Film / Book Reviews

Devotional commentaries clearly written for everyone

Apr 2004    

Author: Tom Wright
Available at Bethesda Book Centres

TOM WRIGHT (full name: Nicholas Thomas Wright) is the Anglican Bishop of Durham and a wonderful evangelical theologian.

While an undergraduate, he determined to read through the New Testament four times a year in its original Greek, and the Old Testament twice a year in Hebrew. It is said that he can quote the entire book of Philippians in Greek. His memory of Greek texts aside, Tom is a scholar par excellence, particularly in the study of the apostle Paul.

He has taught at the universities of Montreal, Cambridge and Oxford, and was the former Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey. He has written more than 30 books about the origins of Christianity and its contemporary relevance.

So is he a stuffy old academic on top of an ivory tower? No!

While writing his magnum opus on the New Testament and Jesus (three volumes of which have now been produced), Wright has still managed to find time to write an amazing series of devotional commentaries on the New Testament for the lay person. The … for EVERYONE series is written to make the message of each book of the New Testament clear for everyone.

The blurb on the cover says it all: “Tom Wright has undertaken a tremendous task: to provide guides to all the books of the New Testament, and to furnish them with his own fresh translation of the entire text.

“Each short passage is followed by a highly readable discussion, with background information, useful explanation and suggestion, and thoughts as to how it can be relevant to our lives today. No knowledge of technical jargon is required.”

This series marries Wright’s immense scholarship with an approachable and very clear anecdotal style that is immediately accessible to even the newest Christian. These are first-class commentaries broken down into daily bite-sized readings that you can use for everyday Quiet Time.

Each commentary includes a glossary of terms highlighted in the main text. Verses under consideration are clearly marked at the top of every page.

Each passage is dealt with in three or four pages, easy reading in 15 minutes. Yet, in these small chunks of easy reading, Wright deals with heavy stuff ranging from authorship, textual criticism to doctrine. But he is so engaging it never strikes one as being high-brow stuff.

I have the following four books in Wright’s series, Mark for Everyone, Luke for Everyone, Paul for Everyone – The Prison Letters, and Paul for Everyone – Galatians and Thessalonians. I heartily recommend them to everyone.

If you want to move beyond sipping milk, just reading a verse or two a day along with a little story, then I invite to sink your teeth into the meat in Wright’s writings. Once you try it, you will be hooked.

And never fear, Wright is a firm evangelical. In his article on “The Shape of Justification” (a defence against another New Testament scholar, Australian Bishop Paul Barnett), he notes that many people have expressed gratitude to him “for showing them a way to retain and celebrate Christian orthodoxy with intellectual integrity”.

His books defend Christian orthodoxy vigorously while provoking one to think deeper about one’s understanding of the Bible. If you really want to blow your mind, you should read his book, The Challenge of Jesus …

But that’s another book review.

The Rev Chiang Ming Shun is Assistant Pastor at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.


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