Tom Wright and the many volumes of God
Well, if NT Wright’s life work has taken a step nearer completion with the publication of Volume 4 of his dogmatics/institutes/magnum opus on Jesus, Paul and the New Testament, my life’s work has just been expanded to encompass trying to read the thing. This latest edition heaves its way in at nearly 1700 pages, according to the Amazon listing.
The new book, as many readers will be aware, is entitled Paul and the Faithfulness of God – a great title that I blogged about earlier this year. What I didn’t realise at the time, is this: if it follows the laws of abbreviation given to his previous volumes (The New Testament and the People of God: NTPG; Jesus and the Victory of God: JVG), then happily we can look forward to this most important volume frequently being referred to as PFG. Sounding as it does like a certain Roald Dahl book, comparisons with a big, friendly giant might wholly befit the description of this tome. Quentin Blake for illustrator, anyone?
Childish musings aside, I am looking forward to completing my life’s work of reading this stuff. I actually began with Volume 3, The Resurrection of the Son of God (blogged about that too), but seeing as I did the absurdity of my decision there, I went to a borrowed copy of Volume 1 next, through which I presently do plough. Others seem to be quicker readers than me, or just smarter and able to grasp it more quickly – probably a bit of both. It’s nice having a few friends who are reading/have read the series so that we can dialogue about the different themes. It’s interesting finding out what people disagree with (for example, the friend who lent me Vol 1 commented that Wright’s assessment of Mark 13 in Vol 2 (is it in Vol 2?) leaves no room for any second coming reading whatsoever, which surprises me).
I’m about half way through Vol 1 and interestingly, the themes there seem to be emerging in other contexts – other things I’m reading and listening to. It’s the groundwork on what the Jews of the first century really believed that is so profoundly helpful. For the first time I’m really appreciating being able to read a scholar who has thoroughly immersed himself historically in the first century, and the skill that Wright has (apart from his immense scholarly clout) is taking you as a reader on a journey which you not only fully understand but know that you must take if you are to understand the New Testament properly in its context.