This is part 2 of a four-part post on my connections to N. T. Wright, the prolific New Testament scholar. For part 1, click here.
My Introduction to Tom Wright
I first encountered Tom Wright when he was teaching New Testament at McGill University in Montreal (1981-1986) and I sat under his teaching soon after he moved to Oxford.
I was introduced to Wright by Brian Walsh, my friend and co-author. Brian was a Ph.D. student in philosophy of religion at McGill when Wright taught there, and they became fast friends. Brian later married one of Wright’s doctoral students at Oxford, Sylvia Keesmaat, who is today an accomplished New Testament scholar.
It was through Brian’s friendship with Wright that the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto (where Brian was teaching and where I later did my Ph.D.) invited Wright to give a series of lectures in 1988 and again in 1989. The first was a five-part series on the Gospel of Mark (July 7-8, 1988), and the second was a three-part series entitled “The Quest for the Historical Kingdom” (January 31-February 1, 1989).
These lectures (which predated the 1992 publication of The New Testament and the People of God) were my first exposure to Wright’s innovative thinking on the gospels. These lectures stimulated my excitement about Jesus’ mission and message, especially their connection to the Old Testament and Judaism. I still have audio tapes of the lectures, as well as my copious notes. Wright’s narrative analysis of the Bible during these lectures greatly influenced my own exposition of the plot structure of the biblical story, which first shows up in chap. 6 of Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be (1995), then in my essay “A New Heaven and a New Earth” (2006), and as a separate chapter in my eschatology book (2014).
I followed Wright’s publications and career as he later moved from Oxford (1986-1993) to become Dean of Lichfield Cathedral (1994-1999), then Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey (2000-2003), then Bishop of Durham (2003-2010), then Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews (2010-2019) and finally Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford (since 2019).
Wright is now a figure of international importance, both as one of the leading New Testament scholars today and as popular theologian and teacher of the worldwide church. A recent issue of Christianity Today, which has Wright’s picture on the cover, suggests that he is comparable only to C. S. Lewis in the extent of his influence.
In part 3 of this post I’ll comment on a few ways in which Wright has used and acknowledged of the work of Walsh and Middleton.