Jim West on N.T. Wright

Dr. Jim West asks why Wright is so famous and gets so much attention whilst other insightful scholars are overlooked. In a slightly uncharitable (but humorous) assessment, Dr. West comments that Wright “reads, he regurgitates it into the open mouths of the waiting, joyously anticipating flock of hatchlings huddled together in his safe, warm, dry, nest of exegetical certainty, and he makes an awful lot of money doing it.” There is more truth in that characterization of Wright’s followers than some of us would like to admit (even though the characterization of Wright himself seems to me to be trifle unfair). Hopefully most of us read relatively widely in other scholars and do not take Wright on board uncritically.

So why does Wright get so much attention and other thought-provoking scholars so little? I have given some brief thoughts that immediately came to mind in the comments on Dr. West’s post. Does anyone else have any thoughts?

[And on the subject of Wright, I was intending to post my next audio talk yesterday. That didn’t quite work out, but I will do it as soon as I can.]

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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11 Responses to Jim West on N.T. Wright

  1. This attitude is something I noticed about myself, not too long ago.

  2. Ruben says:

    Well, other scholars are not very important Anglicans, for one thing.

  3. Paul Baxter says:

    It does seem nearly inevitable that some scholars in any field will be more famous than other equally scholarly scholars.

    I would think what Wright has going for him, beyond any potential scholarly advantages, are both the overall quantity of his publishing and the variety of levels he writes to (basic laymen, educated laymen, and serious NT scholars). Couple that with clear writing style and a good knowledge base and you have the ingrediants for a famous scholar.

    One of the very nice things about Wright, though, is that his footnotes DO lead you to lots of other great scholars if you care to look them up.

  4. Noah says:

    Thank you for the announcement of N.T. Writes and for this post. I also found your comments left on Dr. West’s blog to be quite useful. I agree with you on all points. The intention of the N.T. Writes blog is merely to allow others to gain from my work browsing posts related to Bishop Wright. I felt like there was a desire for information about N.T. Wright – ntwrightpage.com is another great resource but it serves a different need I would argue. Looking forward to the audio post…

  5. Jon says:

    NT became popular after I released my song about him… No one hears that anymore… I was the catalyst…

    Well… Maybe not

  6. Al says:


    I guess that Wright must increase and you must decrease. Shame that.

  7. David says:


    Setting aside the obvious point that Wright is brilliant, we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of his gifts as a communicator.

    Wright is a superb prose writer and an unusually compelling speaker. Additionally, while many scholars seem content to interact with other scholars, Bishop Wright has worked very hard to address much of his scholarship to the whole church.


  8. nick says:


    Your comments seem to me right on about Wright.

    Beyond his abilities and the issues in which he writes, his ‘big picture’ style of thinking is relevant and connects with people who would not be interested in some other scholarly debates. He seems very talented, to me anyway, at engaging an old question in a new way and convincing people that a real, livable answer can be found.


  9. Anonymous says:

    I agree with David and Nick. I’ve been listening to some of Wright’s downloaded mp3 lately. I was surprised to be laughing intermittently during morning walks, while listening to THEOLOGY. Wright is intelligent; he makes sense; he doesn’t dumb down the subject or speak over the layman’s head. He has a good sense of humor.

  10. Julana says:

    Sorry, that anonymous was I. 🙂
    I should also say I appreciate his respect of, and support for, orthodoxy generally, although I doubt I would agree with everything he says. I do sense a humility and a willingness to learn, on his part.

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