns in chapter two (‘Jesus and the Old Testament Promise’, pp. 55-102). Noting the manner in which the Gospel of Matthew cites texts with regard to Jesus that were actually written of Israel, Wright offers this programmatic statement: ‘Not only does the Old Testament tell the story which Jesus completes, it also declares the promise which Jesus fulfils.’

             The singular word `promise’ where one might have anticipated ‘promises’ signals Wright’s intention to develop a nuanced and unmechanical view of how Jesus accomplishes this completion and this fulfillment. For Wright, Matthew begins with the experience of Jesus that he shares with his community and works his way back to Old Testament scriptures that are now seen to possess a deeper sense than another reader might have anticipated. The Old Testament is a matrix of promise in that it reveals a God who promises redemption, restoration, healing, and the like. Jesus, in unforeseen ways, becomes the agent of that complex and hope-instilling promise. Wright accents the personal (‘I-Thou’) nature of promise, including its need for a response if it to become effectual. He is also eager to establish that promise affirms the history and the people among which it was established in a way that mere prediction cannot.

            Though Wright does not use this language, this allows the Old Testament to point towards fulfillment in a impressionistic or even ‘fuzzy’ manner rather than in the mechanical precision that today motivates some Christians to discover mechanical and ludicrous literal fulfillment of a vision never intended for such realism and little adapted to its requirements. A final section embeds promise in the rich concept of covenant. Wright is surely faithful to his sources when he concludes that ‘the overwhelming impression that makes itself felt through all this study of promise and covenant, is God’s unwavering intention to bless.’ ‘Jesus and his Old Testament Identity’ (Chapter three, pp. 103-135) probes what scholars call the `messianic self-identity’ of Jesus, a topic that might seem odd or even contentious to Christian believers who have not thought seriously about Jesus’ humanity. Wright wants to establish the fundamental role that the Hebrew Scriptures played for the ‘carpenter’s son from Nazareth, who takes upon himself a staggering identity with awesome personal consequence … by accepting and internalizing three Old Testament figures.’ The chief value of this chapter is Wright’s extended exploration of typology, a venerable and much-abused element of Christian hermeneutics. For Wright, the typological instinct is valid as `a way of understanding Christ and the various events and experiences surrounding him in the New Testament by analogy or correspondence with the historical realities of the Old Testament seen as patterns or models’. This definition once again locks the two poles of his book (Jesus and the Old Testament) in an embrace without which each loses its meaning, worth, and veracity.

            An extended discussion of what Jesus and his earliest interpreters meant by the phrase ‘son of God, as this was applied to the aforementioned carpenter’s son. ‘Jesus and his Old Testament Mission’ (Chapter four, pp. 136-180) underscores the reality that Jesus’ self-identity was inseparably bound to his sense of having been sent by his Father. Palestinian Jewish self-consciousness at the time found expression in the concept of exile. It was a simple thing to transfer the moniker and imperial qualities of biblical ‘Babylon’ to Rome, a new generation’s oppressive presence. Over against this imperial intrusiveness, popular Jewish expectation focused on Israel’s restoration.

            Both John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth stepped into this cauldron of hope and resentment, in solidarity with the imminent fact of Israel’s redemption but with a novel angle on how that was to be accomplished. A number of linguistic and conceptual receptacles were ready at hand to be filled with the content that Jesus would bring to them: son of Man, anointed one (‘messiah’), servant of the Lord. With varying degrees of reticence and enthusiasm, Jesus used or allowed these terms to be used of him, typically modifying the accent in surprising directions that the early church, upon further reflection, would transmit in the teaching and proclamation that are the stuff of the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles were able to discern an ample participation by non-Jews in the ‘Israelite’ restoration that they perceived occurring in their midst. Paul would work this out into a clearer articulation of his own ‘sending’ or mission to the gentiles.

             Wright’s final chapter (‘Jesus and his Old Testament Values’, pp. 181-252) shows how Jesus life was fully aligned in moral-ethical terms with his Old Testament legacy. This chapter competently indicates the continuity between the testaments, since for Wright Jesus more often underscores or occasionally draws out the fuller implications of Old Testament ethics as they already exist than adds uniquely New Testament-ish ethical instruction.

     It was a great book in that it was full of detail and many verses were used to show the points. However, the sheer quantity of details often left me wondering how in the world it related to the point being made. If you’re looking for a great book that shows how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament as well as how he related to it in everyday life, this is the right book to read.

     In order to properly understand the Jesus of the new testament, instead of making a Jesus of our own liking, it is necessary to understand Jesus as he himself indicated. Jesus himself, according to the new testament, made constant reference and allusion to the Hebrew scriptures, ( old testament ), as he sought to explain himself, his actions, his teachings and his significance. Understanding the old testament is therefore of paramount importance for understanding what Jesus was and is about. This means far more than knowing some of the messianic proof texts or knowing about Noah’s ark or the temple and sacrificial system of the ancient Hebrews. Understanding the old testament involves knowing the overall aim and purpose of it, and how it all is held together by connected themes that form a unified whole. Christopher Wright’s book, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, is an absolute Godsend towards getting the drift of the old testament and how it carries forward to the Jesus of the new testament. This book is a little bit technical at times, it is not a devotional work, but reading this book will educate a person to accurately understand what the old testament is about and how it flows into the person of Jesus, thereby showing the true meaning and intent of Jesus according to the background that Jesus himself referred to.

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