Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Notes on N. T. Wright, 3: Appreciating Wright's Massive Methodological Prolegomena

As I have worked my way through Part II of The New Testament and the People of God, I have been frustrated at nearly every turn by Wright's argumentation, hermeneutics, and material methodological proposal. However, as I step back from it, I can't help but both admire and applaud Wright for taking the time to do this. The whole book, in one sense, is a book-length prolegomenon to the subsequent volumes in the series (taking more than two decades to write the next three books that give us his take on Jesus and Paul). But before discussing first-century Judaism or Christianity in Parts III and IV, Wright takes 116 pages, across four chapters, to lay out his epistemology, interpretation of culture, historical methodology, and understanding of theology. How many times, in reading works of history or literature or whatever, do we bang our heads against the wall because the author has offered no warrant whatsoever for her claims? because he has not substantiated his methodological approach? because she assumes ten thousand things to be true that we, her readers, reject one and all?

When reading the rest of NTPG, and indeed the rest of the volumes of Christian Origins and the Question of God, the reader may disagree with Wright's claims and conclusions, but the one thing he—the one thing I—will not do is complain about unstated premises, missing warrants, unjustified methods. Because Wright has done all the painstaking, necessary work to ensure that I can't.

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