N T Wright's Christian Origin Series

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N T Wright's Christian Origin Series

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Edited: Dec 13, 2013, 2:54 am

Two of us are planning to read the whole series this year. We are planning to take it very slowly, and enjoy the journey. We will start in January with The New Testament and the People of God reading two chapters a week.

Tom Wright is a fascinating writer, not least for the way he can decide what reader he is aiming at, and hit the target. If his name is given as 'Tom Wright' on the cover, the book is aimed at a popular audience, and his language is very clear, easy to read, and the ideas shaped to be understood by the 'people in the pews'. I find his 'for Everyone' commentary very useful. I'm currently reading John for Everyone as part of reading John in Greek.

When Wright writes as N T, he is usually writing for people with more theological interest. It's a little hint that you will have to work harder. He assumes that you already know something about the topic. These are usually aimed at the theology student, the lay person who reads theology, the clergy.

In the case of this series, you have to work a lot harder. This is his 'Summa' and is really aimed at the academic theologian. I don't have Paul and the Faithfulness of God yet, but I have had to put a lot into my previous readings of the others. However I have also gotten a lot out.

When Wright was named Bishop of Durham in 2003, two friends of mine, priests and theologians in that diocese, were really excited. I have to admit that I was in the middle of The resurrection of the son of God which had recently been published, and my first thought was, 'What will that do to the book on Paul?' Well there have been other books on Paul in the meantime, but the big one has taken ten years. I've been waiting a long time, and as I said above, I want to really enjoy reading the whole series through with the new addition.

When I read a theology book (or hear a sermon) I am hoping to react with either:
Oh, wow, I never saw that before, but it makes sense and I can integrate it into my Weltbild, making my vision of God and the world richer.

Yes! I think I have always known that, but now I know how to say it.

Tom Wright gives me both reactions at all the levels he writes at.

Edited: Dec 19, 2013, 9:22 pm

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Dec 17, 2013, 8:47 am

MarthaJeanne, I've ordered a copy and will also be joining you.

Dec 17, 2013, 9:58 am

This is great. I'm really looking forward to discussing the issues.

A short comment on the series. The original plan was five volumes. 1 and 2 came out. Then The resurrection of the son of God, which was not in the original plan. Paul was intended as volume 3, but has had to be bound in two volumes, giving us a total of 5 so far, but we have only reached no. 3 of the plan.

Dec 19, 2013, 10:26 am

Thanks for setting up the thread MarthaJeanne! And great to have someone else joining in streamsong :)

I will be away on holiday up to the fourth of January, so I will not be around much the first week... I am looking forward to starting the book :)

Dec 19, 2013, 11:05 am

I suggest reading the introduction for that first half week, and then Chapters 1 and 2 in the week of the 5th.

Dec 19, 2013, 11:18 am

Sounds like a good idea, I had been thinking that that first part-week of January might be a bit short, so I'm ok with starting with the 'real' reading in the second week :)

Dec 27, 2013, 10:16 am

Do you mind if I post this on the 75'ers Science, Religion and History thread? I think several people were interested.

I have my book but I am trying to finish up some other books before starting. I don't have the background you two do, although in December I've been listening to two Teaching Company courses on Christianity by Bart Ehrman and Luke Timothy Johnson. I've also spent the last two years (slowly!!) going through a commentary series on each book of the Bible published by Concordia Publishing House.

Dec 27, 2013, 10:36 am

Go ahead. I read with them, too, if the book interests me enough to buy.

Between us, we should be able to get through it.

Dec 27, 2013, 1:03 pm

I have read the first three volumes, and found that Wright has influenced my biblical understanding for the good far more than I can tell. It becomes very apparent when I discuss apocalyptic passages. He cured me of Hal Lindsay!

Dec 27, 2013, 1:14 pm

As a student of scriptures of all kinds (especially Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist) I am excited to join. :)

Edited: Jan 1, 2014, 10:29 am

I read the preface of NTPG today, and I certainly recommend it as a good starting place. Only seven pages, it eases us into the book, and lets us know why NT Wright wrote these books to begin with.

Out of curiousity I have also skimmed through the preface to the new book(s) and page xvii is a good explanation of why it is worth starting here and working forward towards Paul and the Faithfulness of God. I don't have access to that in full yet, but much of the preface can be found on Amazon.

Jan 1, 2014, 1:22 pm

Hmmm. Well, I can't make any promises to make it through the entire book since I have a lot of other books to read, but since this fits very well with my reading goals this year, I'll try to join. If I can find a copy in time! :)

Jan 4, 2014, 10:12 am

Just posting to let you know I read the preface and am still here. I am usually a skip-the-preface-and-the-foreward type of person, but agree he set down some good definitions of terms.

Jan 4, 2014, 10:16 am

I haven't even received the book yet. :p

Jan 4, 2014, 10:22 am

There's a good part of the preface and chapter one on Amazon.

Edited: Jan 6, 2014, 5:03 am

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Wright goes into more detail about where he wants to go in this series.

He deliniates 4 ways of viewing the NT by period
historical (Enlightenment)
theological (Modern?)
literary (Postmodern)

Then he goes into the last 3 in more detail giving the questions they ask, the problems that they entail, who are the names to keep in mind.

I know a little bit about many of the theologians he mentions. Luckily he classifies them well enough for the purposes of following his argument.

Then he basically says that the three lines cannot be kept separate and that we need to try to integrate all three.

The other major theme is where we put our main authority.
New Testament
New Testament theology, truths...

The Protestant emphasis on 'sola scriptura' would tend to point to the NT but some theologians try to pull out the truths and leave behind the form in which they have been passed down to us. On the other hand there is the dicotomy of the NT being important because of Jesus, but our only having access to information about him through the NT.

(NT is short for New Testament, and not for NT Wright, BTW)

NT theology is also contrasted with Early Christian theology. Each should actually be thought of in the plural. What is our relationship to these today? Are we, should we be trying to get back to the 'pure' Christianity of the early church, or through them to Jesus' own theology (and is either a real possibility) or do we take a positive view of the developments of the past 2000 years?

What about Paul? Wright doesn't mention him often in this. He is not a side issue, but rather how we view Paul is going to grow out of how we answer some of these questions.

He doesn't spend much time on the pre-critical readings of the NT. He doesn't belittle them, but seems to take the standpoint that anyone reading this book has already bitten into the apple, and can't go there anymore.

Anyway, fascinating questions. I like the way he really thinks about the questions and how they are connected before going on to try to answer them.

Edited: Jan 6, 2014, 4:57 am

While I don't want to leave anyone behind, I am going to try very hard to keep to my self-set rate of reading a chapter every Monday and Thursday, which should get through the first three books by about the end of June. For what it's worth, chapters in this book average about 30 pages.

The reason is that I know that is going to be much too much when we get to Paul, and I want to get all the way through. In Paul the chapters average 95 pages.

Jan 6, 2014, 5:27 pm

Well, I got my copy today. That's a good start.

Jan 6, 2014, 6:10 pm

That's a very good start! I'm glad it's come.

Jan 6, 2014, 8:57 pm

Ok. I've read the Preface (so I'm a little behind, I guess). Mostly, of course, it was just an explanation of what he's going to do in the book and of some of the terminology he's using. As you said, good for easing us into the book...

I found one bit particularly interesting:

"The christological question, as to whether the statement 'Jesus is God' is true, and if so in what sense, is often asked as if God were the known and Jesus were the unknown; This, I suggest, is manifestly mistaken. If anything, the matter stands the other way around." - pg xv

Well said! I agree whole-heartedly, though I am certain I know a LOT less about Jesus than N.T. Wright - and probably a lot less than the target audience for this book.

I realize that this topic probably quite well discussed among theologians, but it's not a subject that I have had the opportunity to read much about or to discuss with anybody willing to have a reasonable debate on the topic. I DO hope that the topic is renewed later in the book.

Edited: Jan 9, 2014, 4:47 am

Chapter 2 - Knowledge

Wright starts by contrasting the

Positivist (We have objective knowledge about some things and anything else isn't really knowledge.) and the

Phenomenalist (All we can really know is that we seem to have sense-data about something.) points of view. He then argues for

Critical realism. (There really is something out there that we can talk about, that we learn about as we dialogue with the sense-data?)

He goes on to the idea of story which is closely related to both worldview and hypothesis. He argues that there is no such thing as an objective fact outside of our personal stories about it. When we meet with sense-data we interprete it in stories. We need to both be aware of how conflicting stories can impact our worldview, and also be open to change our story when we find one that better fits the data.


So far I think that is pretty much what Wright says. Did I get it right?

Going to his conclusion:
"If anyone, reading that sentence, at once thinks 'so there is no such thing as objective knowledge' ...

There is an ongoing story in my family about the 'objective knowledge' we learn in school. My grandfather was amused that the history his children learned in American schools in the thirties and forties did not match what he had learned in England a generation before about the 1770s.

My father was taught in science classes that there could be no elements above a certain atomic number, and that this could be proved. I was expected to memorize a few above that mark.

It's hard for me to give specific examples because so much of what my sons have learnt either didn't exist, or at least wasn't talked about in school in my day.

It seems clear that my parents made sure I understood early on Wright's point that we only know things from certain points of view, and that there is no such thing as a neutral or detached observer. (This is not just true in the social sciences. Two current examples are the changes DNA testing is making in biological classification systems, and the amazing twists and turns quantum physicists are going through to try to observe what quantum events are like when they aren't being observed.)

Refering back to the preface, I think one of the advantages of this way of looking at things is that Wright can say that he is aware that he is getting some things wrong. This is the way I think I can make sense of things now, but I am open to changing my mind if you can show me a better way of explaining (parts of) it.

Edited: Jan 9, 2014, 5:01 am

Do other people find my summaries helpful? I want to do them for myself, both to clarify what I just read, and to have a reference back later. But that doesn't mean I have to post each one.

Jan 9, 2014, 10:05 am

MarthaJeanne, I'm finding your summaries quite helpful, although I haven't finished Chapter 2, yet.

I don't have a theology background, so I'm skimming past references to other theologians and hoping I'm not in over my head.

Rachel, I also found your comment very interesting about knowing God and knowing Jesus. It came to mind several times while I read chapter one.

I'm also concurrently reading C. S Lewis's The Screwtape Letters and read a relevant bit at the end of Chapter 27. I'd quote it here but just don't have the time right now. (My computer should be back today or tomorrow!) The devil Screwtape advocates getting people lost in the historical view. Since as MarthaJeanne said, Wright skips over the precritical view, it's an interesting statement for it--although as Screwtape also advocates putting blocks between people of different groups to limit the spread of knowledge, I don't think Lewis is entirely precritical.

Jan 12, 2014, 1:44 pm

MarthaJeanne, I find your summaries interesting, too, and will most likely post my own as well. However, I'm still working on the first chapter and I know I'm just going to keep falling further and further behind the group if you're going at 2 chapters a week. I'm going to have to go at my own pace if I want to absorb and process the information properly. So I will just keep posting my thoughts until I am so far behind that posting my thoughts seems silly. :)

Edited: Jan 13, 2014, 8:55 am

Chapter 3 - Literature, Story and Worldview

First, what happens when we read? How do we relate to the text, the author, an event that is described? A lot of this seems to me would make more sense with a discussion of genre first. But never mind, most of it seems to be trying to clear the way for the question on p 61:

What happens when a sacred text which purports to be historical is being read?

Wright points out some of the ways the various theories bite their own tails.

Section 2c (p61-64) is vital.
The viewpoints described before cannot stand on their own. We need to take reader, text, author and event seriously and create/be aware of relationships between them. Wright calls this 'a hermeneutic of love'.

Stories (Literature) 'bring worldviews into articulation'. (p65) It is necessary to bear both the world views of the author and the reader in mind. We must also consider whether the text intends also to express something that is an external event. Readings of the text vary between private and public. Readings that are private are certain, but lacking in public relevance. Public readings should be discussed as on a scale between appropriate and inappropriate.

To what extent is there a 'true' meaning of the text? To what extent can external events be reconstructed from the text?

The discussion of Griemas' scheme for understanding narrative structure loses me. I almost understand that trying to fit a story into such a structure might give new insights into a text.

Finally, the story is primary. The terms used to describe what the story is about are not themselves the important thing, but only point to the story, and make it possible to tanlk about the story. Wright's example is Monotheism and Election as a condensed way of talking about the story of Israel.

In reading the gospel stories we need to be aware of how they are reinterpeting that story.

I am reminded of a sermon at Maria Kirchenthal about how we cannot stop at the point where we revere Mary. She is only important as someone who points to Jesus.
It is often easy to get held up at one of the ways we describe a story and talk about that rather than the story itself.

Edited: Jan 16, 2014, 5:43 am

With several more people contributing, I want to reopen the question of whether we are better off with this single topic, or whether we should create a group and separate topics every chapter or so. At this point there isn't that much to move.

Vote: I prefer a single topic.

Current tally: Yes 1, No 0, Undecided 1
A no vote would be to create a group.

Jan 16, 2014, 5:56 am

Chapter 4 - History and the First Century (4.1-4.3)

History is 'the meaningful narrative of events and intentions.'
It always includes selection and interpretation.
Note example 'Christ died for our sins.' page 84.

Working with the NT we have the additional question of how it is to be considered authoritative. Also problem of standing myths and their opposites re Judaism and Early Christians. Neither the old stories nor refusal to create new stories works.

There are such things as historical facts. These are never 'objective' because they deal with human beings, and how they interact is based on subjective factors. Does an accounts PoV make the event more clear or does it distort?
It is important not to insist on one's own worldview when reading the sources. Nor need one agree with the worldview of the author. Open mind!

History does not rule out theology.
Theology does not rule out history.
They need each other.

History is interested both in events, and in why they happened. Intentuality both by humans and by the divine, (Israel's God) is part of what history is about. Even if we do not accept the existance of God, if we are talking about events in 1st century Judaism, God's intents matter, because we cannot understand the way people behave without understanding that they take God's plan seriously.

Distinctions rejected:
Objective/ Subjective
Currently both liberal and conservative interpretations are built on these distictions, and will both be subverted.

Highlight next to last paragraph of 4.3 (p. 97-98).

Jan 17, 2014, 8:02 am

Chapter 4 - History and the First Century (4.4-4.6)

A good hypothesis is:
explains the data
is also fruitful in related areas

Be careful not to project desired outcome onto the material.

History includes the study of world views, mindsets, aims, intentions and motivations.
World view - society
Mindset - individual
Aim - general purpose
Intention - specific application of aim
Motivation - sense that specific action is appropriate

The historian creates a narrative. No recent work covers the history of 1st centuty Christianity as a whole. (This work attempts to do so.)

History and meaning:
'The adequacy of the meanings assigned to certain events and stories within a worldview.'

The chapter finishes with a short discussion of the pitfalls waiting for someone dealing in the history of first century Judaism and Christianity.

Jan 17, 2014, 11:45 am

I think I must be somewhat masocistic. Paul arrived today, and I also borrowed Josef und seine Bruder from the library. For those who don't know it, Thomas Mann's novel on Joseph was published in 4 long volumes. This is an edition in one volume and runs over 1300 pages long.

Edited: Jan 20, 2014, 8:53 am

Chapter 5 -Theology, Authority and the NT

This chapter is shorter than the previous one. It also finishes the 'Tools' Part of the book.

1) Provide stories
2) Answer basic questions. Including the way forward - Redemptive eschatology. Don't skip the footnote.
3) Stories expressed in cultural symbols. Symbols are boundary markers.
4) Praxis. Eschatology entails action.

Theology asks questions which interact with worldview questions.
Theology's stories and questions are often focused in symbols.
Theology must take account of praxis.
Part of its job is challenging where symbol and praxis don't match the story.

There follows a discussion of the 'possibility of God-talk having a referent'. Both the question of talking about revelation, and the question of whether revelation says anything meaningful about God are not simple. Agreeing that God-talk is possible does not yet say anything about the truth of what is said.

Christian Theology makes claims about the truth of a certain worldview. It specifies a certain story (p132) and gives certain answers to the basic questions (p132-3). There are a variety of symbols that have been used to express this world view, some of which have been shown to be incompatible with the basic story. (p133) The praxis is also sometimes muddled. (p133-134)

This world view gives rise to various basic beliefs, and through them to consequent beliefs. These do not always agree nor is there general agreement as to which beliefs belong to which level. It is important that theology discuss all levels, including the worldview level.

Christian theology is public language.
It is language about history. but also committed to justice and peace.
It needs to bear in mind the condition of the theologian.
It needs to appeal to a sense of fittingness or appropriateness.

Biblical studies need theology to understand the thoughts of the characters.
Biblical studies need theology to analyse the world view(s) of those doing the studies.
Theology needs biblical studies to conect to the story(ies) the Bible tells.

One vital part of Chrisian theology is telling the story of Jesus - the person who lived and died as a Jew of the first century.

NT and authority
How might stories carry, or be vehicles for, authority?

Metaphor of unfinished play. NT as first scene in act five.
'We are not searching, against the grain of the material, for timeless truths. We are looking {...} at a vocation to be the people of God in the fifth act of the drama of creation.'

Jan 21, 2014, 7:02 am

I was hoping to read through this series this year so was very excited to come across this thread and see I would have some company!

The New Testament and the People of God and Jesus and the Victory of God will be rereads for me but I haven't read the others before. I'm a little behind as sp far I've only reread the preface and Ch 1 of the first book but I hope to get a bit more caught up this week.

#21 Although this is a reread for me I'm coming across so many points that I either missed last time or had forgotten about and that quote also really struck me too!

#23 I find your summaries very helpful - thank you for taking the time to write them up and post them for us.

#27 I voted undecided - perhaps we need to wait until more of us have read the first few chapters to see how much discussion each chapter generates?

Jan 21, 2014, 7:12 am

The first three are rereads for me. I have started again with the first book each time there has been a new one. However I haven't looked at them for the past 10 years, so it is not clear whether I remember anything of the last effort. I think I am finding it easier this time, but it is very early days yet. Thursday may well have me regretting that statement. I am finding it helpful to be making notes this time. I hadn't tried that before.

Jan 23, 2014, 8:42 am

And on to part 3
First-Century Judaism

Chapter 6
The Setting and the Story

Before we can turn to a study of Jesus and Paul, we must make a picture of their environment(s). We must also be aware of the inadequacies of the picture previous generations had, but also that current pictures are a reation to those inadequacies.

Side note: I was on a tour last night of the depots of the Ethnology Museum. One of those taking part talked of a similar tour in the 1990s when we were all still in shock from a major fire in another part of the imperial palace. At that time the curator giving the tour said, 'At least now we might finally get some fire detectors in here.' Sure enough, a few years later they got not just fire detectors, but a 'state of the art' system could flood the area with nitrogen in 90 seconds to put out any detected fire. On the one occasion that it was set off in one of the depots by accident, (NOT a fire) the curators and restorators were aghast when they could reenter the area. The wind currents had thrown all the objects off their shelves into broken heaps on the floor.

Another paragraph to highlight: p 148-9 What emerges from this study...

Wright then defends his intention to use the 1st century Jewish worldview to cast light on early Christianity. He will not attempt a new reading from the sources, but refers to various modern studies.
Obviously the studies he lists are not the newest any more.
Description of main literary sources for the Judaism of the period with notes on their limitations

Description of wider environment - Hellenism, Roman empire, paganism(s)

A quick run through of Jewish history after Babylon leading to
Roman rule after 63 BC
Changes in Judaism post-70
Bar Kochba rebellion 132-135


I found this chapter very straight forward.

Jan 28, 2014, 11:52 am

Chapter 7 The Developing Diversity

Jerusalem vs Galilee and diaspora
Temple/Torah and boundary fences
also loyalty vs assimilation in border areas

Rich vs Poor
Town vs countryside

from oppression
from debt
from Rome

Movements of Revolt
Maccabees > Hamonean rule > Essene protest
Brigands put down by Herod
4 BC events around death of Herod including Galilean revolt
6 AD removal of Archelaus, census, Judas the Galilean
Pilate provokes protests
Gaius wants statue in temple
Further episodes
~60 AD Sicarii form
More riots and brigands

Jewish War
Many factions - Various interpretations

The Pharisees
Source material biased and incomplete.
Difficulty in figuring out relaionships with other groups.
Late Hasmonean political pressure group
- Purity = Faithfullness to God and Isreal
Roman and Herodian rule
- How much power remained?
- Differing parties within the Pharisees
Post AD 70
- Continuation of both revolutionary and holiness themes
Post AD 135
- Beginning of rabbinic Judaism
providence and free will - God will act, but loyal people must act with him.

The Essenes
a multiform Jewish sectarian group
True Israel/True temple
Waiting for God to act
Escatology - looked forward to dramatic change. Messianic priest and messianic Davidic king will renew the temple and defeat the enemy.

Priests, aristocrats, Sadducees
More priests than Pharisees and Essenes together.
Temple as inspiration for the majority, power base for the few
Conservative - wanting to retain own positions

'Ordinary Jews'
Followed basic Biblical law.

Edited: Jan 30, 2014, 5:38 am

Chapter 8 - Story, Symbol, Praxis

Creation, Abraham, Egypt, Moses, David, Exile and return
Story still needs to be completed

Josephus completes story by having God go over to the Roman side: NOT appropriate.
Sirach 44-50 completes story with glory of temple worship: fails with Antiochus Epiphanes.
Maccabees tell own story as completion: others disagree.

Many retellings without finish
Apocalyptic writings attempt to find future completion.

Already within Canonical writings - and apocrypha ( in Septuagint)
Historical fiction around Biblical characters - Joseph and Aseneth

In first century, waiting for God to rescue. How can the Torah be helped bring this about?
Essenes - new community
Pharisees - fidelity to traditions
Messianic hopes

In larger story, Israel will bring the nations to God. But first Israel must be freed and restored.

Racial Identity

Temple - not just religious centre. Jerusalem was small city around the temple. Temple made up 25% of the city.
Centre of controversy - was current temple legitimate? High priests corrupt, built by Herod.

Land - Both Judea and Galilee
Connection to temple
Repossesion after exile only partial. Needs control and cleansing.

Torah - strongly connected to both temple and land
But: since the exile also practiced apart from temple and land. Had become 'a portable Land, a movable Temple'. Spiritual sacrifices - alms, prayer, Torah study, fasting. Not clear how far this was true at time of Jesus, but certainly already started, particularly in Diaspora.
Torah focused on circumsision, sabbath, purity laws - separation from the pagans.
Mishnah - oral case law, development of Torah for day-to-day use.
(Symbol must remain connected to both story and praxis.)

Racial Identity - Jews must remain distinct

Symbol and story mutually reinforcing

Study of Torah
Day-to-day practice of Torah

!Worship and festivals
Daily and weekly servives in temple and synogogue
Prayers for private, family, and public use.

Pilgrimage at major festivals
Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles - all agricultural harvest festivals with added value from Story - waiting for redemption
Hanukkah, Purim lesser festivals reinforce same story.

Fasting at times commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians - Israel still awaiting real redemption fron exile.

!Study and Learning
Study of Torah the supreme vocation

!Torah in Practice
Circumcision |
Sabbath . . . .| Jewish separateness
Kosher laws . |

Debate not about whether but about HOW to observe these.
In Jerusalem the temple was the central symbol. In Galilee or Diaspora it was Torah.
Non-association with Gentiles as far as possible.

!According to the Scriptures
Biblical tradition related to their own context.

!Israel's Worldview p243

Jan 30, 2014, 5:35 am

I'm also in the midst of trying to reread the NT - this time in Greek. Slow process. I began with John, and now am in the middle of Matthew. I must say that this makes a lot of sense in that context - and Matthew makes a lot more sense in this context (but for that we need the next book in the series. Hopefully a shorter wait than this one.)

How are the rest of you coming with this?

Jan 30, 2014, 12:54 pm

I'm way behind, having just finished Chapter 4 before coming to work this morning.

Since I never took either history or theology in college, this is slow going (lots of rereading) but I'm loving it. Chapter 4 was great; there is certainly more to the study of history than I was aware. I'll be taking away much more than learning a bit about 1st century Christianity.

I was proud of myself for recognizing that CS Lewis typified the 'read it and believe it' view (sorry can't rememember what Wright calls it--this no computer at home is not good. I don't much like Wright's term, 'naive'; too much connotation/condescension there) a chapter before Wright introduced Lewis' views. At some point, I want to read the Lewis debate that he mentioned.

For the last 2+ years, I've been working my way through a 41 (yes 41!) volume set of Bible commentary published by the Lutheran Concordia House press. I'm concurrently reading OT & NT, Psalms, and Proverbs in a complicated rotating schedule so I don't get bored at any one place and burn out. In the NT, I'm reading the commentary for John and also Titus. This morning I was reading the commentary for the minor prophet, Amos. I'm finding the same thing you are--my reading is much more interesting in the light of what Wright is saying.

Feb 3, 2014, 9:00 am

Reading chapter 8, I see that probably part of why I am finding things easier is that I seem to follow theological terminology better now than 10 years ago.

Jesus said to some theologians, "Who do you say that I am?"

They replied, "You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the kerygma of which we find the ultimate meaning in our interpersonal relationships."

And Jesus said, "What?"


Feb 3, 2014, 9:08 am

:-) !

Edited: Feb 6, 2014, 11:48 am

Chapter 9 - The Beliefs of Israel

Jesus and Paul, from within Jewish belief system, challenge and redefine the system.

Judaism more a way of life than a system of beliefs and not given to theological abstraction.
Israel - the people of the creator God.
Israel - Light of the world
God - Committed to renewal of covenant with Israel
God - lives uniquely on Mount Zion

Creational Monotheism rules out
- henotheism - no other gods
- pantheism - evil does exist
- deism - God does intervene in the world
- gnosticism - God is involved in the world
- paganism
There is one god, this god made the world and remains active in it.

Providential Monotheism - God works in 'natural events'.

Covenantal Monotheism - Israel called to restore the world
Answer to evil in the world.
Evil is real, but does not have the last word.
Eschatalogical entailment.

Dualities vs Dualism
1 Theological/ontological duality - existance of other beings under the one god
2 Theological/cosmological duality - differentiation between God and the world
3 Moral duality - firm distinction between good and evil
4 Eschatological duality - the present age/the age to come
5 Theological/moral duality - good god vs bad god struggling against each other
6 Cosmological duality - Plato - material world/spiritual world
7 Anthropological duality - body/soul (human version of 6)
8 Epistemological duality - observation and reason/revelation
9 Sectarian duality - us/them
10 Psychological duality - good/evil within each of us

1-4 included in first century Judaism. Should not be included in dualism.
5 rejected.
6,7 at most in a soft form. In general spiritual and physical realities integrated.
8,9 various opinions
10 accepted by later rabbis, no early evidence

Wright proposes that only 5,6,7 are dualism proper. They include radical split in the whole of reality.

Sectarian Judaism creates conditions for increase in dualities beyond the typical.
He goes into this at some length.
This does not mean that these positions were thought about in this abstract way.

Discussion of monotheism re point 1 p. 258f

Feb 3, 2014, 9:26 am

That's the first part of the chapter. As I said above, a lot of terminology. If you don't get it, try to read the explanations and ignore the labels. That's really all they are. It's just a bit overwhealming to have so many thrown at you at once.

(39 is one of my favourite theology jokes. But I can't remember it. Google is a big help.)

Edited: Feb 6, 2014, 11:49 am

Chapter 9 - rest of chapter

Election and Covenant
Theme runs through Torah, prophets, Wisdom lit:
Israel is the true humanity.
Adam>Abraham>Israel>rescue and restoration of the entire creation.
Fate of Gentiles?

Israel still in exile - when will God restore Israel
Story - p271f

part of the problem is ongoing sin, evil, corruption inside Israel.
How does sacrificial system work?
Exile also seen as sacrifice, 'collective suffering as payment for national sin'

Edited: Feb 6, 2014, 11:49 am

Chapter 10 - The Hope of Israel


literary form - vision (/and interpretation) - divine revelation
'Apocalyptic language uses complex and highly coloured metaphors in order to describe one event in terms of another, thus bringing out the perceived 'meaning' of the first.'

I love the aside near the bottom of p282.
Wright's point here is that we, too use language that is not meant to be read literally. The need to recognize metaphorical language in these visions is important.

Literal end of the world scenarios not part of Jewish expectations. Stoics believed that fire would dissolve the world.

personal - real visions written down or literary genre?
social - literature of the powerless - 'subversive literature of oppressed groups'
historical - consider different groups, question how well known there.

Literary - metaphor - beasts represent kings/kingdoms
Sociological - king represents his people
Metaphysical - Angel represents someone/some group on earth
literary representation does not require others to be meant.
Son of Man in Daniel 7 meant as literary representation.

Daniel 7 parallel to Daniel 6. Important not to overinterpret Son of Man references.

Back to the dualities. Apocalyptic writings share the dualities that are common in all of first century Judaism, but not dualism proper. Compare chart p256.
End of current world order, not end of space-time world.
'... We must read most apocalyptic literature, ... , as a complex metaphor system which invests space-time with its full, that is, its theological, significance.'

It is easy at this point to want to skip over the whole apocalyptic stuff, and get on to 'real' matters. But I think the point is that apocalyptic literature is not about 'unreal' things, but is an important way of talking about the meaning in real matters. How we read it makes a big difference in how we interpret other ways of talking about those same matters.

Feb 6, 2014, 5:14 am

This is a long chapter (over 50 pages) and I need to give my brain time to cool down before going on to the next bit.

I'm seeing better in this reading how carefully Wright is building up his foundations.

I am reminded of a university course my husband gave a few decades ago on computer skills. Many of his students had trouble with an Excel problem on an exam. 'That's not fair! It's math we never learned!' He consulted our sons, who agreed that they had learned it in 8th grade. The question stood - he felt that he needed to be able to assume that college students learning Excel could do middle school math.

Wright is taking us through a lot of things that to him are 'middle school maths'. But he recognizes that many of us never heard, or heard wrong, or heard and decided to to ignore... ('And some of the seed landed ... Matthew 13). He says himself in the preface p xvi, This first volume 'is basically an exercise in ground-clearing, designed to enable me to engage in further work' ... 'without begging quite so many questions' ...

There are plenty of things that Excel could do that I can't use because I don't have the math for it. But that's OK. I don't need to do those things. How I wish I had taken statistics and probability instead of calculus! But if I really needed them I would have learned them by now. Every now and again though, I have to give up on a book that bases its arguments on math I never learned. (Including calculus, btw)

But the groundwork here is vital for following what Wright is going to say in the other books.

Wright's 'for everyone' commentaries have nice little glossaries at the back, and those words are in bold all the way through so you can check what he means by 'heaven' or 'covenant' or 'faith'. Sometimes it would be a big help to have the same thing here for 'epistomological' and 'eschatological' ... Anyone know of a good small book of that type?

Edited: Feb 6, 2014, 11:49 am

Chapter 10 - rest

The present age / the age to come

covenant renewal
restoration of the temple
liberation from Rome
circumcision of the heart
kingdom of God

Often not mentioned
possible tension with God's kingship
no clear outline
BUT messianic movements including bar-Kochba
Herod's aspirations
key themes in NT

Expectations focused on nation, not individual
Could become focused on individual in certain circumstances
Details could be redrawn to fit circumstances.
Main task of Messiah is liberation of Israel including cleansing/rebuilding/restoring temple
Agent of God, not transcendant figure
Redemptive suffering not applied to Messiah

Bodily resurrection Imperishable soul
Which is basic belief, which metaphor for other?

Majority opinion seems to be BR sometimes expressed as IS
Hellenized opinion seems to be IS sometimes expressed as BR
Sadducees denied both BR and IS

Basis for BR: expectation of renewal of creation. This cannot leave out those who have died in the struggle to bring it about.
Focus on renewal of creation/nation ... leads to individual renewal.

Who is on the list for salvation/vindication/resurrection?
Who gets in?
How does one stay in?
Crisis time!

Conclusion: First-Century Judaism
In spite of differences in details, there was general agreement about the worldview, story and hopes across most varieties of 1st century Judaism.
Enter John and Jesus on the scene ...

Edited: Feb 9, 2014, 2:26 pm

I'm reading your summaries as I complete the chapters.

Having finished Chapter 6, I was most surprised by the extent of the Hellinization of Palestine. I was most blown away by this quote on page 157 "By the time of the first century, if Jesus had wanted to take his disciples to see Euripides' plays performed he might have only had to walk down the road from Capernaum to Beth Shean."

I started Chapter 7. My half hour today advanced me only six pages the text, as I went back to the previous chapter, forward to the timeline in the appendices, and wished that among all the other resources, a map had been included.

ETA--I just read your post >34 MarthaJeanne: on Chapter 6. What a disaster at the museum! It's amazing how hard it is to predict consequences.

Feb 9, 2014, 4:45 pm

I am posting chapter 11 early. I seem to have time tonight, and I have promised to spin with a class at school tomorrow.

Feb 9, 2014, 4:45 pm

Wright NTPG
The First Christian Century

Chapter 11 - The Quest for the Kerygmatic Church

We don't know much about first century Christianity, and most of what has been written is questionable.

The digression about Schweitzer is interesting if you understand it, and helps explain the title of the chapter. Schweitzer's Quest of the Historical Jesus is one of the big dividing points in theology. Schweitzer studied the major 18th and 19th century works on Jesus, and came to the conclusion that they were mostly built on the ideals and hopes of their authors. There is a bit more in the descriptions on the work page, and Wright will go into what this meant for subseqent studies of Jesus at some length in Jesus and the Victory of God.

The rest of the introduction runs through various studies of early Christianity and why Wright disagrees with them. This is fairly clear from what we have read in the last few chapters.

Fixed historical points

Martyrdom of Polycarp - 155/6
(Birth of Polycarp = Presence of Christian community in Asia Minor - 69/70)
Pliny asks about how to treat Christians - c110
Martyrdom of Ignatius - c110-117
Domitian questions relatives of Jesus - c90
Fall of Jerusalem - 70
Nero and the burning of Rome - 64
Death of James - 62
Paul in Corinth - 49-51
Expulsion of Jews from Rome - 49
Crucifixion - 30

This gives us some points of reference. Little for Syria, nothing for Egypt.

Dating of Literature
Paul - late 40 s to late 50s
Ignatius - before 117
Most other writings are not sure.

Feb 10, 2014, 6:20 am

When I ordered Paul, a recommendation for The Case for the Psalms also came up, and me being who I am, also ended up in my shopping basket. Now I'm sure that right now most of you are horrified at the idea of reading more Wright. But if you can get your hands on this, I highly recommend it.

It is not only a lovely paeon of praise for the Psalms, but it is also a working out in practice of the material we are covering here. And not in academic language, but in language designed to convince interested lay people that the psalms can make a difference in their lives - just because of all this material we have been working through.

Feb 13, 2014, 8:32 am

Chapter 12 - Praxis, Symbol and Worldview

Speed of Growth
Mission was an obvious feature of early Christianity

Baptism and Eucharist
words not yet fixed, but sacraments taken for granted.

Monotheism, but also worship of Jesus

Strong ethical code
Includes behaviour across social barriers
Assumed that Christian behaved better than others

Sacrificial language, but no animal sacrifices

Suffering, death, Martyrdom

New way of being human

Creeds - theology

Who are we?
New group
true Israel

Where are we?
In a world that does not aknowledge the creator

What is wrong?

What is the solution?

Feb 17, 2014, 4:47 am

Chapter 13 - Stories in Early Christianity (1) - Part one

Early Christians were story-tellers. Stories were 'an essential part of what they were and did.'

Comparison Luke - Josephus
1) Jewish history leads to recent climax. (death of Jesus/destrucion of the temple)
2) Jesus/Vespsian proclaimed king in Judea, then in Rome.
3) Both represent Rome positively and Christians/Jews as worthy of respect.
4)History matters.

Luke places his books in the genre of Hellenistic history-writing.
Then refers to Hannah in 1 Samuel.
... Message of judgement
... message of salvation
Parallels continue into Acts.
'Luke is telling the story of Jesus as the fulfillment, the completion, of the story of David and his kingdom.

Combination of Jewish history reaching its climax AND Hellenistic bios.

Subverts both other 1st century tellings of the Jewish story and the pagan story.

Both historian AND theologian

Story of Israel - Abraham, David, Exile
New Moses, New exodus, New covenant
Comparison to Torah - blessings and woes

Covenant choice (Deuteronomy 30) built into the structure of Matthew's gospel.

Again combines continuation and climax of Jewish history with Hellenistic bios.

On the one hand, reading Matthew right now is a big help in understanding what Wright is getting at here. (I'm at Chapter 25 right now. ie: The woes are strongly in my head.) On the other hand this has pulled the whole thing together for me in a way that the commentaries don't, including his.

Feb 17, 2014, 11:02 am

Chapter 13 - Stories in Early Christianity (1) - Part 2

Hellenistic bios and Jewish apocalyptic

Apocalyptic: a way of investing space-time events with their theological significance.

Secret to be penetrated. Veil sometimes lifted.
interpretation of history not escape from it.
(let the reader understand)
Tells the story of Jesus telling the story of Israel by apocalyptic means

Coming of kingdom not the great vindication of Jerusalem.
Desolation of Jerusalem and vindication of Jesus

Synoptic conclusion
Story of Jesus is climax of story of Israel.
Belief in the resurrection as significant depends on the events in Jesus' ministry.
p401 middle In order to articulate ... to its god-intended climax.

Now time to bring the world into subjection to its creator.

Gospels more than biographies.
Invitation to enter a worldview.
Passion is necessary climax to story being told.

Paul and his stories
What stories gave narrative depth to Paul's worldview?
Paul's personal story is a Jewish one -straightened out.
Larger narrative is Jewish story - with a twist,
Details p405ff
Christ- Israel's fulfilment.
As for synoptics - Israel story fulfilled, subverted, transformed.
I'm not sure I got this. I probably don't know Paul's letters well enough. I hope that this all be made much clearer when we get to the Paul books.

Jesus is the true great high priest.

Jesus ministry located in Jewish sacred time.
Jesus and Judeans microcosm of creator god and world.
Narrative world: creation, Israel, Jesus in Israel, disciples in world
Christ Logos Shekinah Wisdom
Logos becomes fully human.

Orthodox canon all tells the same overarching story.

Feb 17, 2014, 11:10 am

Between Matthew and this I have a whole line of books on my study shelf with bookmarks getting close to the end. Obviously not anywhere near the end of either project, but it will be nice to see progress marked.

Feb 20, 2014, 6:23 am

Chapter 14 -Stories in Early Christianity (2) part 1

Shorter stories - Anecdotes

'Traditions do not lie around unshaped.'
Form of a story indicates context in which it is told.
For difficulties involved see p420 first paragraph.

Form criticism not designed to help find out about Jesus, but about the early church.
Fc can be done out of differing theories of early church history. (check author's preconceptions! MJ)
Were stories invented to answer later questions? Compare Paul. Unlikely.

Jesus probably repeated stories.
Wright's point about major politicians is fine, but those people who don't make it into TV do repeat themselves. I heard several of my father's sermons more than once. ... And even those who speeches are widely reported will repeat, not the whole speech, but certain metaphors again and again.

People retell stories, and both those who hear and those who tell these retellings remember the stories.
There must have been a lot of material, and the Evangelists are more likely to have cut than added material.
I am reminded of reactions by those familiar with the books to movie versions. Even when the movie has stayed close to the book (Harry Potter, Narnia) complain about wrong details and certain favourite bits left out. I absolutely refuse to watch the Lord of the Rings movies. I've seen and heard enough to know that they are not the Middle Earth I know.

FC needed, but stuck in old approach.

Discussion of myth.
In my day at university we differentiated between myth and legend. In this discussion the two seem to be mixed.

Again the problem of modern readers taking metaphorical language literally.
This is 'simply a gross distortion.'

Myth (and also legend, MJ) take longer to develop than the time available.

The final paragraph of this section is important. p426f If we understand that, we are ready to move on to:

Revised Form Criticism
Jesus lived in Jewish context.
Books written about Jesus in the first century interpret Jesus in Jewish context.
Remember, this book was written 20 years ago. Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew written two years later, talks about how ignorant he was about Judaism, and that the picture he had been taught about Jesus hardly included anything Jewish. I think, I hope, that this is much less true today, but I certainly remember being frustrated in the late 90s at the number of authors who had just made the brand new, earthshaking discovery that Jesus was (gasp, fanfare, are you ready for this?) Jewish. Um, yes, and where have you been the past 2000 years? If Wright seems to overemphasize this, it is because at that time it was not something that people were generally consciously aware of.

Therefore a Jewish FC of the synoptic tradition would be a good idea.
The theory that a Jewish framework was added to the tradition after 70 AD is unlikely.
General drift is more likely to be Jewish to Hellenistic than the other way around.

Do stories gain or lose details in the retelling? Possibly both.

Feb 20, 2014, 6:24 am

I've put a lot of personal comment in this one. Somehow it seemed to call for that.

Feb 20, 2014, 10:07 am

Chapter 14 -Stories in Early Christianity (2) part2

Jesus as prophet
Bear in mind that healing stories will be similar in any context.
Echoes of Moses likely to be early, not late in Wright's opinion. (Makes sense to me, too)

Contraversy stories
see comparisons to Daniel
These are a natural form within a small Jewish remnant group.

Parables found throughout Jewish writings.

Longer units

If FC is done on the premise that Jesus first followers thought like Jews rather than Hellenes, it will turn older FC results on their heads.

Q and Thomas
'So many unproveable and mutually contradictory things are said about Q that the non-specialist (that's me! MJ) may well feel the whole discussion is a waste of time.'

Feb 20, 2014, 10:23 am

I hope, and even assume, that the last bit has more to do with Wright wanting to show that he was aware of current scholarship in late 20th century theology than that this discussion will be terribly important in the coming volumes. Nothing I have read about either has made me feel that Thomas, never mind a reconstructed early Q has much to offer me, and I am highly sceptical of those theories that are based on them.

This ended up very short. Can anyone give some notes here that make sense?

One of the things I like about Wright's approach is his emphasis on story. I think that once we know the story we can make sense of the abstractions, but to try and understand abstractions without the stories is very difficult. And in fact, we very rarely talk about abstractions without using metaphors - even the words we call them by are often made up of metaphors. (abstraction - from abs- (“away”) + trahō (“to pull, draw”)

Feb 20, 2014, 2:29 pm

#57: I'm only following in the background although I may get round to buying into this series. But when you say "If FC is done on the premise that Jesus first followers thought like Jews rather than Hellenes, it will turn older FC results on their heads." I had to look back in the thread to decode "FC" which I now assume means "form criticism". If all other readers of this thread knew immediately what FC referred to then I'm clearly out of my depth and wasting my time. And, yes, I do know what form criticism means.

Edited: Feb 20, 2014, 3:07 pm

My assumption was that those reading the notes were also reading the book and therefore recognized that the notes were about what was being discussed in this chapter.

These notes can certainly not replace Wright.

Feb 24, 2014, 4:54 am

Chapter 15 - The Early Christians

Motivation for mission:

Israel had been redeemed, and the time for the Gentiles had now begun.
(Important in Pauline theology.)
Jewish stories varied over whether/how Gentiles would be redeemed. This carried over into Christian context.

Experience of divine spirit.

Sense of community. A new family. A transformed Israel.

Name of Jesus
Death and resurrection
For everyone
Derived from Jewish imagery, but parallel to pagan initiations.

Eucharist made the same points
Derived from Passover.

Worship of Jesus
Both sacraments
radical reinterpretation of monotheism

Church created new boundaries. 'From baptism onwards, one's basic family consisted of one's fellow Christians.'

'Another King', but living in current society. Allegience subverted, but not towards ordinary revolution.

Why persecutions? Both Jewish and pagan?
'the existance of a community which was percieved to be subverting the normal social and cultural life of the empire precisely by its quasi-familial, quasi-ethnic life as a community.'
A new family, a 'third race'.

Christianity challenged the old worldviews.

Tidy theories bear no real relation to history.
NT all Jewish theology. but at various points on diverse spectrums:
resistance against Rome
practice of purity codes
attitudes toward Temple
circumcision of Gentiles
similar for Gentile Christians based on Jewish Christianity.

p455 describes more differences and interpretations of them.

Are there constants?
Israel's story with climax in Jesus
Jewish rather than pagan. Christian rather than Jewish

What were the theological issues?

Monotheism - but including Jesus and the divine spirit

God acting in the world - through Jesus and the divine spirit

evil in the world - God called Israel and now the church as part of the answer

Summed up in bottom paragraph p458

Hope- p459-464 - This is a dense summary of a lot of what we have already read in the whole book.

Feb 24, 2014, 4:55 am

Chapter 16 - NT and the Question of God

Difference between Jewish and early Christian communities was Jesus

Jewish book telling Jewish-style stories for yhe world
'It is a Christian book, pouring new wine into the old bottles of Judaism, and new Jewish wine into the old bottles of the world, intending that this double exercise should have its inevitable and explosive double effect.
'The NT claims to be the subversive story of the creator and the world, and demands to be read as such.'

The Question of God
Both Christianity and Judaism claim to know the read meaning of the word 'god'.

Edited: Feb 24, 2014, 5:40 am

Well, I have finished NTPG.

How is everyone else doing?

On to Jesus and the Victory of God!

This has only 14 chapters, but most of them are very long. (The average is 47, and they don't divide neatly down the middle either.) The book is about 200 pages longer in total.

I plan to try to schedule the following two week periods.

Part 1

Part 2 (Chapters 5-7)

Part 2 (Chapters 8-10)

Part 3-4

That leaves a week in hand for whatever doesn't fit.

Mar 3, 2014, 4:36 am

This book has NTPG as its foundation.
History and faith

Using god and Jesus
Jesus existed
Mostly based on the synoptics.
Only some secondary literature commented on
Some bits are out of scale. That's the way it is.
Historical exegesis includes exploring context.
Set out by themes
Israel of first century still 'in exile'.

None of this is new, but occasionally the focus is different. We are moving on to a new topic.

Edited: Mar 3, 2014, 5:35 am

Chapter 1 - Jesus Then and Now

As in NTPG, Wright starts by dealing with the history of the subject.


Relationship between history and theology?
Portrait vs silhouette vs icon - Which Jesus? Which god?

This book only covers the life of Jesus. Everything before his death.

Is all of this relevant today? and how?
Reformers more comfortable with the epistles.
What is the meaning of Jesus' ministry? Question hardly raised.

Reimarus to Schweitzer
Reimarus anti-Christian, anti-theological
Wrede - We don't know much about Jesus and the gospels reflect early chuch.
Schweitzer - Jesus as Jewish apocolyptic prophet

Schweitzer to Schillebeeckx
Quest for the Kerygmatic Church - gospels faith documents, not history books
1953 New Quest for the Historical Jesus (Käsemann)

Historical question on theological map, but not answered.
Important works of Christology refer to importance of historical Jesus.
A lot more work to be done.

This is fairly straightforward if you can avoid panicking at all the names you don't know. The important thing is that Wright is rejecting their conclusions while aknowledging the ways they have shaped the ways we think about Jesus.

Mar 3, 2014, 5:46 am

BTW, I didn't post on Thursday. My husband and I wanted to visit the (inter)National Park on the border to Hungary. Because of the mild winter here the migratory birds are starting to come through early. Just before we got to our first stop, a car decided to pass us - straight into the front of a truck. Jerry called the emergency services, and we waited for them to arrive. The road was blocked by the truck. The truck driver was wandering around, but his only German was the sentence that he only speaks Czech. The red cross people spoke of the car driver as being 'badly injured', as we waited for the fire trucks to arrive and cut him out of the smoking car, but there was no question of that really. His face was paper-white, and the motor was forced back into the body of the car.

We did eventually get a few good pictures later, but I was way beyond studying when we got home.

Edited: Mar 6, 2014, 6:47 am

Chapter 2 - Heavy traffic on the Wredebahn

'Proponents of the minimal-Jesus-and-fictional gospels line'

Jesus Seminar
Downing - Jesus the Cynic?

Wright gives portraits and criticism of the positions of these scholars and their positions. If you have read their work the chapter will mean more to you than if you haven't. Personally, I have tried to read them, but dismissed them as not speaking to my concerns. Luckily, Wright finds major problems with their views, and we don't need to go into them in any depth.

Mar 10, 2014, 5:40 am

Chapter 3 - Back to the Future - Part 1

Overlap between categories
Similarities between questions is the main way of catagorizing.

Third Quest general remarks
Readiness to do serious history
Meaning of Jesus to 1st century readers
Criterion of dissimilarity - but differently
Aim is large-scale narratives about Jesus himself
Gospels as literary texts.
Diverse backgrounds of scholars provide checks and balances
Work historically motivated, not theologically

Larger Question : By 110 there was a large and vigorous international movement based on a story about Jesus of Nazareth. How did this come about.

1 How does Jesus fit into the Judaism of his day?
2 What were his aims?
3 Why did he die?
4 How did the early church come into being and why did it take the shape it did?
5 Why are the gospels what they are?
(So what?)

1 How does Jesus fit into the Judaism of his day?
Typical? Totally different? Somewhere in between?
Very Jewish Jesus who was nevertheless opposed to some high-profile features of first-century Judaism.
Relationship to Pharisees
Did he expect the end of the space-time world? What is the point of apocalyptic language?

2 What were Jesus' aims?
Did the aim remain fixed, or did they change?
Did he go to Jerusalem intending to die?
His sense of vocation?

Mar 10, 2014, 11:23 am

Chapter 3 - Back to the Future - Part 2

3 Why did Jesus die?
Did Jesus intend to die?
Why did the Romans crucify him?

4 How and why did the early church begin?
Problem of Easter
Continuity between Jesus and the early church.
Interrelation of history and theology.

5 Why are the gospels what they are?
New genre

All 5 together
All answers need to fit together.
Where various authors fail.

So What?

Where is the Third Quest going?
'When the NT writers speak of their encounter with Jesus as an encounter with Israel's god, they are redefining what 'god' means at least as much as they are redefining who Jesus was and is.'


This is fairly easy to follow without knowing the theologiams mentioned, as Wright says what he is agreeing or disagreeing with.

Mar 13, 2014, 4:04 am

Chapter 4 - Prodigals and Paradigms

The prodigal son:
end of exile
Those who object cast as Samaritans
Father/God also prodigal
Desire for reconciliation
Bypassing Temple system

Parable only makes sense as profoundly subversive retelling of Israel's story.
Both decisively similar and importantly dissimilar to both Judaism and early Christianity.

Informal but controlled oral tradition - footnote: What happens if a reader to a small child changes a story the child knows?
Reasons for writing down the tradition
Usually given: End had not come.
Preferable: Communities scattered in 70 AD
Also: Tradtions needed in missions
It would be interesting to read Bailey's article.

Worldviews and mindsets
Aim is to plot Jesus' distinctive mindset within the Jewish worldview of his day.

Mar 17, 2014, 4:34 am

Chapter 5 - The Praxis of a Prophet - part 1

General outline of Jesus' life and public activity
Best model is prophet bearing apocalyptic message.

1st century Judaism
potential revolution
waiting for a prophet
Prophecy has ceased
prophecy continuing
teaching / oracular pronouncments / symbolic actions

'Bandits' (λεστες)
social banditry - theory falls apart
no rigid categories

John the Baptist
religious AND political prophecy
prophetic renewal movement replacing existing structures
Jesus regarded John as advance guard

Jesus as prophet
a prophet rather than the prophet
Possibly counter-clerical prophet
in contiuity with various OT prophets

Mar 18, 2014, 11:26 am

Chapter 5 - The Praxis of a Prophet - part 2

Jesus as 'leadership' prophet
Analogies to John the Baptist
Group of disciples

- itinerant
local variations on sayings, parables, ...
sayings and actions related

- teaching
'He taught as one having authority.'
Redefining Israel and God's kingdom
NOT timeless ethics, but agenda for Israel

parables follow well-known Jewish lines
related to apocolyptic visions
designed to change worldviews
lynching always in the cards
Only reasonable Sitz im Leben is Jesus' ministry
Vehicle for dangerous campaign
See NTW's summing up pp 181-2

Judgement sayings
classical prophetic type

- healing/Mighty works
Not evidence of divinity/supernatural
unexpected phenonemon
"What did Jesus think he was doing, and why?"
miracle vs magic
interprete within context of overall proclamation

signs of fulfillment of prophecy
healing=welcome to sinners/outsiders
judgement falling on impenitent Israel
restoration of whole creation

Did these events take place?
simplest explanation is that it is more or less true
interpretations make sense in minds of original spectators
belong with prophecy

part of battle with the satan - exorcisms

Jesus as prophet, and more than a prophet.
Called to inaugurate the kingdom

Mar 20, 2014, 9:18 am

Chapter 6 - Stories of the Kingdom (1) part 1

Meaning is always within the wider story.

1) (This chapter) announcement of the kingdom/destiny of Israel
2) (chapter 7) Israel summoned to be people of god in new way
3) (chapter 8) judgement
4) (chapter 9) new construal of Israel's symbols
5) (chapter 10) Jesus' new answers

Not separate stages but different ways of looking at jesus' mindset.

Kingdom of God as understood:
a) by 1st century Jews
b) by early Church
c) by 20th century Christian theologians

a) Israel's god becoming king
world put to rights
b) similar to a)
kingdom of god and of Messiah
tension between present reality and future hope
church as present kingdom of Messiah
c) cannot be separated from politics

Through page 226 this seems to be mostly a recap of Wright's basic premis and of his criticism of other writers.

Mar 24, 2014, 5:44 am

Chapter 6 - Stories of the Kingdom (1) part 2

Kingdom redefined

Proclaims Kingdom AND Repentance
Kingdom message only makes sense with Jewish background
Not timeless message, but for Now

Parables set in narrative of Israel
Sower - apacolyptic - looking for fruit - parable about parables
Short sayings
Kingdom coming slowly and secretly
To gain is something must be given up.
Healings also proclaim return from exile.

Mar 24, 2014, 7:44 am

Chapter 7 - Invitation, Welcome, Challenge and Summons - part 1

Helpers summoned to specific tasks
Story generates praxis - realigns worldview
corporate meaning enhances personal meaning
(individualism vs collectivism, but corporate and personal reinforce.)

repentance linked to escatology
what Israel must do to return from exile
Includes repentance from violent rebel activity
forgiveness available outside the temple system
non-violence does not mean non-political

trust / assent faith / faithfulness, loyalty
'faith is a crucial part of the definition of Israel at her time of great crisis.'

Mar 28, 2014, 4:02 am

Chapter 7 - Invitation, Welcome, Challenge and Summons - part 2

Sinners and Forgiveness

Who are the sinners that Jesus welcomed?
People of the land - not quite real Jews
Tax collectors

forgiveness of sins = return from exile = covenant renewal

Trust in Jesus replaces adherence to Temple and Torah

Live as New Covenant people
New community
New family
New praxis - timeless ethics? interim ethics?

Context of behaviour is covenant
Renewed heart as well as covenant
Escatology generates ethics

Sermon on the Mount
Beatitudes p288f
Israel intended as light for the world
Lord's Prayer - prayer for true Israelites entering the Kingdom

Followers should live by the jubilee principle

You can't divide political, social, theological. all dimensions of the kingdom

Come, follow me!
Rich, young ruler. command to sell all replaces do't worship idols. Command to follow replaces first commandmant.

Proclaim the Kingdom!
Take up your cross!
Love your neighbor!
- Where is the boundary of the covenant?
Outsiders coming in. Insiders left out.
The Nations coming

True Wisdom

Mar 29, 2014, 11:34 am

I just finished part 3 (Chapter 10) of TNT&TPOG. Yay!

The background on Judaism was fascinating and was new material for me. I'm eager to go on now to Christianity.

At the rate I'm reading, I **might probably should** finish this first book in April.

souloftherose - Are you still reading?
MarthaJeanne - I admire your reading and outlines

Edited: Mar 29, 2014, 1:00 pm

I'm glad to hear that you are still working on it.

I'm finding it easier this time. I'm not sure if it is because after three or four readings it finally is soaking in, or whether my other reading over the past ten years since I last tackled it finally got me to the point where I was ready for it.

Somewhat off topic, I am also working on Mark right now. On Wednesday I read about the transfiguration. It occured to me that although my museum pass also works at the Imperial Treasury, I hadn't gone in for quite a while. My favourite room there is the one with the Golden Fleece vestments. This consists of two antependiae (sp? the clothes that hang in front of the altar) two copes, two dalmatics and a chausible. They are all covered with spectacular embroidery in a technique called 'or nué'. Gold threads are stiched down with silk in such a way that the silk creates the picture with the gold shining through. The back of the chausible shows the Transfiguration, the front is the Baptism of Christ. I went there yesterday and discovered things about the design that I had never seen before.

First, All the other faces are just silk, but Jesus face in the Transfiguration is Or Nué. it really shines.

Next, his robes are over silver, not over gold, so they really do seem to be whiter than any bleach could make them. (Mark 9:3)

Finally, the two scenes are connected by the figure of God Father saying 'This is my beloved son.' I feel really stupid that I never picked up on that before!

Anyway, if you ever come to Vienna, I would be glad to show you these lovely pieces, and many of the details I have found in my frequent visits. I wish my stitching were even a little bit like that!

All right, very off topic, and medieval embroidery may not be your thing, but my other errands all went sour, so this was what made the whole trip worthwhile.

Edited: Apr 3, 2014, 5:54 am

I ran into a hitch on Monday when I realized that chapter 8 is about Mark 13. In the meantime I had read Mark 12, and it seemed to make sense to read Mark 13 first, and then JVG 8.

Those who want a simpler version of this chapter are refered to Mark for Everyone pp176-188. The 'expanded version' here includes a lot of references to earlier theologians about whom we have already heard a lot. Perhaps more useful, also lot of quotes from The OT prophets and Maccabees which illustrate Wright's contention that we have to read Mark 13 as using common metaphors, and not as literal description of the end of the world.

And speaking of Metaphors:


The image there is also in another book I am reading at the moment Du Jane, Ich Goethe (The library has the German, and I decided not to invest in the English.) Deutscher uses it while showing that we use metaphors all the time without realizing it, and that even words that are now longer visibly metaphors often have their origins in metaphors.

Apr 3, 2014, 5:45 am

Chapter 8 - Judgement and Vindication

Warning of coming judgement on Israel and Jerusalem
Judgement at same time from Rome and from God
Warning specifically for 'This Generation'
Destruction of the temple
Warnings in all strands of the tradition

Followers of Jesus will be vindicated.

Mark 13
Not about 'parousia'
Not about end of Space-Time
Hold on through trials
Flee before the destruction of Jerusalem
Resonances with OT and Maccabees
Jerusalem compared to Babylon and Egypt
'coming of the son of man'

Edited: Apr 10, 2014, 4:29 am

Chapter 9 - Symbol and Controversy part 1

By redefining symbols, Jesus created controversy.
controversy about eschatology and politics, not religion and morality

How Jesus related to Judaism around him.
Discussion in detail of Saunders position.

Kingdom as national liberation?
Purity as separateness
Time to be light of the world rather than protect separateness
Controversy : alternative political agendas generated by alternative eschatological beliefs and expectations.
Challenging symbols as alternative construal of Israel's destiny

Pharisees checking Jesus out for orthodoxy.


Nation and family
Boundaries set.
For Jesus, messagej of Kingdom more important than family.


Apr 10, 2014, 4:30 am

Chapter 9 - Symbol and Controversy part 2

pp405-6 Questions about Jesus and the temple underlie a good deal of the rest of the book.

Symbolism of place carries enormous power.

The presence of YHWH

The sacrificial system
- forgiveness of sins
- cleansing from defilement
- relationship human-divine

Political significance
- central political symbol of Judaism
Actions in temple spoke of religion AND royalty
- Essenes - wrong people in charge
- Pharisees - can maybe be replaced by Torah study
- Poor - oppression by the rich

Jesus' action in the temple
questions remain open
sacrificial animals
symbolic destruction
coming kingdom
Hypothesis needs to fit with general picture of Jesus

Symbolic actions - prophets and Jesus
God becoming king
- return of Israel from exile
- return of YHWH to Zion
- includes rebuilding of the temple
Warnings about Israel include the temple
All traditions show Jesus speaking of destruction of the temple.

Symbolically enacting judgement on the temple
pp 417-8
clensing not enough
λεστες/λεσται refers to brigands/revolutionaries, not to thieves
temple as symbol of national violence, guarantee of God's help
Fig tree (see Jer 8:13)
Short interruption in sacrifice a preview of end of sacrifices
Also messianic?

Edited: Apr 14, 2014, 6:37 am

Chapter 9 - Symbol and Controversy part 3

Symbols of the Kingdom

Jesus subverted the common interpretation of the basic symbols.

Restored Land, Restored People
Healing as symbol of return from exile
Symbolism of place

Redefined family
eating with sinners

Redefined Torah
Forgiveness and mercy

Rebuilt temple
fasting - not suitable at 'wedding'
didn't go through official channels

Last Supper

Leading the people astray
rebellious son - glutton and drunkard

Apr 15, 2014, 7:19 am

Chapter 10 - The Questions of the Kingdom

Who are we?
The true Israel
Israel chosen not for herself, but for the world.
Light of the World

Where are we?
The meek will inherit the land.
Kingdom also announced in the Decapolis.
Not to rehabilitate the symbol of Holy Land

What's wrong?
Redefined battle for the kingdom
Not violent resistance to Rome
repent of militaristic nationalism
real enemy - satan
initial battle won

What's the solution?
Jesus himself
Suffering a key ingredient of the victory

What time is it?
Kingdom present, yet future

Jesus' aims
prophetic ministry
call the Twelve
Announce the kingdom
Draw things to a head in Jerusalem

Apr 22, 2014, 4:36 pm

Chapter 11 -Jesus and Israel

Jesus as Theologian

Messiah in 1st century Judaism
no single picture of the messiah
- king of the Jews
- temple builder
- defeats enemies in battle
- son of God = Israel's representative

Messiah in early Christianity

Why 'King of the Jews' on the cross?
Entrance into Jerusalem
Cleansing of the temple.
King is in authority over temple

John the Baptist
reed shaken in the wind - reed symbol of Herod

Parables of coming judgement
Jesus as cornerstone
Hebrew pun stone/son

Tribute to Caesar
Give to Caesar what he deserves - tax or revenge?
Give to God - rejecting paganism

David's Lord/Son

Royal riddles only make sense before the crucifiction and resurrection.

Mark 13
Jesus had temporarily stopped the sacrifical system.
Warnings deal with desolation at the hands of the pagans and permanent cessation of sacrifices.
Apocalyptic language part of metaphor system
At the centre of the metaphors is an annointed king
The city that chose confrontation and rebellion will be defeated
Herod's temple and regime of Caiaphas part of the problem
Mark 13 reuses Daniel 7
Jesus creative and original in his use of scripture and imagery

Various reasons for critique
1) place and time of trial - regulations we have date from 200 years later.
2) Who could carry out death penalty? Probably only Romans
3) Includes many themes from later theology
4) Blasphemy?

Crucified as revolutionary - messianic claimant
Question of the temple
Question of messiahship - this does not refer to second person of Trinity
Vindication of Jesus implies judgement on Caiaphus
Total picture adds up the blasphemy

Messianic praxis in early ministry
exorcisms as part of battle with evil
Jesus calls 12 disciples. 3 companions
messianic banquet
shepherd- king
comp asisons with David and Solomon

vocation at baptism

Jesus claimed to be Messiah - with a great difference.

Apr 28, 2014, 6:11 am

Chapter 12 - Why did Jesus Die?

Roman charge
Crucified as rebel against Rome
Pilate not good governor
Power games and self-interest

Jewish charge
'leading the people astray'
false prophet and blasphemer

Jesus' intention
Last Supper
Some sort of Passover meal
return from exile
forgiveness of sins
Israel's god about to become King

new Exodus happening through Jesus
strange new passover
replacing the temple
bread and cup historical

symbol and word
unleavened bread shows urgency
blood of the covenant
last meal with the disciples
repeat in rememberance
All only makes sense if Jesus expects to die

Being Israel-for-the-sake-of-the-world
Rejected son - challenge to temple results in death
Great Commandment - sacrificial system redundant
Messianic riddles fit in lifetime, not in early Christianity

What's the solution?
Return from exile - Forgiveness of sins
Messianic woes
suffering of prophets/martyrs/righteous
Allusions to scripture
Jesus redefines Jewish traditions around his own vocation
Identified himself with the sufferings of Israel

Escatology and the cross
the way of peace
- critique from within
- opposition from within
- suffering the consequences
- expectation of vindication
Because vocation of Israel is to be 'for the world'

'Great creative mind behind Early Christian use of scripture'
Jesus made Daniel thematic for his vocation
Shepherd image from Zechariah (and donkey and other images)
'And there shall no longer be traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.' Zech 14:21b (ie end of the book)
Isaiah 40 - 55

Messianic task
1) Rebuild the Temple
replacement for sacrificial system
2) Defeat Israel's enemies
Not Rome as sons of darkness, but the darkness itself

Victory of God

Apr 29, 2014, 12:25 pm

Chapter 13 - Return of the King

Not just announce that YHWH is returning to Zion, but enact it

God active in the world
Messiah viceregent of Israel's god

Returning king is YHWH
Talents - coming is imminent, and brings judgement

Jesus as new lawgiver
More than another Moses
Replacement for Torah as well as for Temple
Father - Abba

He 'believed that the kingdom was coming in and through his own work.'

'Focus instead on a young Jewish prophet {...} He would embody in himself the returning and redeeming action of the covenant God.' p653

Apr 29, 2014, 4:55 pm

Chapter 14 - Results

Relevance of Jesus depends on the resurrection
Followers are people with a task, not just an idea.

Dec 20, 2014, 9:47 am

Finished today.

Edited: Dec 20, 2014, 9:54 am

Yay! Good job! I had been meaning to ask where you were.

I've put it down and picked it up several times, and I'm currently toward the end of Chapter 9. I'm learning a lot, but it's definitely not light reading. Will you go on to the next volume? Or do you mean you finished the entire series?

Edited: Dec 20, 2014, 10:02 am

The whole series. It really took pushing to keep to the plan I set for myself at the beginning of the year, but I have finished (until the next one comes out).

In general, the books were easier than the last time through. Obviously some of the vocabulary (at least) has sunk in over the past 10 years.

I still feel that I should know the NT better, and it would also help to know the secondary literature a lot better, but I got so much out of this anyway.

Oh, and even if the next one comes out next year, I need at least a year off before tackling this again.