Friday, December 05, 2014

In the Wright

I've decided to take a Schencky approach to my depressing reading list. Since I know I can't read through the list from start to finish--simply the realities of my life--I'm going to pop in and out of them.

So tonight I popped into the Introduction to Part III of N. T. Wright's tome, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. This is the beginning to the second book of this "one book." This is where he gets to Paul. The first book is background and context.

1. His goal in this second book is to show the central concern and inner logic of Paul. He emphasizes the coherence of Paul's writings. I'll confess that I much prefer Dunn to Wright. Dunn builds up patterns from the text up. Wright has a tendency to presuppose a metanarrative and then see it everywhere, implicit in passages even at times when he can't point to a verse.

I actually wonder if his earlier work on Paul was more helpful before he had looked at Paul so long that he began to see all these complex patterns everywhere. Also I think his Paul articles on specific passages are more helpful.

2. His reduction of Second Temple Jewish theology to monotheism, election, and eschatology is interesting (Dunn had four pillars--monotheism, election, covenant, and land; Eisenbaum has worship, Torah, and redemption). I'm not sure how prevalent eschatology was at all times but it obviously plays a large role for Wright.

"Paul remained a thoroughly Jewish thinker" (611). Fair enough.

Early Christianity reworked monotheism, election, and eschatology around Jesus the Messiah and the Holy Spirit (612). Definitely on the first. I wait to see what he means by the second.

3. Wright and I will no doubt soon find ourselves in tension over how much of the OT context Paul presupposes in his use of Scripture. My dictum is, "As far as the intended meaning, see no more meaning in the words than is necessary." Wright will rather see lots of resonances and a deep theological richness. I have no problem with that as a reader response, a "theological interpretation." I just think it goes beyond what Paul himself was likely thinking. I call it promiscuous exegesis.

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