Favorite N.T. Wright Quotes

I stumbled upon this list of Tom Wright quotes and a prayer recently from two years ago by Raffi Shahinian over at Parables of a Prodigal World.

“Heaven is important, but its not the end of the world.”

“The Biblical vision is not so much concerned with life after death but about life after life after death.”

“Wherever St. Paul went, there was a riot. Wherever I go, they serve tea.”

“The word ‘gospel,’ in Paul’s world, meant the accession of Caesar. And when Tiberius or Nero came to power, the imperial heralds did not go around saying, ‘There is this new experience you might like to try on for size, namely, you might like to give allegiance to Caesar if that suits you and if that’s where you are right now in your own personal journey.’ No, they said, ‘Tiberius is emperor! Get down on your knees!’”

“God is not very concerned with the method by which rulers come to power; He is passionately and compassionately concerned with what they do once they attain power.”

(In response to those who tell him, “I don’t believe in God”) “Really? Which god is it that you don’t believe in?”
“My proposal is not that we understand what the word ‘god’ means and manage somehow to fit Jesus into that. Instead, I suggest that we think historically about a young Jew, possessed of a desperately risky, indeed apparently crazy, vocation, riding into Jerusalem in tears, denouncing the Temple, and dying on a Roman cross–and that we take our courage in both hands and allow our meaning for the word ‘god’ to be recentered around that point.”

“Jesus did not ‘know he was God’ in the same way one knows one is male or female, hungry or thirsty, or that one ate an orange an hour ago. His ‘knowledge’ was of a more risky, but perhaps more significant, sort: like knowing one is loved. One cannot ‘prove’ it except by living it.”

(About being bald) “When you get to be my age, you only have so many hormones left, and if you want to use yours to grow hair on the top of your head, that’s fine.”

“Almighty Father, maker of Heaven and Earth, set up your Kingdom in our midst. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us sinners. Holy Spirit, Breath of the Living God, renew us and all the world.”

It might be fun to add to this list. My all-time favorite is:

If Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not.

Do you have favorite N.T. Wright lines? (I certainly have others, but I don’t have time to fish them out at the moment.)

14 Responses to “Favorite N.T. Wright Quotes”

  1. Mike Bird says:

    “A church without sermons will soon have a shrivelled mind, then a wayward heart, next an unquiet soul, and finally a misdirected strength” (Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship [London: SPCK, 1997], xi)

  2. elias tannous says:

    “Rest you well, beloved Jesus,
    Caesar’s Lord and Israel’s King,
    In the brooding of the Spirit,
    in the darkness of the spring”
    easter oratorio

  3. MJG says:


    Your quote reminds me of what Tom told the Catholic bishops in October 2008 about reading Scripture in various modes (academic, spiritual, etc.) as a fulfillment of the biblical injunction to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s called “The Fourfold Amor Dei and the Word of God” and is posted here.

    Nothing in the oral remarks will make it to Bartlett’s, but here are two good sentences:

    “Some insist on the heart to the exclusion of mind, soul and strength…. We need all four ‘loves’, in proper balance, as our hermeneutical principle.”

    “So, yes, we read the Canon as a whole; but the climax of the Canon is Jesus Christ, especially his cross and resurrection. These events are not only salvific. They provide a hermeneutical principle, related to the Jewish tradition of ‘critique from within’. The narrative of scripture enshrines the path of death and resurrection as the principle for its own understanding.”


    Thanks for reminding us about the good bishop’s musical contributions.

  4. Bill S. says:

    For some reason, I always get a chuckle out of this line in Wright’s “Jesus and the Identity of God” (http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_JIG.htm):

    “I do not think Jesus ‘knew he was God’ in the same sense that one knows one is tired or happy, male or female. He did not sit back and say to himself ‘Well I never! I’m the second person of the Trinity!’

  5. Evan says:

    I like very early in ‘Justification’ (can’t remember what page) when he says he always told his students that 20% of what I tell you is wrong, but I don’t know which 20% it is.

  6. Eric says:

    If God does not hate racial prejudice, he is neither good nor loving. … If God is not utterly determined to root out from his creation, in an act of proper wrath and judgment, the arrogance that allows people to exploit, bomb, bully, and enslave one another, he is neither loving, nor good, nor wise.

  7. Bill S. says:

    I forgot to mention this great quote from “The Last Word”. It’s a favorite of mine:

    “Authority of Scripture” Is a Shorthand for “God’s Authority Exercised through Scripture”

  8. MJG says:


    Thanks for your two offerings.


    At least Tom’s honest, as well as charming!


    Good quote. Do you know the source? Is it from “Simply Christian”?

  9. Mike C. says:

    Yes! I’ll never forget…a priest at my table commented on the bishop’s encouraging ecumenicity conveyed during the luncheon talk, and then asked would he encourage a similar embrace of interfaith work. I don’t know about the rest of the room, but I was caught off guard…

    Although the inquiry seemed common enough, I was not ready for Bishop Wright’s jolting clarification. Instead of some glib nod toward “doing more together,” he quickly said he was unsure what the man was looking for. In fact, he said, his experience with these “common good projects” had been that many who get involved don’t realize there are quite different agendas involved, and whosoever will had best recognize what all lies ahead. They had better know who they are and be pretty adjusted in it before getting into something like this flippantly. I am paraphrasing a bit, but I want to share clearly his abrupt point. His wise caution was to recognize that the kingdom of God may hold a clearly distinct agenda from that of the “common good crowd”.

    I wish I had it taped so I could accurately quote him for you…and I wish I could tell all he (and you, Dr. G!) has taught me by making me have to sort through this. I have a lot to learn!

    Thanks for sharing these. He is brilliant fun.
    Mike C.

  10. MJG says:

    Mike C.,

    Thanks for this. I’ll pull it out to highlight it:

    “The kingdom of God may hold a clearly distinct agenda from that of the ‘common good crowd.’”

    This was spoken at a luncheon for church leaders when Tom gave the 40th Anniversary Lectures for the Ecumenical Institute of Theology.

  11. Michael N. says:

    From an interview I did in 2004

    “Now what you therefore have is a Gospel not simply as a message about how your life can feel a little bit better or you might have a better feeling in your heart about God or something, but as a message which says:

    ‘The Jewish story, the great prophetic narratives, have reached their climax, and as a result something has been launched on the world which confronts human empire with the news that Jesus is Lord.’”

    That quote occurs within an answer he gives on the meaning of “the gospel”. The video can be found here (for now)

    http://www.cruciformmedia.com/test/projects/therisingson/MediaPlayer.html in the clip “The Gospel”

  12. MJG says:

    Thanks so much, Michael!

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