I signed up for a reading group called ‘Let the reader understand’ which is first of all reading and reflecting on Tom Wright’s book ‘How God became King,’ so to help me get a handle on it I thought I’d write short(ish) blog entries. If you know the book, please join in, and if you don’t then it might be worth buying – it’s fairly cheap on Amazon.
Why is Tom Wright interested in writing this book? Because he thinks that the four canonical Gospels have been both sidelined and misunderstood: sidelined in favour of Paul’s interpretation of the ‘gospel’ and misunderstood in terms of their overall purpose.
In chapter 1, ‘The Missing Middle,’ he seeks to prove that the life of Jesus has been omitted when it comes to understanding what the Gospels are about, and that this has had serious consequences for our understanding. Is he correct?
Is he right about the MM?
– in the Creeds – undoubtedly, as they jump right over the life and ministry of Jesus, and it seems to me he is probably right that when the church has had to choose between creed and canon she has chosen creed, which has influenced how we understand the Gospels – they are for bolstering the beliefs of the creeds.
– in the Western Church – certainly within the tradition in which I grew up (Brethren) and I believe in wider Evangelicalism (perhaps less so now, but that is in part because of Wright and others)
– in (conservative) biblical scholarship after Bultmann – it would indeed be an irony, and perhaps he overstates the degree, but it is largely true in my experience of conservative biblical scholarship, at least until recent years – one of the reasons why I like scholars like Joel Green and his commentary on Luke.
p20 purpose of the book – to correct this distortion of the church’s belief: the creeds focus on Jesus being God, the Gospels on God becoming King.
At this point Wright does, I think, assume on generalities that he is correct in identifying the purpose of the Gospels, but perhaps he has to here with a view to defending that later.
Quote I liked:
p20 ‘It is by his inaugurating old God’s kingdom, in his public career and on the cross, that Jesus reveals the father’s glory.’