An Observation on ‘Narrative’ and Biblical Theology

Following Al’s recent comments here on this blog about the importance of ‘narrative’ and ‘story’, I read this comment today by Tom Wright (again), where he makes an interesting comment in a section on today’s questions about Paul’s theology:

The currently fashionable category of ‘story’ or ‘narrative’ has been employed as a way into [Paul’s] theology, though there is currently no agreement on how to use the category, or what might happen if we did. (p. 21)

In using the adjective ‘fashionable’, does he mean to treat the approach as a disposable garment? At best it is an approach yet to reach maturity, it seems. But then the comment was written in 1997…

I like how he goes on to point out a danger found amongst some biblical theologians:

The dislocation of biblical studies from theology … has meant that Paul is often studied by people who are not trained either philosophically or theologically, and who indeed resent the idea that such training should be necessary. Many New Testament scholars use detailed exegesis as a way of escaping from heavy handed and stultifying conservatism; any attempt to articulate an overarching Pauline theology looks to them like an attempt to reconstruct the sort of system from which they themselves are glad to be free. As in some other scholarly circles, using the study of history to exorcise one’s own past is an attractive, though one suspects ineffective, form of therapy.(p. 21)

Ouch. He points out one of the hazards of reading other authors: trying to work out if there is a less than obvious personal agenda. Has Wright himself got one? (he asks mischievously!)

An Observation on ‘Narrative’ and Biblical Theology

3 thoughts on “An Observation on ‘Narrative’ and Biblical Theology

  1. Alastair says:

    Wright himself holds to a more narratival approach. However, he does not pit it against other approaches so much as other theologians are wont to do. Wright’s own position on Christian theology is expressed in such places as NTPG, pp.131ff.

    Of course, Wright has a personal agenda; we all do. Nevertheless, he tries to make clear (in such places as the introduction to JVG) that on many occasions the direction that his studies took him went against the grain of his personal agenda and he didn’t always like his conclusions very much.

  2. Stephen says:

    I have not read JVG, and only selected parts of NTPG. It’s good if someone comes to conclusions which go against the grain, as it were. I guess it means the arguments can be better treated on their own merits.

Comments are closed.