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Wheaton Theology Conference - Richard Hays

Those of you who read my regularly know of my deep admiration for Richard Hays. He has been one of my greatest influences. First I'd like to offer my condolences to his family. His father-in-law passed away and the funeral is today. Graciously he decided to still come and deliver his lecture (though he could not stay for the panel discussion). He spoke on what he saw as flaws in Wright's approach to studies of Jesus. The timing of this talk is impeccable, coming on the heels of the recent debate between McKnight and Wright in CT (which I have commented on).

First, let me note that Hays was extremely gracious in the way he critiqued Wright. If only all Christians could follow his example of God-glorifying disagreement.

It should be noted that Hays is responding to Wright's criticism of him at the 2008 SBL meeting. Wright found the book edited by Hays and Gaventa, Seeking the Identity of Jesus: A Pilgrimage, to be too Barthian in its understanding of history.

Hays response to Wright broke into three main parts. First he sketched Wright's approach. Then he mentioned some gains and losses from Wright's approach. He closed with a proposal of how we should proceed now.

I don't want to give a full outline of what Hays said, but he made a couple of key observations. One is that in Jesus and the Victory of God, Wright does not pay attention to the literary and theological shape of the gospels. In effect what happens is Wright mutes each writer's voice and in effect creates a fifth gospel which he has reconstructed historically. A second major criticism is his exclusion of John from his reconstruction (which was the topic Maryanne Meye Thompson discussed in the following lecture). I highly encourage you to listen to Hays to hear how he expands on this criticism, his points here were excellent.

Hays certainly sees strengths in Wright's work as well. These include a reading of Jesus in his historical context and his vindication of the NT's use of the OT.

How do we go forward? Hays believes that Barth and Wright need to be brought into conversation. They're not at odds as much as one might think. Second, Hays thinks we need to continue to explore the relation of story and history. Jesus cannot be known outside of a confessional framework or outside of the framework of the gospels. Our belief in the portrayal that the gospels and church has presented (especially including that Jesus rose from the dead and still lives) gives us a hermeneutical advantage because the resurrection is the key to all history.


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