Sunday, January 02, 2005

The New Testament and the People of God

I finally finished this book last Monday. I think I've been reading it since March. At least, that's how long I think it has been sitting by my bedside waiting to be read in between school assignments. I was just glad to finish it before the year was up, so I could say I've read at least one tome-like volume of Wright's Christian Origins and The Question of God before we hear him speak.

I actually used quotes from Wright's discussion of "critical realism" in one of my education classes when we discussed narrative research, and his discussion of Jewish history and the gospels' beginnings has greatly enriched my reading of Scripture. If there's anything overarching I would like to take away from reading this book--something that has particulary resonated with me this year-- I think it can be represented by this passage on the authority of the NT from the conclusion of the book:

The New Testament offers itself, both explicitly and implicitly, as a set of stories, and a single Story, which, like all stories, lays claim to attention. It does this even when treated simply as a myth: someone innocent of history, but at home in the world of fairy stories, or indeed of Tolkien's Middle Earth, could well find the New Testament powerful and evocative. This mythological power is in no way lost, but in fact enhanced, when historical study suggests that something very like this story actually happened. That, of course, is the point at which the relativist's account of the whole process is called into question, which is precisely why, in a relativistic age, the move from 'simply myth' to history-as-myth, or myth-as-history, is so often attacked. But that is the move that our whole study suggests and commends. If we read the New Testament as it stands, it claims on every page to be speaking of things which are true in the public domain. It is not simply, like so many books, a guide for private spiritual advancement. To read it like that is like reading Shakespeare simply to pass an examination. The New Testament claims to be the subversive story of the creator and the world, and demands to be read as such. Any authority it exercises in the process will be a dynamic, not a static, authority; the New Testament will not impose itself from a great height, and to attempt to use it in that fashion at once is to falsify it. Its claim is less brittle, and, if true, more powerful. It offers itself as the true story, the true myth, the true history of the whole world. (Wright 471)

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