Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Saint Paul Really Said 1

I am a huge N.T. Wright fan boy. Even when I disagree with the Bishop I always find him insightful and challenging. I read the Bible better because of him. One reason why I am interested in reading Paul is because of Wright. In my seminary days I heard a lot about N.T. Wright and the 'New Perspective', most of it negative. Wright, in my mind, was a dangerous figure who led people to some sort of works-righteousness. He had strange notions of the law being that which separated Jew from Gentile. I remember the moment I decided I would start reading the Bishop for myself. I was going for a jog and was listening to Ephesians on my iPod. Then Max Mclean said, as only Max Mclean could say, "Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility" (Eph 2.11-16). I suspected that Wright had some important things to say and I have since then found that to be true.

So, alongside Gorman's Reading Paul, I have decided to read What Saint Paul Really Said. I will be reading through each chapter and will post things that I found helpful (or not so helpful) and which help me to understand Paul more.

In chapter 1 Wright surveys some scholars and discusses their impact on Pauline theology. There are scholars that emphasize Paul's Jewishness and then there are those who say that Paul draws on Hellenism. There are four questions that people have been asking as they study Paul: 1) Where do we place him? (history), 2) What is at the center of Paul? (theology), how do we study his letters amidst the vast amount of literature (exegesis), how do we use Paul today? (application).

Here is a great quote from Wright that ends off this chapter: "Paul in the twentieth century, then, has been used and abused much as in the first. Can we, as the century draws to a close, listen a bit more closely to him? Can we somehow repent of the ways in which we have mishandled him and respect his own way of doing things a bit more? This book is an attempt to do just that: to stand back from the ways we have read Paul and to explore a bit more how Paul himself suggests we read him. It is an attempt to study Paul in his own terms. It is trying to come to grips with what he really said. (pg. 23).

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