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The Climax of the Covenant: Christ And The Law In Pauline Theology Paperback – 1 Dec 1993

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Product details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: T & T Clark International; Revised edition (1 Dec. 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 056729594X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0567295941
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.8 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

N. T. Wright is the Bishop of Durham. He has taught New Testament Studies at Oxford, Cambridge, and McGill Universities, and lectures regularly at Princeton and Harvard. He is a New Testament scholar of world repute and the author of many books including The Resurrection of the Son of God.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x92f9baa4) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
69 of 71 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x91e1e5b4) out of 5 stars how did Christ fulfill the law? 13 Sept. 2003
By Jeremiah Lawson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
That's the gist of Wright's thesis, attempting to answer that question. How did Jesus fulfill the Law and why, elsewhere, does Paul seem to say the Law was abolished? How could Jesus abolish and fulfill the Law at the same time?
Wright's central argument hinges on the assumption that Paul understood and explained salvation in corporate and covenantal terms--i.e. God made a covenant with Israel not a bunch of individual Israelites. As such Wright finds that most Protestant theology from the time of Luther and Calvin reflects late Medieval scholastic concerns rather than 1st century Jewish thought. The problem is not that Protestant theology is bad as such but that its central theological concerns don't help us understand how Paul, a 1st century Jew, would explain himself to Christian converts from Judaism and paganism.
Wright argues that the covenant of the Torah predicted a need for covenant renewal and a return from exile (he assumes that the exile did not end because the Second Temple was rebuilt, which is a view that is controversial for some). Paul sees both these promises as being fulfilled in Jesus. Since the Mosaic law predicted its renewal and a redefinition of Israel as people on whose hearts God would write the Law, Wright argues that Paul sees Jesus and the Spirit as fulfilling these promises.
Wright's explanation of Paul's high view of the Law assumes that Paul was a Pharisee, a hardly debatable point. Wright also relies on this fact iPaul explains that the Law was not the problem, people were, because people did not have the Spirit. Wright's "already but not yet" explanation of Paul's eschatology is crucial to understanding his take on how Paul viewed Jesus and the Law. The purpose of the old covenant was fulfilled in Jesus but the age of the new covenant has not fully arrived.
Wright also assumes that Jesus completely redefined Israel around himself and his teaching. People who follow Christ are thus the new Israel. Some Christians hold that the covenant with Israel is still in full effect and that Christians have a separate covenant. Wright doesn't seem to hold that view and if you do you won't agree with him. If you don't buy Wright's premise that Israel was not back from exile you will disagree with a lot of what Wright says.
I found a lot of discussion about Paul and the Law to be so mired in talking about the legal metaphors they seemed to lose sight of the purpose to which those legal metaphors are used in Paul, talking about Israelite law and Jesus. Wright's discussion of Paul and the Law was helpful to me because he set aside the topics Protestants usually talk about and simply did exegesis of the texts. It's not the easiest read but it's a very helpful book.
61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9219506c) out of 5 stars How would a first century Jew understand Christ and the Law? 16 Jan. 2004
By Seth Aaron Lowry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I would have to argue that Wright is closer than most to helping us understand this confusing issue. Wright's main thesis is that Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, fulfilled what the Law could not do, thereby fulfilling and abolishing the Law in one fell swoop. Wright also argues that Paul's understanding of the Old Testament would have been covenental, and that the two important issues that shaped Paul's theology and belief system were monotheism and the corporate covenant. First, Wright argues that to Paul the title Christ would not carry with it the titular implications that Westerners associate with the name, but designated Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Thus, Jesus was the Messiah and embodied and completed what national Israel could not. Paul's conversion allowed him to radically reinterpret all of the Old Testament passages that spoke of Israel's renewal and reconversion to God as passages that spoke of the death and resurrection and Christ. To Paul this was the defining moment in God's salvific plan when He accomplished through Christ, what the Law and national Israel could not.
Furthermore, Wright argues that the new community formed by the work of Christ and the agency of the Spirit, fulfills the obligation of the Law through Christ. This community is corporate and is centered in the Messiah King of the new community, and this King is none other than Jesus Himself. Wright argues that just as the ancient Israelites had an actual share in the stock of the king and were connected to him through tribal bond and ethnicity, so too do Christians belong to the Messiah through membership in the new community.
In the second half of the book Wright deals with the question of the place and function of the Law within this new community and what purpose it served if it could not in fact give life to those who adhered to it. First, Wright, like Paul, unequivocally argues that the Law is good, and is holy and just because it is sent from God and was sent for a particular purpose. The Law is not evil because it was not the Law which urges us to sin, but the forces of sin and death. The Law, in both Eden and Sinai, was exactly what sin and death needed to seize mankind and grant them the opportunity to sin. Therefore, the Law could not fulfill it's primary purpose which was to bestow life on those who possessed it and cherished it. Nevertheless, this was all part of God's plan since, as Wright argues, the Law was the measure which enabled God to concentrate sin in one place, namely the nation of Israel, and then deal decisively with the problem through the Messiah. Therefore, Christ fulfilled what the Law could not accomplish, but at the same time He abolished the Law since the Law no longer needed to strive to give life to those who sought it. That life had now been bestowed in Christ, and those in Christ through membership in His community, have fulfilled the obligations of the Law and the Law is no longer a burden.
Of particular interest was Wright's view of the Israel issue. Paul saw that the Jews clung to Law as the distinguishing marker that separated them from the rest of humanity and made them privy to God's blessings. Yet, all the Law could provide for the Jews was the promised curse of Deuteronomy, but the Jews did not understand this and believed the Torah was the one thing that allowed them to claim God's blessings. Paul argued that with the death and resurrection of Jesus the Law no longer provided the ethnic privilege to the Jews that it once had, since the promises made to Abraham had now been fulfilled and membership in the family of God was decided upon faith, and not works of the Torah. Finally, Wright's exegesis of Romans 11:26-27 is interesting and controversial to say the least, but very well argued for and convincing. I can't say enough about this book since the research, argumentation, and scholarhip are all top-notch.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x921958c4) out of 5 stars Important and Impacting Work 6 Dec. 2006
By Erin J - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This opens up the works-law, grace-law debate that the Lutherans and Calvanists have been having for centuries. It not only opens up the debate, but in fact changes everything. Wright sees Paul's thought process as being governed by election and monotheism. In this work he exegetes and explores some of the more difficult passages of the New Testament such as 1 Corinthians 15:20-57, Romans 5:12-21, Philippians 2:5-11, Philemon 6, Colosians 1:15-20, 1 Corinthians 8, Galatians 3:10-22, 2 Corithians 3:18, Romans 8:1-11 and Romans chapters 9-11. He deals carefully with these texts and draws heavily on the allusions and direct quotes of the Hebrew Scriptures found in these texts. Wright's conclusions are Christ/Messiah centered, precisely because, as Wright points out, Paul's theology centered on Jesus as Messiah. This work takes the Torah as positive that was circumvented by sin to bring a curse on the people of the solution (i.e. Israel) and turn them into the people of the problem. In the end Israel who was called to be light to the world and fix the problem of death instituted by Adam's sin, but instead Israel finds that they, like Adam, have fallen under the curse due to sin using the Law, which was good to bring about the curses of Deuteronomy. The Messiah takes on this curse and traps sin and the cross and defeats it in the resurrection. The Messiah is Israel's true representative and bears the curse for Israel, but the badge of getting into Israel is faith in Jesus and not possession or the keeping of the Torah. Wright works all of this out in the book and shows how sin is defeated and why the cross was necessary. He also demonstrates that the true Israel was Jesus and those who have put their faith in him. I highly recommend this work. Even if you have read all of Wright's other books, this one stands alone.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x921958ac) out of 5 stars excellent, but not the place to begin with N.T. Wright on Paul 9 April 2011
By tim_farrington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book from relatively early in N.T. Wright's career is marvelous in many of the ways that characterize his work. It is thoroughly grounded in both his in-depth knowledge of the historical context of Paul's letters in first-century Judaism and the honest theological conviction of an inspired (Anglican) Christian scholar who went on to become the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral and Bishop of Durham. But it is a highly technical study in many ways, academically scrupulous, and sharply focused on particular issues in the study of Paul. If you are coming to N.T. Wright for the first time, I would recommend beginning with his wonderfully accessible The Challenge of Jesus.The Challenge of Jesus (with DVD) This is Wright at his broadly accessible best, with the real potency of his New Testament erudition and theological vision on display. If it is specifically Wright on Paul that has drawn your interest, I would recommend beginning with What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?, which is a great balanced introduction to Wright's "new perspective" on Paul. From there, you can go as deeply into the malestrom of Pauline controversies as you wish, continuing with Wright's Paul: In Fresh Perspective, and trying John Piper's book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright and Wright's response Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92195c78) out of 5 stars This is an excellent and insightful book 30 Mar. 2007
By edavinky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The basis for this book is the statement by Paul in Romans that Jesus is the (telos - end or goal) of the law for those who believe. By sending the "True Israelite" God was able to deal with sin in Israel on the cross. The Jews had been assigned a task by God to be a light to the nations. Far from fulfilling this task, the Jews had become part of the problem. Based on Romans 5:20, Mr Wright contends, and I think rightfully so, that the purpose of Torah was to concentrate sin within the nation of Israel. Acting as Israel's true representative, sin was further concentrated in the flesh of Jesus on the cross and was there condemned. Contrary to common interpretation, Wright's explains that Romans 7 and 8 is Paul's explanation of why the law had been unable to bring Israel to salvation and what God had done to solve the problem. In Romans 7, Paul vindicates the law as well as the Jew under Torah and identifies the true culprit as being SIN in the flesh. While the law was good and intended to give life, SIN had actually made Torah it's "base of operations" using it in such a way to produce death in those who were under it's yoke. By virtue of our union with Christ and through the re-creative work of the Holy Spirit, the believer becomes one with Christ. SIN is thus condemned within the life of the believer. This is but a short summary of what I believe Wright's argument to be, and I find it compelling.

Modern readers tend to read themselves into the text and have struggled to understand whether the divided man in Romans 7 is a saved or unsaved man. It turns out that we are asking the wrong questions of the text. Paul was not making a statement regarding the anthropology of man but was explaning why the law had been unable to deal with sin within the Jewish nation. There is a lot more to the book and here I have offered only a short summary of key arguments within the book. There is an excellent section on the corporate nature of Paul's use of Christos language also. If your purpose is to grow spiritually by understanding Paul's view of Christ and the Law, I highly recommend this book and consider it to be a very wise investment. It is a scholarly work and is therefore, sometimes difficult to read. A background in some greek is helpful. If you stick with it, this book will reward you may times over with theological gemstones.
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