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The New Testament and the People of God

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Part of a five-volume project on the theological questions surrounding the origins of Christianity, this book offers a reappraisal of literary, historical and theological readings of the New Testament, arguing for a form of "critical realism" that facilitates different readings of the text. Provides a historical, theological and literary study of first-century Judaism and C Part of a five-volume project on the theological questions surrounding the origins of Christianity, this book offers a reappraisal of literary, historical and theological readings of the New Testament, arguing for a form of "critical realism" that facilitates different readings of the text. Provides a historical, theological and literary study of first-century Judaism and Christianity, offering a preliminary discussion of the meaning of the word ‘god’ within those cultures.


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Part of a five-volume project on the theological questions surrounding the origins of Christianity, this book offers a reappraisal of literary, historical and theological readings of the New Testament, arguing for a form of "critical realism" that facilitates different readings of the text. Provides a historical, theological and literary study of first-century Judaism and C Part of a five-volume project on the theological questions surrounding the origins of Christianity, this book offers a reappraisal of literary, historical and theological readings of the New Testament, arguing for a form of "critical realism" that facilitates different readings of the text. Provides a historical, theological and literary study of first-century Judaism and Christianity, offering a preliminary discussion of the meaning of the word ‘god’ within those cultures.

30 review for The New Testament and the People of God

  1. 5 out of 5

    James

    As an atheist with an interest in the Bible and its history, I'm afraid to say that I've been put off reading N.T. Wright until now. While most of the best Biblical scholars I've read (Crossan, Borg, Dunn, Brown etc.) have all notionally retained their Christian faith to one degree or another in spite of their rigorous scholarship, I was well aware that Wright is often particularly forthright in his defence of certain Christian claims (the resurrection, virgin birth etc.) that other scholars hav As an atheist with an interest in the Bible and its history, I'm afraid to say that I've been put off reading N.T. Wright until now. While most of the best Biblical scholars I've read (Crossan, Borg, Dunn, Brown etc.) have all notionally retained their Christian faith to one degree or another in spite of their rigorous scholarship, I was well aware that Wright is often particularly forthright in his defence of certain Christian claims (the resurrection, virgin birth etc.) that other scholars have treated rather more circumspectly. While I'm scarcely afraid to challenge my beliefs by reading those who disagree with me, I was also a little hesitant to invest the time in reading the work of someone who would (presumably) prioritise the defence of their faith over and above more scholarly concerns. I'm interested in the history of Christianity, and wasn't prepared to submit myself to the work of someone with a different set of priorities. So, was I wrong? As you can probably tell by my 5 star rating, I'm happy to report that I was, at least to the extent this particular book is concerned. While Wright is often strident in the defence of his beliefs (an unapologetic apologist, as it were) this never overtly interferes with the quality of his scholarship. I can't say I always agreed with him, but his reasoning was always genuinely honest and cogent, which is the most you can ask for in an argument you happen to disagree with. I'll admit that it took me a while to shrug off my skepticism. In the early pages he asserts that a Christian may be best placed to assess the history of Christianity for the same reason a mathematician may be best placed to assess a mathematical proof, which stands as a bewildering argument but one I don't intend to dwell on here. Suffice to say, the quality of his argument improves as the text progresses, but the underlying message that there is more at stake for Wright here than a mere dispassionate analysis of the forces that led to the emergence of the Christian faith never strays far from the surface of the text. The first section (probably the weakest, but still eminently thought-provoking) is where Wright lays out his methodology for the rest of this series. In contrast to other authors who have engaged in a similar project (e.g. Dunn in his "Christianity in the Making" series) Wright only perfunctorily addresses the methodology of others, and rather seeks to forge his own methodology seemingly free from prior influence. His message here - and it is indeed a compelling one - is that we should treat the Jewish and Christian texts as a continuous narrative, and that we should let these "stories" speak on their own terms rather than in allowing ourselves to get bogged down in reductive obsessions concerning historical "facts". That is not to say that the historico-critical perspective has no place in Wright's scholarship - as the rest of the book will show, it clearly does - merely that not all aspects of religious tradition can be broken-down into brute "facts" for further empirical analysis. The texts were never composed with such concerns in mind. The second section concerns the progress of Jewish thought from the Torah up until the late second-Temple period of Jesus, and I can safely say that it is the best treatment of the subject I have ever read. Wright is able to draw in an incredible amount of detail and condense it into an essay that is extraordinarily lucid and readable given the often abstruse subject matter. Wright doesn't fall into the trap of simply scouring these inter-testamental Jewish writings for points of contact (or divergence) with the early Christian faith as so many others have done, but rather - again - is content to let these texts speak on their own terms. Despite the undeniable heterodoxy of the texts from this period, Wright is able to convincingly show that they are unified in their presentation of a continuous (theological) narrative from the time of the Patriarchs to what was for the authors the "present day". The book would be worth reading for this section alone, particularly for its treatment of the apocalyptic literature that had such an important influence on the first Christians. The final section deals with early Christian literature (most specifically the literature of the NT), though the treatment is obviously rather provisional in anticipation of the subsequent books in the series. As per the title of this volume, this section focusses more on the "People of God" behind the texts, rather than the texts themselves. Here, again, the thrust of Wright's thesis is that the authors of the NT were characteristically Jewish, and they saw themselves as existing at the end (perhaps conclusion?) of a much longer Jewish narrative. Wright here is able to convincingly show that even the more supposedly "gentile" works of the NT (e.g. the epistles of Paul and the Gospel of Luke) were informed by, and constructed upon, an appreciation of the Jewish conception of YHWH and his relationship to Israel. That is to say, it is impossible to understand the NT without a deeper understanding of earlier Jewish narrative theology. If it is possible to identify a weakness in this volume, it may be its unwillingness to intersect with - or even address - the views of other scholars on matters of great controversy. Indeed, Wright - from the beginning - makes it clear that this work represents his own views on the origins of Christianity, and to that extent is not interested in surveying the attitudes of wider scholarship. For this reason, the text may sometimes assert a confidence in its own conclusions that - in my view at least - is not warranted given the plurality of dissenting views. However, in some ways this is also the book's strength: to again compare with Dunn's project, which is frequently side-tracked with involved and arcane discussions of existing scholarly controversies that can detract from this wider thesis, Wright's project is eminently readable and his train of thought always easy to follow. If only all scholars could write with such clarity! So, to re-iterate, despite some early misgivings, I found this to be one of the best treatments of the background of the New Testament I've ever read. Whether you are a believer or a skeptic, I think you'll find plenty to chew on here.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    N.T. Wright has been somewhat of a hero of mine for a while now. I must admit that I do not agree with him on all points and he tends to be a bit repetitive; however, I could say this of many authors. Wright is one of my heros because he is cross-disciplinary. He is a historian, theologian, biblical exegete, pastor, and a good writer to boot. NTPG reflects this diversity of roles in the best way.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    A very clearly written, well-argued, but sometimes repetitive book. The first methodological section is embarrassing for anyone who has read literary criticism or philosophy of the last forty years--as ever, the other humanistic disciplines take a while to catch up (viz, classics). But Wright's approach is fair. You might even call it common-sensical, except that it's couched in such high-flown concepts: to understand what people meant by their texts, you should try to find out how they saw the A very clearly written, well-argued, but sometimes repetitive book. The first methodological section is embarrassing for anyone who has read literary criticism or philosophy of the last forty years--as ever, the other humanistic disciplines take a while to catch up (viz, classics). But Wright's approach is fair. You might even call it common-sensical, except that it's couched in such high-flown concepts: to understand what people meant by their texts, you should try to find out how they saw the world. Very good. Not sure why we need Greimas for that. His criticisms of other theologians or hermeneuts are good (basically, they all have an agenda, and so does Wright, but his is usually less obtrusive than theirs). His questions are good (e.g., what exactly did these people mean by 'God', anyway?). His answers are interesting ("works" are signs of Jewish identity, not good deeds; the 'kingdom of God' was always an allegorical claim about the end of the present world order, never a factual claim about the end of the world itself; Christians believed, from the start, that Jesus was the Messiah). I just hope the volumes on Jesus and Paul are less repetitive.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Corey Hampton

    Late last year I decided that I was going to read through N.T. Wright’s Christian Origins and the Question of God series, as I have benefited so greatly from his other works and found them so helpful theologically and ecclesiologically. But the reality that I have (surprisingly) run into, is that N.T. Wright is quite a controversial figure within evangelicalism, particularly within my circle of churches. In fact, I have now read this book twice; this, because, after my first reading, I realised t Late last year I decided that I was going to read through N.T. Wright’s Christian Origins and the Question of God series, as I have benefited so greatly from his other works and found them so helpful theologically and ecclesiologically. But the reality that I have (surprisingly) run into, is that N.T. Wright is quite a controversial figure within evangelicalism, particularly within my circle of churches. In fact, I have now read this book twice; this, because, after my first reading, I realised that I needed to go back and more fully understand the nuances of his arguments (as I was unaware at how much disagreement I would find on Wright’s scholarship). I have received (or read) numerous negative comment on his ‘New Perspective on Paul’ and his teaching on the historical Jesus (from both evangelical and liberal pastors/church leaders); but I have also found that most of those who think negatively of him have never seriously engaged with the work of Wright himself. And, for me personally, this is quite a grievous reality. I fear that this is reactionary to (their perception of) his threat to the status quo of evangelical scripture reading. In light of my study, I find Wright’s work to be extremely important for evangelical churches living within a post-christendom reality. Perhaps old (overly conservative) ways of reading scripture are no longer appropriate. And perhaps liberal critiques aren’t appropriate either. Both seem to read the scripture from within a worldview that needs fresh, first century critique; and I believe that Wright provides it in his scholarship. The New Testament and the People of God is the first volume of the series, which is followed by Jesus and the Victory of God, The Resurrection of the Son of God, and, to this point, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. In this volume, Wright attempts to give a coherent understanding of first century Judaism and Christianity through a study of their history, literature, and theology. Central to his methodology is his use (and further development) of Ben F. Meyer’s critical-realist hermeneutic. He begins by arguing for a critical-realist epistemology that moves beyond both positivist and phenomenalist theories of knowledge to, a way of describing the process of ‘knowing’ that acknowledges the reality of the thing known, as something other than the knower (hence ‘realism’),while also fully acknowledging that the only access we have to this reality lies along the spiralling path of appropriate dialogue or conversation between the knower and the thing known (hence critical’). This path leads to critical reflection on the products of our enquiry into “reality” so that our assertions about “reality” acknowledge their own provisionality. Knowledge, in other words, although in principle concerning realities in dependant of the knower, is never itself independent of the knower.’ After explicating this epistemology, he then relates it to literature (particularly, though not exclusively, in the N.T.), history (particularly in the first century), and theology (in light of N.T. literature and history). In these sections, Wright provides a methodology and hermeneutic that he will use in all works that follow; they are foundational. And, also central to his hermeneutic is his argument that texts (‘human writing’) are ‘the articulation of worldview’—or even, ‘the telling of stories which bring worldviews into articulation.’ In light of this hermeneutic, Wright says that ‘Part at least of the task of literary criticism is therefore, I suggest, to lay bare, and explicate, what the writer has achieved at this level of implied narrative, and ultimately implied worldview, and how.’ Therfore, when we read the New Testament, the deepest meaning will lie in the implied narrative—the story of Israel—and the worldview of the author—in Paul’s case, Judaism, Hellenistic culture, Roman impirial ideology, and, most importantly, his membership ‘in Christ’. All of these narratives, rushed together in the New Testament, then birth a new worldview; and ‘by reading it historically, I can detect that it was always intended as a subversive story, undermining a current worldview and attempting to replace it with another. By reading it with my own ears open, I realize that it may subvert my worldview too.’ Wright presents his methodology for explicating a worldview by looking at ones’ aims, intentions, beliefs, hope, stories, questions, symbols, and praxes. He then uses this methodology to work out a detailed assessment of second temple Judaism and first-century Christianity. His basic argument is that God had chosen Israel as his covenant people to undo the sin of Adam and to bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. If they obey the covenant, then they will be blessed; if they disobey, they will deal with the consequences (exile). The story is a continuous reminder of the frailty of Israel; it’s a story of continuous disobedience and pain. And, in the first-century, though Israel is in the promised Land, they are still in exile (under the rule of the Roman empire). Therefore, Israel (in all of its diversity) is waiting in expectation for God to renew his covenant; to bring judgment on the pagan empire, cleanse the land and Temple, and to vindicate his chosen people, through whom he would rule the nations. This is the reality that Jesus is lived, died, and was resurrection. He, Wright argues, was a prophet who represented Israel as her Messiah. He was God’s chosen King who would renew God’s covenant with his people. Yet, he does so in a deeply subversive way than expected: The exile came to its cataclysmic end when Jesus, Israel’s representative Messiah, died outside the walls of Jerusalem, bearing the curse, which consisted of exile at the hands of the pagans, to its utmost limit. The return from exile began when Jesus, again as the representative Messiah, emerged from the tomb three days later. As a result, the whole complex of Jewish expectations as to what would happen when the exile finished had come tumbling out in a rush. Israel’s god had poured out his own spirit on all flesh; his word was going out to the nations; he had called into being a new people composed of all races and classes, and both sexes, without distinction. These major features of Paul’s theology only make sense within a large-scale retelling of the essentially Jewish story, seen now from the point of view of one who believes that the climactic moment has already arrived, and that the time to implement that great achievement is already present. Paul fitted his own personal narrative world into this larger framework. His own vocation, to be the apostle to the Gentiles, makes sense within a narrative world according to which Israel’s hopes have already come true. Clearly, there remained a fulfilment yet to come. Paul, like Luke, believed both that the End had come and that the End was yet to come. 1 Corinthians 15 is the fullest version we have of his retelling of the still-future part of the Jewish story. It is a redrawn apocalypse, which again only makes sense in terms of the story of Israel, the story we studied in chapter 8, now seen in a new light. The same could be said of the ‘apocalyptic’ passage in Romans (8:18–27). The narrative needs an ending, and Paul hints at it in these and other passages: the creation as a whole will be set free from its bondage to decay. The exodus of Israel was a model for the death and resurrection of Jesus, and both of these events point forward to a greater exodus to come, when the whole cosmos will be liberated from its Egypt, its present state of futility. This book is so detailed and carefully argued that I couldn’t possible give an exhaustive review or summary of all of the details and nuances; but I can’t recommend this work enough. Let me give a few points on the most important points I am taking away after my second reading of the book (I definitely plan on reading it a few more times!): N.T. authority is something that I’ve been exploring for a bit, and I have found his five-act hermeneutic very helpful. It will take many conversations, and much thinking and praying to work out what this might mean for the local church; but I believe this is a model that will work well hermeneutically and in light of the continuing, creative work of the Spirit in the life of the church. Salvation theology needs a serious re-assessment in both liberalism and evangelicalism. We often think of it as the promise of eternal, disembodied heavenly bliss in heaven with God. But that’s not a Jewish hope or a Christian hope; and this is not what the New Testament understands eschatological salvation to be. The reality is much more glorious! We’ll work this out in more detail elsewhere. The (seemingly) old Reformed understanding that Judaism as ‘the wrong sort of religion’ (and that Jesus came to bring something completely new) is a bad understanding of covenant theology. Jesus, Wright argues, is the climax of God’s promise! God is faithful to his covenant with Israel through the faithfulness of Jesus; and through Jesus all people are invited to join God’s covenant people and their vocation to bring God’s healing presence into the world. The local church has, in light of the Enlightenment, separated ‘religion’ from everyday life of politics, economics, social-justice, etc. But Jesus held them all tightly together; in fact, his message brought judgment on Israel’s practical understanding on all of this. Therefore, we need to hear Jesus afresh, in his context, so that we can change in light of it. This book was truly a treasure to read. I plan on going back to it several times in my life. Now to move to Jesus and the Victory of God.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John

    Wright's first volume in his "Christian Origins" series is largely an apologetic work, whose thesis is well summarized toward the end of the book. He writes: "The New Testament writers claim that, though there is only one god, all human beings of themselves cherish wrong ideas about this one god. In worshipping the god thus wrongly conceived, they worship an idol. Pagans worship gods of wood and stone, distorting the creator by worshipping the creature. Jews, Paul argues in parallel with this, ha Wright's first volume in his "Christian Origins" series is largely an apologetic work, whose thesis is well summarized toward the end of the book. He writes: "The New Testament writers claim that, though there is only one god, all human beings of themselves cherish wrong ideas about this one god. In worshipping the god thus wrongly conceived, they worship an idol. Pagans worship gods of wood and stone, distorting the creator by worshipping the creature. Jews, Paul argues in parallel with this, have made an idol of their own national identity and security, and so have failed to see what the covenant faithfulness of their god, the god of Abraham, had always entailed.15 Christians, as the addressees of the New Testament writings, are clearly not exempt from the possibility of idolatry, of using the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ while in fact worshipping a different god.16 Our study of the history of Judaism and Christianity in the first century leads us inexorably to the conclusion that both cannot be right in their claims about the true god." While I think Wright's conclusions are correct, I really struggled to follow the logic of his argument since it is so deeply rooted in extra-biblical texts. I suppose this may be more significant to the liberal critics that Wright seems to deal with. But these arguments can be made more persuasively and powerfully from the Bible itself, without resorting to the Apocrypha and other ancient Jewish texts. Those that have read any of Wright's other long works will rightly expect the book is well padded with passive-voice ramblings which his editor didn't have the courage to slice and dice. I found some value in this, but surprisingly little, considering the book's reputation and length. I cannot recommend this one. I'm hoping for better in the second volume.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scriptor Ignotus

    When I picture Jesus of Nazareth, I’m inclined to imagine a man, slender at the waist but tall and broad-shouldered like a college football quarterback, with an immaculately-trimmed beard bristling the contours of a jawline that could shear sheet metal, eyes that slay leviathans and make babies laugh by changes of countenance, and shoulder-length, wavy tresses of such impeccable sheen and lift that women everywhere want to know: is he born with it, or is it Maybelline? This man strides over the When I picture Jesus of Nazareth, I’m inclined to imagine a man, slender at the waist but tall and broad-shouldered like a college football quarterback, with an immaculately-trimmed beard bristling the contours of a jawline that could shear sheet metal, eyes that slay leviathans and make babies laugh by changes of countenance, and shoulder-length, wavy tresses of such impeccable sheen and lift that women everywhere want to know: is he born with it, or is it Maybelline? This man strides over the hill country of Galilee, disciples bumbling in tow, alighting in this village and that one, rousing the villagers from their epistemological slumber, healing lepers, casting out demons, speaking kind words, and all the while being pestered by the first-century Judean iteration of the fun police; the Pharisees. Who are they, and why are they being so mean to a guy who’s just trying to help people? But this question begs another: who is Jesus, and what is his significance? And this question, in turn, begs a truly bewildering array of others. Our understanding of Jesus and the founding of Christianity is hopelessly devoid of context; and context, perhaps more so in the Christian religion than in all others, forms an indispensable part of the total worldview. Christianity, after all, is based on the proposition that the God who created the universe and sustains it in being showed up on Earth at a particular historical moment, with the body of a Jewish day laborer from a backwater town on the fringes of both the Roman Empire itself and the domain of its Jewish client-king. The meaning of Christianity, then, if such a thing can ever be grasped, must be found within a nesting doll of overlaying theological, historical, and biographical narratives. The life of Jesus is narrated by the evangelists, who construe it as a climactic recapitulation of the story of YHWH and the people of Israel. This story contrasts with those of other Jewish sects, like the Pharisees, Essenes, and Sadducees, each of whom longed for the liberation of the holy land from the pagans, restoration of the Solomonic temple, and the reinstitution of the true worship of the true God, but who differed on the means and circumstances of this liberation and the role of human agency in fulfilling God’s promise to the progeny of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These narratives of the Jewish resistance contrasted with those of the collaborators: Herod rebuilt the temple in the hopes that he would be regarded as a messianic figure, while simultaneously benefitting from the sponsorship of the pagan emperor. Josephus told a story according to which the God of Israel had defected to the Romans because of her malfeasances, the speculative world-ruler who would come from Judea turned out to be the emperor Vespasian, who was proclaimed as such by his troops while campaigning in Judea, and the God of Abraham had thrown in his lot with the imperial pretensions of the Roman Empire. Christianity took shape within this tangled web of stories. The Christian story, articulated in some measure as an oppositional polemic to the others, is, more than any abstract theological axioms could hope to be, what Christianity is about. First-century Judea was positively on fire with revolutionary fervor and apocalyptic expectation. According to Jewish belief, God had created a fundamentally good world, created mankind to be its stewards, watched mankind become corrupted, and chose the people of Israel to be the means by which He would rectify the human condition. He promised His people a land of their own, a land flowing with milk and honey, His own dwelling place at Mount Zion, from which He would enlighten the world and finally be recognized as the one true God. This dream was subjected to continual setbacks; the promise of the Davidic kingdom was quashed by captivity in Babylon; the return from exile was dampened by subjection first to the Seleucids and then to the Hasmonean dynasty, which claimed to be their liberator but smacked of Hellenic decadence. The Hasmoneans were succeeded by the Herodians, clients of yet another pagan superpower, and zealous Jews were left groaning in anticipation of the moment at which their God would finally act to cleanse His land of the pagan, restore His law, and take His place as ruler of the world. Many were the revolutionaries who took up arms to bring about salvation. All of them failed. The Jewish war of 66-70 ended with the destruction of the temple. Simon Bar-Kokhba, the final would-be Messiah, led a revolt that ended in 135 with his own death, the destruction of his prospective Messianic kingdom, and the near-annihilation of the Jewish people. There would be no more whisperings of a Jewish state until 1947. Without the temple, keeping Torah became the marker of Jewish identity. The aspirations of Zionism were pushed out of immediate consideration; consigned to a distant and unforeseeable future. The Christian writers put an astonishing twist on this story. With a zeal that must have seemed ludicrous, they proclaimed that God had in fact fulfilled His promise. He had defeated paganism; He had become King; He had restored His promised land to His people; He had inaugurated a new age; and He had reconstituted His people. He had done all of these things in a way that was at first surprising, but upon reflection could be discerned as the necessary and inevitable consummation of the long, fissiparous relationship between God and man. In and through Jesus, God had defeated the powers of death and enthroned himself over the world. He had established a new covenant, based on a new identity; no longer one enforced by ethnic kinship, but by the faith of all seekers of the one true God. He had rounded the final corner of his world-historical mission, whereby the creation of humanity—the true humanity—would finally be accomplished. How he did this, precisely, is the subject matter of the next book. I’m game.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    N.T. Wright's "The New Testament and the People of God" is very likely to irritate anyone who has ever taken an introductory course at university on the history of the Roman Empire. Wright insists that the first leaders of the Christian Church were not only Jewish but held a Jewish worldview and wrote using styles that were typically Jewish. I had trouble seeing what Wright thought was so new in this as it had all been explained to me 47 years ago when I was in my first year at university. In fa N.T. Wright's "The New Testament and the People of God" is very likely to irritate anyone who has ever taken an introductory course at university on the history of the Roman Empire. Wright insists that the first leaders of the Christian Church were not only Jewish but held a Jewish worldview and wrote using styles that were typically Jewish. I had trouble seeing what Wright thought was so new in this as it had all been explained to me 47 years ago when I was in my first year at university. In fact it was this Jewish quality to early Christianity which had given rise to individuals from the first generation of Gentile converts to write Christian apologetics to defend Christianity to a pagan audience educated in Greek philosophy (notably Plato). I gather that Wright's intention was to refute a group of theologians active in the first seventy-five years of the 20th century who had argued that the Christian had been very Hellenist from the beginning. While such a group of theologians may have existed, I still found extremely irritating Wright's hammering away at what I had thought was a very obvious point. I was also quite annoyed with Wright for insisting that he was analyzing Christ as an "historian" when he was nothing of the sort. He was rather making the mistake common to theologians when one they either (a) analyze Christ as a human rather a member of the Holy Trinity, or (b) in their consult the work of historians of the era (such as Tacitus or, in the case of Wrigh, Josephus.) True historians shy away from Christ not out of respect for his divine status but because the required primary documents needed to perform an historical analysis are missing. I must concede that for the reader with patience, Wright does do a masterful job of presenting the Jewish world that Christ and his apostles came from. He describes the range of theological ideas held by Jews during the era. He stresses that Messianism was prevalent and that the concept that there would be a bodily resurrection for the faithful was very common. Wright also points out that the New Testament authors used stories of a typically Jewish style and that apocalyptic writing was also a distinctly Jewish genre. The big problem is Wright's assertion that he has discovered something new which he has not. I also think Wright treads into some very dangerous territory when he proposes that the traditional doctrine that Christ's mission in life was to die on the cross to redeem humanity is incorrect. Wright argues that because Christ held a Jewish worldview, he perceived that his mission was to inaugurate the Kingdom God. His death and resurrection were the means by which Christ accomplished this rather than his objective. To accept this argument one has to first believe that Wright correctly reconstituted the Jewish worldview during Christ's lifetime. The second problem is that worldviews belong to those who are human in nature. Christ being divine nature would not necessarily have had a worldview. To further compound matters, there is a serious lack of data to support the contention that during Christ's lifetime Messianism dominated Jewish thinking. He writes: "Most of the Jewish literature we possess from the period has no reference to a Messiah. .... however the idea of a Messiah was at latent in several varieties of Judaism." (pp. 363-365). In other words, the evidence was missing but it should have been there. Indeed throughout the book, Wright draws conclusions on the bases of suppostions and conjecture. Wright makes many interesting points but overall I found both his logic and his research to have been shoddy. His book however is informative in those places where he is not piling hypothesis upn hypothesis.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hunter Smithpeters

    Best book I've read. Punt everything you've ever read in any systematic theology book (jk don't that's silly). By rebuilding the worldview of second-temple Judaism and then studying how the Early-Christian worldview developed from the former worldview, we're able to see with 1st century eyes (instead of 16th or 21st century eyes) what the evangelists and Paul were in fact faced with and writing about. Must read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Drake

    There are definitely a good number of areas in this book in which I disagree with Wright (some minor, some major). But it's mostly a brilliant display of epistemology, history, literary study, and theology. Well-written and thought-provoking from start to finish.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Parkison

    I really enjoyed reading through Wright. I had read a portion of this work for Advanced Biblical Hermeneutics, and it certainly made sense for the class at the time, but we really did miss all the juicy parts then, so I'm glad I got to pick it back up. There's much to commend about Wright's project as a whole in this work, and much to glean from. The mood he strikes when describing his proposal for critical realism is, I think, exactly right. On the one hand, he wants to avoid reductionistic ske I really enjoyed reading through Wright. I had read a portion of this work for Advanced Biblical Hermeneutics, and it certainly made sense for the class at the time, but we really did miss all the juicy parts then, so I'm glad I got to pick it back up. There's much to commend about Wright's project as a whole in this work, and much to glean from. The mood he strikes when describing his proposal for critical realism is, I think, exactly right. On the one hand, he wants to avoid reductionistic skepticism--we really can know stuff. But on the other hand, we don't have to argue for the objectivity of truly discovering meaning and worldview by having a rigid view of reading that privileges personal interpretation as if it were divine revelation. What he advocates for is a kind of reading that recognizes the ability to get at what's there, but is also humble enough to be able to be corrected. All good stuff. I also really appreciated the next two major sections of the book, where he proposed the worldview of second temple Judaism and the way that Christianity reappropriated almost every aspect of the Jewish worldview (all the stories, symbols, and praxis) with Christ at the center. With all that said, the one thing that I couldn't quite understand is, why does Wright not see the 2nd temple view of justification not being fundamentally corrected by Jesus and his apostles? He says on pg. 273: "This needs to be emphasized in the strongest possible terms: the most natural meaning of the phrase 'the forgiveness of sins' to a first-century Jew is not in the first instance the remission of individual sins, but the putting away of the whole nation's sins." Ok. Fair enough. But is it so crazy to argue that this too was a Jewish supposition about "forgiveness" and "justification" that Jesus and Paul and the other apostles needed to correct? Even though this book is not Wright's most thorough treatment of justification, he seems leave the reader with the assumption that, of all the parts of the Jewish worldview that needed to be corrected, this understanding of justification is a-ok. Wright seems to be hedging himself against the onslaught of criticism from lovers of penal substitution when he makes the distinction between "present justification" and "future justification." But this doesn't help much. "Present justification" is pretty much reduced to "presently banking on future justification." Which, it seems to me, is all symptomatic of how Wright answers the questions of "what's wrong?" and "what is the resolution?" on pages 369-370. "Sin" is pretty much stripped of its legal dimensions, and is reduced to a residual component part of the "pagan powers." Which means, the solution to the problem is pretty much reduced to the overthrowing of those powers. I may be "triggered" already because of my previous exposure to Wright, but I must say, the comparatively short treatment of Hebrews in chapter 13 (he basically says, "the author of Hebrews is pretty much telling the same stories as Paul but with more emphasis on the practices of the Temple cult" to which I say, "Yes, and what do those practices signify if not penal substitution?!?!?!"), and his restriction of dealing only with John's prologue in the same section (which, granted, was brilliant) struck me as conspicuous on the issue of justification. All that to say, my question is, why does Wright not assume that, since Christians were correcting the 2nd temple Jewish worldview in every other way, they weren't correcting the (alleged) non-judicial, non-personal view of justification? I admire Wright's desire to recapture the genius of the early Christians in retelling the Israel-story with Jesus at the center, but I don't think removing or redefining penal substitution as it has been understood (and as it seems to be argued for by the NT writers themselves) is a necessary step to that end. For that matter, it seems like the NT writers are correcting 2nd temple Jews, not only in the sense that their own stories are being retold in Jesus, but also in the sense that their view of the OT was itself wrong. If that's the case, defining Christian doctrine (including justification) would seem to require not just the NT writer's contrast with 2nd Temple Jews, but also their understanding of the OT.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    NTPG attempts a constructive methodology for reading Scripture and doing theology in a post-postmodern age. This book sets the stage for the next two, draws heavily from it, and determines later exegesis. If this book is mastered, much of Wright's later writings is fairly simple. Overview: Wright criticizes the Enlightenment's approach to knowledge. He says, in line with Postmodern philosophy, that a tabula rasa is impossible. We do not simply "see" other facts, but recieve those facts pre-interp NTPG attempts a constructive methodology for reading Scripture and doing theology in a post-postmodern age. This book sets the stage for the next two, draws heavily from it, and determines later exegesis. If this book is mastered, much of Wright's later writings is fairly simple. Overview: Wright criticizes the Enlightenment's approach to knowledge. He says, in line with Postmodern philosophy, that a tabula rasa is impossible. We do not simply "see" other facts, but recieve those facts pre-interpreted and subconsciously offer our own interpretation. More controversially, Wright argues we must read Scripture in light of the issues of 2nd Temple Judaism (2TJ). This leads to the content of Wright's method: Wright argues that the 2TJ period was a story in search of a conclusion. They had returned from exile, but the promises of the post-exilic prophets had gone unfulfilled. Subtly, many of the Jewish themes of covenant and election were redefined. If Israel was the people of God, and if their God was the creator of the world, he would have to act and vindicate his people. The doctrine of election is reworked around the covenant. If we are the people of God, then we are in covenant with God. God in some way will have to fulfill his covenant. Fulfilling the covenant meant defeating Israel's enemies (e.g., Rome) and God becoming King of the world. When the covenant is renewed, Israel would see God as king of the world. Wright maintains this is how 2TJ read Scripture, and I think he is largely correct. The above theology will be reworked around Christ and his ministry. Wright's theology is remarkably consistent, even when he might overstate his case.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mark Sequeira

    Wow! So N.T. Wright rocks my world yet again! Okay, yes, it may be more of the same considering I've already read "Jesus and the Victory of God" (which technically comes after this one I believe) and if I had to, II'd say that one is better but once reading N.T. wright, I want to read more. Big books, slow reading, but boy has it been worth it. Got to be some of the most important reading I have done and I have done a lot of reading from Calvin's Institutes to John Owen to Stanley Grenz to Wesle Wow! So N.T. Wright rocks my world yet again! Okay, yes, it may be more of the same considering I've already read "Jesus and the Victory of God" (which technically comes after this one I believe) and if I had to, II'd say that one is better but once reading N.T. wright, I want to read more. Big books, slow reading, but boy has it been worth it. Got to be some of the most important reading I have done and I have done a lot of reading from Calvin's Institutes to John Owen to Stanley Grenz to Wesley to Arthur Pink to Eugene Peterson's Spiritual Theology series to...Esp. good on the background to the N.T. and the worldview back then, thought patterns, etc. Kirk Winslow maybe said it best below, "if you have an interest in the subject, it's first-rate all the way. If historical background to the NT doesn't float your boat, go straight to vol. 2, "Jesus and the Victory of God." That one will change your life - really."

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    A brilliant introduction to reading Christian scriptures including many of the common distortions. Wright is often considered on the conservative end of things by liberals, but relatively liberal by conservatives and fundamentalists. What we see hear is brilliant scholarships. The method of this book will be useful for anyone reading scriptural texts in other traditions. Part of a series of three, highly recommended.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jon Beadle

    If the breadth of scholarship was an ocean, Wright would be walking on the water! This book took me nearly a month to finish and I don't think my perspective of the early church in the world of second-temple Judaism will ever be the same.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Josh Cheng

    This book is great. Granted this is my first foray into historical/literary study of first century Judaism/Christianity, I learned a ton from this book and enjoyed it a lot as well. I found Wright's critical realist approach to be really helpful in combating the extremes of either feeling like knowing anything about history is impossible, or that we can through enough study come to some absolute objective account of what happened. I also found his emphasis on narrative interesting; not just narra This book is great. Granted this is my first foray into historical/literary study of first century Judaism/Christianity, I learned a ton from this book and enjoyed it a lot as well. I found Wright's critical realist approach to be really helpful in combating the extremes of either feeling like knowing anything about history is impossible, or that we can through enough study come to some absolute objective account of what happened. I also found his emphasis on narrative interesting; not just narrative as the genre of much of the relevant writing (like the gospels), but narrative as a foundational element of worldview. For me I had always envisioned worldviews as being constituted by a web of logical propositions and their relations. But Wright says that more foundational to that is the story we tell ourselves about what the world is like, who we are, and where we are going, which then gets expressed as clean propositions when drawn out by philosophical or theological discussion. I find this very compelling, since it defines a worldview in terms of what everyone can understand (a story) instead of a more abstract philosophical object. This idea has a few implications that are made use of in the book. The first is that although our sources do not systematically lay out proposition by proposition the beliefs of the authors, the core of their belief can still be seen indirectly through the story they express and live by. The second is that seeing worldviews fundamentally as stories helps explain why some beliefs are "core" and which are not. Certainly we all change our beliefs on small and sometimes larger things from time to time, and we can do so without feeling like we've lost our footing in the world. But the times we feel most lost are when we start to question if our worldview story is true- when that story has been subverted by some new information, experience, or another story. When dealing with ultimate theological questions and many sects with different worldviews like in the first century, we see this idea of subversion used as a powerful tool to argue for one story or another (including in the New Testament). As for the historical conclusions that Wright comes to in this book, I don't think I really have any tools to evaluate them currently since I don't have the background. I suppose I will need to read more. I appreciate when Wright mentions which of his conclusions are controversial and which are more in line with other scholars, and I think he does a good job of trying to enumerate the major camps of views before responding to them. Overall I really enjoyed this book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ben Smitthimedhin

    Wright does an excellent job at weaving Judaism and Christianity together while still distinguishing their core beliefs and practices from one another. In The New Testament and the People of God , Wright establishes the message of the New Testament within its first century context, showing how Jesus and Paul cannot be understood apart from their Jewish themes. I personally found the first couple chapters (on epistemology and literary criticism) to be unnecessary. While I understand that Wright w Wright does an excellent job at weaving Judaism and Christianity together while still distinguishing their core beliefs and practices from one another. In The New Testament and the People of God , Wright establishes the message of the New Testament within its first century context, showing how Jesus and Paul cannot be understood apart from their Jewish themes. I personally found the first couple chapters (on epistemology and literary criticism) to be unnecessary. While I understand that Wright wishes to convince postmodern audiences of their flawed theory of knowledge, I think he should just stick with the history and theology of the New Testament, which are broad enough on their own. Although the book is pretty thorough, it is not a good introduction to those who are unfamiliar with Second Temple Judaism. For those who have been introduced to Wright before though, this book is a treat.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Frank Peters

    This is an impressive book. The research and study that went into it is rather astounding. The book itself reads as a nearly 500 page introduction to further work. It introduces the background of the New Testament and develops and intellectual rationale for the study of New Testament people and ideas. Much of what the book discusses and works through are concepts that I had not quite imagined needed discussing in the first place. However, after reading I can fully respect what Prof. Wright was s This is an impressive book. The research and study that went into it is rather astounding. The book itself reads as a nearly 500 page introduction to further work. It introduces the background of the New Testament and develops and intellectual rationale for the study of New Testament people and ideas. Much of what the book discusses and works through are concepts that I had not quite imagined needed discussing in the first place. However, after reading I can fully respect what Prof. Wright was seeking to accomplish. Rather than writing to Christians who already believe the bible is inspired by God, Wright starts at a basic secular perspective. Thus, the hundreds of pages were requited to catch up to a viewpoint similar enough to what would be taken for granted by a typical evangelical. So, while I am happy to have read the book, there are very few I could recommend the book to.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zach Adams

    It took a long time for me to build up the courage to read this book. But after finally finishing it, i look back on it and say, “that wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.” Wright is not only brilliant in his content, but also surprisingly fluid and conversational in his academic writing. So for you out there who enjoy Wright (and also have at least some biblical studies training—which is needed to fully appreciate the work), but haven’t read this volume, go for it! Just chip away at It took a long time for me to build up the courage to read this book. But after finally finishing it, i look back on it and say, “that wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be.” Wright is not only brilliant in his content, but also surprisingly fluid and conversational in his academic writing. So for you out there who enjoy Wright (and also have at least some biblical studies training—which is needed to fully appreciate the work), but haven’t read this volume, go for it! Just chip away at it!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Hawk

    Much of this book is clearly about introductions: historiography, methodology, and the place of the historian among all of these. Throughout most of this, Wright places himself in relation to his predecessors and others in his field, establishing how his work moves forward in new directions. Of course, he also acknowledges his debt to many of his influences, and those from whose work he has gained much of the background to his own project. In all, the book establishes the foundations of the rest Much of this book is clearly about introductions: historiography, methodology, and the place of the historian among all of these. Throughout most of this, Wright places himself in relation to his predecessors and others in his field, establishing how his work moves forward in new directions. Of course, he also acknowledges his debt to many of his influences, and those from whose work he has gained much of the background to his own project. In all, the book establishes the foundations of the rest of the series, paying particular attention to both the contexts of biblical history and the contexts of his own project. Beyond these introductions, however, Wright does explicate his underlying arguments. His main approach is “to rethink a basic worldview” of early Christianity (24), and, essentially, “to articulate new categories” of Christian thought (25). Wright seeks to do this by way of literature, history, and theology—all three examined in order to establish the basic worldviews surrounding the New Testament (both Jewish and Christian). Fundamentally, Wright advocates a methodology of “critical realism” that straddles the opposing views of positivism and subjectivity; such a methodology, he proposes, leads to the examination of worldviews as “the grid[s] through which humans, both individually and in social groupings, perceive all of reality” (32). Even more basic to his methodology, however, is to establish the fundamental “Story” that each worldview and group embraces. In other words, for Wright, “the deepest level of meaning consists in the stories, and ultimately the worldviews, which the texts thus articulate” (66). For second-Temple Judaism, the story is one of exile and exodus “reaching its climax”; and, for Christianity, “it is the same story” (150). For Wright, therefore, the project of “Christian Origins and the Question of God” must be set in direct relation to the basic cultural contexts of first-century Judaism. This is the story out of which Christianity grows. Furthermore, this is the context in which both Jesus and Paul—the two major figures of his project—must be understood. Both were part of the second-Temple Jewish culture, and both worked from a worldview of the story of their god’s interaction with Israel in a series of exile and exodus events moving toward the ultimate exodus. A notable aspect of the book is Wright’s ability to navigate between the big picture and necessary details. He continually moves between scholarship and his own claims, overviews of the history and case studies that prove his points. While he often claims that many of these issues need further critical attention, he does well to present the material in a coherent manner. No doubt many of the individual issues and details will be dealt with later (Wright himself promises to return to several points in his later volumes), but they work well together without the risk of loose ends ready to fray and unwind his arguments. Although the work is not perfect—sometimes Wright’s quirky illustrations or self-deprecation (Does he really believe that he is not capable of offering authoritative claims based on his examinations, even though he goes on to do so anyway?) can distract from his study—it does offer a fresh and persuasive way of doing history. Even more, this study presents a holistic and contextual framework for understanding the New Testament and early Christianity within its original milieu, rather than from modern assumptions and misconceptions. This book is an important work, and proves to be influential to future studies—indeed, it seems to have already made such an impact, according to reviews and citations by other scholars—including the subsequent volumes that extend Wright’s project from introductions to more extensive examinations.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Keith Karr

    N.T. Wright's opening volume in the Christian Origins and the Question of God is not only a strong introduction to the subsequent volumes, but one of the best general New Testament Introductions available. What distinguishes Wright's work from others is the comprehensive scope as well as how well it is written. Wright demonstrates both a mastery of the material as well as an ability to communicate the material clearly and compellingly. After an overall introduction to both this volume and the se N.T. Wright's opening volume in the Christian Origins and the Question of God is not only a strong introduction to the subsequent volumes, but one of the best general New Testament Introductions available. What distinguishes Wright's work from others is the comprehensive scope as well as how well it is written. Wright demonstrates both a mastery of the material as well as an ability to communicate the material clearly and compellingly. After an overall introduction to both this volume and the series overall, Wright launches into introducing his method, and the major characters that would appear throughout the series, Second Temple Jews and Early Christians. The second section of the book, defending and demonstrating Wright's historical method, critical realism is the key to the volume. This section lays the foundation upon which the rest of the book, as well as the rest of the series, would be built. After criticizing other options, Wright sets the three criteria by which a successful historical criticism should met, comprehensiveness, simplicity and coherence with other research. This is the test that Wright holds others to, and by which Wright himself must be judged. If Wright can meet these three criteria, his project will be successful. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." While the discussion of critical realism is on the surface convincing, it sets an impossibly high bar for a successful reconstruction. To truly build a comprehensive reconstruction requires criticism and community. The goal is not to offer the absolute, final word on a given subject, but to serve as a single step on the continual refinement and closer approach to a better understanding of the past. While Wright applies this model directly to history, its application is far broader to nearly any field. Secondly, Wright sets stories and narrative at the center of his analysis. For Wright, underlying every worldview are explicit, or more commonly, implicit stories that we tell to ourselves and others. The presentation of critical realism is far easier to understand and accept, even if it is a high standard to meet. However, Wright's narrative-focused worldview presentation is far more difficult, not because the concept itself is hard, but because the detection of frequently tacitly accepted and understood narratives are so hard for those separated by both time and culture. Both discussions of critical realism and narrative-focused worldview examination represent a balanced and healthy utilization of the best insights of post-modernism. Both discussions are marked for their clarity and their memorable examples. Both will be put to the test in the proceeding discussions of Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity. The larger of the two examinations is devoted to Second Temple Judaism. While other introductions delve far deeper into the details Wright covers broadly, the examination is directed to the larger questions and concerns he is seeking to answer in the series. While this does not stand on its own as a comprehensive examination Second Temple Judaism, it does offer a good, albeit brief, introduction of the issues as well as the insights of more recent scholarship. He examines a broad selection of the relevant written material, from the Hebrew Bible, Deuterocanonical writings, material from Qumran, Josephus and later Rabbinic material. Wright is careful to located each reference not only within its historical and ideological context where possible, but also as a point within the development of ideas and concepts spanning from the Hebrew Bible to Rabbinic literature. Wright's understanding is clearly within the trajectory identified as "New Perspective." This discussion assumes, rather than defends the "New Perspective." Other works by Wright and others defend this perspective as a better method for historically understanding the Judaism encountered by Jesus, Paul and the early Christians. The New Perspective broadly, and the specific variations of Wright, Dunn, Hays and others is validated by its ability to make sense not only of the New Testament, but of the myriad other surviving evidence, written or not, that we posses of Judaism. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." Where Wright's current discussion excels in offering a balanced between what nearly every Jew would have accepted and the variations that would have distinguished the major groups from each other. Wright also offers a grounded, historical explanation for varieties, such as between Pharisees and Sadducees, rather than the more common abstract discussion of topics such as resurrection. The weakness of Wright's method is, that by reading so much between the lines and seeking to understand what lies underneath the text and the data, that much of his unique insights and contributions cannot rise above the level of conjecture. Absent of new data however, this weakness is in reality a strength. Rather than repackaging the same data points over and over again, Wright seeks to put into practice his critical realistic perspective using the narrative-centric tools he outlined in his second section. Whether there really was a pervasive sense within Judaism contemporary with Jesus and Paul of a continued exile is immaterial in itself; its virtue lies not on explaining scattered references that may suggest such a view, but also in explaining the actions that have been recorded in history. The connection between the Pharisees and the radical elements throughout the period that would culminate in the Jewish War and the Bar Kochba revolt is where Wright's reading between the lines proves most insightful. Wright is able to offer a comprehensive reconstruction that includes the written material and the historical data that meets the criteria of comprehensiveness, simplicity and offers insight for further research. The previous discussion of Second Temple Judaism is foundational for the discussion of Early Christianity in the fourth section. Wright is clear in demonstrating that Christianity not only rose historically but also ideologically from Judaism. While many of the central beliefs of Early Christians were distinct, they were rooted in core beliefs held in common with Second Temple Jews. For the Early Christians, what was distinct about their beliefs was the idea that the promises God had made to humanity and to Israel were fulfilled in Jesus. All of the core Jewish beliefs were modified by this conviction- modified, not eradicated. Wright convincingly demonstrates that the continuity between Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity is essential not only in historical sequence, but also in underlying worldview. Within the overall portrait presented of a Judaism which allowed a great deal of diversity within the core of covenantal monotheism, Christianity sees the trajectory of core Jewish beliefs refracted around Jesus' life and teaching. This section is far briefer than the previous sections, but it is the goal of the subsequent volumes to flesh out in greater detail Wright's specific contention. This section is an appetizer, not the main course. Standing on its own, New Testament and the People of God is a unique New Testament Introduction. As the introduction to a larger series of books surveying New Testament theology, the careful groundwork laid here reaps great results. Wright has made explicit the methods and the presuppositions that guide not only the rest of the series, but Wright's work overall. As he oft says, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." This first volume outlines the ingredients and the recipe which will guide the rest. If the first volume is any indication for the rest of the series, Christian Origins and the Question of God will be a feast.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    The New Testament and the People of God is the first volume in a multi-volume series by noted New Testament scholar N.T. Wright called "Christian Origins and the Question of God." This first volume is suppose to act as a sort of introduction to the many themes that Mr. Wright will hit upon in future books and will act as a sort of reference to those volumes. That is not to say that this book is boring or unnecessary. Quite the contrary actually. This is perhaps one of the most insightful books y The New Testament and the People of God is the first volume in a multi-volume series by noted New Testament scholar N.T. Wright called "Christian Origins and the Question of God." This first volume is suppose to act as a sort of introduction to the many themes that Mr. Wright will hit upon in future books and will act as a sort of reference to those volumes. That is not to say that this book is boring or unnecessary. Quite the contrary actually. This is perhaps one of the most insightful books you are likely to find on the Early Church out there. Using a form of literary criticism he calls "Critical Realism," Mr. Wright lays out the various beliefs, stories, and actions (or praxis) that first century Judaism and Christianity held. Though Mr. Wright draws upon the history of post-exilic Judaism (roughly 530 B.C. to 135 A.D.), Mr. Wright focuses his attention on the Judaism of the Second Temple era (roughly 63 B.C. to 135 A.D.) from which Christianity sprung from. Through it all, Mr. Wright maintains his theme that can be found in nearly all of his works and yet is still wonderfully profound: that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ Israel's story, which began with the fall of man in Genesis and went through the covenantal promises to Abraham, Moses, and David, has reached its climax and now God is drawing all peoples to him to proclaim his kingdom. Mr. Wright wonderfully defends this with sound criticism that takes into account nearly all recent scholarship on the Early Church. Though not the longest book in this series (that title goes to his recently published behemoth Paul and the Faithfulness of God), this is still not a book for the faint of heart. It is filled with footnotes, citations, and asides to and about biblical scholars and their arguments, which he engages with just as readily as he engages with the scriptures. And he also takes into account the apocryphal Jewish and Christian writings of this era to compare and contrast the New Testament with the intellectual, religious, and political context of the period. It can get a little heady and difficult to track, but for those of you interested in New Testament biblical scholarship, you would be hard pressed to find a better place to start than this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brian Collins

    [Re-read Part III: First-Century Judaism within the Greco-Roman World] Wright provides a helpful outline of Israel's history from the Babylonian captivity through the beginning of the rabbinic era. He provides sketches of the major Jewish groups of this time period: Pharisees, Essenes, Sadducees, and others. He investigates worldview topics such as temple, land, torah, racial identity, festivals, monothiesm, election, covenant, redemption, and eschatology, the kingdom of God, and justification. W [Re-read Part III: First-Century Judaism within the Greco-Roman World] Wright provides a helpful outline of Israel's history from the Babylonian captivity through the beginning of the rabbinic era. He provides sketches of the major Jewish groups of this time period: Pharisees, Essenes, Sadducees, and others. He investigates worldview topics such as temple, land, torah, racial identity, festivals, monothiesm, election, covenant, redemption, and eschatology, the kingdom of God, and justification. Wright's treatment of the first-century Jewish perspective of these topics is often helpful. His footnotes provide an entry into the broader literature. Nonetheless, readers should be aware that the evidence on this time period is fragmentary. Thus Wright is providing a reconstruction beliefs based on materials that are sometimes earlier and sometimes later than the period under consideration. Furthermore, these materials often need interpretation. Thus when Wright says the Jews were not concerned with postmortem salvation but with political deliverance, I wonder if he is drawing too sharp a dichotomy with too little evidence. A couple times Wright says that those who think the Jews were concerned about personal salvation or personal merit know more about the Pelagian controversy than they do about the first century. ‎But I saw nothing in the evidence Wright displayed has so far said ruled out concern with individual salvation or the possibility that, well-intentioned as they might be, the Pharisees did not move toward what might later be called semi-pelagianism. Nor does Wright consider that later Christians may have correlated the semi-pelagianism they knew with the Pharisees based on the Bible’s portrayal of the Pharisees. The Scriptural portrayal of the Pharisees, even if not a full-or bed portrayal, is, one must say, accurate in all that is presents. All in all, this is a helpful section when read with discernment.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    A few thoughts: - NT Wright is an excellent communicator. As someone with limited experience reading texts in the field of philosophy and history, the first section of the book was daunting and seemingly impenetrable. However, I found that Wright's thoughts were actually quite cogent when I spent the time slowing down and paying attention to his arguments. I'm interested to hear if other readers found this to be true as well. - The "meat of the book" is Part III: "First-Century Judaism within the A few thoughts: - NT Wright is an excellent communicator. As someone with limited experience reading texts in the field of philosophy and history, the first section of the book was daunting and seemingly impenetrable. However, I found that Wright's thoughts were actually quite cogent when I spent the time slowing down and paying attention to his arguments. I'm interested to hear if other readers found this to be true as well. - The "meat of the book" is Part III: "First-Century Judaism within the Greco-Roman World." Wright provides an overview of first-century Judaism that challenged my vague conceptions of Jewish beliefs and practices that have been pieced together from sermons, books, articles, and the Bible. I am deeply indebted to Wright for creating a new, historically-based framework to consider what I hear people say about Jewish and Greek culture during the first century. - Part IV ("The First Christian Century") was easily the most disappointing section of the book, perhaps because many of Wright's points were simply confirming what I already knew about early Christianity. Nothing "stood out" like some of the other sections. - Usually I see historical methods as a kind of "additional support" to get the background of a text I'm trying to understand through formalist/reader-response/biographical means, but Wright demands that I take history seriously. I'm not sure what that looks like in the context of daily reading and study, but I'm eager to see where this new method takes me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Alex Stroshine

    An (at times excruciating!) detailed account of early Christianity, its close relationship to Israel and the Roman world. There is a lot of information in this massive book and it warrants closer study and rereading than I did this time around (one could have a whole course devoted to it!). The first 140ish pages lays out N.T. Wright's critical realist epistemology (which I wish I had heard of when I took a sociology of knowledge class in undergrad). This book helped provide me with a lot of his An (at times excruciating!) detailed account of early Christianity, its close relationship to Israel and the Roman world. There is a lot of information in this massive book and it warrants closer study and rereading than I did this time around (one could have a whole course devoted to it!). The first 140ish pages lays out N.T. Wright's critical realist epistemology (which I wish I had heard of when I took a sociology of knowledge class in undergrad). This book helped provide me with a lot of history I did not know about, especially during the intertestimental period and the Jewish community following the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Wright emphasizes the need for history in interpreting the New Testament and the early Church and he stresses throughout how we are storied peoples and that all worldviews narrate a story through the use of symbols (in Israel's case, Torah, Temple, land and ethnicity). 4/5 stars because it is a little too verbose.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Theron

    It is a good framework, paradigm setting book on studying the New Testament. I imagine it'll be a conversation partner for the rest of my studies. I highly recommend this book. "This book [the New Testament] is a book of wisdom for all peoples, but we have made it a den of scholarship, or of a narrow, hard and exclusive piety." p. 4 "...we have a justifiable insistence on the importance of history as giving depth, and extra dimensions to contemporary awareness; on the other, a justifiable insisten It is a good framework, paradigm setting book on studying the New Testament. I imagine it'll be a conversation partner for the rest of my studies. I highly recommend this book. "This book [the New Testament] is a book of wisdom for all peoples, but we have made it a den of scholarship, or of a narrow, hard and exclusive piety." p. 4 "...we have a justifiable insistence on the importance of history as giving depth, and extra dimensions to contemporary awareness; on the other, a justifiable insistence that historical description by itself is incomplete." p. 5

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chauncey Lattimer

    Wow! I actually started with the second book of the series, Jesus and the Victory of God, and realized at the end of the 144 page introduction that I needed to come back and read this book first. I press on to complete the series. It is just that good!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brian Pate

    I'll admit, some of this was over my head. Some very helpful information on Jewish background and early Christian thought. A few hints here and there of where he is going in understanding Paul (which I presume he discusses in his fourth volume released recently).

  28. 4 out of 5

    Curby Graham

    This is the first of a four-part series Christian Origins and the Question of God by NT Wright. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it has been out for 27 years and I only just finished it. I will start on the next one in a few days as I digest this. I use digest as an appropriate term as this was like eating a side of beef. There is a lot of meat here. Wright is possibly the most significant New Testament scholar of his generation, and whether or not you agree with him on everything, you should This is the first of a four-part series Christian Origins and the Question of God by NT Wright. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that it has been out for 27 years and I only just finished it. I will start on the next one in a few days as I digest this. I use digest as an appropriate term as this was like eating a side of beef. There is a lot of meat here. Wright is possibly the most significant New Testament scholar of his generation, and whether or not you agree with him on everything, you should read everything he has written. In this first work he tackles the issue of Christian origins and the New Testament. The book is broken up into five parts. I. An introduction to the issues and the task at hand. II. Tools needed for the task – i.e. – how do we do history? Here Wright argues for what he calls a critical realism when it comes to looking at the study of history. Avoiding overly subjective post-modernist views as well as the post-enlightenment positivist nonsense. We can look at the text, while being aware of our own biases and influences, yet still come to sound conclusions about what the text means and what the authors originally intended. III. 1st Century Judaism in the Greco-Roman World. I found this to be an extremely informative section as I had some large gaps in my knowledge about exactly what type of worldview Christianity came out of. While there were certainly variations within Jewish thought – Wright identifies a few foundational issues regarding Jewish stories, symbols and practice as well as three key points in their beliefs: 1. Creational monotheism – one God created all that there is. There are no other gods and hence, polytheism, henotheism and pantheism are all false. 2. Providential monotheism – God is intimately involved in His creation to include acting within history. Hence the idea deism doesn’t fly. 3. Covenantal monotheism – God has selected one special group of people to be His own that He will use to bring His creation back to its intended purpose and ultimately bless the whole world through them. IV. The 1st Christian Century. Here Wright goes into great detail as to how the early Christians saw the world and it came entirely out of a Jewish perspective. He politely dismantles the lunacy that came out of the German higher critics like Bultmann, Bauer, Schweitzer and the rest of their ilk. Good riddance to them. The Gospels themselves are all in the form of Greco-Roman bioi adapted to tell Jewish History as coming to its fulfillment through the Person and Work of Jesus. The notion that there were two separate types of Christianity – one Jewish and one Hellenistic - is also demolished. The New Testament writers saw God fulfilling His promises to liberate Israel and bless the entire world as coming through Christ. Luke’s arrangement of his Gospel where John the Baptist prepares the way and baptizes Jesus as parallel to that of Samuel anointing David King. V. Conclusion. Wright sums up this first volume by pointing out that 1st Century Jews looked forward to a great public event, the liberation of Israel and that in doing so God would reveal that He wasn’t just a god for the Jews, but rather that YHWH was the God of all Creation and that the ends of the earth would see that He had vindicated His people. The early Christians proclaimed that event is exactly what happened in the person of Jesus. But not in national liberation, but rather Jesus being vindicated by His Resurrection and the beginning of a new Nation – one made up of all people who owed their allegiance to the true King. While this is not an easy or short read (500 pages) – it is something every serious student of the Bible should make time to work through. Highest possible recommendation.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lu Tsun

    Wright's scholarship is excellent and his presentation is thoroughly impressive. But his epistemology and hermeneutic foundation is not sophisticated to handle the intention of his work. Wright makes it clear that his hermeneutic foundation is "a form of critical realism". “This is a way of describing the process of "knowing" that acknowledges the reality of the thing known, as something other than the knower (hence "realism"), while fully acknowledging that the only access we have to this reality Wright's scholarship is excellent and his presentation is thoroughly impressive. But his epistemology and hermeneutic foundation is not sophisticated to handle the intention of his work. Wright makes it clear that his hermeneutic foundation is "a form of critical realism". “This is a way of describing the process of "knowing" that acknowledges the reality of the thing known, as something other than the knower (hence "realism"), while fully acknowledging that the only access we have to this reality lies along the spiralling path of appropriate dialogue or conversation between the knower and the thing known (hence "critical").” (35) Critical realism seeks to avoid the postmodern destructionist or post-Kantian phenomenalism on the one hand, and the positivist objectivity or pre-modern dogmatism on the other. To put it simple, there is reality out there, but I must be self-critical enough in order to get closer; but no matter how close I am, my knowing of the reality is always provisional. Critical realism makes the nature of religious study step closer to modern science. But Wright’s form of critical realism offers more. Wright integrates worldview analysis with critical realism. For Wright a worldview serves as the grid through which one perceives the reality and evaluates data. The act of “knowing” is the process of changing one’s perception of the reality by stripping one’s own worldview and putting on the other’s worldview. All knowledge therefore is “relational” and “culturally situated.” That is to say, we can possibly see how other people see the reality, if we adopt their worldviews. The first task of hermeneutic, therefore, is to reconstruct the worldview of the object being known, and being self-critical about the knower’s own worldview. The worldview analysis involves stories, symbols, questions, and praxis, four ways of expression of worldview. Wright finds narrative structural criticism very useful for his purpose of worldview analysis. For “stories,” as Wright insists, conveys the true account of the interrelation of humans and the rest of reality. The nature of human knowing is essentially “storied” within the larger grid of worldviews. The resultant of the ingenious integration of critical realism, worldviews analysis, and narrative structural criticism is the revival of synchronic analysis of literature as "the articulation of worldviews, or better still, the telling of stories which bring worldviews (65, emphasis original).” While critical realism insists on the indispensability of historical investigation in the study of religion, Wright’s brand of critical realism makes the study of ancient worldviews normative. In another word, one cannot hope to understand the origin of Christianity correctly, if one fails to grasp the context of the first-century Jewish worldview in which Christianity was born. His assumption of the correlation between narrative and worldviews authorizes him to reconstruct the first-century Jewish worldview through the means of narrative structural criticism. However the interrelation between worldview and narrative is confounded by numerous factors within and without the narrative. Readers of Wright must take caution that what has been adopted here is not a scientific “method”, but an “art” or an “approach”. As a critical-realist, Wright is not very humble in giving a “synthetic” description of the first-century Judaism from the magnitude of extant raw materials. The “unitary” character of the Jewish worldview must first be assumed before one can begin synthesizing the data; the problem lies in what kind of unity has be presupposed in the person’s mind? James Dunn used to remind his readers of “Judaisms” as plural phenomena. Even though Wright attempts to work on the more foundational level of worldview, he is not free from the risk of demanding an artificial synthesis that he deems more "authentic" (149). The inherent shortcoming of critical realism makes Wright’s repeated assertion on a definable "worldview" in Judaism which can be articulated as "the beliefs of Israel" (244-79) and "the hope of Israel" (280-338) sound dubious. (I personally think Wright is aware of this danger, but he seems to underplay it and blur the boundary between worldviews and political positions with the cloud of rhetoric.) Most significantly, in Wright’s hermeneutic the “greater” undertaking of worldview reconstruction precedes the “smaller” critical work on the minute subject being studied. Wright is more willing to deduce Jesusʼs and Paul’s beliefs and intentions by evaluating their verbal and visual praxis in light of the context of the Second-Temple Judaism worldview, than informed by their praxis and their uses of Jewish stories, symbols and questions in his reconstruction of the Second-Temple Judaism worldview. There are two problems with this “contextual” orientation of Wright’s hermeneutic. First, such wide-ranging study must be built upon the more detailed works on the studies of early Judaism. Wright bases his own study on the works of Sanders, Hengel, and Neusner. How do we know they all get it right about the early Judaism? As a critical-realist, how can Wright be so certain about Sanders’s version of “covenantal nomism” as “conclusive” (260)? Second, it is a hermeneutic decision whether one sees Christianity through the lens of Jewish background, or sees early Judaism through the lens of Christianity. Methodologically a good historian should be able to see the reality from both lens in dialogue. There are always uniqueness and similarity between the two objects being compared and contrasted. In Wright’s historical investigation, he seems to be strikingly more influenced by the Jewish side of the reality than the Christian side. The striking similarity between Wright’s reconstructed first-century Judaism and some of todays’ Judaism implies the likelihood of infusing contemporary experience into the historical imagination of the ancient world. If anyone like Wright wishes to make the same wide-ranging claim about the early Judaism on the basis of critical realism, what is required of him is the meticulous account of the historical development before and after the space-time of early Judaism. At last I wish to make a theological critique of Wright’s hermeneutic, for I personally deem this problem very significant. Wright’s modified version of critical-realist epistemology presupposes that “knowing” entails the dialogue only between the story-telling humans and the story-laden world, nothing else being there (44). This worldview-laden epistemology is baffling in that the idea of “reality” becomes obscure. Wright’s view of “reality” is assuredly not positivistic. But how can we know it is not a pretentious postmodern social constructionism? Is Wright version of “realism” real? We can see this problem in Wright’s writing everywhere. He habitually avoids making straightforward assertion on the historicity of biblical stories. “Historicity” for Wright would imply naive positivistic or pre-critical thinking. But Christians do not need to be a positivist or pre-critical in order to know something about God’s work in history with certainty. There is a role of faith in the study of the divine revelation. Wright’s presupposition precludes the story, or worldview, existing beyond the human world. That is to say, Wright rejects other-worldly revelation a priori as a necessary part of his epistemological considerations. Christianity for Wright can no longer claim any sense of superiority as knowledge among all other kinds of human knowledge. The foundational revelatory character of Christianity is thus dissolved in the historical data in Wright’s program of historical reconstruction. We shall not wonder, then, why Wrights would demand Jesus, Paul, and Christianity to fit in the alleged authentic Jewish background, instead of challenging the Jewish thoughts in the ways that Jesus, Paul, and Christianity have challenge them with divine authority. Tsun-En Lu, Ph.D. Student in Hermeneutic and Biblical Interpretation Westminster Theological Seminary, PA

  30. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Supimpa

    The first tome of a massive project by N. T. Wright. The only one I have read so far. It was a painful experience at times. The first part, in which Wright lays out his epistemological north for the whole project will hurt you if this is the first book of theology/philosophy/philosophy of history you are reading. I highly recommend reading it slowly, and if possible with other people or even a tutor. No wonder Wright is respected as a foremost scholar in the history of early Christianity. His use The first tome of a massive project by N. T. Wright. The only one I have read so far. It was a painful experience at times. The first part, in which Wright lays out his epistemological north for the whole project will hurt you if this is the first book of theology/philosophy/philosophy of history you are reading. I highly recommend reading it slowly, and if possible with other people or even a tutor. No wonder Wright is respected as a foremost scholar in the history of early Christianity. His use of data is wide, well-developed, and his examples are enlightening. One setback: Wright's style is in many (I repeat, MANY) places more wordy than needed. In a parabolic version: instead of telling you that he owns a sheep, Wright would tell you that: "You see, there is a large trajectory informing that human beings have capacity and possibilities to own. Among the many instances, humanity have owned other living beings we know as animals. I am a human being, and, indeed, part of this same trajectory; I do, however, expose a very specific kind of animal. In the past, many have possessed horses, or cows, or, more recently dogs. But for several reasons that cannot be explored in depth here (such as my own Scottish background, or my admiration for their fluffiness), I happen to own a ruminant mammal very common in the UK and other parts of the world called sheep (sometimes referred to as an Ovis Aries)." You get my point...

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