Wrightsaid Q&A – May, 2004

Webmaster’s note: Tom Wright, the Bishop of Durham, has agreed to answer a few questions occasionally from the Wrightsaid email list.  I am pleased to make this Q & A available on the N.T. Wright Page.  These are his responses for May, 2004.

Question:

When Paul speaks of the “church” has he a picture in mind of a number of local bodies united into a universal church of some sort, perhaps headed by apostles?  Or rather does he perhaps think in terms of each local body as some sort of an embodiment or reflection of a universal heavenly church?

Answer:

I think he has both in mind and more.  We should beware of exporting our either/or distinctions back into his mind.  Certainly Ephesians has a grand overall vision of the church (which is why much liberal protestant scholarship has not wanted it to be by Paul, of course).  And since the church in Ephesians is clearly the earthly church but also seated in the heavenly places in Christ I suspect it really is both.

Question:

In view of that one little reference (p.358, fn. 141 of JVG) and of your very 1st-C understanding of NT passages which have traditionally been thought to refer to the time of the end of history / general resurrection, do you think that the book of Revelation is pre AD 70 and that the harlot is ‘Jewish’ rather than ‘Roman’?  Also, do you consider yourself to be post-millenial?

Answer:

Hmm, yes, well spotted with that footnote.  I have been fascinated by this on and off for some while.  It is possible to read quite a bit of Revelation and have it make sense with the great city to be destroyed as Jerusalem.  But there are problems, and it is of course equally possible, and probably more so, to read it as Rome.  What I was interested by in that footnote was the fact that the suggestion that it might be Jerusalem after all made some people really angry.  Why?

I don’t particularly consider myself to be post-millennial though if I had to choose between that and pre- I would obviously take post.  Check out what I say more fully in my book on the Millennium Myth (WJKP 1999) and also in the short section on Revelation in The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Question:

How would you present the gospel to the average unchurched person who is unaware of “Israel’s story” and instead is steeped in secular, evolutionary thought?

Answer:

Well, you have to start somewhere, preferably within earshot of the person you’re talking to.  What matters is that eventually you go round the full circle.  Look at what Paul does in Acts 14 and 17, addressing pagan audiences with little or no knowledge of Judaism (see too 1 Thessalonians 1).  He basically gives a Jewish analysis of paganism, without saying that’s what he’s doing, but eventually drops them right into it with the announcement that the creator God has acted once and for all through his crucified and risen son.  Then the fat is well and truly in the fire and he would no doubt have to spend some little while teaching any converts who resulted a lot more about this God and his son and resurrection and so forth.  But nb the Corinthians were in this position, so were the Galatians, and by the time Paul writes to them he can presume quite a lot of  ‘Jewish’ knowledge; note ‘our fathers’ in 1 Cor 10.1, for instance.

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