Since N.T. Wright’s new book, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, was released a short while back, there has been a flow of reviews, mostly positive with small criticisms or concerns. But we were bound to see more negative reviews with stronger pushback as Paulinists persevered to complete reading the book and found it wanting in various aspects. Alexandra Brown wrote a critical review recently for Christian Century. Some of you may know that Brown includes herself broadly within the “Paul and Apocalyptic” camp (Lou Martyn, de Boer, Kaesemann, Gaventa, Barclay, etc.) – a group that Wright has quite strong (negative) feelings about regarding how they read Paul. Consider Brown’s review a kind of rejoinder to Wright, part explanation, part pushback. I continue to lean in favor of Wright’s reading, but the clarifications that Brown offers, as well as the themes and key questions that drive her interest in the “apocalyptic Paul,” are worthy of our attention and some more re-thinking. All in all, a review well worth reading!
I quote below the last few lines of the review as a taste of Brown’s engagement. Fascinating stuff here.
What Wright gains, if one accepts his argument, is a kind of ecclesiological and ethical coherence: new Israel—that is, the church—is empowered only by faithful acceptance of Jesus as Messiah to move now into the restoration of justice and peace that God promised Israel, and through Israel to the nations. What is lost is ample evidence—particularly when Paul speaks of the cross, the cosmos, and ways of knowing—that Paul’s own transformation and the gospel he preached were both more radical and more far-reaching than Wright’s “freshly reworked” covenant allows.