Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tom Wright: Justification 7.3

This is the third dying gasp 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.

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
Chapter 7.1 Romans 1:16-17
Chapter 7.2 Romans 1:18-3:20

And now Romans 2:17-3:21 (169-76). I messed up on the last post--it was only through 2:16. In the last part of chapter 2--"you call yourself a Jew"--Wright thinks Paul is addressing his own former self (169). Why not?

In sum, for Wright, Israel was meant to be God's light to the world, but Israel has turned inward, hoarded gifts God intended it to bring to the world. Israel has not only not saved the world. It hasn't saved itself.

I just don't see it. I reread this section of Romans and I just don't see it.

Wright: "Paul is not primarily talking here about the salvation of 'the Jew'. He is talking about the salvation to come through 'the Jew'" (169).

Schenck: "Either I'm blind or Wright's reading goes way beyond anything Romans explicitly says here."


Bob MacDonald said...

2:17-3:21 does not constitute a well formed section of the argument in my opinion. The You section finishes at the end of chapter 2 at which point Paul begins his long argument in 10 sections punctuated by his exclamations. My structural summary is here along with annotated text that shows how the grammatical features confirm the structure.

davey said...

I also think Wright strangely makes a difference between Jewish faithfulness/obedience and not sinning. But wouldn't faithfulness be not sinning, so that the nations would see a perfect Israel?

jgb said...

Ken, you should update the link for "Chapter 2" as the current points to the Chapter 1 post you made.

Davey, I'm no expert on Wright, but here's my take on your question. You can be faithful to the covenant even if you sin because the covenant include a means of atonement (the sacrificial system). As long as you receive atonement through the covenental means then you still remain faithful. I believe I've heard Wright say something similar to this in another lecture/article.

davey said...

jgb, thanks, but...! For example in Wright's Justification p.125, Wright says blameless is not the same as sinless, but Wright gives this as Saul's thoughts not Paul's. But Wright is generally unclear, I think, on the standing of Old Testament Jews, some of whom would not have (true) faith in God, some who would. But, I understand that in reality any sin at all would make Israel faithless, and need sinless Jesus (even the few Jews with faith in God sinned). It is a different matter what any Jews 'thought' was the case. I find puzzling Wright saying salvation was meant to be through Israel, confusingly to my mind implying through fleshly Israel, which forces Wright to say (fleshly) Israel failed. But it was only ever through Jesus
(spiritual Israel) that salvation was to come. What would fleshly Israel succeeding look like? They would have to not sin, but then also die for the sins of the world. But that is what Jesus did! Not all Israel are Israel. So, in what covenant were Old Testament fleshly, unbelieving Jews? I just find Wright does not address these sorts of issues. And I think the reason is his ecclesiology. He wants to be able to identify
groups of people carrying things forward, first Old Testament Jews (as a whole, not just those with faith in God) and then the church.