I have a stack of very big books that I hope to read this summer – Longenecker’s Romans commentary, E.P. Sanders’ big Paul book, John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift, Jimmy Dunn’s Neither Jew nor Gentile. Therefore, it was a bit of a relief to tackle at the moment a “short” book by N.T. Wright, Paul and His Recent Interpreters (Fortress, 2015) – a mere 378 pages!
I am almost halfway through the book and I must say –this is the NT Wright book I have been waiting a long time for! Don’t get me wrong, I think there were some interesting moments in Paul and the Faithfulness of God, but overall it did not hold my interest. In Paul and His Recent Interpreters (hereafter PHRI), Wright does something that I think he does very well – interpret and explain interpretive patterns and trends. He did this in Jesus and the Victory of God, and he is able to understand motives and impulses that guide movements. That makes PHRI remarkable and, at least sometimes, a page-turner.
The book is divided into three main parts
Part I: Paul among Jews and Gentiles? This section (5 chapters) focuses on the history of interpretation (mostly focusing on 20th century) that led to E.P. Sanders, the NPP, and the current OPP/NPP debate (or post-NPP state).
Part II: Re-enter Apocalyptic Obviously these four chapters trace the “Apocalyptic Paul” trend from Kaesemann to Becker and Martyn to Campbell.
Part III. Paul in His World – and Ours – this is more of a grab-bag of other trends including studying Paul from socio-historical and social-scientific perspectives, Paul and modern philosophy, and more.
In the next post I will launch directly into discussing chapters, but allow me to make a few preliminary comments in this post.
Layout – I am glad Fortress put this volume in the same style as Wright’s series – very attractive font and layout.
Footnotes – while I am glad PHRI has footnotes (and not those much-despised endnotes), the book uses author-date style (no book titles in the footnotes). That requires much “flipping” for me, but I get that it is done to save space. Still, it is annoying.
Inside Man – This would be a very challenging book to write. One might expect Wright to focus on being “objective” and not rabbit-trail into his own theories on everything. Wright does, in fact, re-assert his own views along the way, but actually this didn’t bother me. Why? Because he tends to be at the center (or nearby) of many of the debates in the book. He writes, not as a sideline commentators, but in the thick of the debates. It is amazing how he has been at so many key events and involved in many critical publications. His knowledge – and his experiences – give this book added value. In many ways, it is an intellectual autobiography; it almost has the feel of a documentary. That, at least for me, has made it very engaging. For example, the reader is given access to private correspondences between Wright and Kaesemann and Wright and E.P. Sanders; Wright was also present at exclusive academic discussions, such as an interesting exchange between Hans Huebner and Martin Hengel. Those of you who are NT geeks like me will eat this stuff up!
We will begin a steady series on PHRI soon, so stay tuned…