Recensions et comptes rendus

Nicholas Thomas Wright, History and Eschatology: Jesus and the Promise of Natural Theology (The 2018 Gifford Lectures). Waco TX, Baylor University Press, 2019, 16 × 23,5 cm, xxi-343 p., ISBN 978-1-4813-0962-2

  • John S. Adimula

…plus d’informations

  • John S. Adimula
    Post-doctoral researcher, Dominican University College, Ottawa

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Couverture de Démons d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, Volume 76, numéro 1, janvier–avril 2024, p. 1-163, Science et Esprit

The author, N.T. Wright (from now on: NTW) argues against the background of the modern period and opts for the inclusion of the Bible and the story of Jesus in natural theology. He points out that the Bible, after all, was written and edited within the world of space and time by individuals within human and natural communities. In addition, the Bible does not only talk about spiritual and theological teachings but also about natural and human events. And Jesus was a human being who lived within the natural world with history. He further notes that the last three centuries through political, cultural and social contexts of western thought had damaged several crucial theological enquiries, including early Christian eschatology, through the use of modern variations of ancient Epicureanism. NTW opines that the discussions surrounding natural theology were distorted in certain ways by the cultural and political trends of the 18th and 19th centuries. These distortions led to many flaws. He then proposes that there is a need to go back to the historical study of Jesus in his 1st century context for new insights. The aim of this book is therefore simply “to relocate Jesus and the New Testament within the real first-century world without sacrificing their ‘theological’ relevance” (p. xvi), noting that the questions of natural theology and of who was Jesus have been held separately in most theological enterprises. The book is divided into four sections with two chapters each. The first two chapters deal with the historical context and background to the discussion on natural theology. Here, NTW explores different studies in history and history of ideas while exposing different schools of thought influenced by the events in time, culture, sociology and political struggles. A particular emphasis is the influence of Epicureanism on modernity which brought about an intellectual and social environment of a world without reference to God or gods. Other schools of thought include Stoicism, Augustinianism, Deism, Platonism, etc. The influential events within which the questions of the world, history and God are addressed are the American and French Revolutions, the Age of Enlightenment, Pre-Darwinian evolutionism, the radical economic theory of Adam Smith and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. All these movements portray politics, science, economics, history and Jesus without God. NTW argues in chapter two that it is a modern myth to believe that the notion of a literal and imminent end of the world is a central belief of the first century Jews including Jesus and his early followers. This belief has aided the removal of Jesus from the argument in theological constructions. By myth he means “not only the popular sense of ‘an untrue tale’ but the more technical sense of a story told by a community to sustain a particular view of its common life and purpose” (p. 47). He then submits that scholars who follow this notion make a naive literalistic mistake in their reading of Jewish (apocalyptic) texts. Chapters three and four investigate some key concepts such as history, eschatology and apocalyptic and their applications to the questions surrounding natural theology. The exploration of the 1st century Jewish world is the subject of chapters five and six. Here, NTW concludes that God and the world are conceived and seen together and the resurrection of Jesus is located within this same worldview. The final two chapters are devoted to the reflection on human experience and its relationship to the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and the broader themes of eschatology and mission which give a new approach to the questions of natural theology. An interesting and important concept in the …