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Dec 16

Jesus: A Theography by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

Posted on Sunday, December 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

A Theography?

“First,” the authors wrote, “this isn’t a biography. It’s a theography. Even if you argue that a biography of Jesus is possible, which is hotly debated among scholars today, we are telling the story of God’s interactions, intersections, and interventions with humanity through the life of Jesus.”

Following the lead of N.T. Wright, Sweet and Viola declare that “if we don’t interpret the available evidence correctly, ‘we shall simply squash Jesus into the little boxes of our own imaginations rather than seeing him as he was.'”

The authors explain that the Scriptures, and in particular John’s gospel, portrays Jesus as meeting all human need:

• He is life. Life is the beginning of all human need.
• He is light. No life can live without the sun, the light of the world.
• He is air. “Spirit” means “breath” in Greek. We need air to live.
• He is food. Life doesn’t exist without food.
• He is drink. Life doesn’t exist without water.
• He is shelter. We need a place to abide in order to live.

As a lover of the natural sciences, I enjoyed their take on our “prime directive”:

“God did not put us here to consume but to conceive. The prime directive gives us an ethic of conception…“Conceiving” is not “co-creating,” but “sub-creating” …We are subcontractors who are privileged to participate in God’s creation project. God creates the “new.” Our prime directive is to sub-create the new out of the old…those things that are always present but undetected until now in the Master’s storehouse.”

The Apostle Paul refers to Jesus Christ as the Second Adam. I loved this insight that Sweet and Viola added:

“John tells us that the three enemies of the Christian are ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.’ Each of these temptations was in play in the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden:

• The fruit was “good for food” = the lust of the flesh.
• The fruit was “pleasant to the eyes” = the lust of the eyes.
• The fruit was “desirable to make one wise” = the pride of life.


I enjoyed the depth and their passion for a genuine and biblical view of Jesus Christ. It’s not the smoothest flowing text or a simple read; nor is is a dry, lifeless theological treatise devoid of humanity.

I enjoy allusions and symbols, but at times I felt Sweet and Viola leaned a little heavy on their types and symbols at times rather than explaining their point plainly.

As a footnote reader, I was thrilled; there are more than eight hundred footnotes to expand the dialogue.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com […] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 […] “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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