"For me," says N.T. Wright, "there has been no more stimulating exercise, for the mind, the heart, the imagination and the spirit, than trying to think Paul's thoughts after him and constantly to be stirred up to fresh glimpses of God's ways and purposes with the world and with us strange human creatures." Wright's accessible new volume, built on his Cambridge University Hulsean Lectures of 2004, takes a fresh look at Paul in light of recent understandings of his Jewish roots, his attitude toward the Roman Empire, and his unique reframing of Jewish symbols after his experience of the risen Christ. Wright includes a short systematic account of the main theological contours of Paul's thought and its pertinence for the church today.
To do this Wright first sketches a worldview shared by Paul based on three related sets of pairs. The first is creation & covenant - the God who calls Israel is the Creator God, and for Paul, as for some strands of Judaism, the purpose of Israel's call and covenant was ultimately to bring everbody into God's kingdom. In the next chapter on Messaih and Apocalyptic Wright argues that, given the plan of creation and covenant have not gone to plan because of Sin, God needs to act in some way to restore things. This was a widespread Jewish belief, even if there was dispute over the modality of that intervention. For paul, of course, Jesus is that messiah (Wright argues against those who suggest that Paul mostly uses 'Christ' as a kind of surname for Jesus) and so God is intervening. The particular evidence of this is the gift of the spirit (hence there is at least an implicit trinitarian dimension to Paul's viusion). The third pair is Gospel and Empire. Although Paul famously urges obedience to wordly authorities, this does not represent an aproval of the idolatrous dimensions of Roman civic life, and Paul in various places shows that the only tru Lord is Jesus Christ., occasionaly with clear anti-imperial flourishes.
In the secon half of the book Wright goes on to outline how thinking about God, God's people, and Eschatology are transformed in the light of Jesus and the spirit, thus providing an alternative and (Wright would argue) better framework for Pauline theology.
I found the book engaging and interesting, though I found the frequent repetition of "I've dealt with that in greater detail elsewhere". The coloquial style betrays its origins as a series of lectures (at Cambridgw) which Wright deliberately retains. Wright in seversl places appeals to Colossians for support, which will undermine his case for some (though not me). Less useful was his occasional appeals to Ephesians and even Acts. Overall a good book if you want a sketch which you can read and digest in a day, but less helphull if yopu want the detail of the argument. For that you will have to, as Wright says, go to his other books
Once again, Wright is able to convey a richer vision of Jesus' mission as well as Paul's in light of that and has enabled me to further appreciate the magnitude of this information. I am endlessly thankful to him for bringing this invigorated passion for understanding more in regards to Scripture than I ever have.