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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally engrossing
N.T. Wright, whose books I always find enriching, presents a very clear, comprehensive, and enlightening look at the letters of Paul in the context of new scholarship about Paul's time and place. Wright is very orthodox in doctrine, however innovative some of the ideas may be, and shows, once again, that the historical perspective is perfectly compatible with solid...
Published on 25 July 2001 by Elizabeth G. Melillo

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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Valuable but not completely convincing
Written some years before his book `Paul: Fresh Perspectives', this is one of the first of Tom Wright's books to try and work out the implications for ordinary readers of recent developments in thinking about Paul's theology. Penned in Wright's characteristically forthright style, it serves both as a useful introduction to the broad tendencies of the last century of...
Published on 23 Dec 2010 by Jeremy Bevan


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Valuable but not completely convincing, 23 Dec 2010
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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Written some years before his book `Paul: Fresh Perspectives', this is one of the first of Tom Wright's books to try and work out the implications for ordinary readers of recent developments in thinking about Paul's theology. Penned in Wright's characteristically forthright style, it serves both as a useful introduction to the broad tendencies of the last century of scholarship on Paul, and as a careful re-evaluation of him in his - now understood to be profoundly Jewish - context. Wright's overall message is clear: in getting to grips with Jesus, Paul has revised his Jewish beliefs about the coming of God's Kingdom at the end of time and instead now sees that event - which opposes the rule of Rome with claims of the lordship of Christ - as having already happened, in `the midst of history'. This is the Gospel of Christ, and obedience to him is what it means to be saved.

These are the broad outlines of Wright's helpful book. But a number of aspects of the work detract, in my view, from its overall value. Firstly, his insistence that the Greek word 'dikaiosune' means (only) the righteousness of God, with its implication that this guarantees God's impartiality in judging, risks obscuring the element of justice and partiality to the poor implicit in this word and its Hebrew equivalent. But the implications of this for `Jesus versus empire' are barely explained, despite Wright's professed (and surely correct) belief that Jesus' coming is about his lordship over against that of Rome. Again, while I think Wright is correct to translate the Greek word 'pistis' and its cognates as referring to Jesus' faithfulness to the God of the Israelites and to the Covenant (and not as referring to faith in God as a mental act or effort of belief), he doesn't use a similar term to talk of the believers. So we are left with the impression that faith is primarily about mental assent, rather than about faithfulness to a person, as is surely fundamental to any proper relationship with Jesus.

In his writing on Romans, there is more than a hint of supersessionism - the idea that Christianity has somehow replaced Judaism (for a different interpretation see Keith Elliott's chapter on Romans in the collection `A Postcolonial Commentary on the New Testament Writings', edited by Fernando Segovia and R.S. Sugirtharajah). Finally, Wright is unconvincing about Paul as a Trinitarian believer, for example in his construal of the syntax of Romans 9:5, and in his interpretation of Philippians 2: 5 - 11, where he doesn't take account of how Roman ears would have heard the words. Again, for a different interpretation, see Erik Heen's chapter on this in Richard Horsley's book `Paul and the Roman Imperial Order').

So, for me Wright is not completely convincing. But this is nonetheless a valuable introductory overview of important strands in contemporary thinking about the apostle's approach - and it will certainly be a lively discussion starter for study groups, for example.
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally engrossing, 25 July 2001
N.T. Wright, whose books I always find enriching, presents a very clear, comprehensive, and enlightening look at the letters of Paul in the context of new scholarship about Paul's time and place. Wright is very orthodox in doctrine, however innovative some of the ideas may be, and shows, once again, that the historical perspective is perfectly compatible with solid Christianity. Highly recommended.
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36 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the Whole Truth!, 20 Jun 2008
When I first read this book I thought it was refreshing and true, and written in Tom Wright's usual easily accessible form. Then I was lent a copy of John Piper's excellent, "The Future of Justification; A response to N. T. Wright". It was a case of Proverbs 18:17, "He who states his case first seems right, until another comes and examines him." In a very clear and gentle way, John Piper exposes the rather "flimsy" scriptural and non-scriptural evidence on which Tom Wright's views are based and shows that when you view the whole of the evidence, in context, a very different picture emerges. You need to read both to get a balanced view of what is at the heart of the, "New Perspective"/Traditional Evangelical debate.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does Wright deny justification by faith?, 6 Aug 2007
By 
Brian Midmore (Reading, UK) - See all my reviews
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I would describe Wright as a radical conservative. He deeply desires to be submitted to God's word but also challenges the traditional understanding of the Bible. His critique of justification theology is not as radical as some have portrayed it. An important thrust is an ecumenical one: that all who be believe in Christ are in the kingdom irrespective of their position on 'justication by faith alone'. For people who want to think through their Christian faith this is an excelent book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let's hear it for Paul, 27 Sep 2013
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This review is from: What St Paul Really Said (Kindle Edition)
This is an excellent book and a must for anyone who, due to so much mixed, muddled and biased teaching, is confused about Paul and would like to know more about what Paul really said. Considering his writings comprise so much of our New Testament it is vital to have this clear teaching which clears away the cobwebs - this is such a volume. Tom Wright is a master at taking a complex subject, sweeping away the rubbish and leaving the reader with a clear and well thought through view.
Highly recommended.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starting place to understanding Paul, 15 Jan 2010
By 
Mr. M. Parnell "Reader" (Doncaster) - See all my reviews
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For those who want to know more about the new perspective on Paul, this is a good place to start. The reader is gently introduced to the contributions of key Twentieth Century scholars on Pauline thought and quickly moves on to discus the real Paul and his place in the first century Judaism. The aim is to get beyond what others have placed on to Paul so that he can be understood in his context. For that to happen our understanding of Paul should not be coloured by the debates that Augustine had with Pelagius or of those that the reformers had with Roman Catholacism or with each other.
Wright challenges the reader to see that the gospel is more than a message that brings individuals to salvation and that what has been termed as the social gospel is also part of the same message. This is a good defence of orthodox belief. The last chapter argues the conservative stand against the thought that Paul was the founder of Christianity not Jesus. This is what we might expect from a bishop fulfilling such a role. In particular the views of A.N.Wilson's Paul:The Mind of the Apostle are challenged but it is not done in a hyper critical way. Wright gives Wilson some credit for some valued points but dismantles his main arguments in a spirit of love in order to win over those who would see Paul as the founder of Christianity.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fresh look at Paul, 27 Sep 2012
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From the outset, Wright states that this is only a short introduction, something of a `taster' for his forthcoming much larger work on Paul, which, at the time of writing this review, is due out in the summer of 2013.

Wright begins his discussion by asking what world Paul inhabited, as this seems foundational to discussions on the nature of the origins of christianity. Wright stresses Paul's Jewishness. At the heart of many accusations over the falsity of the early church is the notion that Paul abandoned his Jewishness and instead brought to the primitive community a quasi-Hellenistic religion, distorting the message and legacy of Jesus. Of course, if one subscribed to this view, then the grounds of christianity (or at least the whole history of what has become christianity) would be severely undermined. Consequently, it is a view that needs to be looked at carefully, with all due consideration and seriousness.

Wright then goes on to give an account of why he believes Paul never abandoned Judaism, but rather, his understanding of it was radically reformed. As a persecutor of the early church, Saul of Tarsus had great energy and enthusiasm for his work. As an apostle, Paul of Tarsus was no less "zealous" in his aims.

Out of this, Wright comes to the question of "what did Paul mean when he talked of `gospel'?" Here, Wright veers away from the traditional reformed answer which focuses on how one is "saved" and instead states that the gospel is an announcement about Jesus and how God is made known through Jesus.

Though evidence is presented above on how thoroughly Paul stays faithful to Jewish monotheism, one does then face some thorny problems with certain statements he makes about the Jewish law, particularly in Galatians and Romans. Wright tackles these in much the same way as Sanders does, by arguing that statements about the law and about circumcision are not about moralism or legalism, but rather that they were statements about Jewish identity. i.e. if christians find their identity in Christ, then there is no longer a need to adopt the identity markers of Judaism now that in Jesus, Judaism has been fulfilled.

An important figure in Wright's arguments is that of Pelagius. Wright's use of this figure is to demonstrate what many modern christians think Paul meant when he spoke of salvation through the law, but which Paul did not mean at all. There is no historical evidence which supports the idea that Judaism was prevalent with those who sought to save themselves by their own efforts. Rather, they were the chosen people of God and their observance of the Torah was what distinguished them from other people.

The second half of the book is then almost entirely devoted to the question of what Paul meant by `justification by faith'. With the background given earlier, Wright's view was that `faith' is the identifying mark by which christians are identified rather than the means by which they become christians. In other words, he swaps round the traditional viewpoint of which is the cart and which is the horse. There's a very helpful diagram which outlines various different interpretations of the word "righteousness" - though Wright chooses to focus on just a couple of these, rather than going into much depth on each of them.

The apparent conclusion of the book then asks how Paul's teaching, understood in this new light, ought to affect the church. He gives a powerful and thought-provoking challenge which should be of interest to all christians.

However, the book doesn't quite end there. The final chapter seems somewhat tacked onto the end. Here, Wright effectively gives a critique of a book by A.N. Wilson called Paul: The Mind of the Apostle. I might, at some point, pick this up and have a read myself. The main content of the book is said to be greatly opposed to the view put forth by Wright, and the key arguments are countered by reference to Wright's own analysis as laid out in earlier chapters. This final chapter does come across as a little ungracious, and its tone jars slightly from that of the previous chapter.

That aside, it is a very good read and I'd highly recommend it to anyone else wanting to gain an understanding of the new perspective on Paul.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars N T Wright is full of insight!, 30 July 2013
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This review is from: What St Paul Really Said (Kindle Edition)
It is very interesting when reading a book and you find yourself knowing what is on the next page before you turn it, because the writer seems to be expressing in words the conclusions that one has already arrived at but have nevered dared to talk to others about - this book and this writer does this for me, the only difference between myself and Professor Weight is his breadth of biblical knowledge, use of language and his scholarly approach.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a blinder!, 15 Aug 2013
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I haven't always agreed with or even liked everything which Tom Wright has written; and its not often that I go into raptures about what is essentially a text book - but if I had to choose one theological book to take with me to a desert island this would be it. A stout defense of orthodoxy, written for the layman, with great insight into current debate and ideas and suggestions for much needed future research. Does Amazon have 6 stars?
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not quite honest, 15 Aug 2014
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Paul states that the Second Coming will be SOON about 30 times (even: "We who are still alive will fly up to meet him in the clouds"!).
Tom Wright does not mention it once.
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