Some new perspective in a nutshell

Sorry to keep doing this, but the article also has some great one-stop-shop NP analysis (whether Wright is accurate that his targets have failed is something on which I have no opinion (Update: I suspect he was excessive in his criticism). But I think his points about how we should read Romans and Galatians are obvious and ought not be controversial:

Somehow, J, O and S manage to discuss the key passage in Romans 3 (3.24–26) without any acknowledgement that the passage is framed within a larger argument which is all about ‘the righteousness of God’, which, admittedly itself a controversial topic, is Paul’s way at least of saying what has to be said in answer to the problem of idolatry, sin and wrath which has been set out in 1.18—3.20. And this leads to a complete marginalisation of Abraham in Romans 4, where the question of forgiveness of sins (4.6–8) is framed within a lengthy and careful exposition of Genesis 15, the chapter where God made the covenant with Abraham to which, Paul argues, he has now been faithful in the death and resurrection of Jesus (4.242f.). In other words, Paul is determined to see the answer to human sin and its consequences as the long-term outworking of God’s call of and covenant with Abraham; it is God’s faithfulness to that promise which has meant that he has, at last, sent Jesus to do that which Israel as a whole had failed to do. Jesus’ death, described densely if precisely in 3.24–26, means what it means within that framework.

The same is true, if anything even more obviously, in Galatians 3, where the entire argument from verse 6 to verse 29 is framed by the question, Who are the true children of Abraham? – though you’d never have known that from J, O and S. Why does this matter? Well, the point about Israel being under the curse of the law in 3.10–14 is not to be at once construed as a general statement of the sinful plight of all humanity, and the cross as the moment when Jesus took the sin, and the curse, of all. Even if that is a point which Paul might well have agreed with, it is not what he is saying in these verses. Had he been, he should have said something like ‘Christ became a curse for us, so that we might be freed from the guilt, penalty and power of sin’, whereas in fact he says, ‘Christ became a curse for us, so that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, and that we (presumably Jewish Christians) might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith’. In other words, Paul is addressing a very specific problem here, which only comes into view once you grasp the biblical worldview in which Abraham (or, more fully, the promise which God makes through him) is the answer to the plight of all humanity. The acting-out, by Abraham’s family, of the primal sin of Adam (the point Paul makes in Romans 5.20 and then Romans 7.7–25), means that the blessing looked as if it might, so to speak, get stuck: if Israel has failed in her calling, how will God be true to what he promised to and through Abraham? This brings us back to Romans 3.1–9, another passage which makes no impact on J, O and S in their understanding of the later part of Romans 3: Israel has been unfaithful to her commission, but God remains faithful. The answer is that God has dealt with this very specific problem in the Messiah’s becoming a curse, bearing in his own body the curse which hung over Israel, and thus unblocking the road for the promise to flow through to the Gentiles, as always intended.

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