The New Perspective on Paul: Evaluation and Critique. What is the New Perspective? History of the NPP: the writers and their writings Beliefs of the NPP What is the Old Perspective? Essential beliefs Responses of the Old Perspective to the NPP What can we learn from this discussion?.
1. The righteousness of God is God’s faithfulness to his covenant; it speaks about what God does, i.e., an effect of his righteousness, rather than who God is, i.e., possessing the attribute of righteousness.
Thus, Wright treats the righteousness of God merely in terms of the actions of the Judge rather than in terms of his attribute of righteousness.
“For a reader of the Septuagint . . . ‘the righteousness of God’ would have one obvious meaning: God’s own faithfulness to his promises, to the covenant.” (What Paul Said, 96)
God’s righteousness is “his faithfulness to his covenant promises to Abraham” (Climax of the Covenant, 36).
“[God’s] ‘righteousness’ connotes the notion of God’s covenant faithfulness because of which he [saves]” (Justification, 52).
2. The justification of the sinner is “the status that someone has when the court has found in their favor” (Justification, 69). And what is that status? This justification is the declaration that someone is in the covenant. “’Justification,’ as seen in 3:24-26, means that those who believe in Jesus Christ are declared to be members of the true covenant family” (What Saint Paul Really Said, 129).
2a. The basis of this declaration is the person’s faith: “on the basis of faith we . . . receive the verdict ‘member of the family’” (Justification, 112).
2b. The reason people are declared to be members of the covenant family is the faithful death of the Messiah. This is why “the faith of Jesus Christ” is understood as a subjective genitive, i.e., “faithfulness of Jesus Christ,” rather than as an objective genitive, i.e., “faith in Jesus Christ.”
“God always intended that his purposes would be accomplished through faithful Israel [note Wright’s understanding of the meaning of ‘covenant’ as God’s single plan through Israel for the world]. That has now happened . . . in the single person of Israel’s faithful representative” (Justification, 114).
3. Because justification is the declaration that a Christian is in the covenant family, the concept of receiving Christ’s righteousness as a result of that declaration is a “category mistake.” In other words, Wright has no room in his explanation of justification for the concept of imputed righteousness.
“If we use the language of the law-court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom. For the Judge to be righteous
does not mean that the court has found in his favour. For the plaintiff or defendant to be righteous does not mean that he or she has tried the case properly or impartially. To imagine the defendant somehow receiving the judge’s righteousness is simply a category mistake. That is not how the language works. . . . If and when God
does act to vindicate his people, his people will then, metaphorically speaking, have the status of ‘righteousness.’ . . . But the righteousness they have will not be God’s own righteousness. That makes no sense at all” (What Saint Paul Really Said, 98-99). And in case Wright might have wanted to adjust this statement at all, he states in his most
recent book (Justification, 133-34), “It is quite illegitimate to seize on [Paul’s ‘in Christ’ language] and say that therefore [Christians] have something called ‘the righteousness of Christ’ imputed to them.”
4. The law-court scene during which believer’s are declared to be in the covenant is the final judgment. And the basis of that final judgment is the death of Christ and the life lived by the Christian.
“Paul has . . . spoken in Romans 2 about the final justification of God’s people on the basis of their whole life” (Fresh Perspective, 121).
“Present justification declares, on the basis of faith, what future justification will affirm publicly (according to [Rom] 2:14-16 and 8:9-11) on the basis of the entire life” (What Paul Said, 129).
“This declaration, this vindication, occurs twice. It occurs in the future . . . on the basis of the entire life a person has led in the power of the Spirit – that is, it occurs on the basis of ‘works’ in Paul’s redefined sense. And near the heart of Paul’s theology, it occurs in the present as an anticipation of that future verdict, when someone responding in believing obedience to the call of the gospel, believes that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead” (“New Perspectives,” 260).
God by doing good works but because they are Jewish and do not include Gentiles.
assumption that even when Jews sin it is not so serious as Gentile sin. It is this attitude and misapprehension which Paul sums up in the confidence of justification by works of the law. The clear implication being that it is his ‘works of the law’ (since they maintain his covenant status and document his distinctiveness from Gentile sinners)
which give the ‘Jew’ his false confidence and which cloak the seriousness of his sin.”
itself, strictly speaking, is the narrative proclamation of King Jesus” (Wright, What Paul Said, 45).
1. “In Jesus . . . the decisive victory has been won over all the powers of evil.”
2. “In Jesus’ resurrection the New Age has dawned.”
3. “The crucified and risen Jesus was, all along, Israel’s Messiah, her representative king.”
4. “Jesus was therefore also the Lord, the true king of the world, the one at whose name every knee would bow.”
1. The Israelites of the OT and the 2nd temple period saw themselves as the people of the creator God whose purposes stretched beyond them and out into the wider world.
2. The particular focus of this purpose is centered on the story of Abraham with whom God established a covenant (Gen 15 and 17); this covenant’s promises and warnings are delineated in Deuteronomy 27-30.
3. There was a sense in 2nd temple Judaism that this single story of God with his people Israel was continuing to move forwards towards whatever fulfillment God might eventually have in mind.
4. Paul holds onto this story and rethinks it in the light of Jesus “through whom at last the one God would fulfill the one plan to accomplish the one purpose, to rid the world of sin and establish his new creation and [in the light] of the holy spirit, the operating power of the [covenant].”
as the continuation of a great scriptural narrative, and of the moment they themselves were in as late on within the ‘continuing exile’ of Daniel 9” (Wright, Justification, 42).