An Exploration and Critique of the methodology of N.T. Wrightwith particular reference to Historical Jesus Research
The purpose of this paper is to examine and analyse the methodology of N.T. Wright as presentedin part II of
New Testament and the People of God (NTPOG),
and used and developed in J
esusand the Victory of God (JVOG)
. This paper is broken down into the following sections. Part A of this paper will examine the broad contours of Wright's epistemological method, whereas part Bshall look, with an eye on the quest for the historical Jesus, at how the insights from part A aredeveloped in regards to historiography.
Part A: Epistemological Method, Critical Realism
In JVOG Wright seeks to apply his methodology from NTPOG part II to the quest for the historicalJesus. In order to be able to engage with Wright's reconstruction of the historical Jesus it isnecessary to examine his methodological approach for '
if we do not explore presuppositional matters, we can expect endless and fruitless debate.'
t is vital that a project such as this one should show from the outset where it stands on basic questions of method.
N.T. Wright adopts an epistemological method called critical realism which is contrasted, byWright, to the (i) positivist position and (ii) phenomenalism which are the
'optimistic and pessimistic version of the enlightenment epistemological project.
The positivist position seeks
'solid and unquestionable knowledge
and this epistemological stanceis found among 'naïve realists' who '
have instant access to raw data about which they can simplymake propositions on the basis of sense experience.'
The following diagram illustrates thedirectness, and absence of the hermeneutical spiral, from the observer to the object.
The New Testament and the People of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God v. 1
. SPCK Publishing, 1992. 31