Sins and signs, sings NT Wright

I was searching on NT Wright’s home page for something on Adam. There was a brief video of his view of the Adam and Eve story.
He admonishes us to dig below the level of the words on the page to the deeper level of Israel’s exile and restoration and, in turn, to the Christian’s exile and restoration. I was immediately reminded that there are four Jewish levels of interpretation. In this short video, Wright does not seem to believe in a literal Adam. “Let me see if there is anything about Original Sin on his site,” I asked myself. No nothing. On “sin” perhaps. No, no titles containing “sin”; “sin,” that is, as I understand it. There were, eight other “sins,” among which were three I enjoyed:

Vimeo, Spring 2012:
N. T. Wright SINgs about Genesis
N. T. Wright SINgs Sydney Carter
N. T. Wright SINgs Bob Dylan

There was also his, “Christian hope in a confuSINg world.”

Am I now justified in thinking that Wright does not believe in “All died in Adam.” No. But I wonder. Perhaps Wright does believe that Adam’s sin was imputed to his descendants. One thing I can tell you, this is not the general Jewish position. Owing to the fact that Wright wants us, when we read the New Testament, to think like Jews of Jesus’ time, I’ll impute nothing to Wright until I’ve followed more faithfully his – as Jacques Derrida would have said – excavations into the historical and linguistic sedimentations of the Sign – the (surface) text.

Or have I, like the Reformers, got the wrong perspective and thus am asking the wrong questions, instead of asking the questions a Jew – Paul, perhaps- would have asked? The overarching question, though, must surely be this: “Can I know, now, as I write, that I have been justified in God’s eyes, not only, as a Roman Catholic would say – and NT Wright?, at the end of my life or the world?”

6 thoughts on “Sins and signs, sings NT Wright

    • Wright writes whacks

      If I understand you correctly, you are saying if Wright doesn’t believe in a literal Adam, then it can’t be so wacky to think likewise.

      Paul believed that Adam was a real figure.

      Romans 5:12
      “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

      In his commentary on Romans, Wright says:

      “Paul clearly believed that there had been a single first pair, whose male, Adam, had been given a commandment and had broken it. Paul was, we may be sure, aware of what we would call mythical or metaphorical dimensions to the story, but he would not have regarded these as throwing doubt on the existence, and primal sin, of the first historical pair.” (N.T. Wright, “Romans” in The New Interpreter’s Bible vol.10, p. 526)

      What Paul says in Romans 5, he repeats in 1 Corinthians: “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15:21-22).”

      Wright says that if we read Romans right, we shall understand that it, and the NT in general, is about the established of the Kingdom of heaven on earth where Israel plays a leading role. I would agree that this so, but add that it’s much more than that.

      Hugh Ross, a cosmologist, is a believer, like Wright, in a very old universe, yet Ross does believe in an historical Adam. I would say that THAT, coming from a cosmologist, is far less wackier than the contrary coming from a “cosmopolitanist” like Wright.

      Someone deserves a whack.

  1. I think Wright is wrong not to believe in a literal Adam. Why? Saint Luke the writer of the gospel that bears his name did believe in a literal Adam. Luke listed Adam in the genealogy of Yeshua the Messiah; 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. Luke 3:38 NASB Since Luke listed all of these real or literal men; 23 When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Hesli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of [cf]Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Ram, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Heber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth… Luke 3:23-38 NASB Why would Luke then list Yeshua’s first descendant Adam if he were not a literal man?

    • David, I agree.

      I wonder how close NT Wright is to Jacob Neusner’s (as far as publishing output goes, the NT Wright of Rabbinical theology) view of Israelite history.

      Jacob Neusner speaks of “the documentary record” (the rabbinical canon) that points to “God’s presence in history.” In normal historiography, the “documentary record” aims to establish what really happened in history. In rabbinical Judaism, in contrast, “history” has little to with real events. For example, Rabbi Hillel‘s stories were “made up”; they are “documents of culture, glyphs of faith.” (Jacob Neusner, “A counterpart to the problem of the historical Jesus,” in “Judaism in the Beginning of Christianity, pp. 77-88).

      “l wonder, however, says Neusner, whether in the context of faith – whether concerning Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad, such a thing as “critical history” in the nineteenth-century sense indeed can emerge. I ask myself whether, to begin with, the sources came into being with any such purpose in mind. And I question whether when we ask about history in the sense at hand, we address the right questions to sources of such a character. And, anyhow, what ‘critical historical’ facts can ever testify to the truth or falsity of salvation, holiness, joy, and love? ((A counterpart to the problem of the historical Jesus,” p.88. (Jacob Neusner, “Judaism in the beginning of Christianity.“ See Jewish scholars and the play dough of interpretation”).


      “What counts is not what happened then – did Sodom really perish in fire and brimstone, or was it an earthquake? – but what scripture teachers us to make of what is happening now…what God wants of me. And to people who ask Scripture to explain what is happening now, to lessons and examples of the sages of Judaism have much to say.” (Jacob Neusner, “Christian faith and the Bible of Judaism: The Judaic encounter with scripture, William B. Eerdmans, Michigan,1987, p. xii). See

      I return to Wright. With regard to the historicity of the New Testament (NT), NT (tee hee) Wright is one of its ardent defenders (see him on the resurrection of Jesus

      With regard to the denial of a historical Adam, far be it from me to say that those who burn with zeal for its demise will burn elsewhere.

      • It seems to me that many of the so called scholars who are looking for the “historical Jesus” (and other similar names) have a hidden agenda. So they in essence become history revisionist to revise history in-line with their world view. Some of these “scholars” who are looking for “historical Jesus” are rationalists and by definition they unilaterally reject the miraculous and supernatural. It seems odd that a “religious” rationalist would become the “experts” in matters of faith in God, who Himself by definition can do anything: “nothing is impossible with God”. It dose seem inconsistent of NT Writght to accept the account of the gospels in regards to the resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) when Jesus Himself quotes Moses in the Torah as authoritative and reliable and then NT Wright becomes wrong by cherry picking scripture. My guess is that Wright has difficulty with the “first cause” of the world, Perhaps he cannot sort out the hugely different explanation of origins of God made the heavens and the earth vrs. time + chance (billions of years + natural selection) all that is evolved over time. Perhaps to seem credible with his intellectual cronies he has concocted this doctrine that Adam and Eve is metaphor and no more (not a literal Adam & Eve).

        • David your

          “Some of these “scholars” who are looking for “historical Jesus” are rationalists and by definition they unilaterally reject the miraculous and supernatural. It seems odd that a “religious” rationalist would become the “experts” in matters of faith in God…”

          Wright says he believes in scripture alone and all of scripture. So, I don’t think he is rationalist in your sense of the term. His rejection of the historical Adam, however, is, as you say, a problem.

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