Thursday, May 12, 2005

Wright on his Reformed Critics 

Second, the relation of my own reading of Paul to the NP. Perhaps the most important point is this: had the dominant view of Paul prior to Sanders been Reformed rather than Lutheran, the NP might never have been necessary. I began my graduate work on Paul with just such a Reformed standpoint, and in many respects found Sanders an ally rather than an adversary. Since this will be counter-intuitive to some, an explanation is needed.

From (at least) Calvin onwards, reaching something of a climax in the Romans commentary of Charles Cranfield, exegetes in the Reformed tradition found in Paul a view of the Jewish law which was far more positive than Lutheran exegesis had assumed. I am not sure that this tradition ever did full justice to second Temple Judaism, but at least it did not start from the assumption that the law itself was basically a bad thing ripe for abolition. (Notice how this works out in exegesis of the notorious crux at Rom. 10:4: is Christ the abolition, end, completion, goal, or fulfilment of the law? Or what?) After all, in Reformed theology the Torah was given in the first place within a historical scheme, not to enable the Israelites to keep it and so earn their membership in God’s people, but to enable them, as a people already redeemed through the Exodus, to demonstrate and work out the implications of their membership and vocation. The (at least partial) convergence of Sanders’s reading of Judaism with a Reformed view of the law makes it all the more ironic that the anti-NP movement is today centred not least in Reformed circles such as the Presbyterian Church of America and Westminster Theological Seminary…

[From N.T. Wright’s essay, ‘Redemption from the New Perspective?’ in The Redemption: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on Christ as Redeemer]

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