I have been busy with a significant load of coursework over the past seven months. To be exact, I have taken twenty-one hours at two different schools, attempting to complete two masters degrees simultaneously. This is largely the reason for having neglected the ongoing chapter-by-chapter review of Wright.
This summer a directed study on N. T. Wright became available at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and since I’ve made significant progress throughout much of Wright’s work already in my private studies, I signed up for the course, impressed with both the professor, a former student of James Dunn, and the course’s twelve books of assigned reading! Which is significantly more than any class I’ve taken to date!
This is where you, dear reader, will benefit: My review of Wright will soon be coming to an end. I will be using an edited copy of my semester review paper on Paul and the Faithfulness of God to complete my blog series. I will publish the paper to this website and Scribd both, and update you when this happens.
The review paper is already pushing thirty pages, the maximum allowable length, and will continue (perhaps at my own peril) to forty pages, or even more. It is still a work in progress and many parts of Wright’s book will understandably be omitted, but I want to mention a few things concerning the review that might make it worthwhile for a reader to read another thirty-plus-page review of Wright. In no particular order: (1) I am incorporating material from Wright’s co-released volume Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978 – 2013, including essays from some of the latter chapters. This will benefit those who have not yet invested time in his essays — which Wright frequently refers to in his footnotes — as well as those who have not yet considered how the essays might sit with Wright’s larger book. (2) I will directly interact with both Wayne Meeks and David Horrell and seek to show how they have influenced Wright and shed light on his work. (3) The review will specifically focus on chapter ten — the most critical chapter of the book in my view — and will devote roughly ten pages explaining Wright’s exegesis of both Romans and Galatians in context. (4) I have been too critical of Wright on my blog, something for which I’ve apologized before, so the critical evaluation of Paul and the Faithfulness of God will be more accepting of him and more brief — about three or four pages. (5) The review will go further than others have in explaining Wright’s work holistically. At least this is my hope. I will attempt to tackle the full picture, the masterpiece itself, which has really pushed my understanding given the breadth of the work and my limited familiarity with Pauline theology. I make no claims regarding the authority of the forthcoming review, as some (hopefully not much) of the review will reflect graduate level understanding when stacked up to a specialist the likes of Wright. (6) Lastly, the review will be very accessible. I’ve included a Table of Contents, and the subheadings system adopted will allow for smooth reading for those who might wish to jump around.
I am turning over a new leaf, now, with Wright and this has largely been a consequence of tracing his exegetical work in Romans and Galatians. His fresh readings of Paul are too often illuminating, specifically his concern to trace much of Pauline theology back to Abraham, to be dismissed as recklessly as I once did. I have come to respect Wright for this; it cannot be easy reading with a new narrative lens, and one of your own critical creation at that. It has helped me to see where my own traditional evangelical theology has often narrowed my attention in Pauline theology at the detriment of other passages. In the end [spoiler] I will disagree with Wright, specifically on his reading of Romans, but not nearly in the unkind, poor-informed manner of my former days. I am grateful to have wrestled with his work and for how it has improved my understanding of Paul, and for this I have a new appreciation for Wright — I think Wright himself would be grateful for any and all students who would take up such a task and do the same.
While my interests are headed towards other areas of New Testament studies, I am glad that this chapter in my theological education is just about over. I am better equipped as a result. After all, how many students will invest four months, three- to four-thousand pages on N. T. Wright’s academic work, sort through it, grow from it, and move forward?
After Wright I hope to look into several other areas such as tradition history and James Dunn, and grow in my Greek abilities. Thank you for your time and for reading Jesus and Paul and the New Testament blog!
(I would like to mention that as a directed study class, my research has been driven by my own focus and interests in Wright, my acceptance or rejection of particular parts of Wright’s book are not reflective of my professor’s own understanding of Wright. As a directed study, the class does not enjoy the privilege of lecture, only tutoring and feedback.)