Bishop Wright has done a lot of study on First Century Judaism or more broadly Second Temple Judaism (from here on 2TJ). His knowledge is far beyond mine in that area. Bishop Wright makes Second Temple Judaism the centerpiece of his theology. He uses it to frame his questions. Just one example:
Can we, as historians, describe the way in which he might have wrestled with this question within the parameters of his own first century Jewish worldview? (Jesus and the Identity of God)
It is through the lens of 2TJ that Wright redefines Christology as well as other things like Justification, Covenant, etc. Some of objected to his understanding of 2TJ, and they may indeed be right. Again, my knowledge would be far to inferior to even weigh in on that debate. However, I would like to see more time spent on debating whether or not Wright is doing the right thing by framing all his understanding of the New Testament off of 2TJ literature. That seems to me a more basic and more methodological question. Allow me to list several things that I believe need further clarification from Bishop Wright before his redefinition can begin to be debated.
1. Judaism in the First Century was not monolithic, how can one know which framework Jesus fit? Much like Christianity today Judaism had lots of different types and differing understandings. We know of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. These two could not even agree on what constituted the Bible. First Century Judaism would have embraced both Josephus the Romanized Jew as well as Zealot leader Eleazar ben Yair whose followers committed suicide rather than face being conquered by the Romans. We also know the Essenes would have been in existence adding yet another sect with yet another different outlook upon all the questions that Wright deals with. Which 2TJ framework do we impose on Jesus when we seek to understand how he used the word ‘Logos’ or his view of the temple and of the prophets?
2. Why must we sift the NT through a 2TJ view of the world rather than a Hellenized Jews view of the world? It is true that all of the writers of the Bible were Jews, but were they Hellenized Jews or more strict 2TJ Jews? This seems an important question when it comes down to deciding whether or not to accept a Jewish spin on a word or a Greek spin on a word. Paul, the author with the most books in the Bible, was from Tarsus, a highly Hellenized city whose philosophers and library rivaled Athens. John who five books of the NT seems to be writing to a highly Greek or at least non-jewish audience. He even goes so far to define the word rabbi in John 1:38. This has great import in the reading of the Christological passage of John 1:1-5. Remember that Joseph the earthly father of Jesus spent time in Egypt a place more inclined toward Greek views of life than Judaic views on life. Could that not have played a pivotal role in Jesus’s upbringing?
3. If Jesus is self-consciously divine would not this place him above the discussion at hand. This gets back to my criticism from the last post of assuming the answer in the question, but it is worth mentioning again. Jesus as God could be far above the fray of Judaism as it existed in the first century.
Most importantly is this last and final objection.
****Why should we take a Jewish understanding of Jesus since it was the Jews who misunderstood Jesus, turned him over to be killed, and persecuted the early converts to Christianity.*******
It is a legitimate question to ask if any of these Jewish sources should be used in our understanding of Christ in the first place. Just look at what the Scriptures say on the matter.
John 5:46, "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me."
John 8:39, "Jesus saith unto them “If ye were Abraham’s children ye would do the works of Abraham."
2 Corinthians 3:14, "But their minds were blinded: for unto this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament, which vail is done away in Christ."
The point is this: why do I want to use the First Century Jewish understanding to enlighten the Bible. The First Century Jewish understanding did not understand the Old Testament, let alone the New. Bishop Wright can argue about what 2TJ thought about God until he is blue in the face, because their actions show they did not understand God at all. Bishop Wright has made no reasonable argument to show why the 2TJ should be accepted as a legitimate way to understand the OT or the NT. I hope that in the books that I have not yet read he deals seriously with the verses quoted above and the several more just like them. Until he does, he has not proved anything. Until he does, his methodology must be rejected.
However, I would be remiss if I did not deal with the Scriptural arguments he uses. So next we will turn to those arguments.