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Understanding the Apostle: N.T. Wright brings a new perspective on Paul.

Paul: In Fresh Perspective

by N. T. Wright

This book by noted New Testament scholar and retired Anglican bishop N.T. Wright, is divided into two major parts.

In the first, Themes, Wright begins by reminding the reader that the apostle Paul is a person of his own time and place; that Paul should be understood as a person from three distinct "worlds"--Jewish, Greek and Roman. From here Wright begins a discussion concerning what has been lost simply by thinking of Jesus as Christ instead of the original meaning of that word found in its proper counterpart, Messiah. He reminds the reader that the Messiah is a royal and was thus an inherently political figure. This leads naturally into Wright's next step where he begs the reader to see the wider implications of speaking royally about anyone other than Caesar. He notes, "for Paul, Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not."

In Structures, the second part of the book, Wright begins by attempting to show Paul's redefining of (not abandoning or replacing of) classic Judaism in light of his new understandings. Jewish identity took on new implications for a changed Paul. When he spoke out against the law he spoke only against Jewish identifiers like dietary restrictions, circumcision and festivals. Understood in this way, a new picture of Paul emerges; he can both speak positively about the law in general and yet reject common notions concerning the extent to which early non-Jewish Christians needed to uphold visible identifiers of Judaism.

In his final chapter, Wright attempts to draw some conclusions about the person of Paul in relation to Jesus, his mission and the meaning of his work for today. Wright suggests that in the church today. we live within the larger story as a people called to reach out to a world as new creations proclaiming Jesus is Lord and our place within his story.

As for the person of Paul himself, Wright's greatest concern is a post-Reformation church, which he says has mistakenly come to see Paul as "converting" to Christianity from Judaism and then attacking "the Law" from the outside. In contrast, Wright perceives of Paul as moving from one form of Judaism, classic, to a new form, messianic, and then having to come to terms with the Hebrew scriptures which reveal the Messiah as an invitation to the "nations."

Wright argues that Luther and generally all Protestants since have been preforming eisegesis instead of exegesis: that is, pushing foreign ideas into the text rather than extracting the true meaning from the text.

Overall I think this book is extremely good. But I must point out that his use of scriptures are at times questionable. And inescapably so, Wright is just as equally a product of his environment as was Martin Luther.

Still, if this year you find that you want to become a solid armchair theologian, then this is the book for you.

Rev. Bradley Childs is minister at First, Regina. This book is available through the WMS Book Room, along with Wright's newest offering, Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

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Title Annotation:THE OTHER SIX DAYS
Author:Childs, Bradley
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:Feb 1, 2014
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