“For me,” says N.T. Wright, “there has been no more stimulating exercise, for the mind, the heart, the imagination and the spirit, than trying to think Paul’s thoughts after him and constantly to be stirred up to fresh glimpses of God’s ways and purposes with the world and with us strange human creatures.” Wright’s accessible new volume, built on his Cambridge University Hulsean Lectures of 2004, takes a fresh look at Paul in light of recent understandings of his Jewish roots, his attitude toward the Roman Empire, and his unique reframing of Jewish symbols in relation to his experience of the risen Christ. Then Wright attempts a short systematic account of the main theological contours of Paul’s thought and its pertinence for the church today.
- Paul is a formidable character and NT Wright believes he is often misunderstood.
Honestly I am not sure how to review this book. First, it is not new. I originally picked up a copy at a used books store four years ago and never got around to reading it. christianaudio.com had a site wide sale and I picked up the audiobook.
I listened to this on and off over the past three weeks, so I did not give it the attention it really deserves. But this is really the last book that I have had on my NT Wright list before I start reading Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with NT Wright. I started it last year and felt I needed more background on NT Wright before I finished. Since then I have read 8 NT Wright books.
This was not Wright’s first book, but it is my understanding that this is where Wright started getting the attention of Reformed scholars. The primary issue with NT Wright is his understanding of justification, righteousness and the role and understanding of scripture.
On the whole, I agree with Wright far more than I do with reformed scholarship. In this book, Wright is trying to review the current scholarship on Paul and give his own perspective about why Paul has been misunderstood. And Wright is not suggesting small areas. Wright believes that the traditional understanding of Paul’s relationship to the Law, Judaism, and justification is wrong because we misunderstand Paul’s first century grid.
Wright is a very consistent thinker. So one area relates to his other areas. Here Wright believes that Paul’s understanding of Judaism and justification have been misunderstood because the readers have not understood Paul’s eschatology, which is dependent on Paul’s understanding of covenant and the exodus which is dependent on Paul’s understanding of election and the role of Israel in God’s salvation-history.
In the end, even though I am fairly familiar with Wright, I feel like I need to read this again. This book is a lightly edited version of series of lectures and I think it would have benefited from more editing. As another reviewer on Amazon said, ‘I enjoyed it as I was reading, but when I was done I was not completely sure of the point.” That is a bit too strong, I do get Wright’s larger point, but this was not one of Wright’s clearer books.
If you are interested in what all the big deal is about Wright, do not start here. I would start with his recent book Simply Jesus, or his book on heaven, Surprised by Hope or his book on scripture, Scripture and the Authority of God. All three are well worth reading and together they give a good overview of Wright’s theology.
Originally published on my blog at http://bookwi.se/paul-wright/
- A Lively Paul in a Living Church
Wright not only takes us inside current discussions of Paul, he also helps us hear Paul as a living follower of Jesus reading the scriptures as a complete narrative (not proof-texts), a narrative that defines his own identity and everyday mission. Paul emerges as a man of great intellect, faith, and vitality. A wonderful, challenging, and all-too-brief book!