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I am swamped with a few writing assignments right now. But will post my review of NT Wright’s Justification from my Amazon review. My review of this work is not a pure review of this book because I find it poorly argued and not his best writing (however, let me say, he is a great writer). His New Testament and the People of God is a better book for understanding Wright’s view of Pauline doctrine because there Wright spends most of his time proposing Paul’s historical context. If you understand his view of Second-Temple Judaism and Wright’s desire to harmonize his historical context with Paul then the book and it’s arguments will make more sense. Part III of NTPG will help anyone better understand Wright, his views, his presuppositions, and everything else he says in all his books.

Wright proposes a new view of justification. He makes exegetical arguments, but arguing at the exegetical level will not produce fruit. Most interactions with NT Wright will miss the mark because they attempt to take him on at the textual level. They try to exegete similar passages and show where his exegesis is wrong. Although I think his exegesis is off, I think the problem and debate should center around Wright’s presuppositions — mainly his methodology and historical context reconstruction. He sees the NT in a different historical context than “classic or reformed” Christianity.

Wright desires to set “Western scholarship” on the right path to understanding Paul’s historical context.

I intend to describe the authentic first-century Jewish worldview, so often obscured in subsequent Christian reflection, in order thereby to correct some normal ‘Christian’ understanding of Jesus, Paul, and early Christianity. Many ‘Christian’ readings of the gospels have screened out the political overtones of Jesus proclamation of the kingdom; a fresh examination of the Jewish background will put that straight. [1]

NT Wright seems to argue his view is most consistent with the OT, second-temple Judaism, and the NT writers (the presupposition here is 2nd Temple Judaism accurately conveys OT doctrine). He argues (throughout all his books on Paul and especially in “The New Testament and the People of God”) Paul must be understood in his Jewish context. This is the starting point here. Wright has spent much energy and killed many trees explaining his understanding of second-temple Judaism. His reconstruction provides the context for ALL Paul’s language. If you do not deal with his understanding of the context, it is hard to argue with his exegesis.

Here is where Wright is problematic. His view of Pauline theology is harmonized with second-temple Judaism. Wright sees consistency and gives second-temple Jews the final authority when explaining Jewish beliefs. This is okay if he were just analyzing second-temple Judaism. The problem is found in his reconciling Christianity and Judaism together. Wright never asks if second-temple Judaism rightfully interprets the OT? He doesn’t give Jesus a voice when Jesus is critical of the Jews and their theology. He doesn’t allow for Paul to disagree with Jewish doctrine. Therefore Paul could not have analyzed and claimed Jewish doctrine was wrong, because Wright doesn’t even consider the idea as plausible.

The problem with Wright, his view, his argument, and his conclusions (this is similar to the problem with EP Sanders) is he gives no authority to Scripture. Wright believes the Pharisees were good Jews and does not give the Bible a voice when analyzing Pharisaical doctrine or reconstructing history. Why? The Bible is too biased.

[The New Testamant has an] evident bias [against the Pharisees] . . . such a persepective . . . makes it very difficult to use the New Testament as basic materials in our reconstruction of the Pharisees [2]

So Wright’s reconstruction and harmonization exist without the authority of Scripture.

Instead he uses Historical Critical methods that includes redaction criticism. Redaction criticism allows him to ignore criticism from Jesus by claiming the church “changed” the words of Jesus to be anti-Jewish as a polemic against the Jews later in church history. This is the problem with Historical Critical methods. They are methods developed by unbelievers who desired to remove the authority from Scripture and therefore make it say what they wanted.

Therefore the problem with this book is at the methodological level. In summary, the only way Wright’s view stands is if Scripture is wrong.

[1] NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 149.

[2] NT Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 184.

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