Saturday, October 10, 2009

Tom Wright: Justification 3

I am [slowly] blogging through N.T. [Tom] Wright's Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision.
Here are the links for the first 2 chapters.
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Finally, we get to
Chapter 3: "First-century Judaism: covenant, law and lawcourt"
Wright starts the chapter off by describing some of the variance within 1st century Judiasm, recognizing that what we have in Josephus and the archeological record and other sources including both the OT prohecies and the NT, is only a partial picture. This has 3 implications for Pauline theology:
  1. "many first-century Jews thought of themelves as living in a continuing narrative stretching from earliest times, through ancient prophecies, and on toward a climatic moment of deliverance which might come at any moment." [41]
  2. "this continuing narrative was currently seen, on the basis of Daniel 9, as a long passage though a state of 'exile'." [41]
  3. "many first-century Jews thought of the period they were living in as the continuation of a great scriptural narrative, and of the moment they themselves were in as late on within the 'contining exile' of Daniel 9." [42]
Wright, in developing this framework, distances himself from the "new perspective" approach of Ed Sanders and Jimmy Dunn.

Wright draws together Daniel 9 andthe covenant of Deuteronomy 27-30 as background to understanding Romans - which he will get to eventually - chapter 7.

In Part II of this chapter, Wright asks the question: "what does 'the righteousness of God' really mean?" [45] It is here that Wright draws the distinctions between himself and John Piper. Piper understands 'the righteousness of God' as being "deeper than 'covenant faithfulness', deeper also than the 'lawcourt' implications. God's righteousness, he claims, his God's concern for God's own glory." [45]

Wright then makes 5 observations about Piper's view:
  1. Piper ignores the huge mass of scholary literature on the meaning of 'God's righteousness'. Specifically there is no other scholar who thinks that the Hebrew 'tsedaqah elohim' or the Greek 'dikaiosyne theou' translated as 'God's righteousness' means 'God's concern for God's own glory.' Wright says "It begins to look as though Piper has simply not understood what covenant faithfulness means". [46]
  2. "It is not clear how Piper's idiosyncratic definition of 'God's righteousness' works out within the scheme of imputation that lies at the heart of his own reading." [47]
  3. Piper fails "to grapple with the larger context of Romans 3 and 4". [48] By this, Wright means that Piper does not interact with Wright's connection to Daniel 9 and other passages that deal with God's "faithfulness to the covenant, specifically the covenant with Abraham made in Genesis 15". [48]
  4. Piper downplays "the importance of the lawcourt metaphor". [49]
  5. There is in Piper's claim about 'God's righteousness' as 'God's concern for God's own glory' the potential of missing the fact that "the great story of scripture, from creation and covenant right on through to the New Jerusalem, is constantly about God's overflowing, generous, creative love - God's concern, if you like, for the flourishing and well-being of everything else." [51] 'God's righteousness' "is an outward-looking characteristic of God... God's creative, healing, restorative love." [52]
Wright begins Part III with the question: "Where, then, does the law - the Jewish Law, the Torah - come into all this?" [53] Wright looks at the Lutheran view: Moses is "the bad guy, who gave the wicked law that did nothing but condemn"; and the Calvinistic view: "the Mosaic law was given as a way of life for a people already redeemed." [53] Wright takes Piper to task for distrusting the "reading of post-biblical second-Temple sources" while knowing that these sources that "second-Temple Judaism was after all a legalistic, works-righteousness sort of religion". [55]

The key question for Judaism "was not about individual salvation, but about God's purposes for Israel and the world." [55-56] - I think this is key for us today as well. North American Evangelicalism / evangelicalism has far too often, inidividualized the gospel to the loss of a fuller creation / worldview.

The chapter ends with the question: "Are we sure we know what exactly we mean by 'justification' in the first place?" [58]

1 comment:

Walking Church said...

you may want to check gmail account; i received error that if i interpreted correctly - box is full?