N.T. Wright on Critical Realism and the Gospels

Four Gospels icons

many people suppose that learning to read the gospels involves learning to read between the lines and discovering that what’s actually going on isn’t really “about” Jesus at all, but “about” Matthew’s (or Mark’s, or Luke’s, or John’s) theology, about the life of their communities, and so on.

This seems mature, sophisticated, grown-up. And of course at one level it is. Everybody who writes history, everybody who writes a newspaper article on ‘what happened yesterday’ and for that matter everybody who tells somebody else ‘what I just saw in the street,’ selects and arranges the material. You can’t say everything , and if you try you’ll be at it all day, and very boring it will be too. So we all select and arrange, and anyone reading what we write can, in principle, try to discover why we’ve done it the way we have.

But this appearance of sophistication can easily mask a dangerous sophistry. The fact that it’s all been selected and arranged doesn’t mean it’s all been made up.

In my part of the world there are three soccer teams that nurse a huge local rivalry. Whenever they play one another, it’s fascinating to read the accounts in the different local newspapers. You get a quite different angle on whether the referee was right to give that crucial penalty, whether the left winger was really offside, whether both the players who were fighting should have been sent off or only one of them. But all the newspapers will still tell you who won the game,what the score was, and so on. If we thought they were making that up we wouldn’t buy the newspapers in the first place.

-N.T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters, 103.

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About mjbutterworth

I love drinking/making coffee, making/listening to music, riding bicycles, and reading about theology. I also like blogs that talk about those things. Most of all, I love Jesus because his gospel has changed my life.
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