Book Review – The Climax of the Covenant by N. T. Wright

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  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Fortress Press (October 1, 1993)
  • Amazon

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    A subject that is often ignored within discussions of who Christ is involves Covenant theology, specifically, the theology of the Torah. How exactly does Christ relate to the Covenant that God made with the people of Israel? N. T. Wright discusses this very issue in his book, The Climax of the Covenant.

    First, what is the Torah? The Torah, in Wright’s usage, is not just the Mosaic books of the Bible or the Law, but the promise of God to His people, Israel. The problem was, of course, that God demanded perfect obedience to the Torah, to the Law. As His covenant people, Israel was to keep the Torah and to cherish it. But Israel constantly strayed. Thus, the power of the Torah became death, the consequence of sin (209).

    So how could Israel fulfill the Torah? The short answer is that Israel simply could not. It demanded perfection, and the people of Israel could not be perfect. God had to intervene directly in history in order to accomplish His covenant with His people, and to open this covenant up to all people.

    Finally, how could God keep this promise in light of the failure of Israel (and mankind at large) to keep the Torah? Christ, argues Wright, is the “Climax” of the covenant. “The Messiah is the fulfillment of the long purposes of Israel’s God” (241). How does this happen? Wright argues that the “…answer must be that sin, by causing death, stood in the way of the divine intention of giving life; when, on the cross, God condemns sin… then sin is powerless to prevent the gift of life” (209). God’s plan of salvation “always involved a dramatic break, a cross and a resurrection written into the very fabric of history” (241, emphasis his). Thus, Torah and Covenant Theology can be summed up by saying that “Christ on the cross is thus the goal of the Torah” (243, emphasis his). It is in Christ that we become the people of God.

    * Reviewed by J.W. Wartick.  J. W. is a student of philosophy and apologetics. He believes that the Lord Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and he defends that truth with the tools of reason, logic, and philosophy. He writes on various topics including Christian Apologetics, Philosophy of Religion, and Theology on his website at http://jwwartick.com.

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