N. T. Wright on Scholarly Fashion

In a discussion of sources for the study of Paul, N. T. Wright weighs in on the scholarly consensus that Paul wrote only seven of the thirteen letters attributed to him. He notes that it is odd that even though many of the considerations that drove this opinion have been overturned, it nonetheless remains the consensus.

Wright goes on to comment on scholarly fashion:

In addition – it is hard to say this, but perhaps it needs to be said – there is the matter of fashion and prejudice. Just as in Germany in the late nineteenth century you more or less had to be a follower of F. C. Baur, and in Oxford in the mid-twentieth century you more or less had to believe in the existence of Q, so in North America today you more or less have to say that you will regard Ephesians and Colossians as post-Pauline – unless, like Luke Timothy Johnson, you have so massively established your scholarly credibility on other grounds that your acceptance of the letters as fully Pauline can then be regarded, not as a serious scholarly fault, but as an allowable eccentricity.

Wright also has strong words for those who affirm Pauline authorship of Ephesians, but fail to integrate its theology into a holistic reading of Paul:

The irony emerges when those same ‘conservative’ readers allow Ephesians to be by Paul for reasons to do with their commitment to a particular view of scripture, but are careful not to let it affect their view of Paul lest they be forced to admit, not only a higher ecclesiology than they have usually wanted, but also the fact that Ephesians seems to offer rather a clear vindication of the ‘new perspective’ (these two points are not unrelated).

It’s unfortunate that Ephesians, after having played such a prominent role in depictions of Paul until 1800, has been so neglected. Perhaps Paul and the Faithfulness of God will help effect a change toward understanding Paul through the lens of Ephesians, though I suspect that this may be left to another generation of NT scholars.

3 thoughts on “N. T. Wright on Scholarly Fashion

  1. JWE

    I think what is interesting is that scholarship often gets stuck in ruts so deep they have no idea how they got there or more importantly what and why they got there. Looking afresh at the data is hard to do when the accepted position, is well, the accepted position. Politics! In many ways, this is exactly why NT Wright is so refreshing to read. You sense that he is after the truth and wants everyone else to seek the truth as well. He definitely is a true Reformer! Disagree with him?! Sure but seek the truth and be willing to engage in a lively discussion in a spirit of learning and brotherly love. If only the Reformed camp itself would have such a mindset!

  2. Pingback: Biblical Studies Carnival XCIV: December 2013 | Cataclysmic

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