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The Paul Debate

Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle

In the last two decades N. T. Wright has produced a succession of connected volumes that explore the nature and origins of Christianity. Wright has consistently argued that Christianity, while indebted to Second Temple Judaism, represents an explosive new development. With major books on method and background, Jesus, and the resurrection already in print, in Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Wright added a comprehensive study of the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Wright's Paul, as well as his reading of Christianity, is not without its detractors. In The Paul Debate, Wright answers his critics. The five chapters represent a response to the five most questioned elements of his understanding of Paul. The first chapter takes up the question of Paul's theological coherence, particularly the way in which his Jewish context, and the story about Israel he inherited, interacted with what he came to believe about Jesus, a Christological story. Chapter two follows on by tackling the debate over the background, origin, and implications of Paul's Christology. The third chapter addresses the questions of covenant and cosmos, narrative and apocalyptic. Chapter four focuses on the debate over Paul's view of who constitutes the people of God; this chapter also addresses the question of whether justification belongs to Paul's soteriology or his ecclesiology, or somehow to both. The final chapter then traces debates about method, both Paul's and ours, as well as questions of discovery and presentation, again, both Paul's and ours.

The Paul Debate is essential reading for those who both agree and disagree with Wright, and for all who want to understand the compelling voice of one of the most productive and widely read scholars in past decades.

About the Author

N. T. Wright is Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St Mary's College, University of St Andrews. He previously served as the Bishop of Durham in the Church of England and is one of the world's leading Bible scholars. He has authored more than seventy books.


"N.T. Wright's magnum opus, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, now has a little brother in The Paul Debate. In this short volume, Wright provides a helpful summary of Paul's main theological convictions. There are concise treatments of the Apostle Paul and his messianic mindset, his account of Jesus, the quandary of either covenant or apocalyptic as configuring Paul's framework, the meaning of 'justification,' and what Paul can teach us about mission today. Among the abundance of volumes that Wright has written, this one is perhaps the most readable and the most distilled summation of Wright's account of the Apostle Paul. Vintage Wright!"—Michael F. Bird, Lecturer in Theology at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia

"The Paul Debate serves not only as a useful and concise summary of Wright's major arguments in his acclaimed work Paul and the Faithfulness of God, but also as a rhetorical rebuttal that contends without being contentious, rightly focusing on arguments rather than persons and personalities. Highly Recommended."—Ben Witherington III, Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary and Emeritus Faculty, St Andrews University, Scotland

"In The Paul Debate, Tom Wright, with the panache, verve, and wit we have all come to expect from him, restates many of his more contentious views in a succinct and easily digestible form. Whether one will end up agreeing with him or not, this volume is a particularly useful window onto the debates on apocalyptic, epistemology, justification, and more that are currently raging within Pauline studies."—Dr. Chris Tilling, author of Paul's Divine Christology

"In The Paul Debate Wright is a prize fighter in top form. In his earlier Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Wright flexed his considerable intellectual muscle, but what emerged was akin to a sumo wrestler—massive and powerful yet with the ripple of muscle hidden. The stripped-down style of The Paul Debate allows Wright to showcase a svelte, powerful Pauline theology. New moves are on display that readers will not want to miss."—Matthew W. Bates, Quincy University, Themelios

"This very readable volume will be attractive to interested readers who have neither time nor energy to work through Wright's larger tome. It is a concise summary of an eminent New Testament scholar's interpretation of Paul."— Thomas D. Stegman, SJ, Theological Studies

"This deceptively slim volume not only introduces the reader to a clear and succinct summary of the major themes of N. T. Wright's substantial contribution to Pauline scholarship, but also exposes the reader to the questions that have informed Wright's arguments and continue to be debated in contemporary studies of Paul."—Patricia Sharbaugh, Horizons in Biblical Theology

"The Paul Debate answers the critics of Wright's Paul in considerable part by paraphrasing Wright on Paul. As a handy guide to Paul and the Faithfulness of God, it is magnificent."—Markus Bockmuehl, Times Literary Supplement

"A very clear and accessible exposition of many of the assumptions that drive Paul and the Faithfulness of God and is valuable especially for pastors and students as an orientation to Wright's overall interpretation of the apostle Paul."—Andy Johnson, Interpretation: Journal of Bible and Theology

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