Jesus, Paul and the People of God

May 17, 2011 — 1 Comment


This book is edited by Nicholas Perrin and Richard Hays and has essays authored by:

  • Jeremy Begbie
  • Markus Bockmuehl
  • Richard B. Hays
  • Edith M. Humphrey
  • Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh
  • Nicholas Perrin
  • Marianne Meye Thompson
  • Kevin J. Vanhoozer

Now, originally these were all lectures delivered at Wheaton’s 2010 Theology Conference, which was, as one might guess from the subtitle of this book, a theological dialogue with N. T. Wright. Those lectures are now available online for the public’s listening enjoyment (I would link to them, but then you might be tempted to not finish reading the review). This book is the printed collection of those lectures collated with short responses by N. T. Wright to each, as well as two essays of his own (one on Jesus, one on Paul).

This begs the question, why buy a book whose content you can just get for free in audio form?

For me, initially I wanted a copy because I was using some of the material in a paper I was working on. Beyond that, I typically will buy the hard copy of a collection of lectures even if I have already heard them. I tend to process better visually, and with an actual book, I can mark important thoughts and go back and collect them much more readily than I can from a lecture.

For other people, listening to the lectures may suffice. I would suggest though, that if you are really interested in either historical Jesus studies, Pauline studies, or just N. T. Wright in general, this is a book worth adding to your library.

It is split into 2 main divisions. The first concerns N. T. Wright’s work in historical Jesus studies and is mainly focused on his  Jesus and the Victory of God (JVG). The second is concerned with Wright’s work in Pauline studies, which is not so much concerned with a single volume like the first part but is more broad in its interactions with the corpus of Wright’s writings. Rather than detail the general thrust of each individual essay (Nicholas Perrin’s introduction on p.11-16 does a great job of that and can be read in Amazon’s preview), I will just try to flesh out why you should pick up a copy of this book.

Like I said above, if you are at all interested in Pauline theology or historical Jesus studies, then you will have to interact with N. T. Wright at some point. Whether or not you find his arguments compelling, you should at least be familiar with his streams of thought. This book is a great starting point, I think, for someone to engage Wright’s ideas. Ideally, reading through these essays will push you to dig further into Wright. They will also present scholars who, while sympathetic to Wright, do not uncritically accept everything he says. The tendencies to either anathematize Wright or to sing anthems of his praise need to be avoided. He has done the church a great service in his scholarship, but even he is the first to admit (toward the beginning of New Testament and the People of God) that doesn’t have it all right.

For someone like myself coming from a Reformed outlook on Christian theology, Kevin Vanhoozer’s essay is worth the price of the book. For one thing, it is packed full of allusions that one might miss when hearing the lecture that make it an enjoyable read. For another, he gets right to the heart of where the conflict between Wright and the Reformed is. His essay, aptly titled “Wrighting the Wrongs of the Reformation? The State of the Union with Christ in St. Paul and Protestant Soteriology,” gives an idea of his simultaneous theological focus and playfulness. Following Michael Bird (in this book) Vanhoozer argues for a notion of incorporated righteousness that helps synthesize what Wright is getting at with what Reformed theology has traditionally held soteriologically.

Beyond Vanhoozer’s essay, Wright’s responses at the end of each article are very instructive. Given the fact that most essays offer some level of criticism, it is interesting to see what Wright refuses to accept and what he concedes. He demonstrates the true marks of a scholar by being willing to take criticism of his work constructively and in a book like this it is very helpful for the reader to see a conversation in action throughout these pages.

The level of scholarship in this book is well within the grasp of the lay person interested in theology but it also provides a great resources for the budding theologian (or perhaps seasoned scholar as well). This book is useful for someone who is already familiar with Wright and has read the books in question, as well as someone who hasn’t really read much of Wright at all. His essays on Jesus and the People of God and Paul and the People of God give a good snapshot of the broad streams of Wright’s thought and at this point are very fresh (just over a year old). If you are interested in what N. T. Wright has really said, this book is a great starting point.

Lastly, this book has a practical concern to it. It is not just N. T. Wright and Paul, or N. T. Wright and Jesus, but a look at how this has bearing on the church (the people of God). Rather than being a series of lectures full of disembodied scholarship, offering ideas with no clear relationship to living Christianly, it is scholarship for the people of God. All of the contributors have a sense of doing their work for the church, clarifying what Jesus and Paul said and how that relates to the mission of the God carried out through the church.

All in all, this a great book to pick up and aid your study of New Testament theology further. It will stimulate your thinking and point you in fresh directions for critical engagement with N. T. Wright and other scholars as well.

Book Details

  • Editor: Nicholas Perrin 
  • Title: Jesus, Paul, and The People of God
  • PublisherIVP Academic (February 9, 2011)
  • Paperback: 294pgs
  • Reading Level: Bible School 
  • Audience Appeal: Students and Pastors interested in scholarly dialogue with N. T. Wright’s views on Jesus and Paul
  • Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of IVP Academic)


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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