Monday, March 23, 2009

Tom Wright: Justification 7.1

This is the first part of my review of the seventh chapter of N. T. Wright's, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, Wright's response to John Piper's book, The Future of Justification. I'm sorry to say that I grow weary, so I will give you some gasps and then collapse on the finish line.

Chapters reviewed thus far:

Chapter 1: What's it all about and why does it matter
Chapter 2: Rules of engagement
Chapter 3: First Century Judaism
Chapter 4: Justification: Definitions and Puzzles
Chapter 5: Exegesis of Galatians
Chapter 6: Interlude: Philippians, Corinthians, Ephesians

And now we begin the 70 some page finale, "Romans." The first of my final gasps is on Wright's treatment of 1:16-17 (pp. 153-58)--"I am not ashamed of the gospel... in it the righteousness of God is revealed."

Basically, Wright supposes that if the Latin had not translated the key word righteousness with iustitia and if that had not gone into the categories of Roman thought... then "nobody would ever have supposed that the 'righteousness' in question in Romans 1.17 was anything other than God's own 'righteousness', unveiled, as in a great apocalypse, before the watching world" (154).

And if this thought had not been detached from its Jewish moorings, "nobody would have supposed that 'God's righteousness' was anything other than his faithfulness to the covenant, to Israel, and beyond that again to the whole of creation" (154).

Then Wright takes this thought and gives us a foreshadowing of the rest of the chapter, which is the playing out of his interpretation of this verse. Apart from the melodrama, I agree that the "righteousness of God" refers to His propensity to be faithful in justice and in relationship with His people and His creation. I think Wright might be okay with that last sentence of mine. But he would load the words with more meaning than I do.

This is my first dying gasp.


Bob MacDonald said...

Swan - do not disappear.Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more?

It's so right to have someone read wright for me.

Ken Schenck said...


Andrew said...

I agree with Wright that righteousness was wrongly understood in latin legal categories for much of church history. However Wright seems to be once again reading his own paradigms into the words. More compelling to me are the other instances of the phrase in the NT - James and Matthew use the same phrase, and the context of their usages constrains the phrase in their writings to mean human conduct that meets with God's approval. So I find Wright's assertions of what the phrase 'must' have meant in the Jewish background to be highly unconvincing.