The significance of Jesus’ resurrection, for Saul of Tarsus as he lay blinded and perhaps bruised on the road to Damascus, was this. The one true God had done for Jesus of Nazareth, in the middle of time, what Saul had thought he was going to do for Israel at the end of time. Saul had imagined that YHWH would vindicate Israel after her suffering at the hand of the pagans. Instead, he had vindicated Jesus after his suffering at the hand of the pagans. Saul had imagined that the great reversal, the great apocalyptic event, would take place all at once, inaugurating the kingdom of God with a flourish of trumpets, setting all wrongs to right, defeating evil once and for all, and ushering in the age to come. Instead, the great reversal, the great resurrection, had happened to one man, all by himself. What could this possibly mean?
Quite simply, it meant this: Jesus of Nazareth, whose followers had regarded him as the Messiah, the one who would bear the destiny of Israel, had seemed to Saul rather to be an anti-Messiah, someone who had failed to defeat the pagans, and had succeeded only in generating a group of people who were sitting loose to the Torah and critical of the Temple, two of the great symbols of Jewish Identity. But the resurrection demonstrated that Jesus’ followers were right. In his greatest letter, Paul put it like this: Jesus the Messiah was descended from the seed of David according to the flesh, and marked out as the Son of God (i.e. Messiah) by the Spirit of holiness through the resurrection of the dead (Romans 1:4). The resurrection demarcated Jesus as the true Messiah, the true bearer of Israel’s God-sent destiny.
But if Jesus really was the Messiah, and if his death and resurrection really were the decisive heaven-sent defeat of sin and vindication of the people of YHWH, then this means that the Age to Come had already begun, had already been inaugurated, even though the Present Age, the time of sin, rebellion and wickedness, was still proceeding apace. Saul therefore realized that his whole perspective on the way in which YHWH was going to act to unveil his plan of salvation had to be drastically rethought. He, Saul, had been ignorant of the righteousness of God, ignorant of what YHWH had been planning all along in apocalyptic fulfillment of the covenant. The death and resurrection of Jesus were themselves the great eschatological event, revealing God’s covenant faithfulness, his way of putting the world to rights: the word for ‘reveal’ is apokalypso, from which of course we get “apocalypse”. Saul was already living in the time of the end, even though the previous dimension of time was still carrying on all around him. The Present Age and the Age to Come overlapped, and he was caught in the middle, or rather, liberated in the middle, liberated to serve the same God in a new way, with a new knowledge to which he had before been blind. If the Age to Come had arrived, if the resurrection had already begun to take place, then this was the time when the Gentiles were to come in.
Saul’s vision on the road to Damascus thus equipped him with an entirely new perspective, though one which kept its roots firm and deep within his previous covenantal theology. Israel’s destiny had been summed up and achieved in Jesus the Messiah. The Age to Come had been inaugurated. Saul himself was summoned to be its agent. He was to declare to the pagan world that YHWH, the God of Israel, was the one true God of the whole world, and that in Jesus of Nazareth he had overcome evil and was creating a new world in which justice and peace would reign supreme.
Saul of Tarsus, in other words, had found a new vocation. It would demand all the energy, all the zeal, that he had devoted to his former way of life. He was now to be a herald of the king.
– N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, pgs. 36-37: Eerdmans Publishing 1997
This is Fee’s most recent work on the Apostle Paul and his theology. I do not own it, but from the reviews I’m posting below, I really do look forward to it and I would definitely recommend it to others already.
Here is the information on the book:
Description: An exhaustive study of Pauline Christology by noted Pauline scholar, Gordon Fee. The author provides a detailed analysis of the letters of Paul (including those whose authorship is questioned) individually, exploring the Christology of each one, and then attempts a synthesis of the exegetical work into a biblical Christology of Paul. The author’s synthesis covers the following themes: Christ’s roles as divine Savior and as preexistent and incarnate Savior; Jesus as the Second Adam, the Jewish Messiah, and Son of God; and as the Messiah and exalted Lord. Fee also explores the relationship between Christ and the Spirit and considers the Person and role of the Spirit in Paul’s thought. Appendices cover the theme of Christ and Personified Wisdom, and Paul’s use of Kurios (Lord) in citations and echoes of the Septuagint.
Subjects: Bible, New Testament, Pauline Epistles, Literature, Methods, Theological Approaches, Biblical Theology, New Testament Theology
Review by Matthew Montonini
Review by Don Garlington
You can purchase the book here: Continue reading Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study
Here is an interesting Old Testament trilogy that I would love to own one day. Wright has just finished the third volume on God the Father.
Here are books… Continue reading Christopher Wright’s Old Testament Trilogy
Here is the full transcript of the interview Trevin conducted with N.T. Wright. This is a really great interview and I hope that every one of you will read through it or listen to the mp3 of it. The mp3 is available for direct download here.
I really appreciated Wright’s response and comments regarding his critics, in particular John Piper. Here is what Wright had to say about Piper and his new book:
“Piper is in a different category. He graciously sent me an advance manuscript of his book which is critiquing me and invited my comments on it. I sent him a lengthy set of comments. Iâ€™ve only just got on email about two days ago the book in the revised form and I havenâ€™t had a chance to look at it yet. So I cannot say whether heâ€™s being fair or not at this stage.
But I do know that he has done his darndest to be fair and I honor that and I respect that. People have asked me if Iâ€™m going to write a response, and the answer is that I donâ€™t know. Iâ€™m kind of busy right now. But I maybe should, sooner or later.“
I would love to see that response! Pray that Wright will find the time to respond and that this Piper/Wright dialogue will continue to bear fruit for God’s Kingdom.
The breakdown of the interview is also available in individual postings. Here is the breakdown:
- Wrightâ€™s conversion, calling, and personal worship
- Wright on â€œthe gospelâ€
- Justification by faith
- Justification – present and future
- Justification and the Roman Catholic Church
- Sola Scriptura
- Is Wright arrogant to assume he has just now figured out what Paul meant?
- Wright on his critics
- Justification in practice
- Wright on penal substitution
- Wright on the resurrection
- Wright on Evangelism
- Wright on Church and State
- Upcoming Writings and Conclusion
Well folks, it’s almost here! Thankfully JT over at Between Two Worlds is giving us some shadows and types of the book about to be released in the near future by Dr. John Piper. The first blurb is a commendation by the well known Dr. Darrell Bock:
A good biblical dialogue needs two good conversation partners, who work hard to understand each other and make their case biblically. Piper’s look at justification does this with a superb tone and a careful presentation of his case. He and Wright exchanged communication before this book went public. Piper appeals to the wisdom of the ages on justification, a wisdom deeply rooted in Scripture. Wright argues his approach is also deeply rooted in Scripture as seen through a fresh appreciation of the first century context of Paul’s writing, a context we too often underestimate. This dialogue is important for the church; Piper has put us in a position to hear both sides of the debate and understand what is at stake. He has served us all well by enabling the reader to be put in the place of considering what Scripture says as he or she listens to this conversation and to our God. Iron sharpens iron, and Scripture is a sword that cuts between the soul and Spirit. Be prepared to be sharpened by a careful dialogue about what justification is.
–Darrell Bock, Research Professor of NT Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
This book is going to be well worth buying as soon as it comes out, whether you are on one side of the New Perspective debate or the other. As Dr. Bock tells us… iron really does sharpen iron!
It is my hope and prayer that any mysteries will be dispelled in regards to the views of N. T. Wright as well as clear concerns stated by John Piper about where the New Perspective, embraced too strongly, can lead people.
I still do not know what the book will ultimately conclude, but I trust that (from past experience) John Piper will have done his best to do justice to the views of N. T. Wright. May God get all the glory and may this book help many, many people to understand the Bible even more than they did before having picked it up!
In Christ and In Defense of the Faith,
The Sufficiency of Christ’s Obedience in His Life and Death
John Piper has give us some excellent thoughts on Christ’s obedience as it relates to Jesus’ whole life.
Piper says, “It is more likely that when Paul spoke of Jesusâ€™ obedience as the cause of our justification he meant not merely the final acts of obedience on the cross, but rather the cross as the climax of his obedient life. . . . Thus when Paul compares the â€œone trespassâ€ of Adam to Christâ€™s â€œone act of righteousnessâ€ (Romans 5:18), there is no single act in Christâ€™s life that corresponds to the eating of the forbidden fruit. Rather, his whole life of obedience was necessary so that he would not be a second failing Adam. One single sin would have put him in the category of a failing Adam. But it took one entire life of obedience to be a successful second Adam. That this complete life of obedience came to climax in the freely embraced death of Christ made such an overwhelming impression on his followers that they looked upon the â€œcrossâ€ or the â€œdeathâ€ as the climax and sum of his obedience, but not separate from his cross-pursuing life.”
After reading this, I wonder if Piper’s thoughts might go well with James Jordan’s understand that Christ became the first mature man in history and attained to the glory that God had originally intended for Adam in the Garden. Jordan points out that, “He [Jesus] matured in faith, beyond the point where Adam failed. He matured to the point of being ready for adult responsibilities. Through his death, he became fully mature and was given dominion over ALL nations, over the wider world into which Adam had been prematurely cast.”
In other words, Jesus’ whole life of obedience was required for Jesus to reach full maturity to be ready for death on the cross, thus receiving the resurrection and being given dominion over all of creation.
Hebrews 5:9 says, â€œAnd being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.â€
It seems very probable that John Piper and James Jordan could meld their views together for an excellent understanding of Christ’s obedience and maturity being credited to us by faith. But I’m sure I’m just dreaming! 😉
For more information on Adam and the Garden, along with a good analysis of James Jordan’s views, see this article.
In Christ and In Defense of the Faith,