N. T. Wright
Bishop of Durham
[Auckland Castle, Co. Durham, DL14 7NR]
Originally published in History and Exegesis: New Testament Essays in Honor of Dr E. Earle Ellis for His 80th Birthday, ed. Aang-Won (Aaron) Son (New York and London: T & T Clark 2006), 104-132. Reproduced by permission of the author.
The topic of justification has been central, and often divisive, in many debates throughout church history. Though recent ecumenical documents have a more eirenic tone, and mutual understanding may have improved, it is not clear that there has been significant progress in understanding what Paul himself, to whom everyone appeals, was talking about. Meanwhile, Pauline scholarship has gone its own way. Released from the straitjacket of post-reformation controversy, discussion has focussed on other issues. No major advance has been made, within the so-called ‘new perspective’, on the question of what Paul meant by ‘justification’.1 Insufficient attention has been given in this area to the Dead Sea Scrolls. A few fragments found in a cave might seem a small rudder with which to turn the large ship of Paul’s theology, but careful consideration of one text in particular gives support for a way of reading Paul that locates him within the world of second-Temple Judaism, gives depth and coherence to some of his key passages, and provides food for thought on wider issues. I am delighted to offer these reflections in honor of a friend and colleague whose work at the interface between the New Testament and second-Temple Judaism has been influential and inspirational…