Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978-2013

November 5, 2013 — Leave a comment


N. T. Wright, Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978-2013Minneapolis: Fortress, November 2013. 640 pp. Paperback, $69.00

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Thanks to Fortress Press for the review copy!

If you don’t know who N. T. Wright is, I foresee a Google search in your future. If you read this blog regularly, I’m assuming Wright needs no formal introduction. He is the (in)famous popularizes of the New Perspective on Paul (though he would not like to especially be known for that) and is a prolific writer.

To demonstrate that fact, Fortress Press has published a collection of his articles and essays on Paul to complement the release of the 4th volume in his Christian Origins and The Question of God series, Paul and The Faithfulness of God (which is on its way via media mail, if you’re curious). I believe this series is projected to have 6 volumes, but much like George R. R. Martin, Wright gets carried away in his writing, and the 4th volume ballooned in a 1700 pp. two book set. Also, there is a certain race against the clock, if you know what I mean (and I also think both authors do a fair bit of “trolling” readers from time to time).

In addition to such an extensive 4th volume, this installment comes with two companion volumes. The first to be released is Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978-2013. The second will be Paul and His Recent Interpreters in Feb. 2014 and is the paltriest of the lot, boasting a mere 384 pp. The former is obviously the focus of this post, so here’s the rundown.

The book is split into 4 parts that follow geographic rather than topic divisions. In other words, the essays are ordered chronologically rather than topically. So it looks kind of like this:

  • Oxford and Cambridge (1978-1993)
  • Lichfield and Westminster (1994-2002)
  • Durham (2003-2010)
  • St. Andrews (2011-2013)

This isn’t Wright’s first collection of essays and he clarifies that there is some overlap in the material here and in Paul: Fresh Perspectives as well as Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision. However, this seems to the sum total of essays, lectures, and articles published elsewhere, now collected into a single volume.

In approaching reading this volume to get a grasp on Wright’s Pauline theology, he has some advice in the preface:

By no means have all these articles, as it were, the same status within my developing project of Pauline theology. Some, as will readily be seen, are ephemeral, responding to particular moments and challenges. Others, however, are loadbearing, offering a fresh account of a particular theme or set of passages and arguing the point more fully than I can do in PFG. (xviii)

What are the load-bearing articles? Well Wright lists 7 of the 33 total:

  • The Paul of History and The Apostle of Faith (orig. pub. in Tyndale Bulletin 29 [1978]: 61-88)
  • Paul and The Patriarch (orig. pub. in Journal For The Study of The New Testament 35, no. 3, 2013, 207-41 [this is a longer version])
  • Paul, Arabia, and Elijah (orig. pub. in Journal of Biblical Literature 115, no. 4 [1996]: 683-92)
  • New Exodus, New Inheritance: The Narrative Substructure of Romans 3-8 (orig pub. in Romans and The People of God: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Fee: 1999)
  • 4QMMT and Paul: Justification, Works, and Eschatology (orig. History and Exegesis: New Testament Essays in Honor of Dr. E. Earle Ellis: 2006)
  • Romans 2.17-3.9: A Hidden Clue to The Meaning of Romans? (orig. pub. in Journal For The Study of Paul and His Letters 1, no. 2 [2012]: 1-25)
  • Messiahship in Galatians? (orig presented at 4th St. Andrews Conference on Scripture and Christian Theology, will be published in Galatians and Christian Theology: Forthcoming)

As you can see, several of these you could just roundup if you have access to a seminary library. The last one though is only published here (for now) and the second one is a longer version that Wright thinks is fairly pivotal. Additionally, Wright has added real life commentary to the beginning of each article to give you a kind of “historical background” to why he was writing on that particular topic at that particular time. He hopes that will encourage young scholars to see there is no often a grand scheme in mind when you begin your publishing career, but often one takes shape over the course of time.

I lay all this out so you can see what this volume offers to decide whether dropping money on it is the thing to do. If you’re going to ETS you can probably get a good deal (if you can grab it quick), but right now you’d be hard pressed to get it otherwise.

I suppose it all depends on how seriously you want to engage Wright. If you’re a New Testament guy, you probably ought to grab this and give it a slow read along with the Paul and The Faithfulness of God. Not necessarily because you’ll agree with everything, but because it is a massive work of creative scholarship that you can a) learn a lot from and b) will probably need to engage at some point if you’re a teacher.

If you’re not a NT guy (and you can take that both ways), you probably don’t need to add this to your library. It is a good resource, but it is kind of like an extended appendix. Since he’s not Vern Poythress and didn’t want 33 appendices published in a work that is already 1700 pages and split into two books, Wright opted to publish it separately.

Since I do have a review copy, I will probably start by reading the 7 load-bearing articles, and then pick and choose what looks interesting from there. I may report on my findings in another post, or I may use to inform my section by section review that I’ll do on the main show (so that I can complete my own series review of Christian Origins and The Question of God). This post is really just a preview since the book is a hot topic, and I figured the least I could do is let you know what you’re getting into if you want to grab a copy.

In the meantime, it looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me, but hey, I think I’m up for the task.


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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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