Tuesday, January 09, 2007

On Becoming the Wrighteousness of God

I presented another paper at the English-German New Testament Colloquium last night in which I developed some of my thoughts posted here, here and here on 2 Cor 5:21.

I titled the paper: ‘On Becoming the Wrighteousness of God’!

It is not part of my doctoral work* and was actually birthed in preparation for a sermon, but at some stage I want to publish my musings, even if parts of it still need a bit of attention – I dashed the whole thing out in only a week.

I’ll briefly summarise the basic flow of the paper, which Prof. Lichtenberger, in response last night, called Hegelian – in that I work with an antithesis, a thesis and finally propose a synthesis! You’ll see what he means:

In section 1 I briefly overview the history of interpretation of 2 Cor 5:21, and suggest a common denominator that ties the traditional interpretations of 2 Cor 5:21 together - especially 21b and the ‘righteousness of God’. In section 2 I detail Wright’s original thesis concerning 5:21, and how it sits in tension with the common denominator proposed in section 1, while in section 3 I summarise the critique with which Wright’s argument has been rather summarily dismissed in modern scholarship. Section 4 turns the guns on these critiques suggesting that they are all problematic, so in section 5 I offer my own critique of the weaknesses of Wright’s argument that deal with matters of real substance. However, in part 6 I suggest that Wright’s basic argument needs sympathetic treatment, and propose a number of arguments, based on i) the immediate context of v. 21, namely 5:15-6:2, and ii) a number of counter arguments to the supposed allusion to the fourth Servant Song of Isaiah in v. 21, that thoroughly affirm the basic direction of Wright’s thesis. Section 7 then turns to address how the arguments thus far illuminates our understanding of ‘the righteousness of God’ in 21b, and does so in tandem with an analysis of the ‘new creation’ motif of 5:17. This leads me to propose that the traditional understanding of 5:21 (and ‘the righteousness of God’) is not wrong in what it affirms (at least in light of the common denominator I suggest), but is part, and only part, of a bigger picture, one which also holds on to Wright’s insights. In other words, I argue that the traditional model for understanding 5:21 can, despite recent scholarly insight, nevertheless be affirmed, not as an alternative to the proposals represented by Wright, but rather precisely within this new paradigm. Part 8 is a short afterthought which I quote in full below:

“When the traditional understanding of 2 Cor 5:21 is situated in the larger paradigm of God’s world-directed saving righteousness, as maintained here, this will bear the immediate fruit of guarding against the gnostic and individualistic tendency of some modern forms of Christianity to elevate the solitary importance of the soul. As Moltmann wrote: ‘In this gnostic form the Christian hope no longer gazes forward to a future when everything will be created anew. It looks upwards, to the soul’s escape from the body and from the earth, into the heaven of blessed spirits’. This lamentable reduction of the Christian gospel not only bears little resemblance with the burdens of the Apostle Paul, but in a world of global empire, the rape of the environment, the growing poverty crisis, the oppression of various people groups and sexual and racial discrimination, what the world needs is a church that is not only concerned with producing more converts who know they have a secure private relationship with God, despite their personal sin, but people, reconciled with God, who also know why they are living in the world: to become the righteousness of God”.
*As this is not my doctoral work, if anybody wants to have read of my paper and perhaps even give me some feedback on how it may be improved, then send me an e-mail (see my profile), or leave a comment and I’ll post it to you. I would just ask that copyright be respected. Copywright, I mean.

What will Wright make of my paper? Well, apart from section 5:


At 1/10/2007 2:38 PM, Anonymous James Crossley said...

Where did you get that picture???

At 1/10/2007 3:06 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Well, I had a little time on my hands last night ... it's homemade. I thought it was crap enough to be obviously my creation, actually.

At 1/10/2007 4:31 PM, Anonymous Michael F. Bird said...

Interessant! I am not a fan of Wright's take, but feel free to try convince me, send me a copy and I'll try read it this weekend.

At 1/10/2007 5:31 PM, Anonymous sean said...

Hi Chris

Id love to see a copy, but why not cut out the middle man and send it straight to Tom himself.

Im currently supervising a PhD that argues that 5.21 is the basis for the personification of dikaiosune elsewhere in Paul, not least Romans,i.e. as connoting Christ.

At 1/10/2007 5:53 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

Chris, the dancing Wright, that's just disturbing! Indeed, almost as disturbing as the St Andrews Dancing Hebraist!

At 1/11/2007 12:17 AM, Anonymous steph said...

I love the picture. But it makes you guilty of heresy. Naughty boy.

At 1/11/2007 1:21 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Jim, that is evil.

Steph, I kinda like the thought if being a heretic if it means I can waste an evening making the Bishy of Durham look like MC Hammer.

But I wish that stupid frigging black mark didn't keep appearing on his head.

At 1/11/2007 3:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tell you, that N.T. can cut a mean rug!!

At 1/11/2007 1:33 PM, Anonymous steph said...

It's a good stupid frigging black mark - it's the black blood streak down the left side of his brain.

At 1/12/2007 12:55 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

black blood?
This really is blasphemy.


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