Book Review – “Jesus; A Theography” by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
I have been writing book reviews for nearly ten years now, first as an independent reviewer and more recently as part of Thomas Nelson’s “Booksneeze” program. I love to read, so doing such a thing as reviewing what I was reading seemed to me to be only natural.
My most recent read was “Jesus; A Theography” written by two of my all-time favorite authors, Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. While I may not necessarily agree with them on everything they’ve written or the positions they hold, I’ve always been grateful to them for challenging me to consider why I believe what I believe, and to have a willingness to re-evaluate those positions when necessary.
The book was one that I had been anticipating the release of for some time, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on. I have read many “biographies” written about Jesus, but this book promised to be different, not just another bio to read and shelve in my library… and different it was! If I could sum up this book in one word, it would have to be… “AMAZING.” Instead of simply conveying the events of Christ’s life in some chronologically styled fashion, the authors convey the life Christ through the story of God’s interactions with humanity through Christ, using the four gospels as their source material… what a novel concept!
While some may look at the book and shy away simply because of its size, this work is a sterling example of a situation where we should never “judge a book by its cover.” Yes the book is large, perhaps even massive… but its appearance is deceiving. I’m a bible preacher, and bible teacher, and I have made my way through countless scholarly works on the life and times of Jesus, many of which took me days, weeks, and months to digest, if ever, and many of them were as dry as sawdust. This book however was neither dry nor hard to digest, and it maintained the highest of academic standards… It’s a book that anyone can read, and more importantly anyone can understand!
If I have any complaints about the book it would probably be only one… the authors make much of the “symbolism” found in scripture, and sometimes I think that they take their explanations a little far, though not necessarily out of the realm of reality, but still just a little overboard for my perhaps idiosyncratic taste… case in point; On page 26 the authors state that “Jesus refers to Himself as a bird.” The reference they give for this is Luke 13:34, “…how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings…” I think the point here is Jesus gathering and protecting his followers, not Jesus likening Himself to a chicken! At times I found it somewhat difficult to read, but taking into account the amount of information being disseminated that was a minor issue that couldn’t be avoided in such a work, and when all is said it was a page turner from the first page to the last! I
The book is soundly rooted in Scripture as the authors examine Jesus’ life and while some might not agree with every conclusion they draw, the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is given its rightful place, making this book Christologically sound making it crystal clear to the reader that “Christianity is Christ,” which in many cases separates and distinguishes it from its contemporaries.
There are some many things that are praise worthy about this book I would probably write a book just listing them all, so I’ll save space by simply mentioning a couple. (1)I greatly appreciate the detailed research that went into this work, evidenced by the 108 pages of appendices and references. (2) I also applaud the fact that the authors did not limit themselves to their own faith traditions or era…even going so far as to include purposely include the thought of the post-apostolic witnesses (pg.311) The breadth and scope of this work is truly amazing, and I believe that this will soon become a classic among Jesus literature, and a must read in Jesus studies! Without hesitation I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their “booksneeze program.” I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions and views expressed here are my own.