Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wednesday Reading: Wright's Romans

I didn't get much further in Philo this week, but I did read some more of N. T. Wright's Romans commentary. I'm finding it very readable and very helpful. For my Wednesday post, I thought I'd comment on his section on the key verses of Romans--1:16-17.

One of the reasons I wrote a New Testament series for Wesleyan Publishing House is because the the pulpit often lags about twenty to thirty years behind current trends in interpretation (the mission field even more). You often hear from the pulpit things people were saying decades ago about the Bible. For example, I still hear regularly from pastors all over word fallacies that were very popular back in the Kittel generation of the 1960s and 70s.

I wrote the second volume of my three Paul books especially to bring the church up to speed on where the interpretation of Romans has moved in these last twenty to thirty years. It turns out, contemporary scholarship is very friendly to Wesleyan-Arminian thinking...

Wright doesn't go into a lot of detail in his short section on Romans 1:16-17 but he does touch on some features that reflect the best understanding of scholarship on Romans at this time (built on the best of the scholarship of the past--scholarship may change, but I would argue there can be a cumulative dimension rather than simply a bouncing around):
  • The gospel, in the first place, is the good news that Jesus is king and all that his enthronement entails. Salvation is thus part of the good news but it is not the focus of the good news. Jesus is the focus, not me.
  • The "righteousness of God" is a concept with a history. In particular, if you look at the overlap between Psalm 71:1-2 and Romans 1:16-17, a strong case can be made that God's righteousness is his propensity to save his people (and the world). (in this verse at least, not a righteousness ascribed to us from God, as the NIV1984 translated it--the NIV2011 has fixed it)
  • "From faith to faith" is a cryptic shorthand. It is too cryptic I think to say for sure what Paul was thinking, but I am very sympathetic to Wright and Dunn's sense that it is a shorthand for "starting with God's faithfulness and ending in our faith in response." 

1 comment:

Rob Henderson said...

I have found Wright to be very fascinating. Some of his ideas mesh very well with my theological roots at Hobe Sound Bible College in the '80's.

Thanks for your review of his writings such as "Surprised by Hope" among others. His perspectives on creation, the resurrection, end times and especially the Apostle Paul's backdrop to Romans have been very delightful to this Wesleyan mind.