Tag Archives: N.T. Wright

Paul: A Biography – Review

Paul A BiographyOne of my favourite writers on early Christianity is N.T. Wright. I have read many of his books and when I was asked what I wanted for my birthday, I knew it was Paul: A Biography.

Wright has written many books on Paul but this one is unique. In some ways it is a bridge between his academic and popular level work. It is not a theology of Paul or a commentary on his letters, although it contains elements of both. As the title suggests, it is a biography of Paul.

Some New Testament scholars may not like his blending of information from Paul’s letters and Luke’s Acts. The trend is to take Paul’s seven “authentic” letters seriously, discounting the other letters and Acts.

However, Wright is writing a biography and any biographer would take into account all of the available information and that is what he does with Paul. If we were dealing with any other ancient figure (other than Jesus), no one would question this approach.

Those interested in Paul will love this book. Wright gives an overview of Paul’s life based on Acts and then inserts information from the letters and the context of those letters where appropriate. This is an essential resource for anyone interested in early Christianity.

The best thing about this book is that is not just for New Testament scholars. It is written in a readable style that the layperson will enjoy and understand. Yes, Wright pulls in from his considerable scholarship but it is not overwhelming.

Paul: A Biography is book that I intend to go back to again and again.

The New Testament and the People of God – Review

New Testament and the People of GodOne of the most influential New Testament scholars today is N.T. Wright. While some find him controversial, it is difficult to argue against his intelligence and output of biblical and theological content.

One of his major projects is on Christian Origins and the Question of God. While I had read the second and third volumes in this series, I finally had the opportunity read the first, The New Testament and the People of God.

In some ways the title is misleading as only a small portion of the book is actually on the New Testament. Still, this is an important book as it lays all the historical framework for the volumes that follow.

Many readers want to just jump into the biblical text and discover the interpretation. But Wright asks us to pull back and reflect on the nature of history. How can we know things as history? Wright navigates through a number of theories and lands on critical realism. It is very helpful discussion that is stretching to those not familiar with the theoretical nature of history.

One of my favourite parts of the book is his presentation of Second Temple Judaism (see my episode on Second Temple Judaism). An important part of the third quest for the historical Jesus is to interpret him in his Jewish context. Students of the New Testament are fooling themselves if they think a good understanding of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) is enough. Much of Jewish thought of the first century was developed in the so-called intertestamental period.

Wright takes us through the tales of the Maccabees and summarizes much of the Jewish history given to us by Josephus. Wright presents the data from the appropriate sources and correctly warns us about the problems of using later rabbinic sources (e.g. Mishnah, Talmud) to reconstruct first century Jewish thought.

This book introduces an idea that is influential in the rest of Wright’s understanding of the New Testament. Wright believes that the Jews still considered themselves in exile, even after Cyrus the Great allowed them back in their homeland. The reason for this is that promises of renewal found in the Prophets had not appeared. Jews, such as the Qumran sect, looked forward to an eschatological fulfillment that end exile.

The volume concludes with an introduction to the New Testament. More than a quest for the historical Jesus, this section is a quest for the early church. That is not to say Wright is pessimistic about the historical Jesus, but this is important background. Later volumes delve much more into the historical Jesus.

Although this is a fairly thick book, I was able to read quite quickly. Wright has a readable style and is gifted at explaining complex ideas. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and highly recommend it for anyone interested in the New Testament.

Paul and the Faithfulness of God

One of my favourite New Testament scholars is N.T. Wright. He is an incredible historian who brings a fresh reading to the text through a close examination of the context. In this video, Wright is interviewed by Michael Bird (another NT scholar I respect). They discuss Wright’s book, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. If you are interested in learning more about Paul, you might find this video helpful.