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History and Eschatology: Jesus and the Promise of Natural Theology

History and Eschatology: Jesus and the Promise of Natural Theology

by N. T. Wright


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How can we know about God? That question increasingly bothered scientists and philosophers in the modern period as they chipped away at previously imagined "certainties." They refused to take on trust the "special revelation" of the Christian Bible, trying instead to argue up to God from the "natural" world. That is the theme of the Gifford Lectures, inaugurated over 130 years ago.

This natural theology has usually bracketed out the Bible and Jesus—and with them, usually, the scholars who study them.

History and Eschatology: Jesus and the Promise of Natural Theology represents the first Gifford delivered by a New Testament scholar since Rudolf Bultmann in 1955. Against Bultmann’s dehistoricized approach, N. T. Wright argues that, since the philosophical and cultural movements that generated the natural theology debates also treated Jesus as a genuine human being—part of the "natural world"—there is no reason the historical Jesus should be off-limits. What would happen if we brought him back into the discussion? What, in particular, might "history" and "eschatology" really mean? And what might that say about "knowledge" itself?

This lively and wide-ranging discussion invites us to see Jesus himself in a different light by better acquainting ourselves with the first-century Jewish world. Genuine historical study challenges not only what we thought we knew but how we know it. The crucifixion of the subsequently resurrected Jesus, as solid an event as any in the "natural" world, turns out to meet, in unexpected and suggestive ways, the puzzles of the ultimate questions asked by every culture. At the same time, these events open up vistas of the eschatological promise held out to the entire natural order. The result is a larger vision, both of "natural theology" and of Jesus himself, than either the academy or the church has normally expected.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481309622
Publisher: Baylor University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2019
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 346,600
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.00(d)

What People are Saying About This

Miroslav Volf

This is Tom Wright at his best—an exegete, theologian, churchman, and public intellectual rolled into one. A creative and arresting contribution to ‘natural theology,’ this book argues for the plausibility of the Christian vision of the relation between God and the world by taking seriously the history of Jesus Christ, especially the promise contained in his resurrection of the new creation: the creation become God’s and humans’ home.

Brian J. Walsh

With a stunning breadth of research Wright takes his Gifford lectures as an occasion to deepen the paradigmatic shift in biblical studies that he has shaped over the last thirty years. Wright offers a model of historical exegesis that just might release us from our Platonic bondage. This book combines breathtakingly creative brilliance with a lovely eloquence. Since an ‘epistemology of love’ is at the heart of Wright’s natural theology, we wouldn’t have expected anything less. Read this book, then read it again. It takes its place in the esteemed tradition of Gifford lectures becoming classics.

Russell Re Manning

Accessibly written without any loss of academic rigour, Wright’s book opens up new and productive conversations between biblical interpretation and philosophical theology. By eschewing unhelpful either/or oppositions Wright shows the vitality of both biblical and natural theologies—and how they might not be quite so far apart after all. Lord Adam Gifford would be proud.

Ephraim Radner

N. T. Wright’s extensive scholarly work on the New Testament is near legendary.Readers have long wanted to hear him explain the critical foundations for this work, and he now finally provides them, with the same pungency, panache, and provocation for which he is famous.Laying out what he calls an "epistemology of love" that is made possible in the resurrection of Jesus, Wright refashions the debate over natural theology in a way that is able to include, not only the bare phenomena of creation, but the full range of human activity – from politics to art – in the Cross-shaped form of divine history. This is a sweeping, passionate and hopeful plea for seeing, and living in, a world that is God’s in origin, suffering form, and final end.

Tom Greggs

This book offers a wonderful interplay of the history of modernity, natural theology, philosophy, biblical studies and theology. Written by the most influential biblical scholar of his generation, its constructive conclusions and the promise make this book a necessary read for anyone interested in the light that Jesus can shed on natural theology.

Scot McKnight

Bible scholars, whether those that specialize in the Old or New Testament, theologians, church historians, pastors, knowingly or not, trade in the relationship of God to history. The Christian claim is that God has acted in creation in real events and persons both to reveal who God is and to redeem humans. Scholarship, especially since the Enlightenment, has distorted that relationship of God to history by reductionism, historicism and a series of blinkering false dichotomies. In History and Eschatology N.T. Wright turns to the great theme of the Gifford Lectures to respond to the game of history by proposing nothing less than an epistemology of love.

David Fergusson

In this published version of his Aberdeen Gifford Lectures, Tom Wright develops an integrated theology of history and nature, thus overcoming modern strategies that have resulted in their disjunction. This is an impressive and timely publication from a leading New Testament scholar willing to engage with the big questions in his field. Bold, lively, and accessible, it will generate widespread discussion.