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Video: NT Wright - United and Cruz: the forgotten message of the Gospels

Posted on April 20, 2015 by blgestbibl


This video is an excellent material introduction to the study of the Gospels of the New Testament. English theologian NT Wright posed by the question 'why Jesus lived? "(And not the usual Christian question: why Jesus died) the issue of what are the Gospels, how they work, what they are really saying . Highly recommended (below, transcription / translation, the '[...]' indicates short excerpts have been edited for greater reading fluency). Enjoy.


NT Wright is a professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, one of the leading experts in Paul and the New Testament today, author of numerous books and a former bishop of the Church of England.



United and Cruz: the forgotten message of the Gospels

N. T. Wright


Conference held at Fuller Seminary, Sacramento, USA, on November 16, 2011.


     This afternoon I was talking about the resurrection, and I will not say much about the resurrection tonight because I want to concentrate on the body of the Gospels instead of the big event at the end. But I will say this, and I understand if you were this afternoon, and maybe even if there were, the resurrection colors everything else. This is caught with special force a year ago and a half while in traffic in London, above a taxi. She wore my purple suit bishop and my neck, so it was obvious it was an official of the Church of England. We were there in the traffic jam and the taxi driver looked at me and shrugged, then saw that I was a bishop, so we started talking about the Church of England: "They have some problems in the Church of England, right? "and I said yes. "About whether or not to women bishops," and I said, "Yes, we are going through difficult times." Then he said: "What I always say is this: If God raised Jesus from the dead, everything else is pure rock and roll, right?"


     I leaned back in the seat, thinking: "What an extraordinary man, stabbed in the corner!" And we had a great conversation, and I lost my train and did not care. But I pulled out my BlackBerry and I sent a message to my colleague in Durham: "You will not believe what I just heard," and he quoted the sentence. And he said: "There's your next Easter sermon." It was spectacular.


     Everything I say has to do with this general principle: the resurrection is the center of everything. And of course, the evangelists wrote in the light of the resurrection. If there had been no resurrection, there would be no gospel. Because there were thousands, probably tens of thousands of young Jews crucified by the Romans in the hundred years before and after the time of Jesus of Nazareth, and many of them believed they would be the leaders of the movement to bring the kingdom of God. Many of his followers also believed, and often ended up crucified too. And in any case they said that the kingdom of God had arrived. But Jesus did say that, and that was because of the resurrection [...].


     I want to talk, as we enter the theme of this evening, some events of my youth. When I went to school, roughly at 14, we had three or four we wanted to start a Bible study. We began to study the Bible in different contexts and we are in that school, and wanted to meet and study the Bible. And once, I think it was 15 or 16 years, we decided to make a small number of studies, we agreed, invite others, etc. It was about Jesus. One was why Jesus was born; another of why Jesus lived; another of why Jesus died; why another arose. I'm not sure if we had one on the Ascension, we should have had. But there was one about why it will come again. We were very excited, we organized what was going to do each, etc. And I touched my short stick, because I touched on why Jesus lived. And I remember very well, being a school, thinking: "How difficult question" If we talk about why Jesus was born, there is much to say all those things about Christmas Incarnation and the Word became flesh. He knew enough to know that there was a lot to be fixed. Same with why Jesus died. We were all taught that Christians well knew perfectly well that died for our sins, and had key passages could look. The same with the resurrection, with the Second Coming, possibly with Ascension. But why Jesus lived?


     Frustration. I have no idea what I said when I took that Bible study. You may have some notes about it in a dusty box somewhere. But then it was a good question, and it remains a good question today. [...]


     Some ten years after that, when I was in my undergraduate at Oxford, I was invited to speak at the Christian Union of Cambridge. Occasionally Oxford and Cambridge itself speak, and invited me to do that. And the Christian Union in its wisdom (or lack thereof) invited me to talk under the title "The Gospel in the Gospels." Teachers and preachers among you will know that that's a big challenge. In fact, I recently heard a well-known pastor elsewhere US he did a conference called "Jesus preached the gospel of Paul?" What is a little weird, so why ask the question? But you see the problem: if you are accustomed to think of the gospel as justification by faith based on Jesus' death for your sins, then they will find much in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) before finding something like that. Of course, you will find the Pharisee and the publican, and Jesus saying that went home justified and not the other, and say, "There it is, Jesus did speak of justification by faith." But a reference to the end of Luke's really not a great basis for saying that the Gospels are treated.


     And that reflects something that has been a puzzle in Western Christianity for a long time, I suspect that before the Reformation, but certainly during the last 400 years, what are the Gospels? How do they work? How are gospel? Because in the early Church there was only one gospel that adopted four ways: not talking about "the Gospels" in the plural, as we do. They spoke of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel itself (singular) of Mark, etc. But still the problem, and yet my frustration, even though I was already in my twenties and yes he kept notes of what he was doing (I have no idea where that presentation notes are, or what did I say).


     And you see, the problem can be stated as follows: there are many Christians that would be enough for your faith if Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin and died on a cross, and never did anything in between. He could have had a totally dark and quiet life, but as was the Son of God who died for our sins: end the game. And one feels like there could be missing something.


     Or for example, the great creeds. I love the creeds, know where they came, understand how they were developed, which are a record of the disputes that had the Church in the first three or four centuries, and reconciliations and agreements reached the Church. But think of those big credos: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary ... suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was crucified, dead and buried. " I imagine Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, saying: "We spend much time talking about it on the way." Of course, creeds were not designed as a teaching manual; Sadly, this is how often we used. When I began to study theology at Oxford, we were given a book called The Quick Oliver Doctrines of the Creeds [The doctrines of the Creeds]. It is on the Christian doctrines: God the creator, Jesus incarnate, Jesus died for your sins, etc. And if you just follow what appears in the creeds, it seems important what happens in between.


     Worse, if you think about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, especially in the first three, the natural to say about them is that they have something to do with the kingdom. But the kingdom is not mentioned in the Creed until much later. Remember what happens? "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end." What makes you think that? That the Kingdom is purely future, that the Kingdom is something that will happen when Jesus comes again, not before. And of course, this is an extreme counterfeiting not only of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, also of Paul, Revelation, much of the New Testament. So obviously a problem for us.


     But what is that out of the way? I tried to ask this question in groups of clergy, lay groups, and do them to you. Assuming that someone from his own church to ask them what is that of the way, what do they expect you to say? What you say? When I do that, I get many interesting responses. Some have said, "I think my congregation would expect me to say that Jesus came to talk about the kingdom of heaven and how to go there." In other words, that Jesus came to tell us that there is a place called heaven where God is king and where good people go when they die, and the most important thing Jesus is doing is telling us how to get there. There is almost nothing in the Gospels about that. I know that question has dominated Western Christianity for the past hundred years, but the Gospels are not about that. Jesus taught us to pray "Thy kingdom come, thy will be in heaven in the sky" in heaven already done. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven." That's what he lived and what he did (more on that in a moment). So the Kingdom does not come only at the end, is already opened here.


     Other people would say that what Jesus really did was teach us how to live. He gave us all kinds of wonderful things, think of the Sermon on the Mount, this wonderful manifesto on how to behave. So there are great teachers of ethics and Jesus is simply the greatest teacher of ethics. I suspect that most of us in this church tonight can see that although it is true that Jesus himself was a great teacher of ethics, if that is the only way left is nowhere near enough. It is a reductionist position: "Jesus, the great moral teacher, but let just that." There is a groundswell of liberal Christianity has tried to leave it, but I suspect that for most of us is not enough.


     So, some say that perhaps the material is left among us a great example for us to see that we live life well and then we can follow. You know what? For example, Jesus depresses me. In my youth I tried to play the piano, it was not very good but I liked strive. But if he saw Clifford Curzon, or Richter, or someone like that playing the piano, I thought that was a wonderful thing, but as an example was hopeless because I could never even begin to play well. Or if I see a great golfer hitting the ball, it is a wonderful example, but I know he'll never hit as well, even if you practice many hours a day. So we see Jesus doing things is fine, but does not really help us as much as we might think.


     There are other things that people say, namely that Jesus came to show that God truly was. As I say in a moment, once you understand what that question means then we can say yes, but if you say yes too quickly ends up blocking all other issues; and it becomes very difficult, because again and again in all those stories Jesus Walks not saying, "Do you realize that I am the Second Person of the Trinity were given". It does not do that. There are signs, hints, suggestions, but you have to decipher. What they are then treated?


     What we have in much of Western Christianity is ... do you remember that book management that came out some years called The Empty Raincoat [The empty coat] do? There is a shelter, but no body inside. We have something, we have the outer frame: Jesus is born, Jesus dies, but what about in between? And there are some Christians, especially in the US during the past hundred years, they have done the opposite, and have said: "We do not like all that of miracles, we are not sure about the atonement on the cross, but in reality Jesus did a splendid public career being nice to the elderly, children, stray dogs, etc .; and we have to look at that, keep it, copy it and do it: it is the work of the Kingdom ". As bishop I spend time playing together these two types of Christians, trying to make them see that actually need each other. And that is the essence of what I will say tonight.


     Because on one hand are those "Christians of the kingdom" who think that Jesus began a wonderful program of social reform, improvement, to make the world a better place, to help the people in their lives, etc. And sometimes they get so excited with what to say, "What a pity he died so young ... if only he had followed". And on the other there are those who focus on the cross, that all you have to say about Jesus who died to save us from our sins. Perhaps if I had to pick just one thing to say about Jesus, that would not be a bad place to stay (the cross or resurrection). But if that's all that really says it also falsifies that because the Gospels somehow have all of United and Cruz in a way which, in my experience, most of Western Christianity (Catholic and Protestant, charismatic and liberal, whatever) has been found very difficult to hold. So we have, or wrap around without body or any body but no coat. And there are all sorts of movements around that.


     My impression is that this is because for many centuries, particularly since the Enlightenment, and is a disease that affects as much as evangelicals and fundamentalists to liberal social gospel, we've all feared theocracy. Because our world is structured in a way that says, "We do not want that." For what "theocracy" mean to you? What comes to mind them? Crazy monks imagine having a direct line to God, and have a hard line for the rest of us. We do not want that, at least most of us. Certainly not.


     But, what God we talking about? That is the question. If you are thinking God is a big bully in the sky that occasionally looks down, gets angry with you and throws a thunderbolt, but luckily Jesus stands, or something; if that's the God they are thinking, then beware theocracy. But assuming it was the God of Genesis, which says: "Let this beautiful world"; assuming it was the God of Exodus, which says: "I heard the cry of my people and I have come to save"; assuming it was the God of Isaiah, which says: "I have carved in the palms of my hands"; assuming that God was in charge, how would it look? It might look like a young Jewish prophet touring Galilee, saying that this is how God is going becoming King. And healing a leper and a hell around here and there, feeding the hungry, and explaining what he did with strange stories about seed growing secretly and about a father who had two sons, etc. This could be seen. That's what I try to tell the Gospels. But it does not stop there, because from the beginning of history (and I will return to this) the cross, the shadow of the cross, is just around the corner.


     Anyway, I have them a proposal. That when they read the Gospels think as if they were in a room with four speakers, one in each corner. If you are fond of music with good sound, and have a good player, disks, iPods, etc., and want it to work in your new living room, place a loudspeaker in each corner, then sit in the middle, and then They have to adjust the volume of the different speakers. You may find that you are not working and the music sounds a bit unbalanced. I want to propose that, in reading the Gospels, four speakers to be adjusted in the correct volume, and if they do not they will not understand what they are about. And as part of my argument it is that in most of Western Christianity two of those speakers have been almost completely off, and the other two have tended to be too high, you will see that I think we've been listening to the music of unbalanced way. What are these four speakers?


     The first, usually, I think, it is completely off, is that the four Gospels tell the story of Jesus as the highlight of the history of Israel. Many people will be happy to say that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies. But I'm not just talking about miscellaneous compliance: that sometime Isaiah, the Psalms and Daniel said two or three interesting things and that Jesus fulfilled. No. I'm talking about a strange, dark, mysterious, but continuous narrative. It is seen at the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, the genealogy of Matthew: Abraham, fourteen generations; David, fourteen generations; Exile (interesting), fourteen generations. Now Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, the Messiah. Fourteen generations ... a moment, six sevens, are talking about a Jewish genealogy. If we are to enter the seventh seven, what are we talking about? Yes, the Jubilee, when slaves are freed, that sins are forgiven, that debts are omitted, God returns to do what he always said he would do "will be called Emmanuel", "for he shall save his people from their sins. " And it is not only individual salvation, but that is also true. Israel had been in slavery from exile, that was deeply woven into the Second Temple Judaism. Israel had gone into exile for their sins and, as Isaiah 40 says, "when sins are forgiven and finally resolved, then end the exile, the Lord return to Zion finally be free." And Matthew is saying, "seven sevens", "Jesus" and "he will save his people from their sins."


     But not only is Matthew, and not just the initial chapters: again and again the history of Israel pointed forward. Josephus, the great Jewish historian who wrote a couple of generations after Jesus' time, says the reason why the Jewish people midcentury rebelled against Rome was mainly because there was an oracle in their scriptures saying that that time would arise a world ruler of Judea. It is in The Jewish War, Book 6, if you are interested.


     What is the oracle said would happen then? There can only be referring to Daniel 9, because that is the only prophecy that mentions a specific time. And specialists who have studied it will tell you how Daniel 9 works is this: the fictional setting of the book of Daniel is in exile in Babylon. In Chapter 9, Daniel makes a beautiful prayer, "Lord, Jeremiah said that the exile would last seventy years. We already passed seventy, is it time to go home? You have finished Exile? Will they be forgiven our sins at last "and is an angel tells Daniel:" That was a great prayer, your prayer has been heard. I have good and bad news. Yes, the prophecy will be fulfilled; the bad news is that there will be seventy, but seventy weeks of years. " Seventy times seven. It's like a mega-jubilee. And during the two centuries before and after Jesus they had when calculating Jews were to meet these four hundred and ninety years. This is something that, to my surprise, not many Christians have heard or even thought, but may revise: it's all in the intertestamental literature.


     So they are figuring that something was going to happen. What was going to happen? What of Daniel 2, the Stone Mountain hits the statue and this also becomes a great mountain; what Daniel 9, that sins are forgiven eventually; the strange prophecies about the abomination of desolation; and above all, Daniel 7: the four sea monsters that oppress the people of God, then one son of man is exalted in the clouds to sit by the Ancient of days, and there comes a time that the people of God receives the Kingdom. And there is a direct relationship between that phrase in Daniel 7:22 ("the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom") and Mark 1:15, where Jesus says, "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God He has approached ". The four Gospels are saying that this is how the history of Israel reaches its climax. This is the time for and redemption.


     For most Christians, the speaker in the corner of the room has been completely off. But when you learn to read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the climax of Israel's history, all sorts of things start to be in place. Because the history of Israel is not a miscellany history, as if Jesus was born a Jew by accident but could have been Norwegian or Nigerian and it was all by accident. The idea is (biblical theology): God called Abraham to undo the sin of Adam. And Abraham's family struggled and could not do, and things got complicated and it got worse, and everything seemed to go terribly wrong. But God had not forgotten that it was his promise, and God kept that promise when the time was fulfilled. That's the first speaker.


     The second speaker is one that has often been too high. This morning I was in a radio discussion with [John] Dominic Crossan and another scholar, and one of the people who phoned basically raised the argument of CS Lewis: o Jesus was crazy, was evil or must have been divine. I know the argument, and it's not a bad argument, it's just that when we say "God" and then you look at the gospels saying "Jesus was divine or not?" Often understand that wrong. As I said, what God we talking about? We often have the image of the god of deism of the eighteenth century, we wonder how that god would be if he were human, and imagine Jesus as Superman. The myth of Superman, which is very powerful in our culture, it is not by accident. It is the myth of the person with supernatural powers down, gets a costume and performs the act of redemptive violence that addresses the issue. That is basically a Christological heresy that has many examples in your culture and mine.


     But the Gospels tell a different story. For this matter a long history at the end of which goes something always had as one of those elements that the end of that story God himself coming back. Go back? Perhaps he was gone? Yes, it says in the Bible. Ezekiel says that when the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, actually just before it was destroyed, God on his throne, with the wheels rose, went and disappeared. And Ezekiel says he will return, but he never says he's back. And the prophet Malachi in the post exile had rebuilt the temple and offered sacrifices, but the priests were bored because it made no sense if God was not there with them, listening to their prayers. And Malachi warned: "The Lord whom they seek will suddenly come to his temple". This is the period after exile, a prophecy of God finally returning, but that has not happened yet. Zechariah says the same.


     The Gospels are written connected to those expectations on the God of Israel returning at last. But this point: how could you be when God again? You have this vision in Ezekiel wheel, would you? According to the end of Ezekiel, yes; but that is prophecy, symbols, images. According to Isaiah, he saw God surrounded by the seraphim in the temple, and describes the seraphim but not the Lord, except that his train filled the temple. So it would be with the Lord surrounded by seraphim? Or am I like the days of the Exodus, when God was with his people in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night? I remember the New Zealand archbishop who told me the story of the boy who asked in Sunday school what he knew about the wife of Lot, and said he was a pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire by night. That is to remember that part of the story.


     How it would be returned when the God of Israel? Some of the great prophecies of the return are Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3. What are the two passages he quotes Mark the beginning of his gospel? Isaiah 40 and Malachi 3: "the glory of God will reveal", "the voice crying in the wilderness, prepare, extend the red carpet, flatten the hills, go up the valley, He is coming back!" And the glory ... I sang Handel's Messiah was very young, and I must have a hundred times the choir sang "the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it" before starting to wonder what he meant. And the answer is that God speaks of returning to glory at last, as a sign that the exile is over.


     Isaiah 52: this is the euangelion, the gospel: "Your watchmen shall lift up the voice, shout for joy, because with their own eyes see Yahweh returning to Zion." And Marcos put a prophecy so when it is about to show Jesus coming to be baptized by his cousin. And also adds Malachi 3. The history of the four Gospels is the story of the God of Israel coming back.


     Think of John, John's prologue, the highlight of the preface: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us"; but the word "dwelt" does not get it. Greek is esk√©nosen means "pitched his tent among us", and the shop back to the tabernacle in the wilderness, "the Word" was God, "he came and dwelt" pitched his tent "among us and We beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. " And all the Gospel of John is a part after another of theology of the Temple: Temple speaks of his body, etc., and the heart of the believer flow rivers of living water: they are images of the temple which reach their climax in speeches farewell, when you expect Jesus into the temple and do something, and instead goes to the upper room and leads his disciples. This is the language of the Temple, is the glory of God that is revealed, ultimately in the cross itself.


   So the second speaker there to turn it down from his strident "yes, we know that Jesus is divine" to "what God we talking about? What does it really mean? How does God think about this back in this way? "


     Often, perhaps from the definition of Chalcedon in 451, we thought the incarnation as a kind of category mistake. And then we say, "We know it is impossible, God can not become human, but actually did, and that is the great miracle", etc. Beware of the word miracle. Within a deist culture, like yours and mine, "miracle" tells of a distant God who occasionally comes up and does things. That is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is always near, feeds the young ravens when they call, sympathizes with the pain of the world, breathes and celebrates the life of the world, and sometimes do things we do not expect. But if we say "miracle" implies that is normally absent, and it is not. That is a separate issue, but my point is that we need to get that first speaker to hear that this is the highlight of the history of Israel, and we have to lower the second speaker, not to deny it but to clarify it, so we can really hear what is being said.


     The third speaker is that the Gospels tell the story of Jesus as the beginning, the release known as Christianity or Church movement. Of course, do not use those words from the beginning (if ever), but again we have too high. We read the Gospels just as Jesus is telling us how to behave, Jesus telling us we need to know Jesus telling us how to go to heaven. In fact it is much more subtle than that. Jesus created around a community of people living through forgiveness because forgiveness is the name of the game. That the Jubilee is: "He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind." Forgiveness, new beginning, starting from scratch: this is the realization of Israel. And this community has to live for forgiveness because that opens the door for God's forgiveness in your heart is the door that opens to let the forgiveness of others. That is the most radical thing that Jesus might have said. All vaguely know that forgiveness is good; all found it incredibly difficult to do. As said, I think CS Lewis, we are all in favor of forgiveness until we have something to forgive, and then do not want.


     So when Jesus calls the twelve is the reconstitution of the people of God. From the eighth century B.C. there had been twelve tribes, most had been taken away and no one knew where they had gone. Now, Jesus says, "You twelve"; It is the beginning of something, it's reconstitution.