N. T. Wright on Combatting Biblical Illiteracy, How the Early Christians Lived, and Why Many Modern Christians Are Wrong About Heaven

Biblical scholar N.T. Wright believes that failing to read the New Testament in its proper context has a devastating effect on both the unity of the Christian church and the theological understanding of God and the world. 

“When we fail to care about or recognize the history, literature, and theology of the early Christians, we tend to make them in our own image,” Wright told The Christian Post. “We imagine that they’re just like us with our sorts of concerns, yet very often they’re not.”

The early Christians, particularly those from the Jewish background, were “celebrating the fact that in and through Jesus, something had just happened, and as result, the world was a different place,” he continued.

“In other words, this was news. Something had happened, something would therefore happen and they were caught up in this new movement. For us, Christianity has collapsed into being a set of good advice about how to go to Heaven when you die. We forget that it started off as news and about something that happened concerning Jesus. If we could reemphasize that, we would all be a lot healthier for it.”

Wright, a retired Anglican bishop and now chair of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, is seeking to combat biblical illiteracy through his new book, The New Testament in Its World: An Introduction to the History, Literature, and Theology of the First Christians, co-authored with Michael F. Bird.

Complete with maps, diagrams, and a series of lectures, the book is intended for both students needing an introduction to the New Testament and any Christian feeling stuck reading Scripture, according to Wright.

“It’s an invitation to walk in the Jewish world, the Greek world, the Roman world of the New Testament,” he said. “What it was like living in those days, why people thought the way they did, why they looked at things the way they did. And then particularly, what can we actually say about Jesus himself, about the Gospels, about the early Christians, about Paul, about the resurrection?”

His goal, Wright said, is to “transform the way that the next generation learns and studies the new Testament, both in seminaries and colleges and in churches more broadly.”

“It’s user-friendly enough for the absolute beginner, but then it’ll take people on a long way from there into all sorts of exciting stuff, more than they’d ever imagined,” he said.

The theologian stressed that the ultimate truth in the New Testament is deeply personal, not a mere “how-to” guide when it comes to living a good, moral life. He expressed hope that The New Testament in Its World will help modern-day believers study and apply the New Testament with a clarified focus and mission.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett