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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

book response: Jesus- A Theography (2012)

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have collaborated on a new book to help clueless Christians like myself, that Jesus was not lying when he said all the scriptures testify about him, John 5:39. I'm very grateful for their efforts. As I've engaged with the violent and genocidal passages of the Old Testament, the authors refer to it as the First Testament, I've been helped by learning how the Ante-Nicene fathers saw them allegorically, and in this book, the benefit of reading this way still, in our (post-) modern age. The first chapter, looking at the representation of Jesus in Genesis 1 is a relief, disentangling that chapter from a battle over the age of the earth, revealing it's portrayal of Christ. One method of interpretation divides the church the other unites it. I don't think they are telling believers anything new. In fact, I think they are introducing to us clueless evangelicals and fundamentalists what the historic church has already discovered. Although Sweet is a Methodist and Viola is a house church guy, they draw on broad resources, including Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox as well as cutting edge evangelical research. It seems that what is old is new again.

Along with good exegesis, there are plenty of preacher slogans in there as well, such as
Jesus Christ is God’s language. When God wants to communicate, He does so through His Son. Kindle Loc. 766-67
These four aspects of the eternal purpose—a bride, a body, a family, and a house—are all highlighted in Paul’s letter called Ephesians. And they can be found from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. Kindle Loc.
605-7

There are so many great insights in this book. Here are two of my favorites, not including the entire exposition on Genesis 1.
I'm helped by this understanding of eternity.
It’s not that God shot the movie in His head before He put it on film. It’s that the movie exists inside of Him and He’s at the beginning, the middle, and the end all at the same time. In other words, the Lord is not playing it by ear. He is not improvising and making it up as He goes along. No matter how chaotic things may seem, God has already worked the chaos into His plan and has turned it into good. Kindle Loc. 649-52
I never saw this before.
...as God opened Adam’s side to bring forth Eve, the side of our Lord was opened on the cross. Out of it flowed water and blood—the outstanding marks of birth. The pierced side of Jesus is the womb from which the bride of Christ was born. Kindle Loc. 1129-31
I never understood the giant city picture in the Apocalypse.
The Holy of Holies was a perfectly cubed room. It grew in size from its dimensions in the tabernacle to its dimensions in the temple of Solomon. But it still retained its perfectly cubed shape. In the temple Ezekiel saw in his vision, the Holy of Holies grew even larger.184 In the book of Revelation, we are introduced to the New Jerusalem—a colossal-sized, perfect cube.185 In other words, the entire city is the Holy of Holies. God dwells there. Kindle Loc. 1200-1203

I have a few minor editing critiques. I think the editor should have caught his apocryphal etymology of "gospel." It comes from good news, not God's story. Also, the early Christians use of the fish as a symbol of Jesus had nothing to do with salt water, but that the initials of icthys, formed an acrostic, Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. See this Christian History article. Again, something an editor should have caught.

Despite these small flaws, this book is excellent and should be required readiny by, at least, every Christian struggling to appreciate the Old Testament.

I want to give BookSneeze a big thank you shout out for this complimentary review copy.
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