NPP (New Perspective on Paul): Heresy?

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Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
There's a part of me that wants to commend N.T. Wright for the kind of stands he takes but the irony is that a focus upon the Law of God and the "discipline" it provides is quite useless if Romans 7 is ambigous.
I haven't read his Romans commentary, but if Scot McKnight's summary is correct, I don't think it's all that far off-base.

Is Paul really that hard to understand? Does it really require studies of 2nd Temple Judaism to unpack what he's *really* saying?
In the modern academy, yes it does. To be an academic NT scholar, you have to be versed in these things. Otherwise Wright wouldn't have the right to write for academic audiences.* And Wright still gets accused of being a raging fundy who thinks the Bible is crystal-clear in some quarters. Read the first couple chapters of PFG, where he goes into his method: he basically concludes that the Bible is understandable.

It might help to compare his involvement with NPP with his involvement with the so-called "third quest for the historical Jesus." His conclusion is that the church has had it right all along, but to reach that conclusion, he has to do the work of a historian because he's doing work in the academy. It's just that he's also a churchman and so his work has a pastoral edge to it and is meant to be accessible as well as scholarly.

This piece of "perspective" could be illustrated from another anecdote from the Harvard talk: he was presenting on Paul, and a divinity student asked the question, "Which Paul?" And Wright had to present a brief, but also hilarious and pointed, argument for why we should assume that Paul wrote the letters attributed to him. That's the primary context he's addressing.

Another way of putting is this: we seem to be fine with this method of exegeting the Bible in context first when Meredith Kline and Geerhardus Vos do it, but we object when Wright does it. It seems that the difference here is that we dislike some of Wright's conclusions. If that's the case, then what we need is simply better scholarship.

*apologies for the pun, but it was inevitable, really.

I differ with Wright primarily in that I see metaphysics as a good thing and I can't really get on board with his vision.
Again, read the first couple chapters of PFG and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Part of the challenge for many of us is to read Wright charitably first and then to go back and critique. So many of the articles I've seen on this take sides without really taking notice of Wright's context or his real position. He really is a Christocentric thinker, and many of our disagreements with him actually stem from places where he is inconsistent with the implications of the more basic commitments he has!

And the places to critique are numerous: he's fairly ignorant of what Luther and the reformation actually taught; it's sometimes the case that he claims he's being original when most of us in the reformed camp have been saying something similar for a while.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I like what he is saying, but he has this habit of writing off a lot of metaphysical systems as "Platonism."
Well, he was trained in the 70s. What do you expect? Until someone can come up with a way to translate traditional metaphysics into terms that can be understood after the dust has finished settling on ordinary language philosophy, that's going to be typical. OLP was a step in the right direction after logical positivism, but ontology is still a largely dead language.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
In the modern academy, yes it does. To be an academic NT scholar, you have to be versed in these things.
I wasn't arguing that one should not do historical research. My problem is the method that ignores what an actual argument is and claiming that something is motivating it that the author never hints at. It's quite like the NT "scholars" who claim that Paul is concerned about prostitutes in 1 Corinthians when he explains very clearly that he is thinking of Eve and the Fall. 2nd Temple Judaism is interesting (I very much enjoy Edersheim and others) but it is an abuse of exegesis and hermeneutics to completely overthrow syntax and context and other disciplines to say that the background so controls a text that we must conclude that the author is simply aping a train of thought.

By the way, I've said repeatedly that I have a *big* problem with the fact that Kline (and his disciples) think that finding Hittite treaties in the 50's makes absolutely plain that we have misunderstood the nature of the Covenant because it did not emerge from the text itself.

I find this method theologically irresponsible.
 
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