The Day the Revolution Began

Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion

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N. T. Wright
  • New York, NY: 
    HarperOne
    , October
     2016.
     448 pages.
     $28.99.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9780062334381.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion, written by N. T. Wright, seeks to correct a common misunderstanding in Christianity today. According to Wright, most Christians believe in a traditional narrative that claims Jesus died on the cross so that people could be saved from sin and go to heaven. Although this traditional narrative is popular today in many churches, Wright claims that the Bible narrative actually focuses on how the world became a different place because of Jesus’s death on the cross. Wright contends that a revolution began on a Friday afternoon two thousand years ago when Jesus launched God’s kingdom on earth and defeated the powers of evil and death itself. 

Wright’s book is divided into four parts. In part 1, Wright explains why people struggled with Jesus’s death as something scandalous in the 1st century. Next, in part 2 the reader learns how the early Christians relied on Israel’s scriptures to understand the meaning of Jesus’s death. Wright argues that the early Christians were not only heavily influenced by the mindset of 1st-century resistance movements but also by the belief that Jesus’s death was part of a much larger biblical narrative. According to Wright, the early Christians understood that Jesus’s personal presence and powerful rescuing action of the cross put an end to the sin of idolatry and offered new life to the world. In part 3, Wright’s analysis of New Testament texts explains how the early Christians understood Jesus’s death on the cross as a new and special Passover that symbolized freedom from oppression, the moment in which the true vocation of humans as “image bearers” who reflect God’s glory in the world was reestablished, and the moment of triumph over death and the sin of idolatry. And finally, in part 4 Wright calls on his readers to rethink the nature and meaning of Jesus’s crucifixion. Wright asks his readers to reflect on the way Jesus’s death constitutes a new Passover, a victory over the sin of idolatry and the powers of evil, and a revolutionary event in which humans are equipped to bear and reflect God’s image and love throughout the world. 

This book will appeal to students, theologians, and lay readers for several reasons. First, readers are provided a thorough yet concise overview of early Christian theology and beliefs about the death of Jesus. Second, readers will find the organization of Wright’s book logical and easy to follow. Third, Wright’s book is comprehensive in content and yet a reasonable size. Fourth, Wright’s clear writing engages the reader by encouraging them to reflect on the importance of Jesus’s death in historical and literary contexts. And fifth, Wright’s book is written in language that the non-expert will not only understand but find exciting to read. 

This book could easily be incorporated into a college or seminary course that focuses on the New Testament or early Christian theology. Religious studies students will especially benefit from reading this book since Wright’s discussion about the nature and meaning of Jesus’s death is grounded in some of the most recent scholarly research. Indeed, one of the greatest strengths of this book is Wright’s analysis of New Testament texts. 

Overall, Wright has effectively examined the nature and meaning of the crucifixion of Jesus in his book. Each chapter encourages readers to reflect on the meaning of the cross in historical and biblical contexts.  And above all, Wright’s attention to evidence in its social and historical contexts will greatly aid students, theologians, and lay readers as they learn more about early Christian beliefs about the crucifixion of Jesus.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Steven Shisley is Adjunct Professor of Religion at California Lutheran University.

Date of Review: 
September 20, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

N. T. Wright, one of the world’s leading Bible scholars, is the chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews, an Anglican bishop, and bestselling author.

Keywords: 

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