Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God

As Anthony Le Donne and Michael Bird have already noted, N. T. Wright’s much-anticipated fourth volume in the Christian Origins and the Question of God Series, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, has now become three installments. Besides the series’ first three volumes, all three installments of the new fourth part are now available for pre-order via Logos Bible Software. The three individual installments’ contents are outlined there as follows:

Wright explores Paul’s worldview and theology in light of Second Temple Judaism [Paul and the Faithfulness of God]. He also summarizes and explains all the key areas of debate in contemporary Pauline studies [Paul and His Recent Interpreters]. The final part of this three-volume work [Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul 1978–2012] brings together N. T. Wright’s most important and influential articles on Paul over the last 30 years.

Slaves at Home

Ezra and Nehemiah each provide their own distinct reports of the Jews’ return from Babylonian exile. Even if the portrayal of this return as a “second exodus” is not a particular, literary concern in these books,1 the narrative’s inclusion of elements like captivity, release, land resettlement, and covenant establishment certainly echo important features in the narrative of Israel’s exodus from Egypt.2 Even so, Ezra and Nehemiah include in their portraits of the people’s experience of some “reviving” (מחיה) a stroke in which the people also found themselves still to be slaves (Ezra 9:8–9; cf. Neh 9:36).3

As a prime example of the people’s slavery in “the land that you gave to our fathers to eat its fruit and its goodness” (Neh 9:36; הארץ אשׁר־נתתה לאבתינו לאכל את־פריה ואת־טובה), “its increase goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins” (Neh 9:37; ותבואתה מרבה למלכים אשׁר־נתתה עלינו בחטאותינו). This observation situates even the returned community as being, to some extent, still subject to the covenant’s curses (e.g., Deut 28:33, 51). Yet, the promise still stood of a day when Abraham’s children would again freely enjoy the produce of the land (Deut 30; Isa 55; cf. John 4:35; Rom 4:13; 10:1–17).


1. Brevard S. Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (1st American ed.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979), 634.

2. Cf. P. M. Venter, “Canon, Intertextuality and History in Nehemiah 7:72b–10:40,” HvTSt 65, no. 1 (2009): 161.

3. G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 745–46; N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992), 268–79, 299–301; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 125–31, 428–30.

The Resurrection of the Son of God

In Acts 13:16–41, Paul addresses the Pisidian synagogue. In this discourse’s context, Paul asserts “we preach to you the good news concerning the promise that had come to the fathers—that this promise God has fulfilled for us their children by raising Jesus” (Acts 13:32–33; ἡμεῖς ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελιζόμεθα τὴν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἐπαγγελίαν γενομένην, ὅτι ταύτην ὁ θεὸς ἐκπεπλήρωκεν τοῖς τέκνοις [αὐτῶν] ἡμῖν ἀναστήσας Ἰησοῦν). From here, the following quotation of Ps 2:7 confirms Jesus’ resurrection by Yahweh’s hand (cf. Acts 13:37).1 This resurrection in incorruption situates Jesus as the means by which the ancestral promise becomes actualized (Acts 13:34–37) because it situates him as the recipient and mediator of the things vouchsafed to David (Acts 13:34)—namely, an everlasting covenant in which the wandering return and receive forgiveness from Yahweh (Isa 55; cf. Deut 30).2


1. Chrysostom, Hom. Act., 29 (NPNF1, 11:182–85).

2. Ibid.; N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 2; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 268–74, 576–77.

The Christ of His Christ

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, "Anna Presenting Her Son Samuel to the Priest Eli"
Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, “Anna Presenting Her Son Samuel to the Priest Eli” (c. 1665; photo credit: Wikipedia)

In due order within The City of God’s longer discussion of Hannah’s prayer at Samuel’s dedication,1 Augustine arrives at the clause, “[a]nd [he] shall exalt the horn of His Christ” (1 Sam 2:10). Here, Augustine ponders:

How shall Christ exalt the horn of His Christ? For He of whom it was said above, “The Lord hath ascended into the heavens,” [1 Sam 2:10 LXX; 4QSama col. 2, line 33] meaning the Lord Christ, Himself, as it is said here, “shall exalt the horn of His Christ.” Who, therefore, is the Christ of His Christ? Does it mean that He shall exalt the horn of each one of His believing people, as [Hannah] says in the beginning of this hymn, “Mine horn is exalted in my God?” [1 Sam 2:1 LXX, Vg.] For we can rightly call all those christs who are anointed with His chrism, forasmuch as the whole body with its head is one Christ.2

Although Augustine does not appear to cite 1 Cor 1:31; 2 Cor 10:17 in developing his interpretation of Hannah’s prayer, these texts may well be reading 1 Sam 2:10 [LXX; 4QSama col. 2, line 33] along a similar, Christological trajectory.3 Boasting is to be in Jesus alone, who has ascended into heaven and with whom the church is united as a “collective person[—as] ‘Christ existing as church-community.’”4


1. Augustine, Civ., 17.4 (NPNF1, 2:339–43).

2. Augustine, Civ., 17.4 (NPNF1, 2:343); cf., e.g., 1 Cor 6:14–17; 12:27; 1 John 2:20, 27; Justin, Dial., 86.

3. See J. David Stark, “Rewriting Prophets in the Corinthian Correspondence: A Window on Paul’s Hermeneutic,” BBR 22, no. 2 (2012): 236–38; J. Ross Wagner, “‘Not Beyond the Things Which Are Written’: A Call to Boast Only in the Lord (1 Cor 4.6),” NTS 44, no. 2 (1998): 283–86, for discussion.

4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sanctorum Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church (ed. Clifford J. Green and Joachim von Soosten; trans. Reinhard Kraus and Nancy Lukens; Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works 1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), 141; cf. Eph 1:15–23; 2:4–7; N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1991), 41–55.

Blogging and Biblical Studies: Thoughts from N. T. Wright and Thomas Kuhn

In his Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision, N. T. Wright reflects:

It is really high time we developed a Christian ethic of blogging. Bad temper is bad temper even in the apparent privacy of your own hard drive, and harsh and unjust words, when released into the wild, rampage around and do real damage. . . . [T]he cyberspace equivalents of road rage don’t happen by accident. People who type vicious, angry, slanderous and inaccurate accusations do so because they feel their worldview to be under attack. Yes, I have a pastoral concern for such people. (And, for that matter, a pastoral concern for anyone who spends more than a few minutes a day taking part in blogsite discussions, especially when they all use code names: was it for this that the creator God made human beings?) (Wright 26–27; cf. Köstenberger, “Internet Ettiquette”; Köstenberger, “Internet Ettiquette, Part 2”).1

This bow shot at “(information) superhighway rage” is, of course, quite fitting, as is the recognition that, for all its usefulness in certain areas (e.g., facilitating information exchange), the internet itself often poorly facilitates other things (e.g., sustained content quality control; on a slightly different facet of the issue, see Goodacre, “April Fool’s Jokes”). Such things are clearly in the forefront of Wright’s mind in the quoted statements and may help to flesh out the role of biblioblogging in relation to presentations in more traditional media. For instance, consider the following quotation:

Today in the sciences, books are usually either texts or retrospective reflections upon one aspect or another of the scientific life. The scientist who writes one is more likely to find his professional reputation impaired than enhanced. Only in the earlier, pre-paradigm, stages of the development of the various sciences did the book ordinarily possess the same relation to professional achievement that it still retains in other creative fields. And only in those fields that still retain the book, with or without the article, as a vehicle for research communication are the lines of professionalization still so loosely drawn that the layman may hope to follow progress by reading the practitioners’ original reports (Kuhn 20; italics and bold added).

Biblical studies certainly “retain[s] the book” in such a fashion, and biblioblogs can have a similar function, even if how they fit among more traditional, academic activities is not always clear (cf. Goodacre, “Academic Blogging”; Carlson). Although internet access is not always free, subscriptions to blogs are as free as RSS readers, and as internet access and use of blog subscriptions continue becoming more common, the quantity of people interested in biblioblog material at its regular cost (i.e., free), should continue growing also. Consequently, this increase in the accessibility of material related to biblical studies could continue significantly widening at least the circle of listeners for biblical studies discussions (if not the circle of participants in these discussions also), but whether this increase in accessibility will be beneficial is entirely relative to the value of the content on the biblioblogs themselves. As biblioblog quality approaches the quality that has come to be expected in more traditional media, the blog medium itself becomes something quite different from the “blog as site for spuriousness” that Wright so correctly criticizes—it becomes something more akin to Thomas Kuhn’s “vehicle for research communication.” Since the sciences about which Kuhn was writing and the general humanities setting in which biblical studies and biblioblogging sit have different dissemination media and subject matter, however, several additional and potentially beneficial options emerge for forms that biblioblogs and their contents might take (see Köstenberger, “Genre of ‘Blog'”). How precisely to sustain this kind of interchange where it does exist and how to encourage it where it should exist are thorny questions indeed, and in some cases, behavioral regeneracy may be a necessary starting point (cf. Col 3:7–8).

Yet, in addition, might not self-consciously situating biblioblogging in some kind of “Great Conversation” among present students, past students, and the biblical literature itself provide a measure of guidance? With the current nature of the blog medium, this conversation will certainly be impersonal—a conversation among “gravatars” is certainly not the same as a conversation among “real” people present with each other at the same time (cf. Wright 27). Yet, on the other hand, the letters and signatures that have connected people for centuries are, for instance, at least in some ways, not so very different from blogs and gravatars.

The metaphor of biblioblogging, within a “Great Conversation,” as a “working group” is probably too formal and scholastic, but it does portray the activity as a collaboration that produces something beneficial. Thanks to resources like those that Brandon Wason and John Hobbins, Daniel and Tonya, and perhaps most particularly, the Biblioblog Top 50 (with its accompanying Google searches of all biblioblogs and all biblioblogs and related blogs), “beneficial somethings” on the biblioblogs are continuing to become easier to find by more people, once these “somethings” are added to the conversation in any given place. With the rise of resources like these ones and a push (whether from individual bibliobloggers or from a more organized, “peer review” format) to maintain good content quality, biblioblogging should be able to be a valuable activity for bloggers and readers. Indeed, not least for those of us in the Protestant tradition, whose first forebears regularly pushed to get more people more information with which to make more informed decisions about matters of biblical interpretation, the blog medium has, despite some of its deficiencies, the attractive potential to serve simultaneously both church and academy, as well as any others who “log on.”


1 Incidentally, InterVarsity has made the chapter from which this quote comes available in a PDFon their website.

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Thomas Kuhn
Thomas Kuhn

N. T. Wright
N. T. Wright