Monday, February 17, 2014

A Few Notes on Wright's PFG ch. 6

I am reading through N.T. Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Nijay Gupta is doing a random series of blog posts on things that strike him as interesting or helpful about Wright's book (here's his third post). This post will be something like it, based on ch. 6.

First off, ch. 6 is where we really get to some meat. The first 350 pages have little to do with Paul and almost nothing to do with the faithfulness of God, except insomuch as anything in the first century concerns these topics. But finally at about p. 350, Wright turns his attention to the apostle. It's a good chapter, long (100pp., not nearly the longest in this book), about the 'symbolic praxis' of early Christianity as practiced by Paul and his churches. Especially his section on how Paul adapted traditional Jewish symbols (temple, Torah, prayer, land, family, battle, scripture) is very strong, as is his section on 'ecclesial unity' as the major new element of Paul's symbolic world. The section on baptism (419-27) was excellent, the section on the Lord's Supper (427-29) less so.

Now, a few random notes.

Wright seems to have a problem with Ed Sanders' idea that Paul carried his tent "presumably on pack animals" (PFG p. 353, citing Sanders p. 347). He immediately follows up his quotation of Sanders with this parenthetical comment:
I am not sure about the pack animals; perhaps the reason Paul and his friends couldn't get into Bithynia was that one of the donkeys, like Balaam's ass, saw an angel in the way. (p. 354)
At first I took this to be just one of Wright's little jokes, but later he says this, again in parenthesis:
those other shipwrecks, for instance; what happened to Sanders's pack-animals in those circumstances, and to the tools of Paul's trade? (p. 413)
So, does Wright think it just silly that Paul may have used pack animals? (They are "Sanders's pack-animals," after all, and in the earlier comment he is "not sure about the pack animals".) Or am I reading too much into this?

Another little note: Gupta had pointed to p. 168 n. 367 in which Wright really burns Troels Engberg-Pedersen with the comment that he "clearly has little idea of what Judaism was or how it worked [...]." But Wright says about Engberg-Pedersen on p. 385 that he is "one of the most original voices in contemporary Pauline studies."

Finally, I appreciated the comment on p. 447 where Wright speaks of
the abysmal failure of ekklÄ“sia to live up to its calling. That, to my mind, is the really major objection to Paul's proposal, compared with which the home-made modernist 'objection' of the so-called 'delay of the parousia' pales into insignificance.


Brian Davidson said...

Ed, your blog is fantastic, and more people need to know about it. There is a community of biblical studies bloggers (bibliobloggers) that is pretty well connected through twitter. Do you tweet? I've tried to find you to no avail.

Ed Gallagher said...

Brian, many thanks! I do not tweet. I'm glad you're enjoying my postings. I appreciate your interest and encouragement.