I'm going through John Piper's "The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright" at the moment and just arrived at chapter 3. Obviously I'm taking my time to read and think through the book. One thing that I found notable to note at the moment upon the few pages that I have just skimped through is that Piper 'disregards' reading the NT taking into consideration of it's Jewish context. Although he criticizes Wright's heavy usage of first-century thought in understanding Paul and also the NT and gives some needed warnings on leaning too much on it in our reading and understanding I'm not convinced with his argument. Reading the first chapter kind of gave way to the framing of his ideas and understanding the doctrine of justification which seems obvious taking the cover of his book into consideration.
One of the things that has attracted me to Wright's writings and thought of Jesus and the NT is namely the framework that he uses to frame the understanding. I like the stance of understanding Jesus in his Jewish context. I would say it illumines the NT to the point of understanding it better. Why so?
Let me frame this in one of the struggles I had with the bible and my christian faith. Being a new christian, one of the things that bothered me was Paul's constant use of "first for the Jew, then for the Gentile". Although I was happy being a follower of Jesus, it bothered me that reading the NT there was a lot of Jewish stuff having notable mention (I secretly wished that I was a Jew to be honest because Gentiles seemed second class citizens!). The framework of Jews working for their salvation (self righteousness) and the notion of Jesus coming to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law because we could not fulfill it was something I found incomplete. Even the gospel message that explained Genesis 1-3 where we in the beginning were supposed to have relationship with God and sin came in the was by route of the Fall. God's remedy was to send Jesus to die for our sins and we to believe in this wonderful sacrifice.
In all this framework shaping our christian faith, it seemed that there was no room for the OT, particularly in God's election of a nation, Israel, as God's plan of redemption. The gospel presentation that I was taught cut out this vital element of God's plan by simply throwing Jesus in the picture without any reference to his Jewish upbringing and thought life as a Jew. The OT and NT seemed very different reflections on God and by far miles apart.
My first encounter with taking Jesus' Jewishness seriously was Philip Yancey's "The Jesus I Never Knew". I'm sorry to say that I thought that this understanding was revolutionary, something new even. I think it shows how far we have wandered off in taking Jesus' Jewish context seriously, at least that is how I would state it. My journey in taking Jesus' Jewishness seriously was further aroused reading an article from Christianity Today (February 8, 1999 edition) with a special section entitled "The New Theologians". The article focused on 5 theologians of note; Richard Hays, Kevin Vanhoozer, Miroslav Volf, Ellen T. Charry and N. T. Wright. I like the article so much that I vowed to own and read books by these authors of whom I put as my new heroes. I can say that this was the day that I stared to think that being a scholar was cool or in the eyes of some the day I was converted to dweeb land. I can safely say that I own a substantial amount of their works in my library (I have 3 of Hays', 4 of Vanhoozer's, 1 of Volf's and Charry's and the bulk of Wright's work!). Of all the authors mentioned here it was my reading of Wright that propelled and compelled me further in really taking Jesus' Jewishness seriously.
Reading the bible after reading it 'Wrightly' has made the bible more readable in the sense that the context and framework that Wright proposes for us to gives understanding of God's big picture; His grand story of redemption (Genesis- Abraham and Israel- Jesus and the Church).
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- I'm a student of Theology (currently and will always be one). I'm a student of culture and a student of music as well. I guess you could say life is a never ending journey of learning. Because of that we never stop being students. Just a little something about this blog: Deconstructing The Monkey is all about being a safe space for emerging conversations