Jesus: A Theography, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (authors of I Am a Follower and Pagan Christianity, respectively), hits par for the course. Anyone who enjoys Sweet’s works will appreciate the flowing, poetic nature contained throughout the 300+ pages of this book. Likewise, Viola fans will readily identify his contributions as they tend to push against the present order of the institutional church. The premise of the book is that Jesus is present before time, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, in the New Testament, and is now waiting to return.
Unlike most studies of Jesus, this book does not begin with an angelic visit to the virgin maiden named Miriam (or Mary). Rather, it begins before the beginning. The authors nobly seek to locate Christ before the foundations of the earth, as it should be. They highlight no less than five glimpses of the pre-existent Christ in familiar Old Testament passages. They then seek to locate Christ in creation. Chapter 2 is a fun and helpful look at seeing Christ in the days of creation, but chapter 3 delves a little too deeply into some speculative, poetic hermeneutics. I didn’t see anything heretical, but I also didn’t find much that was helpful.
From there their study is fairly straightforward, occasionally offering a fresh insight into the cultural context of the life of of Jesus (for example, their discussion of lambs and shepherding in chapter 4), but more often than not simple re-telling the story in a new (fresh?) way.
The book does contain ample endnotes and scripture references, but they are all located at the back of the book, for ease of reading I presume. It would make interacting with book easier if they had used footnotes instead. The post-apostolic witnesses at the end of the book are edifying and useful and I am thankful they were included. In the end, I might recommend this book to anyone who is not capable of reading N.T. Wright, or someone similar, but with one caveat; don’t get carried away with the poetry and speculation without grounded it in the reality of scripture first.
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