I’m working on N.T. Wright’s latest scholarly publication, “Paul and the Faithfulness of God.” This is volume four in his seminal series, Christians Origins and the People of God. Wright is the former Archbishop of Durham and is currently a professor at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland.
This series is the summation of his years of study and work, both in academia and the church. (If you are wanting something a little less academic from him, I encourage you to pick up “Simply Christian,” “Surprised by Hope,” and “After You Believe.” Each one is fantastic in its own right.) Maggie will testify to the fact that I was almost as anxious about the arrival of this book in the mail as I was for the birth of our daughter. Almost.
Wright’s stated intent is to bring together the estranged disciplines of orthodox theology and critical history. The two have wandered from each other, Wright claims, but the proper thing is to see them together.
In “Paul,” he uses the short letter of Philemon to make his point. Paul is stretching out a hand to both Onesimus and Philemon, trying to bring them to reconciliation. The same with this project: Wright is trying to bring theology and history back together again.
I’m about halfway through the first book (yes, it’s a two book volume). Wright is doing the usual scholarly thing: laying the groundwork for what is to come. So far I’m very impressed with the sheer volume of his knowledge pertaining to ancient philosophy, the Roman empire, and first century Judaism. He knows his stuff, and as a faithful Christian it comes from a devout place in his heart.
What has surprised me, though, is the clarity and perspicacity of his writing. Wright uses puns, literary allusions, biblical references, and even cracks a joke about the German language in a footnote. In a two thousand page book that weighs in at almost six pounds, this style of writing provides moments of relief in an otherwise dense prose.
Reading this book has also been great fun for me, because it’s an excuse to hold Lydia. I think she’s probably picked up a fair amount of New Testament scholarship, and even a little Greek while we’re at it!