THE New Testament and the People of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, volume 1) by Dr Tom Wright (SPCK, £15) Dom Henry Wansbrough
DR TOM Wright, highly-respected theologian of the Church of England, and tutor in New Testament at Worcester College, Oxford, opens his massive fivevolume survey with this fine preliminary work, It is closely written, but witty and enlivened by homely examples.
The author's range of erudition is impressive, but his judgement no less so; ever and again he gives trenchant, well-informed little surveys of knotty questions.
The basic contention of this first volume is that the stories people tell and the way they tell them are indications of their worldview. Applied to the Christian people of God this is used to show that the worldview of Paul and the Gospels consists in a subversive retelling of the story of Judaism and its aims and climax.
The next two volumes will deal with Jesus and Paul respectively, and the examination of the worldview of the people of the New Testament is a healthy soil on which to grow such a plant., for the New Testament is above all the expression of the faith of a community.
On the way, the author makes a convincing statement of the eschatology of 1st century Judaism and Christianity, showing how the great Albert Schweitzer's incorrect but influential work has bedevilled 20th century Nev Testament scholarship.
Supporting this overall thesis are many illuminating historical sketches, on the rebellious political turmoil of 1st century Palestine, of the parties within Judaism, of the variously subversive worldviev,s of each of the evangelists. Perhaps the most exciting is the 30 pages of The Quest for the Kerygmatic Church, in which the author teases out the worldview of the earliest communities from statements in non-biblical, mostly pagan, authors. An inspiring start tc an ambitious project.