Wright on the Context Group
It's nice when I can agree with Tom Wright about something. Mark Goodacre cites an interview in which the bishop comments on the Context Group:
"I see the work of the 'context group' as basically a sharp-edged form of history. That is, I don't think they are doing anything other than what historians always ought to do: studying the specific and particular context, the social assumptions, the implicit narratives, etc., of the people we're interested in... What they succeed in doing, and what we need to pay close attention to, is joggling us out of our comfortable assumptions that, as I think Neyrey puts it, the ancient Mediterranean world was much like ours except without electronic toys."
Nicely accurate. Wright continues:
"My sense, though, is that sometimes at least members of that group come with an explicit anti-theological agenda, almost a sociological reductionism. That's a big generalization and it wouldn't apply to all of them, or to any of them all the time, I think. But it's something to watch out for."
As I myself cautioned in my recent review of Malina and Pilch's new commentary, it's a mistake to stereotype the Context Group members, who have in fact proven to be a rather diverse bunch. With regards to any supposed "anti-theological agendas" on the part of some, I think that's usually based on a misunderstanding of what they're about. The idea is that theology often derives from sociological realities, and the two can't be easily separated. We saw this recently, for instance, in discussing Jesus' reasons for prohibiting divorce. Jesus and Paul were theological, without a doubt, but whence came their theology?