Monday, September 01, 2008

Did Wright coin the term "the new perspective" on Paul?

As everyone knows, the term "the new perspective on Paul" was coined by Jimmy Dunn in 1982, on 4 November, at his Manson Memorial Lecture at the University of Manchester, subsequently published in 1983 in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 65 (1983), 95-122, and reprinted in several places, most recently online at the Paul Page. And yet four years earlier, N. T. Wright had already used the term,

N. T. Wright, "The Paul of History and the Apostle of Faith": The Tyndale New Testament Lecture, 1978, Tyndale Bulletin 29 (1978), 61–88, reproduced at the N. T. Wright page
The debate between Stendahl and Käsemann concerns the relation, in Paul’s thought, between justification and salvation-history — between the Apostle who preached the Lutheran Gospel of justification by faith and the Paul who was called, in God’s historical purposes, to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. It would not be an overstatement to say that all the major issues in Pauline interpretation are contained (at least by implication) in this debate, and in one lecture there are therefore bound to be oversimplifications and downright lacunae. I want to try nevertheless to present what I take to be a new view of Paul. . . .

. . . . This debate has all the makings of a classic, with the agenda including wide-ranging issues in Pauline theology detailed exegesis of several passages, and challenges to traditional dogmatic frameworks, all with inescapable twentieth-century overtones. I want now to contribute to it by offering a new way of looking at Paul which provides, I believe, not only an advance in the debate between Stendahl and Käsemann but also a new perspective on other related Pauline problems. I shall first sketch out this new view and argue briefly for its central thrust, and then show how it offers new light on the debate.
Who'd have thought that Wright gave us not only "the third quest" but also "the new perspective"? He has a lot to answer for!

5 comments:

Ekaputra Tupamahu said...

N.T. Wright is a tremendously bright scholar. I admire him a lot.

Yes, I also thought that the term was coined by Dr. James Dunn when he delivered his Manson Memorial Lecture, back in 1982. Thanks prof. Goodacre for letting us know this small piece of information about Wright's significant contribution in coining the term 'the new perspective on Paul'.

carlsweatman said...

He certainly does have a lot to answer for, especially since he himself credits Dunn with coining the phrase. The credit is given in part two of his "dialogue" (or, "chat") with Dunn, which can also be found on his page.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Wright was actually picking up on something Stendahl himself said in "The Introspective Conscience" piece: Stendahl suggested that his reading of Paul "opens up a new perspective for systematic theology and practical theology." ("The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience," 214 and Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, 95.

steph said...

N.T. Wrong, 7 September, has a post on this - with Stendahl.

Mark Mattison said...

I wouldn't want to put too fine a point on this, but the aforementioned passage doesn't actually use the phrase "the new perspective on Paul." Granted, both Stendahl and Wright used terminology that was already pointing in that direction, as Dunn also writes in note 24 on page 7 of his latest anthology, "The New Perspective on Paul" (the Eerdmans edition). But I don't think that detracts from the fact that the actual term "the new perspective on Paul" derives from Dunn's Manson Memorial Lecture.

Not that anyone, I think, is particularly concerned with who should get "credit" for coining the phrase; I don't think Dunn actually intended to coin the phrase originally. He had simply set out to describe an emerging paradigm, and the phrase he used simply "caught on." FWIW ...