This is an engagingly-written, if not altogether convincingly argued, take on where the last twenty years or so of scholarship on the apostle Paul have led us. With his customary thoroughness, Wright presents Paul the faithful Jew very much concerned to show Jesus Christ as the sustainer and fulfilment of Israel's creation/covenant self-understanding, now reworked to include the Gentiles. In his life, death and resurrection (Wright argues), Christ embodies Israel's Messianic hopes and apocalyptic expectations. The author has has some thought-provoking remarks, too, on the debate - centred around Paul's letter to the Galatians - about what the central Christian concept of `justification' means, seeing it as being about membership of the community of believers: what it means to be in that community, as opposed to what you have to do to get in.
But Wright's account of Paul interpreting Jesus runs the constant risk of divorcing the apostle from Judaism, on the one hand, by his insistence that Jesus was doing something new (`not even the most devout Israelite believed it would happen like this' (54)); and from the Gentile context, on the other, by that selfsame insistence on a rigid framework that interprets Jesus solely in Jewish categories. Unanswered questions - for example, the significance of the largely irreligious masses is ignored in the quest for an all-encompassing Israelite story - and the fact that Wright is clearly condensing debate that has been conducted elsewhere at greater length (for example in his `The New Testament and the People of God') make this a work where clarity has to an extent been sacrificed to brevity. It's also one in which a number of question-begging assumptions loom large without being satisfactorily resolved. In summary, a good update on recent `Paul' scholarship - but by no means a rounded picture.