Tucked away at the end of a recent edited volume on ‘The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life’ is an essay by NT Wright entitled, ‘Paul and Missional Hermeneutics’ (pp. 179-192).
It is a relatively short treatment but an interesting and useful reflection that will complement the missional hermeneutics discussion well. In particular it resonates with the work of James Brownson and his focus on the way the NT writers interpreted previous texts and traditions through the lens of the gospel. (see the Missional Hermeneutics Bibliography to follow up on this).
Reflecting on the role of Paul’s missional thinking within Wright’s immense ‘Christian Origins and the Question of God’ series, he notes his hope that he ‘would like the final volume to be about mission, with theology as its reinforcing scaffolding, rather than about theology, with mission as its possible outflowing.’ (p. 182) A tantalising prospect!
Here is the opening paragraph to give you a sense of his way into the essay:
‘Paul’s theology is widely agreed to be missional theology; that is, it is theology in service of his vocation as a missionary, specifically, as “the apostle to the gentiles.” That was not a hobby, as though he were a missionary some of the time and the writer of theologically dense letters the rest of the time. His missionary mandate shaped the rest of his life, his writing included. At the same time, most Pauline scholars would agree that in some sense his theology is hermeneutical; that is, he thinks and writes (and, we should add, prays) in constant dialogue with Israel’s Scriptures, drawing on them, engaging with them, selecting and arranging quotations and allusions from them to further his theological, and hence also his missionary, purposes. Thus-since for Paul these two aspects of his work belonged rightly together-we may say that Paul’s mission was hermeneutical and his hermeneutics were missional.’ (p. 179, his italics)
Here’s the full bibliographic reference:
Wright, N.T., ‘Paul and Missional Hermeneutics’, in McKnight, S. and Modica, J.B. The Apostle Paul and the Christian Life: Ethical and Missional Implications of the New Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016), 179-192
Want to take this further? Come and study more about the Bible and Mission with me on Redcliffe’s MA in Contemporary Missiology, including the module ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’.