Taylor Marshall at his Catholic Perspective on Paul blog asks the interesting question:
I have just begun reading Wright’s works this year, so his theology had nothing to do with my own conversion 17 years ago, but I think this is a valid question. If you have heard Scott Hahn speak on Paul’s writings, you will notice that he often mentions two (Protestant) names: E.P. Sanders and N.T. Wright. These are two leading figures in the “New Perspective on Paul” movement which is attempting to pull Paul and his writings out of the 16th century Catholic-Protestant debates and restore them to their 1st century context.
One of the great disservices that Martin Luther did to the Church was to reinterpret Paul and his debates with the Judaizers so that they matched his own debates with the 16th century Catholic Church. This became the template through which both Protestants and Catholics read Paul: Protestants claiming that Paul supported their rejection of the Church, and Catholics responding that he did not. Yet the underlying premise – that Paul was dealing with the same issues that Luther dealt with – is extremely faulty. As Sanders and Wright show, the Judaizers were not preaching a “salvation by works” and therefore Paul was not countering with “salvation by faith alone.”
How do these findings impact the almost five-century-old Catholic/Protestant debate? To my knowledge, Wright does not directly address this question. But many Catholics (including Hahn) have noticed that if Luther was so radically wrong in this area of biblical interpretation, where does that leave Protestantism?