Philip Eveson


Some evangelical scholars are of the opinion that all who have gone before them have, in varying degrees, misread the New Testament concerning the whole issue of justification. In particular, they claim that neither the Protestant nor the Roman understanding is fair to the apostle Paul’s teaching on the subject.

One of these evangelicals is Dr. N. T. Wright, a leading New Testament scholar, who has taught at Cambridge, McGill and Oxford universities and is now Dean of Lichfield cathedral. He is a prolific writer and can ably communicate his views both at a popular and academic level. His doctoral thesis at Oxford (1980) was entitled The Messiah & the People of God. A Study of Pauline Theology with Particular Reference to the Argument of the Epistle to the Romans. His first significant piece on justification came to public attention in 1980 in a Fount paperback entitled The Great Acquittal which was edited by Gavin Reid. The chapter by Tom Wright was headed ‘Justification: The Biblical Basis & its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism’. Prior to that, a lecture that he gave to the Tyndale Fellowship was published in the Tyndale Bulletin 29, (1978) entitled ‘The Paul of History & the Apostle of Faith’. These two writings contain the substance of his thinking on justification. Since then he has expressed his views on the subject in two important lectures: one in 1987 at the Latimer House Open Day lecture in Oxford, Justification in the NT and in ARCIC II; and the other, the 1994 Tyndale Biblical Theology Lecture, ‘Justification by Faith: Can we get it right now?’ In addition, the New Dictionary of Theology, edited by Ferguson & Wright (1988), has articles by him on ‘Justification’ and ‘Righteousness’. More recent scholarly works include a collection of essays under the heading The Climax of the Covenant (1991) and a series of volumes entitled The NT & the People of God.1

What is Wright’s view of justification? He would agree with McGrath that the church has developed an understanding of justification that is different from the biblical idea (see previous chapter). But unlike McGrath, he criticises the way in which the biblical concept has been developed. According to Wright, the Pauline texts have been misused by later generations in order to support the church’s thinking. His great desire is to see the church get back to the biblical understanding of the term as he perceives it. We shall set out his position under the following headings:

First Century Judaism

According to Wright we shall not understand Paul and justification until we appreciate the first century Jewish world. Contrary to popular and former scholarly opinion, Wright believes that it is wrong to think of Judaism in Paul’s day as a legalistic religion in which the Jew tried to earn righteousness and merit God’s favour by good works. The Jews thought of themselves as God’s people, members of a covenant community. God, in his love, had chosen their forefathers to be a special holy nation, had given them his law, and had provided the means of atonement for their sins through the sacrificial system. It did not look in the first century as if they were God’s people and Wright claims that Jews of that time still thought of themselves as living under the curse of exile. They were, therefore, looking to God to vindicate his oppressed people on the judgment day.2

Actually, justification had a present as well as a future dimension for the Jew. From his researches Wright argues that present justification was a secret thing and depended on remaining true to the covenant community. Future justification would be public and consist of vindication and victory for the community. It was anticipated in the present by those who were loyal to the covenant. This did not mean that the faithful Jew had to keep the law completely in order to be vindicated. If he sinned then atonement, cleansing and forgiveness were offered through the various rituals set out in the law. Both future and present justification depended on ‘the divine covenant faithfulness’.3

Wright goes on to add that the debates within the Judaism of the day focused on who exactly would be vindicated in the age to come. The big question was ‘What are the badges of membership that mark one out in the group that is to be saved, vindicated, raised to life (in the case of members already dead) or exalted to power (in the case of those still alive)?’ Each rival group within Judaism, whether Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, etc., had its own interpretation of what true covenant membership involved and therefore of who would be justified on the last day. They all held to the law but each group had its distinctives, and these distinctives, such as loyalty to community rules for the Essenes or keeping the law according to the tradition of the elders among the Pharisees, became the important markers for group members to demonstrate covenant membership and to be assured of arriving safely in the new world to be ushered in by God.4

The conclusion which Wright advances is that for first century Judaism justification in the present is all about showing in advance who belongs to the covenant community before the end comes. ‘Covenant membership in the present was the guarantee (more or less) of “salvation” in the future.’ Belonging to one of the sects within Judaism and maintaining valid membership of it became the important thing. The justification to come, ‘will consist of the victory of the sect’.5

Paul’s criticism of Judaism

From what has been said above, it follows, according to Tom Wright, that Paul is not attacking Judaism because it is legalistic. Wright believes that Paul is against Israel boasting in her national superiority and of attempting ‘to confine grace to one race’. Israel is wrong and missing out because she is pursuing the law in the wrong way. Paul’s criticism of Israel is not that she is treating the law as a means of salvation or to earn merit, but as a charter of automatic national privilege. She is guilty of the idolatry of national privilege.6 The righteousness that Paul criticises in Romans 2:17-29, 9:30-10:13, Galatians 2-4 and Philippians 3:1-9 is not self-righteousness (i.e. ‘legalism’ or ‘works-righteousness’) but what he calls ‘national righteousness’, ‘the belief that fleshly Jewish descent guarantees membership of God’s true covenant people’. When Paul charges the Jews with boasting, he is not accusing them of being legalists who boast that they have kept the law in order to gain favour with God. They are boasting, rather, in the fact that they have God’s law. Possessing the law and doing it indicates that they are God’s chosen people. ‘For the Jew, possession of the law is three parts of salvation: and circumcision functions not as a ritualist’s outward show but as a badge of national privilege.’7

Taking Romans 2:17-29 as one example of Paul’s criticism of the Judaism ‘as its advocates present it’, Wright makes four brief points. ‘First, Paul’s basic charge against the Jews is that of boasting.’ But it is not the boast of a legalist. They are boasting in God (v. 17) claiming that God is the God of the Jews only and not of the Gentiles (cf. 3:29-30). They are also boasting in the law (v. 23), not because they are trying to keep it to earn salvation, but because possession of the law marks them out as members of the chosen people. Secondly, Paul accuses them not of legalism but of sin, of breaking the law. Thirdly, Paul does not speak against the law itself, for it is actually God’s law (cf. ch. 7). ‘Paul has not a word to say against the law itself, but only against its abuse — and its abuse is not legalism but “national righteousness”, the attempt to use the fact that God has entrusted the Jews with his oracles (compare 3:2) as a foundation for permanent and automatic Jewish privilege’ (compare 3:27-31). Finally, ‘Paul’s attack on Jewish trust in the law and circumcision as badges of national privilege does not abolish the idea of the “true circumcision” which keeps the law from the heart’. The last verses of Romans chapter 2 present in outline Paul’s ‘theology of the church as the true Israel, the people of God’.8

Justification, then, according to Wright, is to be seen as a polemical doctrine whose target is not the usual Lutheran one of the legalist trying to get right with God through keeping the law, but the Pauline one of the proud nationalist. Justification by faith declares that the way is open for all, not just Jews, to be members of the family of God.9

Law and Works of the law

Wright understands the term ‘law’, when used by the apostle Paul, not as an abstract generalized entity, but as a reference to the Mosaic law (Torah), given to Jews and Jews only, which relates to Gentiles simply in that it forms a barrier to keep them out of the covenant. In Colossians 2:14 he takes the ‘written code’ to stand for the Mosaic law which stood over-against Jews and Gentiles in different ways. ‘In Paul’s view, it shut up the Jews under sin and shut out the Gentiles from the hope and promise of membership in God’s people.”10 According to Wright, Paul considers that the law was given to the nation Israel in order to convict her of sin, Adam’s sin. The purpose of this was ‘that Israel should be cast away in order that the world might be redeemed’.11 Christ is ‘the secret goal’ of the law so that Israel’s rejection of Christ and her abuse of the law were one and the same thing. Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah is the logical outworking of her misuse of the Torah by treating it as a charter of national privilege. The law itself is a good thing. It is not abolished because it was a bad thing, but now that it has reached its goal in Christ its reign is ended. In a paradoxical way the law is still ‘the boundary marker of covenant membership’ (‘the righteousness that is by the law’, Romans 10:5), for it is fulfilled not, as the Jews thought, by the boundary markers which kept Jews separate from Gentiles but by faith. The law is fulfilled ‘when Christ is preached and believed’.12

Paul’s polemic against “works of the law”, Wright argues, ‘is not directed against those who attempted to earn covenant membership through keeping the Jewish law (such people do not seem to have existed in the 1st century) but against those who sought to demonstrate their membership in the covenant through obeying the Jewish law.’13 On this understanding, when Paul uses the phrase ‘works of the law’ he is not thinking of legalistic works to gain merit and salvation but of those aspects of the law that were done to clearly demonstrate evidence of membership in the covenant (‘doing the things that mark Israel out’) and to keep ‘Jews separate from Gentiles’. These ‘works of the law’ or ‘badges’ included such items as the Sabbath, dietary laws and circumcision.14

The curse connected with those doing the works of the law, is the curse of exile/death. In Deuteronomy the covenant presents blessing/life or curse/death. It also shows that Israel will make the wrong choice and will therefore suffer the final curse, that of exile (Deuteronomy 27-29). Deuteronomy 30 then speaks of hope and restoration after exile. The Jews, according to Wright, still considered themselves to be in exile because they were under foreign domination. Their return from Babylon had not brought about that ‘independence and prosperity which the prophets had foretold’.15 They were looking for the end of the exile in terms of ‘a cleansed Land, a rebuilt Temple, an intensified Torah.’ For Paul the exile had come ‘to its cataclysmic end when Jesus, Israel’s representative Messiah, died outside Jerusalem, bearing the curse, which consisted of exile at the hands of the pagans’.16 For Gentile believers to embrace the law (Torah), would mean embracing Israel’s national way of life. But because Israel as a nation is under the curse for her failure as a nation to keep the Torah, all who come under the Torah now are under this national curse.

Paul’s argument in Galatians and Romans

Before proceeding further, it will help at this point to have some idea of Wright’s overall view of Galatians and Romans. At the start it is important to bear in mind that he considers both letters to be dealing not with individual sin and salvation but with Jews and Gentiles as groups of people and with the big issue concerning who are the people of God. ‘It is a measure of how far the church has travelled from Paul’s vision that Romans has often been read as a book about individual salvation rather than as a treatise on the nature of the people of God.’17 Secondly, the books are not written to oppose legalism. ‘The real problem is not “legalism” as usually conceived within traditional Protestant theology, but rather the question of whether one has to become a Jew in order to belong to the people of God’.18

What then is the purpose of these two books according to Wright? Galatians is written to convince converted pagans that they have nothing to gain by becoming Jews. Romans, on the other hand, is written to convince Christians from a mixed background that they do indeed inherit all the blessings of Israel yet at the same time to warn them not to lapse into anti-Semitism. While the issue in Galatians is how to avoid the risk of embracing Judaism, what Wright terms ‘philo-Judaism’ (i.e. a love for the Jewish religion), in Romans the issue is how to avoid the risk of ‘anti-Judaism’.’19 Instead of being tempted toward Judaism these Roman ex-proselytes of Judaism were thankful for being relieved of the burden of the Mosaic law, were in danger of rejoicing in its death and of thinking that Christianity was for non-Jews.

The message of Galatians, according to Wright, is that the law brings the curse because Israel as a nation has not kept it. ‘I do not mean by this that individual Jews do not keep it fully.. .Rather, Israel as a whole has failed in her task of being the light to the nations, of being the seed of Abraham through whom the nations of the world would be blessed’.20 The curse of the law, as was pointed out in the previous section, means the death of exile. Individual Jews who failed to keep the law did not need ‘to languish for long under the awful threat of either exclusion from the covenant people or, for that matter, eternal damnation’.21 Remedy lay in repentance and the whole ceremonial system which God in his grace had provided. Because the nation of Israel has failed to keep the perfect law, the law cannot be the means through which she can retain membership of the covenant or be the means of bringing blessing to the Gentiles. This is what is meant in Galatians 2:16 where Paul writes, ‘by observing the law no-one will be justified’ (i.e. reckoned among God’s people). Paul also argues that the Old Testament itself, using Genesis 15:6 and Habakkuk 2:4 alongside of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, indicates that God had in mind all along that faith not the law would accomplish the task of marking out the covenant family of God. ‘Clearly no-one is justified (reckoned within the covenant family) before God by the law, because “the righteous will live by faith” (Galatians 3:11).22

How then can the blessing of Abraham come to Jews when they are under the curse of the law or to Gentiles when those responsible for bringing the blessing have failed? The answer lies in the death of Jesus the Messiah. He, as Israel’s representative, has taken on himself Israel’s curse and exhausted it (Galatians 3:13-14). Jesus died ‘as the King of the Jews, at the hands of the Romans whose oppression of Israel is the present, and climactic, form of the curse of exile itself’. The crucifixion of the Messiah is ‘the quintessence of the curse of exile, and its climactic act’.23 So the context demands, according to Wright, that the first person plurals in the verse ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us’ (Galatians 3:13), refers to Jewish people only. It is not a general statement concerning the atonement applicable to all who belong to Christ.24 The same is true of Galatians 2:19-20. Paul is not seeking to draw attention to his own ‘experience’. The first person singular references concern Israel. It is ‘Paul’s theological, not psychological, autobiography’ that is included in this picture.25

As for Romans, Wright believes the apostle is concerned that the church understands the theology of his missionary endeavours. Paul wants to make Rome a base for missionary work in the west, much as he had originally used Antioch in the east, and therefore it is essential that he has their full support. Wright suggests that the situation in Rome is the mirror-image of what he met in Antioch. The church in that city had been tempted to keep the distinctions between Jew and Gentile. There was an ‘inner-circle’ of Jewish Christians who were urging Gentile believers to get circumcised in order to join them. In Rome, Paul is worried lest a largely Gentile church which is ‘relishing its status as the true people of God’ will have no interest in ethnic Jews, and will not only regard those who believe as second-class members of the church, but those outside the church as beyond hope. So, according to Wright, Paul argues for the total equality of Jew and Gentile within the church and a mission to Gentiles that would always include Jews within its scope.26

The gospel reveals God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises to Abraham. ‘God is faithful in calling Gentiles and Jews alike, on the basis of faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, into true membership of Abraham’s family’.27 The family of Abraham is defined by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-4:25). ‘Over against the Jewish exclusivism attacked in Romans 2:17ff, stands the Christian assurance of Romans 5:1-11: we (the worldwide, believing, missionary church) boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received the reconciliation.’28 The Roman church was a ‘mirror opposite of the Galatian situation’. It consisted largely of ex-proselytes who were ‘thankful to be relieved of the burden of Torah — and who were in danger of rejoicing too happily over its apparent demise’.29 Paul therefore defends the Torah in chapter 7 and attacks anti-Semitism in chapter 11. Romans 7:13-25, like Galatians 2:19-20, is not Paul’s own personal experience but a reference to Israel. ‘Sin has now been concentrated in Israel.’30 Wright claims that the Torah has ‘the divinely intended function of drawing sin on to Israel, magnifying it precisely within the people of God (7:13-20)’, in order that in God’s purposes it might be ‘drawn on to Israel’s representative and so dealt with on the cross (8:3)’.31 The death of Jesus the Messiah at the hands of pagans ‘lies at the heart of the revelation of God’s covenant faithfulness and justice in 3:21ff.’ He is ‘the climax of the covenant’. The cross brings to an end ‘Jewish national privilege’ as well as ‘the process of concentrating sin within Israel’. It also means that he has fulfilled God’s purpose for Israel so that the Gentiles can be welcomed into the covenant family.32

There is, of course, more that could be added, but enough has been given to show the drift of Wright’s position concerning these two Pauline epistles. To his mind it is clear that Romans and Galatians have been misread down the centuries! Paul’s argument in both is not so much about how the individual is put right with God. It is much more about who belongs to the covenant community. Rather than being treatises about individual salvation, they are books about the nature of the people of God.


Wright sees justification as a legal term but, as most scholars today agree, it is Hebrew lawcourt imagery that provides the setting for its understanding. It is a declaration of status before the court that a person is in the right. The standard of judgment in the Old Testament is the law of God. But the law in the Old Testament is connected to God’s covenant with his people Israel. Thus the judge who pronounces the person in the right, i.e. ‘righteous’, does so according to the standard of the covenant law of God. In God’s dealings with Israel, for God to act righteously means that he acts according to the covenant he made with them. God’s righteousness is God’s faithfulness to his covenant. For Judaism at the time of Jesus, to have righteousness meant to belong to the covenant and to have the law (Torah) and to wait in hope for God finally to vindicate or justify them in the sight of their enemies that they really are God’s people. The scandal of the cross is that it puts an end to all this. Galatians 2:21 is translated: ‘If covenant membership (i.e. ‘righteousness’) were through the Torah, Christ died in vain.’33

It is important to Wright’s whole thesis that the ‘righteous’ word group is ‘best rendered in terms of “membership within the covenant.”34 ‘Righteousness’ is a covenantal word. God’s righteousness is not the medieval idea of God’s distributive justice ‘in which he rewards virtue and punishes vice’ and which Luther found so terrifying. ‘Luther’s alternative . . . was in some ways equally misleading’, for it ‘placed greater emphasis upon the status of the human being’. God’s righteousness is his faithfulness to the covenant. It is what God is doing to fulfil his covenant. His people’s righteousness is covenant member status given by God, ‘with all the overtones of appropriate behaviour’.35 Justification is, therefore, God’s declaration that certain people are within the covenant. It is a matter of covenant membership. In the context of the gospel ‘it is God’s declaration, in the present, that. those who believe the gospel are in the right, are members of the covenant family’. ‘This declaration’, says Wright, ‘is in turn closely correlated with baptism, in which one becomes a member of that family in its historical life’.36

Wright also notes the close link in Paul between justification and resurrection. Resurrection is, as in contemporary Jewish thought, the ultimate ‘justification’. ‘Those whom God raises from death. ..are thereby declared to be his covenant people’ (cf. Romans 8:11). Present justification is discussed in Romans 3:21-26 and is ‘simply the advance announcement’ of the future justification spoken of in 2:1-16.37

Wright reasons that if the believer’s righteousness is his status as a covenant member, there is no need for a verb like ‘to impute’ (or for that matter ‘to impart’) to describe how ‘one lot of righteousness’ gets from A to B. God is not giving his own personal righteousness to the defendant. Justification refers to the status which results when the Judge righteously declares in the defendant’s favour. So there is no need for a theology of imputed (Protestant) or imparted (Roman) righteousness. Paul does not use the phrase ‘righteousness of Christ’, but speaks only of the obedience of Christ, and the faith of Christ.38 Thus Wright is able to conclude that Romans chapter 8, for instance, ‘demonstrates that justification by faith is not a legal fiction, imputing something to man which he does not really possess; nor is it a process, imparting to man a quality he did not have before. . . . Justification is the correct and proper anticipation, in the present, of the righteous verdict which will be delivered on the last day, when death will have swallowed up all that now remains of our sinful nature and when we shall stand before God in the full likeness of his risen and glorified Son’.39

The Basis of Justification

Tom Wright declares that the basis of justification is the grace of God given to undeserving sinners. This grace is revealed in God’s covenant promises which reach their climax in the work of Jesus Christ and the Spirit. It is because of the work of the Son and the Spirit that God rightly declares Christian believers to be members of the covenant family. Both Christ and the Spirit redefine the people of God.40

The question Tom Wright must answer is: how can justification be on the basis of the work of the Son and the Spirit?

In relation to the Son, he says that the basis of justification is the representative death and resurrection of Jesus. In his earlier works Wright maintains that justification ‘presupposes an objective dealing with sin’.41 Sin is universal and ‘God can only be in covenant with human beings if that sin is dealt with, and this has been achieved by God himself in the death of his Son.. .Jesus takes on himself the curse which would have prevented God’s promised blessing finding fulfilment’. Romans 3:24-26, 5:8-9 and Galatians 3:10-14 are used in support.42 ‘In Gethsemane, and on the cross itself, Jesus obeys the Father’s saving purposes by drinking the cup of the wrath of God, so that his people may not drink it’.43

In more recent works Wright has spelt out what this means. Jesus is the one who fulfils Israel’s vocation. Israel was called to be the light of the world, God’s agent in the healing of the world.44 What Israel failed to be and do, Jesus as Israel’s representative accomplishes. Jesus saw Israel’s destiny ending not in final vindication but in doom at the hands of the Romans, as God’s judgment on his wayward people unless they repented. In summoning Israel to repent, it was ‘not so much of petty individual sins, but of the great national rebellion, against the creator, the covenant God.’45 Drawing on Jewish apocalyptic belief concerning the great tribulation, Wright shows that Jesus believed himself to be the one to meet the judgment in the place of Israel. He took Israel’s dark night of curse and exile and at the same time took the hatred and all the worst that paganism could do.46 ‘The Messiah has come where Israelis, under the Torah’s curse (that is what Wright understands by ‘under the law’ in Galatians 4:4), in order to be not only Israel’s representative but Israel’s redeeming representative. . . . He is Israel, going down to death under the curse of the law, and going through that curse to the new covenant life beyond’.47 He fulfils Israel’s destiny and by doing so saves the world. At the same time, Wright argues, paganism’s great longing to worship something within this world is fulfilled; it is satisfied in Jesus, a human being who can be worshipped without detracting from the worship of the one true God. He sees the cross as the victory of weakness over strength, love over hatred. It consisted ‘in Jesus’ allowing evil to do its worst to him. . . . He bore the weight of the world’s evil to the end and outlasted it.48

Likewise, the resurrection is ‘God’s declaration that Jesus, and hence his people, are in the right before God’ (cf. Romans 4:24-25).49 The resurrection is restoration after the curse of exile. What God was expected to do for Israel at the end, he did for Jesus. God stepped into history, raised Jesus from the dead and vindicated him above his enemies. He did not act to end the space-time universe but acted in the middle to inaugurate the end time which the people of God were waiting for. So what Israel expected for herself at the end has happened in advance to Jesus as Israel’s representative.50 At another level, the death and resurrection of Christ is a victory over paganism. The resurrection of Jesus, ‘functions as the divine proclamation to the whole world that evil has in fact been dealt with’.51

And how can justification be also on the basis of the work of the Spirit?

Concerning the Spirit, Wright says the basis of justification is faith. The verdict awaited on the last day is issued in the present on the basis of faith. This faith is the evidence of the work of the Spirit. It is the evidence of a renewed heart, of that true circumcision, which is inward and spiritual, that the person is a Christian and that the believer is already a member of the covenant.52

In order to understand Wright’s logic concerning faith it is important to remember his definition of justification, that it is God’s declaration of membership of God’s covenant people. The people of God are now no longer characterised by possessing and doing the law or by membership of the Jewish race, but by faith. Instead of Jewish race with its badges of circumcision, kosher laws, etc. being the sign of membership of the people of God, faith is the sign, the badge. Faith is not a work. It is not what a person must do in order to get into the covenant family. It is the sign that a person is already in. It is the evidence of grace in the heart, evidence of the work of the Spirit, and it is the fulfilment of the law. Faith is described in terms of its object. It is a ‘Christ-shaped’ faith. This is the boundary-marker now, not Jewish race. True Christian faith is the confession that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised him from the dead. In this sense God justifies on the basis of faith. When God sees faith he rightly declares the believer to be in the right, to be a member of God’s covenant family.53 The ‘faith’ which is insufficient and which James opposes in 2:19 is ‘bare Jewish monotheism’.54 In order to draw attention to the unique status and nature of the Christian confession which marked off the Christian communities from their pagan and Jewish neighbours, Wright proposes using ‘belief’ rather than ‘faith’. ‘It is justification by belief, i.e. covenant membership demarcated by that which is believed.’55

These are the main points in Tom Wright’s reconstruction of Paul’s teaching on justification. While not agreeing with him on every detail, there are other well-known scholars who take a similar line. James Dunn, professor of divinity at Durham, does so in his two-volume commentary on Romans.56 In a little work called The Justice of God, Dunn summarizes the new perspective on Paul, which he and Wright have embraced, by calling attention to two assumptions that four centuries of Protestant exposition have made. First, it is assumed that the Judaism of Paul’s day is a prime example of a legalistic religion analogous to the medieval church’s teaching on merit. Secondly, it is taken for granted that Paul was liberated from a guilt-ridden conscience. Both the idea of meriting salvation and the problem of a guilt-ridden conscience are said to be preoccupations of Western culture.57

Don Garlington, a lecturer at the Toronto Baptist Seminary and a former student of James Dunn, has also been influenced by this new perspective. In his survey of Paul’s argument in Romans 1:1-3:8 Garlington concludes that ‘the mentality against which he argues is not that of a “legalistic” works-righteousness method of salvation, but one which would confine (eschatological) salvation to the members of a specific group — Israel’. Commenting on Romans 9:30-10:13 he writes, ‘Israel has preferred to maintain her own righteousness, i.e. a righteousness peculiar to herself (= national righteousness) as defined by the Sinai covenant . . . instead of submitting to the righteousness of God in Christ’.58

In the following chapter an attempt will be made to assess this modern revision of our understanding of Paul and of Judaism, particularly as most ably presented in the writings N. T. Wright.


  1. ‘The Paul of History & the Apostle of Faith’ in Tyndale Bulletin 29, 1978, pp. 61-88; ‘Justification: The Biblical Basis & its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism’ in The Great Acquittal, ed. Gavin Reid, 1980, pp. 13-37; ‘Justification in the NT and in ARCIC II’, Latimer House Open Day Lecture, 1987, (Tape Recording); ‘Justification’ & ‘Righteousness’ in The New Dictionary of Theology, eds. Ferguson & Wright, IVP, 1988; The Climax of the Covenant, T. & T. Clark, 1991; The NT & the People of God - Vol.1 Christian Origins & the Question of God, SPCK, 1992; ‘Justification by Faith: Can we get it right now’, Tyndale Lecture, 1994.

    Wright uses many of his conclusions in New Tasks for a Renewed Church, Hodder & Stoughton, 1992. In the USA it appears as Bringing the Church to the World, Bethany House, 1992.
  2. The New Testament & the People of God, vol.1, SPCK, 1992, p. 270.
  3. ibid. p. 337.
  4. ibid. p. 335.
  5. ibid. pp. 334, 337.
  6. The Climax of the Covenant, p. 240.
  7. ‘The Paul of History...’, p. 65.
  8. ibid. p. 82.
  9. ibid. p. 71.
  10. The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians & Philemon, Tyndale NT commentaries, (New Series), IVP, l986, p. 113.
  11. The New Testament and the People of God, p. 406.
  12. ibid. pp. 240-245.
  13. Cf. article on ‘Justification’ in New Dictionary of Theology, p. 360.
  14. The Climax of the Covenant, pp. 150, 240.
  15. ibid. p. 141.
  16. The New Testament and the People of God, p. 406. Cf. The Climax of the Covenant, pp. 144-148.
  17. The Climax of the Covenant, p. 252.
  18. ibid. p. 173.
  19. ibid. p. 252.
  20. ibid. p. 155.
  21. ibid. p. 145.
  22. ibid. p. 155, 148-150.
  23. ibid. p. 151.
  24. ibid. p. 138.
  25. ibid. p. 197f.
  26. ibid. p. 234.
  27. Wright, ‘A new Tubingen school? Ernst Käsemann and his commentary on Romans’, Themelios, vol. 7, No. 3, 1982, p. 14.
  28. Wright, ‘Towards a biblical view of universalism’, Themelios, vol.4, No.2, 1979, p. 58.
  29. The Climax of the Covenant, p. 195.
  30. ibid. pp. 196-200. Cf. Wright’s unpublished thesis Messiah and the People of God, pp. 93-96, 145-148 for the view that ‘I’ in Romans 7:7-25 refers to Israel.
  31. The Climax of the Covenant, p. 39.
  32. ibid. p. 242.
  33. ibid. p. 242.
  34. ibid. p. 148.
  35. The New Dictionary of Theology, p. 592. Cf. N. T. Wright, “That we might become the righteousness of God”: Reflections on 2 Corinthians 5:21’, in Pauline Theology, Vol. II, ed. D. M. Hay, Augsburg Fortress, 1993, pp. 200-208.
  36. The Climax of the Covenant, p. 214.
  37. ibid. p. 203. Wright also shows that resurrection is the restoration or return after the curse of exile. Just as the exile came to an end when Jesus, the representative Messiah, died, so the return from exile began with Jesus, who emerged from the tomb on the third day. Cf. The New Testament and the People of God, p. 406.
  38. Cf. ‘Justification in the NT and in ARCIC II’, Latimer House Open Day Lecture 1987 in answer to a question on imputed righteousness (Tape Recording).
  39. The Great Acquittal, p. 27.
  40. ibid. pp. 16-17; The Climax of the Covenant, p. 255.
  41. The Great Acquittal, p. 16.
  42. The New Dictionary of Theology, p. 359-360.
  43. The Great Acquittal, p. 16.
  44. Bringing the Church to the World, Bethany House, 1992, p. 92.
  45. Who was Jesus?, SPCK, 1992, p. 101.
  46. Who was Jesus? pp. 100-103; Bringing the Church to the World, p. 93.
  47. The Climax of the Covenant, pp. 151-152.
  48. Bringing the Church to the World, p. 93.
  49. The New Dictionary of Theology, p. 360.
  50. The New Testament and the People of God, p.406.
  51. Bringing the Church to the World, p. 102.
  52. The Great Acquittal, p. 16; The New Dictionary of Theology, p. 360.
  53. The Climax of the Covenant, pp. 36, 167, 244-245.
  54. The New Dictionary of Theology, p. 360.
  55. The Climax of the Covenant, pp. 2-3.
  56. Romans, 2 vols., Word Biblical Commentary, 1988; cf. also Jesus, Paul and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians, SPCK, 1990.
  57. J. D. G. Dunn & A. M. Suggate, The Justice of God: A fresh look at the old doctrine of justification by faith, Paternoster Press, 1993, pp. 13-16.
  58. D. B. Garlington, ‘The Obedience of Faith in the Letter to the Romans. Part II: The  Obedience by faith and Judgment by Works’, Westminster Theological Journal Vol.53, Spring 1991, pp. 56, 63.


A native of Wrexham, Philip Eveson obtained his initial degree in Biblical Studies at the University College of North Wales, Bangor. From there he was awarded a scholarship to read Theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He later gained his MTh in Hebrew and Aramaic Studies at King's College, London and is a member of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research. After a year at the Presbyterian Theological College, Aberystwyth, he served churches in South Wales before moving to London, where he has been Minister of Kensit Evangelical Church for the past twenty-three years. Since its inception in 1977, he has been Resident Tutor and Lecturer in Biblical Languages and Exegesis at the London Theological Seminary. Philip has also preached and lectured in the Far East and Ghana, is Chairman of the Red Sea Mission Team British Home Council and a Director of Go Teach. He is married to Jennifer and they have one daughter.

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