This first volume in the series Christian Origins and the Question of God provides a historical, theological, and literary study of first-century Judaism and Christianity. Wright offers a preliminary discussion of the meaning of the word "god" within those cultures as he explores the ways in which developing an understanding of those first-century cultures are of relevance for the modern world.
“This pre-critical approach aims to take the authoritative status of the text seriously, but would today be criticized on (at least) three grounds, corresponding to the other three ways of reading: it fails to take the text seriously historically, it fails to integrate it into the theology of the New Testament as a whole, and it is insufficiently critical of its own presuppositions and standpoint.” (Page 7)
“There are those who, having seized power a century or two ago, and occupying many major fortresses (eminent chairs, well-known publishing houses, and so forth), insist that the New Testament be read in a thoroughgoing historical way, without inflicting on it the burden of being theologically normative.” (Page 4)
“On the one hand, studying the theology of the New Testament depends on some belief, however vague, that certain things that happened in the first century are in some sense normative or authoritative for subsequent Christianity. On the other hand, studying the history of early Christianity is impossible without a clear grasp of early Christian beliefs.” (Page 13)
“We must try to combine the pre-modern emphasis on the text as in some sense authoritative, the modern emphasis on the text (and Christianity itself) as irreducibly integrated into history, and irreducibly involved with theology, and the postmodern emphasis on the reading of the text. To put it another way, we need to do justice, simultaneously, to Wrede’s emphasis on serious history (including the history of Jesus), Bultmann’s emphasis on normative theology, and the postmodern emphasis on the text and its readers.” (Pages 26–27)
In this volume Wright trains a penetrating historical and theological spotlight on first-century Palestinian Judaism. By describing the history, social make-up, worldview, beliefs, and hope of Palestinian Judaism, Wright familiarizes the reader with ‘the world of Judaism’ as situated within the world of Greco-Roman culture. This is a highly informative book! It provides the reader not only with a sweeping assessment of Jewish history but also with the careful exploration of the symbolic world of Judaism. Eminently accessible to students, scholars will find it interesting and provocative. It deserves a place of privilege on the bookshelf of any serious student of the New Testament.
—Jack Dean Kingsbury, Aubrey Lee Brooks Professor of Biblical Theology at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia
The sweep of Wright’s project as a whole is breathtaking. It is impossible to give a fair assessment of his achievement without sounding grandiose; no New Testament scholar since Bultmann has even attempted—let alone achieved—such an innovative and comprehensive account of New Testament history and theology.
—Richard B. Hays, Dean and George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina