Thursday, September 12, 2013
Michael Bird's Interview with N. T. Wright on "Paul and the Faithfulness of God"
The wait is nearly over. It has been twenty-two years since I first encountered N. T. Wright's groundbreaking work on Paul while researching for my Ph.D. dissertation on Paul's teaching on justification in the letter to the Galatians. A year later he launched his "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series with the formidable The New Testament and the People of God, a series whose scope would more than match the work of Rudolf Bultmann a couple of generations earlier. Subsequent volumes in the series (Jesus and the Victory of God , The Resurrection of the Son of God ) have not failed to meet expectations, manifesting both rigorous historical method and an orthodox (though certainly not always traditionalist) theological sensibility. All along, however, my anticipation has been focused on the proposed fourth volume in the series, his so-called "big book on Paul," a work on which he had been working ever since his 1980 Oxford D.Phil. thesis entitled "Romans and the People of God."
Well, the "big book" is nearly here. Jointly published by SPCK in the UK and Fortress Press here in the US, Paul and the Faithfulness of God will make its appearance in November, just in time for the annual conference of the Society of Biblical Literature. And a "big book" it certainly is. More than 1700 pages spread over two volumes, it appears destined to be the go-to volume on the Apostle's thought for years to come.
In anticipation of its release, Professor Wright was interviewed by Michael Bird, an informative video of which was published earlier today by Bird at his blog Euangelion. Those with a familiarity of Wright's work on Paul will not be surprised that the work situates the Apostle within the context of his place in Judaism, the Hellenistic culture, and the overarching Roman Empire. Nor will they be surprised that Wright explains Paul's thought as a reworking of the Jewish themes of monotheism, election, and eschatology through the grid of the Christian experience of Christ and the Spirit. One further rumor I had heard is also confirmed. Rather than structuring the Apostle's theology around various topoi derived from systematic theology or, as Jimmy Dunn famously did, using Romans as a template, Wright begins with the smallest letter of the Pauline corpus, the intensely personal Philemon, finding it to be a window through which to gaze at the massive edifice of the Apostle's thought.
To whet your appetite (if you don't have one already) watch Bird's video. This book promises to be a game changer. I can taste it already!