Justification and New Perspective 16

Justification and New Perspective 16 June 8, 2009

NTWright.jpgReading Paul in the context of the Bible’s Story, with the result that Paul sounds like he fits into the concerns of the Bible, has been the intent of both the new and old perspective. Reading Paul’s version of the Story — his “wiki-story” of the Story — in the context of his Jewish context has been the quest of the new perspective. In some important ways, the old perspective failed in this regard and it is to Tom Wright’s credit, in Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision, to point that out without ignoring that sometimes new perspective folks have exaggerated their claims too.

Tom Wright’s understanding of “God’s righteousness” as his covenant faithfulness enables him to reshape what Paul means about Jewish privilege in Romans 2. In particular, the privilege the Jew has is that God has chosen Israel to bless the world. Along with privilege, comes responsibility, and here’s the sticking point for Paul in the new perspective of Tom Wright: Israel failed in its task to bless the world and to be a light to the nations. There is in the new perspective a Jewish privilege — God chose Israel, not just for personal salvation, but to be a light to the nations. And Israel did not deliver, but Jesus did.

This is why Romans 3:1-2 is so important: “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.” Israel’s privilege is being given the Torah. Entrusted means given something in trust for a purpose. Israel’s unfaithfulness is its failure to bless the nations with that Torah.

And Paul’s question in this section of Romans 3:3 is about whether or not God will be faithful to his covenant promises — will God be righteous in that regard.  Thus: “What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness?” Doesn’t 3:5 then prove that “righteousness” means covenant faithfulness by God? “But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say?”

Because of Israel’s failure, they join Gentiles in the lawcourt dock.

So God has to figure out how to be faithful to himself and to Israel and he must find a way of Israel being faithful — the Messiah will be that Israel.

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