Paul: A Short Introduction

Book Review

Morna D. Hooker (Oxford: One World Publications), 2003, 176 pp.

If you’re looking for an introductory textbook on Paul, you probably won’t find a better one thanMorna D. Hooker’s Paul: A Short Introduction. Concise yet thorough, Hooker’s small book covers every significant aspect of current Pauline studies. Though writing in a non-technical way for the reader with little theological background, she nevertheless articulately describes the current state of Pauline studies.

Hooker begins by carefully explaining the most basic issues — the legacy of Paul, the problems of reading Paul’s biography from Acts, the problem of determining Pauline authorship, and so on. Students who are new to Pauline studies will find these opening chapters invaluable.

This book is firmly grounded in the new perspective on Paul (cf. pp. 120,145,146) — Hooker argues lucidly that Paul was “thoroughly Jewish in his thinking and his approach” (p. 146). He was neither the creator of Christianity nor the distorter of Jesus’ original message (p. 148). Hooker closely associates Paul’s “calling” (as apostle to the Gentiles) with his “conversion” (pp. 22,60,107), identifies Paul’s Galatian opponents as Jewish Christians (p. 60), and works coherently through texts like Galatians 3:10-14 (p. 43).

In her treatment of justification, however, Hooker emphasizes simple trust in what God has done in order to achieve righteousness (p. 73), apparently implying the traditional idea of Gentiles being justified like Abraham rather than because of Abraham (cf. pp. 44,65). On the other hand, her treatment of “righteousness” on pp. 73ff is informative.

Hooker’s treatment of key christological texts is closer perhaps to Dunn than to Wright (cf. p. 50, although cp. p. 58 n. 18). Also like Dunn, Hooker interprets Paul’s teaching on the atonement in terms of representation rather than substitution (pp. 92-95). Like Sanders, she emphasizes participation in Christ’s death and new life. On the translation of pistis Christou, she is closer to Hays than to Dunn, preferring “faith of Christ” over “faith in Christ” (pp. 105,106) — reflecting the broad consensus of Pauline scholars.

More importantly, however, the book succeeds where it most counts. She argues lucidly against misogynist interpretations of Paul (cf. pp. 128,129,144) and treats with sensitivity the problem of the misappropriation of Pauline texts. For instance, in addressing the problem of slavery she writes that “It was surely a gross misinterpretation of Paul’s teaching to suppose that what he said about abouthow one should behave within a particular social system gave approval to that social system for all time” (p. 144). Although some of her arguments may not be fully compelling to those with a more liberationist approach (cf. pp. 118,119), nevertheless she is acutely aware of and sensitive to the issues.

Most significantly, Hooker ably demonstrates that Paul was not anti-Jewish (cf. pp. 145,146), aptly illustrating the point by considering Luther’s approach to Paul. When the language of an intra-Jewish debate was re-read after the break of Christianity with Judaism, it appeared much more sinister.

Accessible yet academic, Hooker’s book is a valuable resource. Not every book needs to break new ground and explore novel theses. Sometimes a good summary of an already established consensus is more useful.

Mark M. Mattison

Contours of Pauline Theology – A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul’s Biblical Writings

Book Review

Tom Holland, Scotland, UK: Mentor, 2004, 392 pp.

Generally speaking, conservative Reformed criticisms of the new perspective on Paul strike me as lackluster and predictable. That cannot be said, however, of Tom Holland’s new book, which is bound to shake loose some long-standing presuppositions in Pauline studies.

The book is not without its weaknesses. Holland’s apparent anxiety about the contributions of liberal scholarship (a hallmark of conservative works) can be slightly distracting. One may also question whether Holland has adequately made his case that the literature of second-temple Judaism is too fragmentary to provide much insight into Pauline studies, while at the same time apparently presupposing that nothing stood culturally between the texts of ancient Israel and Paul’s understanding of those texts. The significance of intertestamental writings, many of us believe, is that they serve as reference points in recovering the way in which Jews of that time understood their Scriptures, and considering the fact that we know Paul only through a scattered collection of letters bearing his name, one could very well argue that understanding the apostle’s thought is actually more challenging than understanding the thought of other authors of the time, and quite frankly we can use all the help we can get.

Nevertheless, Holland argues his case well and with refreshing verve (his analogy on pp. 65 and 66 is particularly interesting). These methodological differences aside, Holland’s book raises enough questions about traditional assumptions to clear the way for groundbreaking research, and his approach does allow for a rigorous reexamination of the degree to which Paul is indebted to texts like Isaiah and the Pentateuch.

Holland’s central thesis is strong because it is so simply stated: That Paschal theology ties together early Christianity’s key doctrines. A survey of New Exodus themes provides an important framework for this thesis, and tightly weaves together Holland’s evangelical interpretation of the Pauline doctrines of atonement, justification, and christology. A particularly cogent articulation of his concern about N.T. Wright’s reliance on Maccabean martyrdom traditions as a key to understanding the atonement is found on page 180:

If it is true that Paul’s understanding of the death of Jesus is that he is the great example of the Jewish martyr, then it means that his death is of no more significance than the death of any innocent sufferer. … In other words, martyrdom theology is a surrender of the great evangelical doctrine of the unique substitutionary sufferings of Christ. Without realising what has been surrendered, evangelical scholars have abandoned the historical doctrine of the uniqueness of Christ’s atoning suffering and have replaced it with a doctrine that has no distinct Christian content. It fails to uphold the uniqueness of the sufferings of Jesus. This outcome is the result of embracing psuedepigraphal writings as the key to New Testament interpretation rather than taking seriously the statement of Paul that the redemption Christ has achieved was witnessed to by the Law and the Prophets.

I would argue that it is the resurrection that imbues Jesus’ death with unique significance – but then again, to be fair, I don’t believe in a penal substitutionary atonement either.

Holland’s alternative explanation for the hilasterion of Romans 3:25 hinges on the argument that the blood of the Passover lamb described in Exodus 12 was understood to have propitiatory value, an argument strengthened by Ezekiel 45:25 which describes the anticipated eschatological Passover as involving sin offerings.

When he turns his attention to the doctrine of justification and the new perspective on Paul, Holland quickly brushes aside Sanders’ articulation of covenantal nomism but dedicates considerable space to challenging Dunn’s and Wright’s portrayal of the pre-conversion Paul as one “zealous” for the law in the tradition of the Maccabean revolutionaries. For Holland, this is of particular significance because if Paul was not a Zealot then his initial persecution of the church was based not on nationalistic pride (brought to a head in issues like circumcision) but rather opposition to the proclamation of a crucified Messiah per se. On the other hand, while arguing that justification did indeed have a forensic dimension, Holland points out that it nevertheless cannot be read outside of a covenantal (hence corporate) framework. More on this below.

Finally, when turning his attention to the doctrine of christology, Holland dedicates considerable space to articulating his thesis that the description of Jesus as the “firstborn” in Colossians 1:15ff and elsewhere is to be understood in a Pascal, New Exodus context. As a result, he is able to argue that a high christology is implicit from the very beginning of Christian reflection, since “Only God himself [sic.] could be the firstborn/redeemer of the whole creation” (p. 269). Of the earliest Christians, Holland writes, “Their Christology was not ontologically based, although this was its inevitable conclusion, but functionally based. … New Testament Christology is clearly basically functional, and not only is Jesus seen to be fulfilling the Messianic promises, but into this fulfillment model are drawn statements that can mean nothing other than that Jesus is uniquely and ontologically identified with Yahweh” (ibid).

As the above-cited argument demonstrates, Holland is apparently able to stay firmly within the Reformed tradition even while proposing new categories of Pauline thought. He argues that proponents of the new perspective have misread the Reformers while simultaneously arguing that his own approach is fully compatible with their theology. Having said that, Holland’s thesis is likely to present a significant challenge to traditional Calvinists as well. His interpretation of key texts throughout 1 Corinthians and Romans involves the most vigorous argument for a corporate dimension of Pauline theology that I’ve seen. Those conservative Presbyterians who are struggling to reconcile the current state of Pauline studies with traditional Reformed confessionalism may find this book of considerable value. But there’s enough here to challenge everyone, regardless of their confessional background. As Dr. Peter Head of Cambridge has written in a pre-publication review, “Challenging, unsettling and infuriating, Dr. Holland’s tour de force cannot be ignored.” I agree. This book is a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate in Pauline studies and deserves serious consideration far and wide.

Mark M. Mattison

Toward A Richer Doctrine of Justification

by Wan Chee Keong

Traditionally, justification has been understood as God’s once-for-all, forensic declaration that someone is ‘in the right.’ In spite of its shortcomings, ‘the new perspective on Paul’ has recovered other long-neglected facets of the doctrine. This has led to a richer and well-rounded theology of justification.

It has brought, first of all, awareness of the ‘covenantal’ facet of justification; secondly, the fact that there are ‘present’ and ‘future’ dimensions (besides the ‘once-for-all’ dimension); and thirdly, the ‘Jewishness’ of the forensic aspect.

1) The ‘covenantal’ facet of justification.

a) For all their prerogatives (Rom. 3:2; 9:4,5), the unbelieving Jews were not justified. What then did they miss? These blessings in justification are in that portion of Romans dealing with the destiny ofIsrael according to the flesh (chs. 9-11).

Justification is a declaration that believers are members of the true Israel, the Elect, God’s Chosen People (9:6,25;11:7); they are the true children of Abraham (9:7, NEB, RSV, NIV); children of God (9:27, cf. 9:4); salvation is theirs (9:27; 10:1,10,13; 11:11,14,26); they have come into ‘riches much more’ (11:12); theirs is life from the dead (11:15); they have arrived ‘at law’ (9:31; 10:4), i.e., Christ, the ‘goal (telos)‘ of the law. Having arrived ‘at law’=’in Christ,’ they have attained a right status and holiness (in essence. See also 1 Cor. 1:30. For this understanding of ‘at law’ see Tim Gallant’s excellent essay, The Doers of the Law will be Justified).

We find roughly the same blessings set forth in the other two letters dealing with Justification: Galatians and Philippians.

b) Galatians: Justification encompasses freedom from bondage under the Law (2:4; 4:26; 5:1,13); freedom from the elemental things of the world (4:3,9); living to God (2:19); the blessing of Abraham = the gift of the Spirit (3:2,5,14; 4:6); the working of miracles by God (3:5); being sons of Abraham = children of promise (3:7,29; 4:28); life (3:11,12,21); an inheritance (3:18,29); being sons of God (3:26; 4:5-7); members of the ‘Israel of God,’ the truly Elect, Chosen People of God (6:16). The last is particularly highlighted by N.T. Wright.

c) Philippians: To be justified means becoming a member of the true circumcision (3:2), i.e., the true ‘covenant people of God inheriting all the promises made to ancient Israel’ (Ralph Martin, TNTC,p. 138. Cp. Rom. 2:28,29). It is to worship in the Spirit of God, which is true worship; it is to glory in Christ (3:3). It is the eschatological fulfillment of ‘the service’ of Romans 9:4.

2) The present and future dimensions of justification.

In Galatians 2:16 the verb ‘justified’ occurs three times: the first time, in ‘the present tense’ which ‘can cover the whole process’; the second, in the aorist (a ‘once-for-all’ event or reference to the goal of the whole process, as in 2:17 — the point being that justification is by faith from start to finish); and the third, ‘in the future tense,’ i.e., ‘at the last judgment’ (cf. Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, p. 208). Of course the terms dikaiosunē (righteousness), dikaiosunē theou (righteousness of God), and dikaiow (justify) have different functions and different ranges of reference. But these functions and ranges overlap.

‘Righteousness’ is not only a status granted at conversion, but can also be used in reference to an ongoing status, or living relationship (as in Rom. 5:21), and to describe the end-point of the whole process (as in Rom. 6:16 and Gal. 5:5). ‘The righteousness of God’ is to be seen, therefore, as the outgoing power of grace which grants, sustains and finally secures that ‘righteousness,’ not just a once-for-all act. Nearly half the relevant Pauline uses are aorist and perfect tenses (i.e., justification is a ‘once-for-all’ declaration). But more than half are present and future tenses. To be sure, the present tenses could be taken as ‘timeless’ presents, but most of the future tenses are best taken as referring to future (=final) justification (on the day of judgment; Rom. 2:1; 3:20; Gal. 2:16; 5:4; Dunn, ibid., pp. 207, 208. See also R. Lusk’s The Tenses of Justification.

3) The ‘Jewishness’ of ‘legal right-standing.’

Usually, no mention is made of which legal standard is referred to God’s gift of a forensic right-status. It is as if the legal datum is self-evident. That is not so. Different audiences/readers will have different data in their minds, depending on their background/environment. For Paul, however, there can only be one datum: the Mosaic Law. To him, this is the really true datum. For the Law is ‘the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth’ (Rom. 2:20). ‘So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good’ (Rom. 7:12), ‘the Law is spiritual’ (Rom. 7:14). Justification as ‘right-status’ is therefore Jewish through and through.

Tom Holland on the New Perspective

by Mark M. Mattison

On March 20, 2006, Tom Holland of the Evangelical Theological College of Wales spoke at the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, a conservative institution in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His lecture, entitled “A Reformed Response to the New Perspective on Paul,” summarized some of the arguments from his book, Contours of Pauline Theology, which I reviewed for The Paul Page in December of 2004.

As I mentioned in my book review, Holland’s criticism of the new perspective is unique and, I believe, deserving of serious consideration by Pauline scholars of all persuasions. Many conservative Reformed criticisms of the new perspective follow a familiar outline: They begin by listing propositions from historic Protestant confessions (assuming that they simply restate scriptural propositions), compare those propositions with selected quotations from one or more contemporary biblical scholars who advocate the new perspective, seek to demonstrate a difference (with varying degrees of success), and conclude that the new perspective must therefore be “heretical.” Not so with Holland, who better appreciates the differences between various biblical and theological disciplines.

He began his lecture by describing what he regards as the failure of Evangelicalism: “We have not focused on the texts of scripture; we have focused on the texts of the confessions. Being reformed is not being committed to the confessions, it is being committed to the convictions of the reformers, that of on-going reform.” Doubtless many evangelical biblical scholars will concur, including N.T. Wright, who has written of “the kind of serious biblical scholarship the Protestant Reformation was built on,” a tradition he is proud to “carry on … if need be, against those who have turned the Reformation itself into a tradition to be set up over scripture itself” (The Shape of Justification).

Holland went on to talk about the importance of distinguishing between historical theology, pastoral theology, philosophical theology, systematic theology, and biblical theology, arguing that “Biblical theology cannot be controlled by confessional interests. It must put all preferences aside and listen to the message of the sacred text.” Generally I would agree; however, I question the degree to which any of us is capable of completely extricating ourselves from our presuppositions and hearing the scriptural texts exactly as they would have been heard by those to whom it was first read aloud. I believe we can achieve this to a certain degree by rigorously articulating and admitting our own proclivities so that we can recognize the dissonance between the text and our own sensitivities (and those of others), but I question the epistemology of positivism which presumes that we are capable of approaching the text unfettered by our own presuppositions. Not to dwell on this point too long, what I do appreciate is Holland’s recognition of the distinction between biblical theology and systematic theology, a distinction which seems to me to be lost on some of those who are of the Calvinist persuasion.

The bulk of Holland’s lecture was dedicated to identifying methodological weaknesses of the new perspective, with a particular criticism of what he believes is “the assumption of uniformity” in reconstructing the belief system of second-temple Judaism (another prominent feature of his book). He quoted J. Neusner as stating that “What is wrong with the established view is simple. People join together books that do not speak the same language of thought, that refer to distinctive conceptions and doctrines of their own. If books so close in topic and sentiment as the four Gospels no longer yield harmonization [here he paused to register a quick point of dissent], books soutterly remote from one another as the Mishnah and Philo and Fourth Ezra and Enoch should not contribute doctrines to the common pot: Judaism.”

He went on to quote J.H. Charlesworth on the Pseudepigrapha: “In these writings, as in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we are introduced to the ideas, symbols, perceptions, fears, and dreams of pre-AD 70 Jews. Since none of them can with assurance be assigned to Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots or Essenes, it is wise not to describe early Judaism in terms of four such sects; rather we must now think of many groups and numerous subgroups.”

However, I believe it may be overstating the case to argue that the new perspective necessarily presupposes an essential uniformity of thought among the various sects of second-temple Judaism. The two scholars quoted above clearly argue against homogenization, but that does not mean that they, like Holland, doubt that extrabiblical literature can yield insights about ancient Judaism or shed light on the scriptural text. For instance, as James D.G. Dunn has written, “Worth noting is the fact that J. Neusner, though fiercely critical of [E.P.] Sanders’ methodology, nevertheless accepts Sanders’ understanding of Judaism in terms of ‘covenantal nomism’ as valid. That rabbinic discussions presupposed the covenant and ‘were largely directed toward the question of how to fulfil the covenantal obligations’ is to Neusner a ‘wholly sound and … self-evident proposition’. ‘So far as Sanders proposes to demonstrate the importance to all the kinds of ancient Judaism of covenantal nomism, election, atonement, and the like, his work must be pronounced a complete success’ — ‘Comparing Judaisms’, History of Religions, 18 (1978-9), pp. 177-91 (Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians [Westminster: John Knox Press], 1990, p. 204, n. 16).

Similarly, in a recent review of Craig A. Evans’ book Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies, J.H. Charlesworth has written that the collection “will assist all interpreters of Scripture. The New Testament texts come alive with fresh meaning when read in the context of the literature of their time. Evans demonstrates how these texts provide meanings for words and concepts, clarify the history and sociology of the period, and illustrate the historical, exegetical, hermeneutical, and canonical context of the New Testament documents.” This is hardly the commendation of someone who believes that noncanonical literature cannot clarify the meaning of the scriptural text.

Another point of methodology criticized by Holland was “the assumption of dependency.” He stated that “Most of the Pseudepigrapha was written in Palestine while most of the NT was written to people throughout the Roman world. Is it really reasonable to think that the apostles refer to writings that most of their readers had no access to and expected their readers to interpret their statements in the context of these writings?”

He expressed the same sentiment during the question-and-answer session, when I asked what he thought about the use of the phrase “the works of the law” in 4QMMT since its meaning there appears to approximate the meaning proposed by Dunn in the letters of Paul. Holland questioned whether the recipients of Paul’s letters would have known of 4QMMT. But this again overstates the argument. The assertion that documents like the Dead Sea Scrolls can shed light on Paul’s letters doesn’t require that Paul’s audience have personal knowledge of a particular document. The point is merely that a certain term can be shown to have a particular meaning in a related first-century context.

Simply put, I’m still not persuaded that the literature of second-temple Judaism is irrelevant to the study of Paul’s letters.

The most interesting part of Holland’s presentation, however, was the last portion, his Reformed response to the new perspective. Ironically, his response not only challenges the new perspective but evangelical biblical scholarship as well. His response(s) consisted of four points:

  • We have not appreciated the corporate nature of the NT
  • We have not appreciated the OT dimension of the NT
  • We have not appreciated the New Exodus paradigm of the NT
  • We have not appreciated the paschal model for the NT

My review of his book highlights these arguments and celebrates the willingness of a conservative scholar both to question excessively individualistic readings of Paul and to locate Paul’s meaning on the map of a historical, biblical narrative instead of on the abstract grid of a systematic, philosophical construct. This is where Holland is at his best and it is precisely where I believe his contribution to the field of Pauline studies is worthwhile.

Response by Tom Holland

Dear Mark,

It was good to meet you at the lecture in Grand Rapids. You were very kind to restructure your day to attend an afternoon event and especially to go the extra mile in writing a report on the lecture for the Paul Page. I am glad to be able to respond to your comments in the report as you have invited me to do.

What you have written is very fair and you have highlighted the things I wanted to say. I am grateful for the positive comments in both your review of my book as well as in the report on the lecture. It is clear that the major difference we have relates to the Pseudepigrapha and its relevance to NT research. I understand why you are unhappy with my position and naturally I want to focus on this. I will, if you don’t mind, also make reference to some other reviews that challenge me on the same point, as it is an ideal place to deal with this issue that has been raised elsewhere. All the reviews are available on my home page www.tomholland.instant.org.uk for your readers to access.

Firstly, let me say from the outset that my position is not that of someone who cannot step outside of the text of the Christian Bible through fear of losing his way, or even his confidence, in those texts — indeed it is the very opposite. I was trained to interact with such texts and for many years used this method to interpret the scriptures for the people I taught. I was a Baptist pastor for eighteen years, and while the Pseudepigrapha did not figure highly in most commentaries  a couple of decades ago, I was more than comfortable in using the insights my teachers imparted, which were largely based on engagement with extra Biblical literature.

But, I do want to correct a possible misunderstanding. I have never said that the ITL is of no use, only of limited use (see Contours p. 60). I accept that they give us a good idea of the main issues occupying Jewish thought in the first century. These include the expectation of the Second Exodus, the raising up of a descendent of David and the fulfilment of many prophetic predications that related to this momentous event. I also accept that they can alert us to a meaning of a word that clearly existed among some of the communities of ITL that might fit the NT text in a surprisingly helpful way. But before transposing the meaning great care needs to be taken to ensure that the writer of the NT text is actually sharing the same understanding. What I am anxious to underscore is that we cannot construct a theology of ITL and use it as the key to NT thought.1 There was no such thing as a Jewish theology, only Jewish theologies. Even Rabbinical Judaism was a minority viewpoint at that time. Later, of course, it was to become the dominant (and representative as far as Rome was concerned) school of theology.

So to gather statements, for example about wisdom, and to argue that these are the source of the ideas of wisdom in the NT, is an example of abusing these texts. As you know, I have sought to use this as an example in Contours (appendix 4) to show how this material has totally confused the real picture of what the NT writers refer to in calling Christ “the wisdom of God”. I am naturally delighted at the widespread agreement that my argument has elicited.

To put my case into the context of my visit to Grand Rapids: it is as if, having visited a range of churches in theUS visit, I gathered all the views of the people I spoke to and merged them to produce ‘the American view’. If I were to be so foolish as to give a lecture to a UK audience from the perspective of my synthesis of American Christianity, I would be doing all of the groupings that I spoke to a deep disservice, for even among those who had a lot in common, there were still some very important differences. I am sure you would feel the force of this and would be very unhappy for me impose on you the views of others I met with and addressed.

But even within a community upholding a common tradition, there are divisions. In a recent class of post graduate students, I asked for opinions on what the baptism of the Spirit meant. It was clear that there were, even in a class where the students had a common confessional position, a range of different opinions. I asked them how they would feel if I listened to all their views and then wrote up a position that they were to sign and embrace as their own. The students response was a firm rejection — such a treatment would not represent the understanding they were concerned to preserve. If we cannot do this reliably for a group of likeminded theologians, what chance is there of doing if for such a disparate range of theological opinion that existed in Second Temple Judaism?

I have to confess, that, since writing Contours, I have come to see that the usefulness of the Inter Testamental Literature is even more limited for NT scholarship than I had previously appreciated. Even though Charlesworth has cautioned against misusing the Pseudepigrapha because of its complex theological diversity, from his endorsement of Craig Evans’ book he is obviously very positive about it as a source of customs and social practices for Second Temple Judaism. Despite the endorsement of such an able scholar, I am forced to warn of the danger of assuming that customs were uniform throughout intertestamental Judaism. In this area I have come to think that Charlesworth, along with many others, is making a serious mistake.

Let me try to explain. In the early days of our married life my wife and I had regular debates as to the correct way of doing things and the meanings of certain practices and even words. We came from the same country, shared a common history and had the same language, yet in her home area, some 150 miles from where I was broughtup, there was a slightly different culture from the one that had moulded my thinking and expectations.

I have encountered this difference in other contexts. As a Baptist pastor, I have done some itinerant preaching. It is interesting to find how practice and even understanding varies from one congregation to another. Differences exist, even between different congregations that are in the same town and of the same denomination. I have no doubt that this is also found in other Christian denominations. Words, rituals and practices all have a range of meanings that are particular to that one congregation. Ask any minister of his experience when he moves to pastor a new congregation — there is always a steep learning curve!

An example of the above variation is the way funerals are conducted. In the town where I was a minister there were people from all over the British Isles. It was an education in itself to learn what adaptations I had to make to reflect the practices that they were used to and which they wanted their loved ones’ funerals to follow.

Clearly the tribes of Israel had different traditions and value systems. You only have to read the OT to see this fact. Such differences can also be found in the NT documents themselves. In addition to the natural evolution of their local cultures, the Hebrews were influenced, depending on their geographical location, by a range of invaders and occupiers throughout their history. Hengel demonstrates the influence of the Greek occupation.2Others identify the influences of other invaders and occupiers as well as the normal cross cultural influences of neighbouring states. In other words, even in the practice of customs, there is diversity. So, finding a practice in a document of the Pseudepigrapha and then claiming, without the required support, that it is evidence of Jewish understanding and practice, is to make a jump of such magnitude that no social anthropologist or historian could take as serious scholarship.

So, even in the useful information we get from the ITL about customs etc. we have to be very careful that examples of practice or understanding are not forced onto the NT text to support a meaning. The safest thing is to work with the texts that are the product of the group of people we are seeking to understand, and in this case, for the NT church, it is the OT biblical text. But, even in that collection of literature, there are many variations that ought to be recognised and respected!

And this is what is not being done! The Pseudepigraphal literature is being blindly used without the controls that the specialists in these fields of study would say are essential to good practice. I am forced to the conclusion that using this literature to open up the meaning of the NT is fundamentally flawed and with it are the conclusions which its adherents reach.

Such an example is found in Tom Wight’s Jesus and the Victory of God (pp. 250-251). He draws our attention to how Josephus made demands on a man to become his disciple and uses this to explain the calling of the disciples by Jesus. The fact that Josephus had no religious mission, whereas Jesus obviously did, ought to cause us to question the transfer of the model. But other basic questions need answering. Is this practice related to Josephus’ social status? It was a status that Jesus clearly never had. Is it a practice that was locally recognised rather than widespread — in other words does it reflect the customs of a region or the entire nation? How can we establish its wider significance for Jewish practice? To use this example as the cornerstone of a major argument is building on very unsure foundations. This sort of analysis can be applied to much of the material that is used to ‘enlighten’ the NT text.

You mention in your report that after the lecture you asked me about 4QMMT. I replied, asking how widely such a text would be available for Paul’s readers, or even Paul himself, to interact with. You rightly say this is not the point; that the text shows that such understanding did exist in Judaism. I agree with this, but the last thing that must be done is to take this meaning (which certainly does not have unanimous agreement) and impose it on the uses of the Greek form found in the NT. I warn of this in Contours pp. 217 & 232. Words can have different meanings in different contexts and this is true in the NT just as much as it is in the Pseudepigrapha. Only a careful evaluation of the context, and the argument being made can tell us how the word is being used and it is my contention that the full range of meanings found in the semantic domain for ‘justify’ is present in the NT writings. In some of these texts the meaning seems to match that of Dunn’s reading of 4QMMT, but in other passages this is certainly not the case.

I have already argued in Contours that there are certainly ‘covenantal nomistic’ readings of the term present in Paul.3 However, I don’t come to this conclusion by imposing the meaning from any outside text but from the arguments that are being made within the letters. I do not have a problem with the New Perspective view of justification being in some of the Pauline texts, but I certainly have a problem in arguing that it is in all of the uses of ‘justify’. The point I have made is that Paul’s audiences were victims of different misunderstandings, and the errors of one church must not be imposed on the other churches — this would be just as disastrous as imposing the meaning of 4QMMT, if we could agree on it, onto the argument being made in any one of the NT documents. Because Paul writes into the situation of individual churches, we must assume he knows the issues they were struggling with and his argument was tailored to meet their needs. What justification might mean in one letter must not be presumed to mean the same in another, even though written by the apostle himself!

This response would be the same as I would make to Craig Evan’s review of Contours.4 He also raises 4QMMT and adds that in 4Q521 we find allusions to words and phrases from Isaiah, in connection with the appearance of the Messiah. Evans argues that it is surely relevant to Jesus’ reply to the imprisoned John, where Jesus alludes to similar prophetic vocabulary.

I do not find any problem in this. It simply demonstrates overlap in the way different Jewish groups interpreted scripture. However, it would be quite wrong to conclude that there was strict equivalence in their views of the Messiah and that of the NT writers. Indeed, others have noted5 the danger of transferring DSS material into the NT to understand theological details. Parallels do not necessarily constitute sources and even more so when the nature of the ‘parallel’ is not clearly understood. All that we have established is the widespread knowledge and influence of the OT texts, and that is the very point I have been seeking to make! However, how the different groups interpreted the details of these texts is another matter.

Just as I have failed to convince you, I am afraid you have not convinced me. But what I am anxious to make clear is that I am happy to embrace covenantal nomism for some texts, but not for others. I find no difficulty in accepting that some Jews had this perspective, but I certainly cannot accept that all Jews did. Sanders’ conclusions have gone off the rails because he failed to recognise the diversity of Intertestamental Judaism. Consequently, the arguments that build on his conclusions are building on sand. Because of this, I cannot agree with Wright that justification is about ecclesiology (although in some Pauline texts it is!), and not about soteriology. In excluding soteriology, Wright has misrepresented the understanding of the reformers and has imposed one meaning on all texts. Both are methodologically wrong.

The issue of methodology is very important. It has been my goal to keep to those texts that the first-century believing community would have known, i.e. the scriptures of Israel. It is my commitment to scrutinising these texts that has led reviewers to speak of Contours being a significant breakthrough. In other words, the eclectic method failed to identify this particular thinking. Because scholars turned to the Pseudepigrapha and borrowed from its Wisdom tradition they failed to see that calling Christ ‘the firstborn of all creation’ (Col 1.15) was soteriological and rooted in the Passover. It was equally because the same scholars imported the meaning ofhilasterion from 4 Macc 4.22 into Romans 3.25 that they failed to see the Paschal structure of the passage and how it contributed greatly to appreciating the Paschal theology of the early church.

And so, I would claim from these two examples that the use of the Pseudepigrapha has been hugely detrimental to gaining a clearer Biblical understanding. If the method of exclusion has born such significant fruit, it would be wise not to reject it too quickly in preference for a methodology of inclusion that to my mind has fragmented and diminished understanding rather than adding to it. I am encouraged by the range of scholars who have acknowledged that this issue needs to be reflected on.

So, any suggestion that the reason I cannot cope with the development of Biblical scholarship is a reflection of my conservative theological position, which seems to be being suggested by Bird in RBL6, does not understand either my development or myself. As a young pastor, I had grabbed this method with both hands and used it for many years before coming to realise its flaws.

The last mentioned reviewer says “Holland states the New Testament letters [were] written to communities outside of Palestine and presumably outside of access to most Pseudepigraphal writings (67). Yet this is patently false, not all of the pseudepigraphal writings were composed in Palestine (Aristeas and Jospeph and Aseneth were probably in Alexandria and the epistle of Jude for one quotes 1 Enoch and Assumption of Moses.Holland wants to argue that Paul’s theology had the Hebrew Bible as its substructure but needlessly asserts in the process that Paul would not borrow or echo thoughts from a “dubious Palestinian perspective” (i.e. referring to the Pseudepigrapha) in the process.”

I have to confess that the argument that Bird has made is certainly, to my mind, weaker than the one he has dismissed. He cites me correctly, saying that the gentile churches were “presumably outside of access to mostPseudepigraphal writtings” which I would have thought needs no defence, but he answers this by saying that three works of the Pseudepigrapha were “probably written in Alexandria”. How does this deny the statement that most of the Pseudepigrapha was unknown by the gentile churches?

Bird then appeals to the apparent citation of a part of 1 Enoch found in Jude as evidence that thePseudepigrapha was widely known. But this argument is far from persuasive. Why are these sorts of quotations not found littering the NT text if they have had the influence that they are supposed to have had on the thinking of the NT church? No one is denying that some people in Palestine, and maybe a few other places, might have known of some of the documents, but the likelihood of many gentile congregations knowing even a sample selection is remote. Also, the fact that the terminology means different things depending on the group the author belonged to means that we cannot, or should not, be assuming that they are all telling us the same message.

Furthermore, it is not until it can be established that Jude is quoting Enoch, and not a commonly known oral tradition that is attributed to Enoch, which inevitably a writer wanting to pass a work off as the patriarch’s would naturally include, can the weight that he wants to give to the text of Jude be allowed. But even allowing it to be a direct quote from 1 Enoch, it is a single document, written specifically to Jews, possibly living in Palestine. That is not the sort of evidence that any historian would accept for concluding that this literature permeates the letters of Paul which were written to gentile churches throughout the empire. These communities were separated by hundreds of miles from the source of the vast majority of these documents. Not until it can be shown that these documents are turning up regularly throughout the Roman world can there be an appeal to them as keys to interpret Paul, or even the gospels themselves, for all were mostly written to non-residents of Palestine. And even then, as I have argued earlier, we have no right to assume that the terminology is the same within thePseudepigraphal collection, never mind that it matches the meaning of the NT authors. I have to confess to being at a loss to understand why scholarship so readily embraces this material. I cannot imagine for one moment that such undisciplined thinking would be allowed past the door of a history department — the historical/textual evidence is just not good enough.

And finally, in response to Bird, he claims that Jude cites from the Assumption of Moses. Bird is more confident in the way he claims this than are the experts in the text. Charlesworth for example has provided an insightful discussion and rejection of this proposal!7

I have also been criticised by Craig Evans. He says: “Major complicated questions of interpretation and criticism are treated too simply, with the author frequently lapsing into the logical fallacy of excluded middle. For example, NT interpreters err, H. says, in appealing to the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Pseudepigrapha, because the theological perspectives of these writings are not the same as the perspectives of the NT authors.”

Evans goes on to say: “What he identifies as a “growing dependence” is the ongoing effort to flesh out and contextualize as much as possible the exegetical and theological discussions of late antiquity, out of which the writings of the NT emerged. Often it is this extracanonical literature that helps the interpreter understand how a given OT passage quoted by a NT writer was understood. Failure to take into account the parallels in the Scrolls, Pseudepigrapha, and other writings from late antiquity may well result in faulty interpretation and dubious theological inferences.”

I have to confess that the logic loses me! Because I question the validity of using the Pseudepigrapha, I am guilty of seriously faulty interpretation. But that is the case I am making against using the Pseudepigrapha and I have not been shown by Evans, other than by his deep commitment to this literature, that there are grounds for relying on this corpus as a hermeneutical key!  The argument that I have made has been ignored and the charge is made that I lapse into “the logical fallacy of excluded middle”. I am afraid that our thinking is in different parts of the universe! I refuse to allow these documents to control my reading of the NT text because I truly believe that they are the source of a “logical fallacy of a polluted middle”.

If we apply the guiding principles that Hays8 has given for establishing the presence of a previous text in the argument of a text that we are considering, the possibility of Pseudepigraphal texts having any significant influence in the NT is very low indeed.

My position on the Pseudepigrapha and the DSS is not in any way confessional, it is solely on scholarly grounds that I refuse to give them the sort of control that many are allowing them to have. If this is not understood then I am afraid that what I have written has totally missed its mark.9

You have done me a great kindness to say that Contours is groundbreaking. The only reason I arrived at these conclusions was that I came to see that the Greek world was being imported into essentially Hebraic texts. In fact, my reservation about using the Greek texts and culture explains my concern about using thePseudepigrapha. Indeed, I think a more reasonable case can be made for using these Greek texts than for theintertestamental texts because these writings, or at least many of the practices they record, were widely known throughout the Roman world and therefore their ideas were accessible to Paul’s hearers and readers. This was not so with the Pseudepigraphal texts. If I had stayed with the methodology that Bird, Evans and yourself are so committed to, I would never have made the ‘groundbreaking’ progress.

Thank you again for your interaction and all that you do in serving the wider community interested in the theology of Paul. Your willingness to serve this community is a very valuable contribution to the task of wrestling with the texts of the Christian Scriptures.

With my very best wishes,

Tom Holland

The Evangelical Theological College of Wales

Notes

1I do accept Helyer’s argument that the ITL can show us trends that we can reflect on and see if the same trends are reflected in NT understanding, but that is not the same as relying on details of vocabulary as a key to exegesis, which Helyer practices, see Helyer, R.L., “The Necessity, Problems, And Promise of Second Temple Judaism for Discussions of New Testament Eschatology” JETS 47/4 (December 2004) 597-615.

2Hengel, M.,  Judaism and Hellenism, 2 vols. ET London, 1974.

3For a full discussion see Contours, chapters 9 & 10.

4CBQ 68 2006 (3).

5Barrett, C.K., The Second Epistle to the Corinthians,  London, 1973,75 challenges those who use parallels concerning the Spirit in Qumran for understanding the NT doctrine of the Spirit

6http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/4443_4477.pdf#search=%22michael%20bird%20contours%20of%20pauline%22

7J.H.Charlesworth and J.C.Mueller, New Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. A Guide to Publications(ALTA Bibs 17; Metuchen, NJ: American Theological Library and Scarcrow Press, 1987) p. 77.

8Hays, R. B.,  Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, New Haven/London, 1989. See pages 29-32.

9I am encouraged by the warnings given by Helyer “Problems” 609-614 who, though he is very committed to the literature, cautions against their misuse by using similar arguments to what I am presenting.

The Shape of Justification

by N.T. Wright

Wright submits the following response to Paul Barnett with the caveat that he is not entirely happy being part of what could appear a monochrome “new perspective,” since it’s a complex phenomenon. What follows was written during the 2001 Feast of the Presentation of Christ in theTemple and printed in part as the April 2001 column of Bible Review. Though he writes with Barnett’s criticism in mind, Wright addresses the most serious allegations made by a variety of authors.

Just before Christmas, a friend told me that an Australian Bishop — Paul Barnett, himself a New Testament scholar — had placed an article on his website, entitled ‘Why Wright is Wrong’. (He has since toned this down to ‘Tom Wright and the New Perspective’.) The question at stake is: what did Paul mean by ‘justification’? This topic has again become a storm centre, though perhaps not equally in all teacups.

In a minute I shall go through Barnett’s piece and show where I find it mistaken, both in what it says about me and in what it says about Paul. What I want to do first is to show how Paul’s statements about justification fit together and make sense, and how they relate to the questions of personal faith, salvation and pastoral practice which Bishop Barnett rightly raises.

1. It’s best to begin at the end, with Paul’s view of the future.

(a) The one true God will finally judge the whole world; on that day, some will be found guilty and others will be upheld (Rom. 2.1-16). God’s vindication of these latter on the last day is his act of final ‘justification’ (Rom. 2.13). The word carries overtones of the lawcourt.

(b) But not only the lawcourt. Justification is part of Paul’s picture of the family God promised (i.e. covenanted) to Abraham. When God, as judge, finds in favor of people on the last day, they are declared to be part of this family (Rom. 4; cf. Gal. 3). This is why lawcourt imagery is appropriate: the covenant was there, from Genesis onwards, so that through it God could deal with sin and death, could (in other words) put his creation to rights.

(c) This double declaration will take the form of an event. All God’s people will receive resurrection bodies, to share the promised inheritance, the renewed creation (Rom. 8). This event, which from one point of view is their ‘justification’, is therefore from another their ‘salvation’: their rescue from the corruption of death, which for Paul is the result of sin. The final resurrection is the ultimate rescue which God promised from the beginning (Rom. 4).

2. Moving back from the future to the past, God’s action in Jesus forms Paul’s template for this final justification.

(a) Jesus has been faithful, obedient to God’s saving purposes right up to death (Rom. 5.12-21; Phil. 2.6-9); God has now declared decisively that he is the Son of God, the Messiah, in whom Israel’s destiny has been summed up (Rom. 1.3f.).

(b) Jesus’ resurrection was, for Paul, the evidence that God really had dealt with sin on the cross (1 Cor. 15.12-19). In the death of Jesus God accomplished what had been promised to Abraham, and ‘what the law could not do’ (Rom. 8.3): for those who belong to the Messiah, there is ‘no condemnation’ (Rom. 8.1, 8.31-9).

(c) The event in which all this actually happened was, of course, the resurrection of the crucified Jesus.

3. Justification in the present is based on God’s past accomplishment in Christ, and anticipates the future verdict. This present justification has exactly the same pattern.

(a) God vindicates in the present, in advance of the last day, all those who believe in Jesus as Messiah and Lord (Rom. 3.21-31; 4.13-25; 10.9-13). The lawcourt language indicates what is meant. ‘Justification’ itself is not God’s act of changing the heart or character of the person; that is what Paul means by the ‘call’, which comes through the word and the Spirit. ‘Justification’ has a specific, and narrower, reference: it is God’s declaration that the person is now in the right, which confers on them the status ‘righteous’. (We may note that, since ‘righteous’ here, within the lawcourt metaphor, refers to ‘status’, not ‘character’, we correctly say that God’s declaration makes the person ‘righteous’, i.e. in good standing.)

(b) This present declaration constitutes all believers as the single people, the one family, promised to Abraham (Gal. 2.14 – 3.29; Rom. 3.27 – 4.17), the people whose sins have been dealt with as part of the fulfilled promise of covenant renewal (Jer. 31.31-34). Membership in this family cannot be played off against forgiveness of sins: the two belong together.

(c) The event in the present which corresponds to Jesus’ death and resurrection in the past, and the resurrection of all believers in the future, is baptism into Christ (Gal. 3.26-9; Rom. 6.2-11). Baptism is not, as some have supposed, a ‘work’ which one ‘performs’ to earn God’s favour. It is, for Paul, the sacrament of God’s free grace. Paul can speak of those who have believed and been baptised as already ‘saved’, albeit ‘in hope’ (Rom. 8.24).

Among the remaining questions, three matters stand out at the moment.

The ‘faith’ in question is faith in ‘the God who raised Jesus from the dead’. It comes about through the announcement of God’s word, the gospel, which works powerfully in the hearts of hearers, ‘calling’ them to believe, or indeed (as Paul often puts it) to ‘obey’ the gospel (Rom. 1.16f.; 1 Thess. 1.3f., 2.13; 2 Thess. 1.8). This faith looks backwards to what God has done in Christ, by means of his own obedient faithfulness to God’s purpose (Rom. 5.19; Phil. 2.6), relying on that rather than on anything that is true of oneself. For Paul, this meant refusing to regard the badges of Jewish law-observance (‘the works of the law’) as the decisive factor (Phil. 3.2-11). And it looks forward to the final day: because this faith is the first sign of new God-given life, it is the appropriate anticipation of the final verdict, which is guaranteed by the same Spirit who inspired faith (2 Cor. 1.22; Phil. 1.6).

By ‘the gospel’ Paul does not mean ‘justification by faith’ itself. He means the announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus is Lord. To believe this message, to give believing allegiance to Jesus as Messiah and Lord, is to be justified in the present by faith (whether or not one has even heard of justification by faith). Justification by faith itself is a second-order doctrine: to believe it is both to have assurance (believing that one will be vindicated on the last day [Rom. 5.1-5]) and to know that one belongs in the single family of God, called to share table-fellowship without distinction with all other believers (Gal. 2.11-21). But one is not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith (this, I think, is what Newman thought Protestants believed), but by believing in Jesus.

‘Justification’ is thus the declaration of God, the just judge, that someone is (a) in the right, that their sins are forgiven, and (b) a true member of the covenant family, the people belonging to Abraham. That is how the word works in Paul’s writings. It doesn’t describe how people get in to God’s forgiven family; it declares that they are in. That may seem a small distinction, but in understanding what Paul is saying it is vital.

The three tenses of justification have often been confused, causing some of the great problems of understanding Paul. If we keep them simultaneously clearly distinguished and appropriately interrelated, clarity, and perhaps even agreement, might follow. If justification is about belonging to the single family, it would be good if that family could try to agree about what it means.

To that end, let me now offer my comments on Barnett’s original article. I am aware that in doing so I am putting my head in a noose. Every few months some friend, or even some stranger, tells me that people in Sydney, and some in America, are declaring me an outcast, a distorter of the true gospel, or whatever. Considering how little I have published on the subjects they are talking about, this is remarkable.

Bishop Paul first gives a review of the rise of the ‘new perspective’ on Paul in the work of Ed Sanders. His brief summary needs nuancing here and there, but it’s not far off track. What is interesting, though, is that even in his brief summary he shows that the ‘new perspective’ has this in common with traditional Reformed readings of Paul (from Calvin to Cranfield): it sees the Jewish Law as a good thing now fulfilled, rather than (as in much Lutheran thought) a bad thing now abolished. This should be borne in mind, not least because I came to my own view, already outlined in 1976 before Sanders’ book was published, from being dissatisfied with Cranfield’s Reformed position but knowing that, out of sheer loyalty to the God-given text, particularly of Romans, I couldn’t go back to a Lutheran reading. (Please note, my bottom line has always been, and remains, not a theory, not a tradition, not pressure from self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy, but the text of scripture.) When Sanders’ book was published I found further reasons for the position I had already moved towards, even though there are problems with his overall account of Judaism, and though I found, and still find, his reading of Paul very unconvincing.

This already shows that, though obviously I have some things in common with Sanders, and some with J.D.G. Dunn, I am by no means an uncritical ‘new perspective’ person. Frankly, many of the criticisms of Sanders at least, if applied to me, are not just wide of the mark but on a different playing field altogether. With that, I come to Barnett’s specific points.

First, method. Barnett says that I first tease out what a word, or a worldview, ‘would have meant’ at the time. Well, yes. That is what all historians, all lexicographers, all serious readers of texts from cultures other than their own, are bound to do. If we just started with a set of documents in a language and culture other than our own, and refused to take into account what other writers in that language and culture meant by the words, we would be in the position I would be in if I picked up a book in Japanese, of which I know not a word. Nor are my reconstructions speculative and unprovable. I spent two hundred pages in The New Testament and the People of God establishing my positions inch by inch, and what I have said about Paul builds on all that. It is false to say that I suggest that Paul would have seen the hopes of Israel in ‘political’ terms; in our world, that word carries the overtones of ‘and therefore not religious’; whereas my point is that, as is easily provable from almost any second-Temple Jewish writing, the ‘religious’, the ‘political’, and for that matter the ‘personal’ and the ‘communal’, are cheerfully mixed up together in ways that baffle post-enlightenment readers (and so much evangelicalism is, alas, still in complete thrall to the enlightenment), but were obvious to people in that day. When it comes to the word dikaiosune and its cognates, it isn’t a matter of ‘what Wright thinks the word would have meant then’, but what serious historical lexicography tells us.

Of course, Paul has the right to use words in his own way. I insist on this in my writings, for instance when I argue step by step that Paul retains the shape of his Jewish theology but fills it with new content. I have often struggled to make this sort of point clear against people who force him into a lexical straitjacket — and against those who think, a la Marcion, that he abandoned everything Jewish and invented a new message from scratch. But unless Paul’s usage had a fair amount of continuity with what people of that day would have expected the words to mean — these were letters, after all, and he wouldn’t be there to explain it if when he said ‘righteousness’ he meant ‘Sydney Harbour Bridge’ — he would be incomprehensible. We can never, in other words, begin with the author’s use of a word; we must begin with the wider world he lived in, the world we meet in our lexicons, concordances, and other studies of how words were used in that world, and must then be alive to the possibility of a writer building in particular nuances and emphases of his or her own.

Let me risk labouring this point by adding the following. What I am doing, often enough, is exactly parallel, in terms of method, to what Martin Luther did when he took the gospel word metanoeiteand insisted that it didn’t mean ‘do penance’, as the Vulgate indicated, but ‘repent’ in a much more personal and heartfelt way. The only way to make that sort of point is to show that that’s what the word would have meant at the time. That’s the kind of serious biblical scholarship the Protestant Reformation was built on, and I for one am proud to carry on that tradition — if need be, against those who have turned the Reformation itself into a tradition to be set up over scripture itself.

Moving to the particular point about ‘righteousness’ and ‘salvation’, Barnett in fact hits his own wicket when he says they are synonyms. That’s the sort of trouble you get into if you insist on not seeing what words mean lexically. They do not mean the same thing, and actually the passage Barnett quotes from Romans 10 shows Paul making a careful distinction between them, as he does throughout his writings. ‘Righteousness’ in Paul is partly a courtroom status and partly a covenantal status, the former being a metaphor to help understand the significance of the latter. ‘Salvation’ in Paul means, of course, rescue from sin and death. Of course the two go hand in hand, but they are not synonyms, and nobody is helped by suggesting they are.

Is justification then a ‘process’, as Barnett says I say — with the result that he suggests my view ends up destroying ‘assurance’? Absolutely not! What seems to have happened here — and, to be blunt, in more than one North American attempted rebuttal of my work — is that criticisms regularly made by Protestant evangelicals against either Catholics or Liberals have been wheeled out as though they somehow ‘must’ be applicable to me as well. This is bizarre. My short sketch of justification above should put the matter straight.

The central point that Barnett makes has to do with the relationship between ‘the gospel’ and ‘justification’. I have just finished writing a popular commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and it was interesting to do so, this last month, with Barnett’s questions in my head. Let me make it clear that I do not, in any way, drive a wedge between ‘the gospel’ and ‘justification’. They belong intimately together, like fish and chips or Lindwall and Miller (I am trying, you see, to contextualise myself in the world of my readers). But they are not the same thing. ‘The gospel’, for Paul, is the proclamation that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Messiah, the Lord of the world. When Paul arrived in Thessalonica, or Athens, or Corinth, or wherever, we know what he announced, because he tells us: The Messiah died for our sins and rose again (1 Cor. 15.3-8; cf. 1 Thess. 4.14, where he is summarizing the same thing). Again and again in the Thessalonian correspondence Paul declares that this word, this gospel, worked with power in his hearers’ hearts, with the result that they came to faith: just as, in Rom. 1.16, the gospel (which Paul has summarized in 1.3-5) is God’s power to effect salvation. This moment is what he describes frequently as God’s ‘call’. Paul’s own ‘ordo salutis’ goes like this: God loved, chose, called and glorified (2 Thess. 2.13-14), or, in the fuller terms of Romans, God foreknew, foreordained, called, justified and glorified. This sequence is very interesting. The ‘call’, for Paul, is what happens when the gospel is preached: God’s word in that gospel works powerfully upon hearts and minds, and people find that they believe it — the crucified Jesus really is Israel’s Messiah, the world’s Lord! But — and this is my central point here, an exegetical point with large theological implications — Paul does not call this event ‘justification’. ‘Justification’ is the declaration which God at once makes, that all who share this faith belong to Christ, to his sin-forgiven family, the one family of believing Jews and believing Gentiles together, and are assured of final glorification.

I do not, then, ‘interpose’ extraneous elements between the effectual call and God’s declaration ‘righteous’. I never have, never would, never (please God) will. I merely insist on Paul’s scheme rather than our traditional evangelical ones, because I believe in the primacy of scripture rather than that of tradition. In Paul’s terms, ‘call’ and ‘justification’ are not the same thing. If centuries of theological tradition have used the word ‘justification’ to mean something else, that is another matter; but if that tradition leads us to misread Paul (as, in my view, it manifestly has), then we must deal with the problem at the root, and not be scared off from doing so by those who squeal that this doesn’t sound like what they heard in Sunday school. Barnett of course doesn’t do that, but he certainly misstates my point when he says that, according to me, ‘justification’ is ‘a badge of membership’. It isn’t, and I never said it was. Faith is the badge of membership, and, as soon as there is this faith, God declares ‘justified’. For Paul, faith is the result of the Spirit’s work through the preaching of the gospel (read 1 Cor. 12.3 with 1 Thess. 1.4-5 and 2.13); this is not driving a wedge between gospel and justification, but explaining how the gospel works to produce the faith because of which God declares ‘righteous’.

And the classic Pauline way in which God makes this declaration, stating publicly and visibly that this person is indeed within the family, is through baptism — which obviously, in the situation of primary evangelism, follows at a chronological interval, whether of five minutes or five years or whatever, but which simply says in dramatic action what God has in fact said the moment someone has believed. Nothing is ‘interposed’; no ‘wedge’ is driven between the gospel and justification. You might as well say that because I declare that the starter-motor of the car is not the same thing as the petrol engine I am driving a wedge between the one and the other. The two are designed to work in close correlation; but if the mechanic doesn’t know the difference between them he won’t be able to fix your car.

And the car needs fixing. Even though I am not an uncritical exponent of the ‘new perspective’, I cannot understand how a scholar like Barnett can criticise it, as he does at the end of his piece, as though it were a form of Pelagianism (‘surely I am good enough’, etc.). Sanders’s whole point was that that was not what Judaism was saying: you may disagree with his analysis, but his point was that the law and works were not appealing to the Jews as the basis of their salvation. If the New Perspective is pastorally naïve (Sanders was of course trying to be historical, not pastoral; those who opposed Martin Luther said he was being pastorally naïve, but he opposed them on the grounds of what Paul really said and meant) it is not for those reasons.

There are other major issues we haven’t touched on, and I am grateful to Bishop Barnett that he has raised things in such a focussed way. We haven’t, for instance, discussed the meaning ofdikaiosune theou, ‘God’s righteousness’, nor the vexed question of imputation. But I hope I have said enough at least to hit the ball firmly back across the net. If we are to keep the rally going, I hope it will be centrally focussed on the exegetical details, since as I have said more than once it is the text of scripture itself, rather than later traditions about what it is supposed to mean, that matters to me. By all means let’s look at the theological, evangelistic and pastoral questions, but let’s be clear where our authority lies.

I have spent most of my professional career in debate with scholars a million miles outside the evangelical tradition — people like Sanders, Vermes, Crossan, Borg, and semi-scholars like A.N. Wilson. I hope my fellow evangelicals realise what is involved in this, and how many people have expressed their gratitude to me for showing them a way to retain and celebrate Christian orthodoxy with intellectual integrity. It feels odd now to be debating the other way round, so to speak, but if it’s necessary I shall do it. And I hope and pray that those from within the household of faith who want to take issue with me on this or other topics will do me the courtesy, which I promise I shall do to them, of discussing criticisms with me first, so that we can clear up misunderstandings, before going public. I think that, too, is biblical.

The “Righteousness” of Romans and Galatians, and the Gospel of Christ

by Edward L. Hamilton

When comparing the message of Jesus in the gospels with that of Paul in Romans or Galatians, one (sooner or later) cannot help but be struck by the apparent disparity in attention given to the subjects of “righteousness” (dikaiosune) and “justification” (dikaiosis). In Romans, these words recur repeatedly, as centerpieces for an elaborate theological project developed over the entire course of that particular epistle. To Paul, the theoretical question of how one acquires dikaiosunefor oneself (and recognizes it in others) is an all-consuming priority, a point to which he returns again and again.

For Jesus, by contrast, the nature of righteousness is tacitly assumed to be a point of general consensus, a premise raised only occasionally as a prerequisite for other questions. Jesus never shows any interest in challenging someone’s interpretation of “where righteousness comes from,” defining different types of righteousness, or connecting it explicitly with his (quite common) references to the role of faith in healing and salvation. In fact, aside from a bit of foreshadowing about the role of the Spirit in John, Jesus never mentions righteousness outside of the gospel of Matthew, and even there he never uses it in the precise technical sense beloved by Paul.

To most orthodox Christians, who would demand that Paul be found a faithful steward of Christ’s teaching, this presents a challenge. Paul cannot be inventing a “new gospel” — the Lord forbid that he should fall under his own curse! (Gal 1:6-8) — so one of two possibilities must be true. Either the difference is purely a matter of vocabulary, and Paul is repackaging the teachings of Christ into new language, or the difference reflects Paul’s need to address some novel problem that has arisen since the resurrection. In the evangelical tradition, it has been most common to suggest the first option, and declare that the detailed theological constructs of Romans and Galatians are themselves “the gospel” of Christ — often with the implication that they are a substantially less opaque and more kerymatically pure presentation of “the gospel” than Jesus managed to provide himself! Martin Luther’s attitude, if perhaps extreme, is a usefully exaggerated example of the sort of gentle (?) deuterocanonization of the Synoptics that can result:

Now John writes very little about the works of Christ, but very much about His preaching. But the other Evangelists write much of His works and little of His preaching. Therefore John’s Gospel is the one, tender, true chief Gospel, far, far to be preferred to the other three and placed high above them. So, too, the Epistles of St. Paul and St. Peter far surpass the other three Gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke. In a word, St. John’s Gospel and his first Epistle, St. Paul’s Epistles, especially Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, and St. Peter’s first Epistle are the books that show you Christ and teach you all that is necessary and good for you to know, even though you were never to see or hear any other book or doctrine. (Preface to the New Testament)

The more regular, and more sophisticated, synthesis follows this line: Jesus, at least in the Synoptics, is mostly interested in challenging the Pharisees, since they thought that they could follow a Pelagian “works-gospel” that would allow them to be viewed by God as good enough to be worthy of entry into heaven. Jesus, who for much of his ministry was primarily interested in defeating their system of distorted Judaism, taught a gospel that amounted to a deliberate reductio ad absurdum of this system, presenting God as an infinitely demanding judge whose perfectionism could never possibly be satisfied by any human being.

The primary function of the “New Law” section of the Sermon of the Mount, for example, was to set the bar so high that even the Pharisees couldn’t clear it: “Be as holy as God is.” He didn’t honestly expect for any of his listeners to be able to satisfy the high standards he was setting, he just wanted them to sink into a state of total hopelessness concerning their own ethical capabilities, as an inspired act of “creative destruction.” Once everyone was uniformly leveled to a state of mutual despair, he could sacrifice himself to accomplish the real solution, and leave behind his disciples to explain what it all meant! Thus, both Jesus’ (superficially) positive moral teaching and his aggressive anti-Pharisee polemics are to be identified with the “negative” half of Paul’s gospel, clever indictments against the same false theory of righteousness that Paul is purportedly trying to refute.

There is a certain element of truth to some aspects of this picture. The gospel was, indeed, understood in part as a “mystery” before the resurrection. And it is impossible to escape the Synoptics without a deep impression that there was something catastrophically wrong about how the Pharisees were functioning as spiritual custodians of the Torah. But there are too many problems with this theory to allow it to be accepted uncritically in all its particulars. The suggestion that Jesus was deliberately insincere about aspects of his instruction, in even the most limited respect, is almost entirely unevidenced by any apostolic teaching in Acts or the Epistles. Too many elements of those extended teachings fall alarmingly close to exactly the sort of Pelagianism that Paul is supposedly critiquing. The alms-prayer-fasting praxis triad of Matthew 6, for example, doesn’t seem to attack the idea of “practicing righteousness to gain reward” so much as it emphasizes doing this discretely, to ensure that the reward comes from God and not men. The “cup of cold water” exhortation in Matthew 10 (and Mark 9) again straightforwardly makes this connection between doing good deeds and gaining eternal reward, with no reason to suspect any implicit irony. This point is driven home even more forcefully in contexts like Matthew 7:21-23 and the judgment of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25.

Now, none of this is to suggest that Jesus really means to preach a “works-gospel” himself! The heavy focus on forgiveness, constantly reinforced in Jesus’ encounters with various ostracized and marginalized “sinners,” makes it quite clear that apart from God’s mercy the human condition will remain deeply flawed. We cannot avoid noting, however, that every time Jesus does venture to discuss concepts like “works,” “reward,” and “salvation,” he seems unconcerned about affirming their interconnectedness, without ever qualifying his remarks: “Now don’t go taking these ideas too far like the Pharisees, or you won’t be emphasizing faith heavily enough.” The Pharisees are never criticized for teaching others to follow the Law — in fact, they are obliquely commended as authorities in Matthew 23:2 — but only for failing to follow it adequately themselves.

The problem with the Pharisees was not fundamentally that they were seeking to establish themselves as righteous according to their own works; they would surely have defended themselves by noting that the Torah was itself a gift from God. Rather, they were being condemned for overly scrupulous adherence to some portions of the Law to the neglect of others that were more important, and for doing this with the intent of earning the praise of men rather than God. This is certainly one way that one might choose to define “legalism,” but if so, it is not precisely the same as what we usually mean by “works-righteousness,” at least not since letting that category fall under the defining influence of Pelagius and Augustine.

Again, at the risk of redundancy, I must repeat that none of this means that Pelagius was right. What it really means is that Jesus and Paul, and the Pharisees, and whomever Paul was criticizing in Galatians, all would probably have agreed that Pelagius was dead wrong: We have no power to do good apart from God, period, and when we (inevitably) fail, we have no recourse but to supplicate God for unmerited forgiveness. But if “works-righteousness” is not really the locus of Jesus’ clash with the Jewish teachers of the Law, then we need to find a new approach to reconciling the apparent discontinuity of interest level in righteousness/justification between the gospels and the Pauline epistles.

The Alternative of the New Perspective

The so-called “new perspective on Paul” offers at least one possible alternative. Contra the traditional approach, commentators from the new perspective prefer to read the Pauline epistles as addressing more particular questions, uniquely relevant to circumstances in those ecclesial communities to which they were written. Specifically, the letters to Galatia and Rome were written to address questions of “community boundary” and “covenantal membership.” The “novel problem” that Paul needed to address was the sudden influx of non-proselyte Gentile converts that began during Paul’s first missionary journey (starting from the end of Acts 13). How were these Christians to be received? The consensus view of the Jerusalem council was that they be received as Gentiles, without embracing the purity code, and without circumcision. This decision, as presented by the brief synopsis of Luke, seems to have been embraced as a leap of faith by the apostolic community. The Spirit, so far as anyone could tell, was indwelling Gentiles in the same way as Jews, and since the Spirit was sent to lead the Church into “all truth,” there was little point in arguing. It’s not even entirely clear that the elders of Jerusalem realized, at the time, the extent to which this necessitated a radical restructuring of communal identity for “the people of God,” but eventually the ecclesiological implications needed to be hashed out in detail, and that task quite naturally fell to the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul.

The epistle to the Galatians represents a fairly practical response to the external symptoms of Judaizing tendencies, in this case, a sundered fellowship between those who demanded circumcision (along with Sabbath-keeping and some other non-ethical componenents of the Torah) and those who did not. Paul’s answer is vigorous and forceful, and relies more heavily on his own apostolic authority as an inspired minister of the gospel than on any detailed argument. The Law, while formerly useful for the purpose for which it was intended, must yield to the transformed reality of the resurrected Christ. Everything about the new “way” of Jesus, the conversions, the miracles, the ekklesia, the Spirit, and the promise of righteousness, all of that came as a result of “hearing with faith,” quite apart from any invocation of the Law. Paul seems almost stunned that his new church, after hearing the gospel, could return to behaving as though this was just the latest retooling of proselyte Judaism.

In this short correspondence, Paul isn’t trying to carefully elucidate a robust ecclesiology for the ages, he just wants to keep his new church from collapsing within a few months of underwriting its charter. That doesn’t make his dialectic any less brilliant and energetic, but it does suggest a certain degree of caution should be taken before universalizing his fleshy prose to function as prooftexts for other controversies — whether for the relationship between Jews and Christians (as per Nicene patristic thought, which discovered a more sweeping polemic against Judaism as a whole), or for foundational questions of soteriology (as per Luther, who discovered a supernaturally prescient critique of the Catholicism of his era). Paul just doesn’t have questions nearly that broad in his viewscope, and reading him as if he does may come at our peril.

Before turning to Romans, as Paul’s mature tour de force evaluation of the difficulties that first arose in Galatia, it would be prudent to review the elements of the new perspective most germane to this study. The new perspective, to begin with, insists that “righteousness” for Paul and his Jewish contemporaries never means an abstract moral state or disposition, but is intimately connected with the outcome of the eschatological project of Israel’s God. The coming of the Messiah, as commonly affirmed by every sect of Second Temple Judaism, was expected to concretely vindicate the faithfulness of Israel in the presence of all other nations. Being “found righteous” meant that one would be included in that group of devout Jews who had avoided falling into apostasy and departed from the proper worship of the true God.

The Law, among other functions, provided a sort of spiritual barometer for how well that fidelity was being maintained. If sacrifices continued to be offered, if unclean meats and abhorrent sexual immoralities were eschewed, if the feasts and Sabbaths were steadfastly observed, then Israel’s people could take comfort that they were “ready” for final judgment and subsequent redemption, the Messianic age promised by the prophets, to arrive as the culmination of history. If these elements were being neglected, it was a sign that Israel was being lax and careless about the maintenance of its covenants, and that the God who had vowed to eternally abide by them might ignore Israel, or even permit another extended period of persecution and geographical exile.

Righteousness, thus, could only be understood within the context of that series of distinctive convenants that had been established between God and Israel’s patriarchs, priests, and kings.Israel’s “righteousness” was guaranteed by fidelity to those covenantal obligations, and God similarly demonstrated His “righteousness” by serving as their guarantor in perpetuity. In order to properly appreciate the complexity of the problem addressed by Romans, we need to recognize that Christianity was being attacked as deficient on both sides of that relation. Paul refers frequently to not only our righteousness, but also “the righteousness of God.” The traditional Reformed reading takes these two phrases to define the opposite ends of a common axis. We either have a “righteousness centered on (or originating from) ourselves,” or its antithesis, a “righteousness centered on (or originating from) God.” Obviously, the former is designated as the object of criticism, and the latter commended as what we should seek instead.

But Romans is not simply about our righteousness, and where it comes from, and thus this conclusion begins from a false premise. It is also providing a theodicy. Paul is genuinely concerned that Christianity is vulnerable to the charge that it literally describes a God who is “unrighteous” by Jewish standards. He takes this charge quite seriously, for its own sake. Of course, in order to have a proper understanding as to why God has in fact remained righteous, all appearances to the contrary, we also need a proper perspective on how human righteousness is to be recognized. The questions are intricately linked and cannot be disentangled, so Paul needs to constantly refer back and forth between them in a way that can easily blur them together unless we pay careful attention to the flow of thought. But God’s righteousness will, at the end of the day, still be God’s righteousness, and human righteousness will, at the end of the day, still be human righteousness — because we are different parties operating under a common covenantal framework with different responsibilities.

Why was the Christian God potentially open to an accusation of unrighteousness? For two reasons. First, Paul’s position on the function of the Law (as first presented in Galatians and reiterated in Romans 2 and 8) is that it brings only condemnation, in fact, exactly the same condemnation that would occur apart from the Law. The Law is useful, but only as a sort of communication from God concerning our fallen state that forces us to face hard facts. (Ironically, this is exactly the interpretation of Jesus’ “New Law” that the evangelical Protestant tradition provides!)

But surely some of the Jews, the ones commended for their righteousness in the Hebrew Scriptures, were genuinely righteous, were they not? Does Paul’s revisionism amount to a retroactive claim that no one in Israel was ever truly righteous? Any God who would authorize changing the rules halfway through the game is guilty of appalling trickery, especially if the rules are changed in a such a way that those who thought they might have a chance at “winning” are really losing just as badly as everyone else. Paul’s formidable challenge is to demonstrate that the rules really haven’t changed. Those who were found righteous before Christ, and those who are found righteous after Christ, must be “found righteous” (i.e., identified as members of the community that will be eschatologically vindicated) for identical reasons.

Second, over the first few decades of Church expansion, the geographical center of the Christian movement had swung inexorably away from Palestine and Jerusalem, and the ethnic core of converts was increasingly non-Jewish. As far as virtually all evidence in the prophets was concerned, this was exactly the opposite of what any good Jew would have anticipated. If the Messianic age was really at hand, the wealth of the Gentile nations should have been flowing intoIsrael (Isa 45:14; 60:5-16; Micah 4:13; Zeph 2:9). The kings of the Gentiles should recognize Israel’s sovereignty, and their defiant peoples reduced to servitors (Isa 49:23; 45:14,23; Micah 7:17). The Gentiles should have been facing destruction at the hand of Israel and Israel’s God (Isa 54:3; Micah 5:10-15; Zeph 2:11). The only option for salvation of the Gentiles would be to gather them together with the remnant of Israel, the exclusive vessel of redemption (Isa 56:6-8, cf. the “diaspora witness” passage in Isa 66:18-24). Contrary to all of this prophetic witness, it was increasingly obvious that the epicenters of Christian expansion, the bases for future missionary activity, would be Gentile cities like Syrian Antioch, Ephesus, and Rome.

The last of these was particularly scandalous from a Jewish perspective. Rome was the mystical continuation of Nineveh and Babylon, and its deified Caesar was heir to the impiety of Antiochus Epiphanes. For God to reject the cities of Israel (“Woe to you Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum”) and relocate His base of redemptive operation to somewhere like Rome was an act of pure treachery. Paul’s job here is, if anything, even harder. He needs to explain why a body of recent converts who bear no outward resemblence to Jews are nonetheless the true heirs to the promises made to Israel, and why this cannot simply be fairly caricatured as “God just got sick of His old chosen people and had them replaced by a new batch.” (Initially, of course, this accusation would be expected from the Jews, but as we have seen historically, it has been all the more problematic a form of reductionism in the hands of Christians….)

Resolving the Tensions

A wonderful feature of the new perspective is that, despite radically redefining the questions involved, the answer is pretty much the same one we’ve been using all along: “The just shall live by faith.” Faith, then, is the distinguishing feature of those who will be ultimately vindicated by the work of God that unfolds throughout history and is consummated in the eschaton. This resolves (though far from trivially, and with much necessary intermediate exposition) the threat on both fronts. The righteous have always been justified by faith all along, and to the extent that they have been under the Law, the Law has functioned quite properly to point them towards the need for that faith.

Similarly, “faith” as a common feature to the righteous allows for a redefinition of Israel in response to the proclamation of Christ’s gospel. Abraham is truly “the father of us all,” that is, all those who are found to live by faith, and the new ekklesia is grafted smoothly onto the old Israel, pruned of dead branches but still rooted in the same fertile soil (and, Paul broadly hints, this is exactly the surgical operation that needs to be performed to ensure a return to full health at some distant point in the future, after “the fullness of the Gentiles has come in”). Even more impressively, we find in Romans 6 that our own “righteousness by faith” exists in elegant symmetry to God’s “righteousness revealed through faithfulness,” in particular, God’s faithfulness in providing a Savior who could satisfy the debt of the Law, conquer death and end the reign of sin. Freed from sin, we have the opportunity to pursue sanctification by submitting our lives to the model of Christ’s perfect obedience, even the demanding program of sanctification prescribed by Christ, and thereby obtain eternal life.

On one “axis” of controversy, we find that the just are to be identified as righteous on account of their faith in Christ, not on the basis of works of the Law. This means that Gentiles can be invited into the ekklesia as Gentiles, and Jews as Jews, without any need to transform one into the other. On the other axis, we discover that this resolves the ostensible threats that were causing God to appear “unrighteous” rather than “righteous,” and thus the righteousness of God is consistently demonstrated before, during, and after the advent of Christ’s gospel.

The debate was never really a matter of whether our righteousness came “from ourselves” or “from God.” I suspect that if you asked Paul, he would heartily endorse the latter, but that simply isn’t what he’s devoting a lengthy and complex letter to establishing. The debate was over on what basis our righteousness (status as members of the true people of God) comes — “faith,” versus “the Law” — and whether or not the answer to this question is consonant with God’s (covenantal) faithfulness, and we should read and apply it with this in mind.

As an application of this interpretation to a specific test case, let’s look at the beginning of Romans 10. Paul is criticizing his fellow Jews; “they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” The next line reads, “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own righteousness, did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”

How do we read the contrast between “God’s righteousness” and “their own righteousness”? In the traditional model, this is a question of origin: Paul wants us to quit trying to find a righteousness from “within ourselves,” and start looking to God. But that really wasn’t a fault that could be fairly ascribed to the Jews, who were under no illusion about Who was ultimately responsible for providing Torah to them. From the new perspective, we instead view the distinction between “God’s righteousness” and “our righteousness” as formally benign. God should have a righteousness proper to Himself, and we are wise to seek to establish a righteousness proper to ourselves (though, to be sure, derived ultimately from God).

The problem, then, is not with the Jews trying to establish “their own righteousness.” The problem is that this must be done in a way that respects the pattern laid down by God’s righteousness, as per Christ’s great act of obedience in Romans 5. (The is the “knowledge” with which the commendable Jewish “zeal” to pursue righteousness fails to be in accordance.) The right approach to establishing one’s righteousness is thus, as we all know, based on faith rather than based on the Law — but we should resist exactly equating “based on faith” with “God’s righteousness,” and “based on Law” with “our own righteousness.” It’s not that we actually receive God’s righteousness as a sort of transferred commodity; it’s that we look upon it, climatically manifested in Christ’s obedience to the point of death, as the prototypical example of how we ought to go about acquiring and preserving our own righteousness.

This is a subtle point, but it is absolutely essential to prevent the collapse of divine and human righteousness, two entirely separate entities, into a single amorphous “pot” of righteousness that God is pooling with us. That loss of distinction muddles the true, more delicate interdependence of the two controversies, and creates all manner of unnecessary anxiety about whether or not baptism, or faith, or repentance, or anything else, might originate partly from within us and thus fail to truly be “righteousness of (i.e., from) God.”

Paul, I’m sure, would quite enthusiastically endorse the sort of language that makes all of these things a manifestation of the Spirit working within us (rather than our own labor), and would also warn just as strongly against boasting on the basis of personal faith just as he does against boasting on the basis of Law. But the hyper-Calvinist paranoia that we might accidentally believe the gospel “in the wrong sort of way,” and fatally taint the ordo salutis with unconscious semi-Pelagianism, is simply an unfortunate side effect of a botched misreading of Romans.

The New Perspective on Paul: A Bibliographical Essay

by Michael F. Bird

Last Update: 30 April 2006

  • About this Bibliography
  • Introductions to the NPP
  • Antecedents to Sanders
  • Works by E.P. Sanders
  • Articles
  • Monographs
  • Justification
  • Law and “Works of the Law”
  • Studies on Judaism in Light of the NPP
  • Commentaries that Engage the NPP
  • Online Resources

About this Bibliography

This bibliography is my collection, annotation and contribution to the growing mass of literature on the New Perspective on Paul (NPP).  It is by no means an exhaustive collection, although I hope it is far more extensive than the average bibliography you’ll find at the end of lecture notes or even at the back of a textbook.  There are works that could appear under three or four different headings (esp. when they deal with Luther, Law, Justification and Judaism rolled into one!).  I have tried to stratify the various monographs and articles in a thematic way, but some works could easily overlap under different headings.  I have also cited only a handful of materials available on the internet and I limited my selection to works which I deem to be significant to the on-going debate.  A fuller referencing of electronic materials is conveniently catalogued on the ‘Paul Page’.  My thanks to Mark Mattison for posting this bibliography on his webpage and I hope it benefits students and scholars alike.

 

 

Introductions to the NPP

 

Mark M. Mattison, “A Summary of the New Perspective on Paul.”http://www.thepaulpage.com/Summary.html.

James A.  Meek, “The New Perspective on Paul: An Introduction for the Uninitiated,” Concordia Journal 27 (2001): 208-33.

Jay E. Smith, “The New Perspective on Paul: A Select and Annotated Bibliography,” Criswell Theological Review 2.2 (2005): 91-111.

Michael B. Thompson, The New Perspective on Paul (Cambridge: Grove Books Limited, 2002). Probably the best introduction to the NPP in print. It is available on-line: http://www.grovebooks.co.uk/cart.php?target=product&product_id=16249&substring=

 

 

Antecedents to Sanders

C. G. Montefiore, Judaism and St. Paul: Two Essays (New York: Dutton, 1915).  The Judaism that Paul knew was a cold form of Diaspora Judaism and not Rabbinic Judaism.

G. F. Moore, “Christian Writers on Judaism,” HTR 14 (1921): 197-254.  Moore supposed that Christian writers are influenced by an apologetic desire to see in Judaism the antithesis to grace.

G. F. Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era (2 vols.; Harvard: HUP, 1927).

W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology (4th ed.;Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980 [1948]).

Samuel Sandmel, The Genius of Paul: A Study in History (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1958).

H. J. Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History(Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961).

Preston M. Sprinkle, “The Old Perspective on the New Perspective: A Review of Some ‘Pre-Sanders’ Thinkers,” Themelios 30 (2005): 21-31.  Highlights antecedents to Sanders in works by G.F. Moore, K. Stendahl, George Howard, Joseph Tyson and N.A. Dahl.

Krister Stendahl, “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” HTR 56 (1963): 199-215; repr. in Paul among Jews and Gentiles (London: SCM, 1976), 76-96.  The seminal article where Stendahl urges that Paul had a ‘robust conscience’ and did not wrestle with feelings of personal guilt like Augustine and Luther.

Works by E.P. Sanders

E.P. Sanders, “Patterns of Religion in Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: A Holistic Method of Comparison,” HTR 66 (1973): 455-78.

E.P. Sanders, “The Covenant as a Soteriological Category and the Nature of Salvation in Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism,” in Jews, Greeks and Christians, eds. Robert Hamerton Kelly and RobinScroggs (Leiden: Brill, 1976), 11-44.

E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison in Patters of Religion (London: SCM, 1977).  The ground-breaking book by Sanders where he proposes his view of Palestinian Judaism as covenantal nomism: “Covenantal nomism is the view that one’s place in God’s plan is established on the basis of the covenant and that the covenant requires as the proper response of man his obedience to its commandments, while providing means of atonement for transgression” (p. 75); “The ‘pattern’ or ‘structure’ of covenantal nomism is this: (1) God has chosen Israel and (2) given the law.  The law implies (3) God’s promise to maintain the election and (4) the requirement to obey.  (5) God rewards obedience and punishes transgression.  (6) The law provides for means of atonement, and atonement results in (7) maintenance or re-establishment of the covenantal relationship.  (8) All those who are maintained in the covenant by obedience, atonement and God’s mercy belong to the group which will be saved.  An important interpretation of the first and last points is that election and ultimately salvation are considered to be God’s mercy rather than human achievement” (p. 422).

E.P. Sanders, “On the Question of Fulfilling the Law in Paul and Rabbinic Judaism,” in DonumGentilicum: New Testament Studies in Honour of David Daube, eds. C.K. Barrett, E. Bammel and W.D. Davies (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978), 103-26.

E.P. Sanders, “Paul’s Attitude Toward the Jewish People,” USQR 33 (1978): 175-87.

E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (Fortress: Philadelphia, 1983).

E.P. Sanders, Paul (Oxford: OUP, 1991).

Articles

Dale C. Allison, “Jesus and the Covenant: A Response to E.P. Sanders,” JSNT 29 (1987): 57-78.

C. K. Barrett, “Paul and the Introspective Conscience,” in The Bible, the Reformation and the Church: Festschrift for James Atkinson, ed. W. P. Stephens (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), 36-48.

Paul Barnett, “Galatians and Earliest Christianity,” RTR 59 (2000): 112-29.

Markus Barth, “Jews and Gentiles: The Social Character of Justification in Paul,” JES 5 (1968): 241-67.

F. Best, “The Apostle Paul and E.P. Sanders: The Significance of Paul and Palestinian Judaism,”ResQ 25 (1982): 65-74.

Michael F. Bird, “When the Dust Finally Settles: Reaching a Post New Perspective Perspective,”Criswell Theological Review (forthcoming 2005).  Bird argues that Judaism was variegated and some strands emphasized grace and others obedience.  Merit theology (of some kind) does provide the backdrop for Paul’s formulation of law and justification.  However, Paul’s primary problem was not confronting legalism but trying to get Gentiles accepted as Gentiles by Jews into fellowship.

Michael F. Bird, “Justification as Forensic Declaration and Covenant Membership: A Via Mediabetween Reformed and Revisionist Readings of Paul,” (forthcoming in Tyndale Bulletin).  This article contends that justification includes God’s declaration of righteousness for believers and the inclusion of Gentiles into the people of God.  Paul confronts an “ethnocentric nomism” and espouses a view of justification whereby God “creates a new people with a new status in a new covenant as a foretaste of the new age”.

Brendan Byrne, “Interpreting Romans Theologically in a Post-‘New Perspective’ Perspective,” HTR94 (2001): 227-41.  Byrne considers himself within the NPP but still thinks that the NPP is theologically impoverished since it fails to adequately reckon with the intense exploration of human sin and alienation from God in the early part of Romans.

Brendan Byrne, “Interpreting Romans: The New Perspective and Beyond,” Interpretation 58 (2004): 241-52.

W. S.  Campbell, “The New Perspective on Paul: Review Article.” ExpT 114.11 (2003): 383-86. Review of Seyoon Kim, Paul and the New Perspective, Michael B. Thompson, The New Perspective on Paul, and Simon J. Gathercole, Where is the Boasting?.  Campbell thinks that these works are significant but fail to abolish or refute the primary contentions of the NPP.

D. A. Campbell, “The DIAQHKH from Durham: Professor Dunn’s The Theology of Paul the Apostle,”JSNT 72 (1998): 91-111.

Tim Chester, “Justification, Ecclesiology and the New Perspective,” Themelios 30 (2005): 5-20.  A critical, yet sympathetic reading of the NPP (see esp. his summary on the pros and cons of the NPP on pp. 18-19).

Michael Cranford, “The Possibility of Perfect Obedience: Paul and an Implied Premise in Galatians 3:10 and 5:3,” NovT 36 (1994): 242-58.

Michael Cranford, “Abraham in Romans 4: The Father of All Who Believe,” NTS 41 (1995): 71-88.

A. Andrew Das, “Beyond Covenantal Nomism: Paul, Judaism, and Perfect Obedience,” Concordia Journal 27 (2001): 234-52.

James E. Davidson, “The Patterns of Salvation in Paul and in Palestinian Judaism,” JRS 15 (1989): 99-118.

W. D. Davies, “Paul: from the Jewish Point of View,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 3 – The Early Roman Period, eds. William Horbury, W. D. Davies and John Sturdy (Cambridge: CUP, 1999), 3.678-730.

Terence L. Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert: The Origin of Paul’s Christ-Torah Antithesis,” CBQ 51 (1989): 655-82.

James D. G. Dunn, “The New Perspective on Paul,” BJRL 65 (1983): 95-122.

James D. G. Dunn, “A Man More Sinned Against than Sinning? A Response to Carl Trueman,”http://www.thepaulpage.com/Response.html.  Dunn’s impassioned response against Trueman’saccusation that Dunn repudiates the reformers.

James D. G. Dunn, “Did Paul have a covenant theology? reflections on Romans 9.4 and 11.27,” InConcept of the Covenant in the Second Temple Period, Stanley E. Porter and Jacqueline De-Roo, eds., (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 287-307.

James D. G. Dunn, “Paul and Justification by Faith,” in The Road From Damascus, ed. Richard N.Longenecker (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), 85-101.

James D. G. Dunn, “The Theology of Galatians: The Issue of Covenantal Nomism,” Pauline Theology Volume 1: Thessalonians, Philippians, Galatians, Philemon, ed. Jouette M. Bassler(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 125-146.

Pamela Eisenbaum, “A Remedy for Having Been Born of Woman: Jesus, Gentiles, and Genealogy in Romans,” JBL 123/4 (2004): 671-7-2.

Timo Eskola, “Paul, Predestination and Covenantal Nomism – Reassessing Paul and Palestinian Judaism,” JJS (1997): 390-412.

J. M. Espy, “Paul’s ‘Robust Conscience’ Re-examined,” NTS 31 (1985): 161-88.

J.V. Fesko, “N.T. Wright and the Sign of the Covenant,” SBET 23 (2005): 30-39.

Donald B. Garlington, “The New Perspective on Paul: An Appraisal Two Decades Later,” Criswell Theological Review 2.2 (2005): 17-38.

Robert H. Gundry, “Grace, Works, and Staying Saved in Paul,” Bib 66 (1985): 1-38.

Simon Gathercole, “After the New Perspective: Works, Justification and Boasting in Early Judaism and Romans 1-5,” TynBul 52 (2001): 303-6.

Simon Gathercole, “Early Judaism and Covenantal Nomism: An Article-Review,” EQ 76 (2004): 153-162.

Donald A. Hagner, “Paul and Judaism: The Jewish Matrix of Early Christianity: Issues in the Current Debate,” BBR 3 (1993): 111-130.

Donald A. Hagner, “Paul and Judaism: Testing the New Perspective,” in Revisiting Paul’s Doctrine of Justification (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2001), 75-105.

Donald A. Hagner, “Paul’s Quarrel with Judaism,” in Anti-Semitism and Early Christianity: Issues of Polemic and Faith, eds. Craig A. Evans and Donald A. Hagner (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993) 128-50.

James M. Hamilton Jr., “N.T. Wright and Saul’s Moral Bootstraps,” TrinJ 25 (2004), 139-55. Hamilton contends that Wright over-emphasizes the lack of merit theology in Judaism.

Daniel J. Harrington, “Paul and Judaism: 5 Puzzles.”  Bible Review 9 (1993): 19-25, 52.

Roman Heiligenthal, “Soziologische Implikationen der paulinischen Rechhfertigungslehre imGalaterbrief am Beispiel der ‘Werke des Gesetzes’. Beobachtunger zur Identitätsfindung einerfrühchristenlichen Gemeinde,” Kairos 26 (1984): 38-53.

Morna D. Hooker, “Paul and Covenantal Nomism,” in Paul and Paulinism: Essays in Honour of C.K. Barrett, eds. M.D. Hooker and S.G. Wilson (London, 1982), 47-56.

Bruce Longenecker, “On Critiquing the ‘New Perspective’ on Paul: A Case Study,” 96 ZNW (2005): 263-271.

Donald Macleod, “How Right Are the Justified? Or, What is a Dikaios?” SBET 22.2 (2004): 173-95.

Donald Macleod, “The New Perspective: Paul, Luther and Judaism,” SBET 22 (2004): 4-31

I. Howard Marshall, “Salvation, Grace and Works in the later Writings in the Pauline Corpus,” NTS42 (1996): 339–58.

J. Louis Martyn, “Events in Galatia: Modified Covenantal Nomism Versus God’s Invasion of the Cosmos in the Singular gospel: A Response to J. D. G. Dunn and B. R. Gaventa,” in Pauline Theology Volume 1: Thessalonians, Philippians, Galatians, Philemon, ed. Jouette M. Bassler(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 160-79.

Frank J. Matera, “Galatians in Perspective: Cutting a New Path through Old Territory,” Int 54 (2000): 233-43.

R. B. Matlock, “Sins of the Flesh and Suspicious Minds: Dunn’s New Theology of Paul,” JSNT 72 (1998): 67-90.

R. Barry Matlock, “Almost Cultural Studies? Reflections on the ‘New Perspective’ on Paul,” inBible/Cultural Studies: The Third Sheffield Colloquium, eds. J. Cheryl Exum and Stephen D. Moore (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), 433-59.

Douglas Moo, “Excursus: Paul, ‘Works of the Law,’ and First-Century Judaism,” in The Epistle to the Romans (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 211-17.

C. F. D. Moule, “Jesus, Judaism, and Paul,” in Tradition and Interpretation in the New Testament: Essays in Honor of E. Earle Ellis for His 60th Birthday, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne and Otto Betz (Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1987), 43-52.

Nicholas Perrin, “A Reformed Perspective on the New Perspective,” WTJ 67 (2005): 381-89.

Charles L. Quarles, “The New Perspective and the Means of Atonement in Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period,” Criswell Theological Review 2.2 (2005): 39-56.

Charles L. Quarles, “The Soteriology of R. Akiba and E.P. Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism,”NTS 42 (1996): 185-95.

Heikki Räisänen, “Legalism and Salvation by the Law,” in Die Paulinische Literatur und Theologie(FS S. Pedersen; Göttingen, 1980), 63-83.

Karl Olav Sandnes, “‘Justification by Faith’ – An Outdated Doctrine?  The ‘New Perspective’ on Paul – A Presentation and Appraisal,” Theology and Life 17-19 (1996): 127-46.

Thomas R. Schreiner, “Israel’s Failure to Attain Righteousness in Romans 9:30-10:3,” TrinJ 12 (1991): 209-20.

Christian Stettler, “Paul, the Law and Judgement by Works,” EQ 76 (2004): 195-215.

Mark A. Seifrid, “Blind Alleys in the Controversy over the Paul of History,” TynBul 45 (1994): 73-96

Mark A. Seifrid, “The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ and its Problem,” Them 25 (2000): 4-18.

Vincent M. Smiles, “The concept of ‘zeal’ in Second-Temple Judaism and Paul’s critique of it in Romans 10:2,” CBQ 64 (2002): 282-299.

Charles H. Talbert, “Paul on the Covenant,” RevExp 84 (1987): 299-313.

Charles H. Talbert, “Freedom and Law in Galatians,” Ex Auditu 11 (1995): 17-28.

Charles H. Talbert, “Paul, Judaism, and the Revisionists,” CBQ 16 (2001): 1-22.

Frank Thielman, “Paul as Jewish Christian Theologian: The Theology of Paul in the Magnum Opus of James Dunn,” Perspectives in Religious Studies 25 (1998): 381-87.

Carl Trueman, “A Man More Sinned Against than Sinning?  The Portrait of Martin Luther in Contemporary New Testament Scholarship: Some Casual Observations of a Mere Historian.” Unpublished paper presented at Tyndale Fellowship in Cambridge in 2000. http://www.crcchico.com/covenant/trueman.html.

Gerhard H. Visscher, “New Views regarding Legalism and Exclusivism in Judaism: Is There a Need to Reinterpret Paul?” Koinonia 18 (1999): 15-42.

Francis Watson, “Not the New Perspective,” Unpublished paper delivered to the British New Testament Conference 2001.  http://www.abdn.ac.uk/divinity/staff/watsonart.shtml.  An excellent article by a NPP turncoat!  Watson’s taxonomy of the NPP using the Calvinistic acronym TULIPS is humorous and worth reading, not to mention the reasons for his change of mind on the issue.

Stephen Westerholm, “The Righteousness of the Law and the Righteousness of Faith in Romans,”Interpretation 55 (2004): 253-64.

N. T. Wright, “The Paul of History and the Apostle of Faith,” TynBul 29 (1978): 61-88  Synopsis: The debate between E Käsemann and K Stendahl about justification and salvation history may be resolved with the help of a new overall view of Pauline theology.  For Paul, the messiah represents his people, so that a crucified messiah means a crucified Israel. This provides Paul with his critique of Israel, aimed not at “works-righteousness” but at “national righteousness”. Paul has been distorted by various schools of NT criticism: this view combines their strong points while avoiding their weaknesses.

N.T. Wright, “Gospel and Theology in Galatians,” in Gospel in Paul: Studies on Corinthians, Galatians and Romans for Richard N. Longenecker, eds. L. Ann Jervis and Peter Richardson (JSNTSup 108; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994), 222–239.

N.T. Wright, “Two Radical Jews: a review article of Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity,” Reviews in Religion and Theology 3 (1995): 15–23.

N.T. Wright, “Romans and the Theology of Paul,” in Pauline Theology, Volume III, eds. David M. Hay & E. Elizabeth Johnson, (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995), 30–67. (Republished, with minor alterations, from SBL 1992 Seminar Papers, ed. E. H. Lovering, pp. 184–213).

N.T. Wright, “New Exodus, New Inheritance: the Narrative Substructure of Romans 3—8,” inRomans and the People of God: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Fee on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday, eds. S. K. Soderlund & N. T. Wright (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 26–35.

N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Galatians: Exegesis and Theology,” in Between Two Horizons: Spanning New Testament Studies and Systematic Theology, eds. Joel B. Green & Max Turner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 205–36.

N.T. Wright, “Coming Home to St Paul? Reading Romans a Hundred Years after Charles Gore,”SJT 55 (2002): 392–407.

N.T. Wright, “Redemption from the New Perspective,” in Redemption, eds. S.T. Davis, D. Kendall, & G. O’Collins (Oxford: OUP, 2004).

Paul F. M. Zahl, “A New Source for Understanding German Theology: Käsemann, Bultmann, and the ‘New Perspective on Paul’,” Sewanee Theological Review 39 (1996): 413-22.

Paul F. M. Zahl, “E. P. Sanders’ Paul Versus Luther’s Paul: Justification by Faith in the Aftermath of the Scholarly Crisis,” St. Luke’s Journal of Theology 34 (1994): 33-40.

Paul F. M. Zahl, “Mistakes of the New Perspective on Paul,” Themelios 27 (2001): 5-11.

Monographs

Michael Bachmann and Johannes Woyke, Lutherische und Neue Paulusperspektive: Beiträg zueinem Schlüsselproblem der gegenwärtigen exegetischen Diskussion (WUNT 2.182: Tubingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2005).

John Barclay, Obeying the Truth: A Study of Paul’s Ethics in Galatians (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988).

Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (California: University of California Press, 1994).

Gary W. Burnett, Paul and the Salvation of the Individual (Leiden: Brill, 2001).

W. S. Campbell, Paul’s Gospel in an Intercultural Context: Jew and Gentile in the Letter to the Romans (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1991).

D. A. Carson, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Divine Perspectives in Tension(Atlanta: John Knox, 1981).

D. A. Carson, Peter O’Brien and Mark A. Seifrid, eds., Justification and Variegated Nomism: Volume 2 – The Paradoxes of Paul (WUNT 2.181: Tubingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2004; Grand Rapids,MI: Baker, 2004). Essays include: Stephen Westerholm (The “New Perspective” at Twenty-Five); Mark A. Seifrid (Paul’s Use of Righteousness Language Against Its Hellenistic Background); MartinHengel (The Stance of the Apostle Paul Toward the Law in the Unknown Years Between Damascus and Antioch); Mark A. Seifrid: (Unrighteous by Faith: Apostolic Proclamation in Romans 1:18-3:20); S. J. Gathercole (Justified by Faith, Justified by his Blood: The Evidence of Romans 3:21-4:25); Douglas J. Moo (Israel and the Law in Romans 5-11: Interaction with the New Perspective); MoisésSilva (Faith Versus Works of Law in Galatians); Peter T. O’Brien (Was Paul a Covenantal Nomist?); Robert Yarbrough (Paul and Salvation History); Timo Laato (Paul’s Anthropological Considerations: Two Problems); Peter T. O’Brien (Was Paul Converted?); D. A. Carson (Mystery and Fulfillment: Toward a More Comprehensive Paradigm of Paul’s Understanding of the Old and the New); Timothy George (Modernizing Luther, Domesticating Paul: Another Perspective); Henri Blocher (Justification of the Ungodly [Sola Fide]: Theological Reflections).

A. Andrew Das, Paul, the Law, and the Covenant (Peabody, MA:  Hendrickson, 2001).

A. Andrew Das, Paul and the Jews (Library of Pauline Studies; ed. Stanley E. Porter; Peabody,MA:  Hendrickson, 2003).

David A. DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament: Context, Methods & Ministry Formation(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004).  See section: “The ‘New Perspective’ on Paul and Early Judaism” (pp. 500-1) and “Criticisms of the ‘New Perspective’” (pp. 518-19).

Terence L. Donaldson, Paul and the Gentiles: Remapping the Apostle’s Convictional World(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997).

John W. Drane, Paul: Libertine or Legalist? (London: SPCK, 1975).

J. Ligon Duncan, Misunderstanding Paul? Responding to the New Perspectives (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005).

James D. G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians (London: SPCK, 1990).

James D. G. Dunn, The New Perspective on Paul: Collected Essays (WUNT 185; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2005).

James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Cambridge: CUP, 1993).

James D. G. Dunn and Alan M. Suggate, The Justice of God: A fresh look at the old doctrine of justification by faith (Carlisle, UK: Paternoster, 1993).

James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Edinburgh: T& T Clark, 1998).

James D. G. Dunn, ed., The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul (Cambridge: CUP, 2003).

Brad Eastman, The Significance of Grace in the Letters of Paul (New York: Peter Lang, 1999).

 

Kathy Ehrensperger, That We May Be Mutually Encouraged: Feminism and the New Perspective in Pauline Studies (London: T&T Clark, 2004).

Neil Elliott, The Rhetoric of Romans: Argumentative Constraint and Strategy and Paul’s Dialogue with Judaism (JSNTSup 45; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990).

Timo Eskola, Theodicy and Predestination in Pauline Soteriology (WUNT 2.100; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1998).  See “Excursus: The Theory of Covenantal Nomism” pp. 52-60.  He raises three main points: (1) If legalism means that keeping the law affects eschatological salvation, then covenantal nomism is legalistic nomism by definition. (2) Covenantal nomism is a synergisticnomism. (3) Sanders reduces soteriology to the categories of sociology.

Don B. Garlington, The Obedience of Faith (WUNT 2.38; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1991).

Don B. Garlington, Faith, Obedience, and Perseverance: Aspects of Paul’s Letter to the Romans(WUNT 79; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1994).

Don B. Garlington, In Defense of the New Perspective on Paul: Essays and Reviews (Eugene, OR:Wipf & Stock, 2005).

John G. Gager, Reinventing Paul (Oxford: OUP, 2000).

Simon J. Gathercole, Where is the Boasting? Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul’s Response in Romans 1-5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002).  Gathercole argues that Jewish boasting concerned both election and obedience to the law.

Michael J. Gorman Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004).

Sigurd Grindheim, The Crux of Election: Paul’s Critique of the Jewish Confidence in the Election ofIsrael (WUNT 2.202; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2005).

Martin Hengel (with R. Deines), The Pre-Christian Paul (London: SCM, 1991).  “Although people nowadays are fond of asserting otherwise, no one understood the real essence of Pauline theology, the salvation given sola gratia, by faith alone, better than Augustine and Martin Luther. Despite this rigorous reversal of all previous values and ideals (Phil 3.7-11), Pauline theology – and therefore also Christian theology – remains very closely bound up with Jewish theology. Its individual elements and thought-structure derive almost exclusively from Judaism. This revolutionary change becomes visible precisely in the fact that its previous theological views remain present even in their critical reversal as a negative foil, and help to determine the location of the new position.” (p. 86).

Martin Hengel & Anne M. Schwemer, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch (London: SCM, 1997).

Martin Hengel and U. Heckel, eds., Paulus und das antike Judentum (WUNT 158; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1996).

Tom Holland, Contours of Pauline Theology: A Radical New Survey of the Influences on Paul’s Biblical Writings (Mentor, 2004).

David Horrell, An Introduction to the Study of Paul (New York: Continuum, 2000).

Philip H. Kern, Rhetoric and Galatians: Assessing an Approach to Paul’s Epistle (Cambridge: CUP, 1998).

Seyoon Kim, Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002).

Matthias Konradt, Gericht und Gemeinde: Eine Studie zur Bedeutung und Funktion vonGerichtsaussagen im Rahmen der Paulinischen Ekklesiologie und Ethik im 1 Thess und 1 Kor(Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2003).

Colin G. Kruse, Paul, the Law and Justification (Leicester: Apollos, 1996).

Kari Kuula, The Law, the Covenant, and God’s Plan: Paul’s Polemical Treatment of the Law in Galatians (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999).

Timo Laato, Paul and Judaism: An Anthropological Approach (South Florida Studies in the History of Judaism 115; Atlanta: Scholars, 1995).

Bruce W. Longenecker, Eschatology and the Covenant: A Comparison of 4 Ezra and Romans 1-11(JSNTSup 57; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991).

Bruce W. Longenecker, The Triumph of Abraham’s God: The Transformation of Identity in Galatians (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998).

Richard Longenecker, ed.  The Road from Damascus: The Impact of Paul’s Converstion on His Life, Thought, and Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997).

I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004) 444-50.

Mark D. Nanos, The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letter (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996).

Mark D. Nanos, The Irony of Galatians: Paul’s Letter in First-Century Context (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002).

Mark D. Nanos, ed., The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson 2002).  A collection of studies on Galatians by various authors regarding the historical, rhetorical and theological issues surrounding Galatians.

Eung Chun Park, Either Jew or Gentile: Paul’s Unfolding Theology of Inclusiveness (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2003).

Alan F. Segal, Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven: YUP, 1990).

Vincent M. Smiles, The Gospel and Law in Galatia: Paul’s Response to Jewish-Christian Separatism and the Threat of Galatian Apostacy (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 1998).

Peter Stuhlmacher, Revisiting Paul’s Doctrine of Justification: A Challenge to the New Perspective(Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2001).

Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2001).

Stanley K. Stowers, A Rereading of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles (New Haven: YaleUniversity Press, 1994.

Chris Vanlandingham, Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul (Peabody,MA: Hendrickson, 2006).

Guy Prentiss Waters, Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul: A Review and a Response (P&R Publishing, 2004).

Francis Watson, Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles: A Sociological Approach (SNTS 56; Cambridge: CUP, 1986).

Stephen Westerholm, Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988).

Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003).  Revised and updated version of Westerholm’s 1988 monograph.

N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991).

N.T. Wright, Paul: In Fresh Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005).

Tom Wright, What St. Paul Really Said (London: Lion, 1997).

Tet-Lim N. Yee, Jews, Gentiles and Ethnic Reconciliation: Paul’s Jewish Identity and Ephesians(New York: CUP, 2005).

Kent L. Yinger, Paul, Judaism, and Judgment According to Deeds (Cambridge: CUP, 1999).

Justification

 

Michael F.  Bird, “Incorporated Righteousness: A Response to Recent Evangelical Discussion Concerning the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness in Justification,” JETS 47.2 (2004): 243-75. This article contends that “union with Christ” rather than “imputation” provides the proper exegetical context for understanding justification in Paul.

Gerald Bray, “Justification: The Reformers and Recent New Testament Scholarship,” Churchman109 (1995): 102-26.

F. F. Bruce, “Justification by Faith in the Non-Pauline Writings of the New Testament,” EQ 24 (1952): 13-26.

Craig B. Carpenter, “A Question of Union with Christ? Calvin and Trent on Justification,” WTJ 64 (2002): 363-86.

D. A. Carson, “Reflections on Salvation and Justification in the New Testament,” JETS 40 (1997): 581-608.

D. A. Carson, “The Vindication of Imputation: On Fields of Discourse and, of Course, Semantic Fields,” in “Justification”: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates?, eds. M. A. Husbands & D. J.Treier (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004),  46-78.

Charles H. Cosgrove, “Justification in Paul: A Linguistic and Theological Reflection,” JBL 106 (1987): 653-70.

Martinus C. de Boer, ‘Paul’s Use and Interpretation of a Justification Tradition in Galatians 2.15-21,’JSNT 28 (2005): 189-216.

William J.  Dumbrell, “Justification in Paul: A Covenantal Perspective,” RTR 51 (1992): 91-101.

William J.  Dumbrell, “Justification and the New Covenant,” Churchman 112 (1998): 17-29.

James D. G. Dunn, “The Justice of God: A Renewed Perspective on Justification by Faith,” JTS 43 (1992): 1-22.

Philip Eveson, The Great Exchange: Justification by faith alone in light of recent thought (Kent, England: Day One Publications, 1996).

R. Y. K. Fung, “The Status of Justification by Faith in Paul’s Thought: A Brief Survey of a Modern Debate,” Themelios 6 (1981): 4-11.

Don B. Garlington, “A Study of Justification by Faith,” Reformation and Revival 11 (2002): 55-73.

Don B. Garlington, “Imputation or Union with Christ: A Response to John Piper,” Reformation and Revival 12 (2003): 45-113.

Robert H. Gundry, “The Nonimputation of Christ’s Righteousness,” in “Justification”: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates? eds. M. A. Husbands & D. J. Treier (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004), 17-45.  Gundry defends a forensic view of justification wholly apart from notions of imputation.

Richard B. Hays, “Justification,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman (6 vols.;ABRL; New York: Doubleday, 1992), 3:1129-33.

Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier, eds., Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates(Leicester, England: Apollos, 2004).

Eberhard Jüngel, Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith (trans. Jeffrey F. Cayzer;Edinburg/New York: T&T Clark, 2001).

Jan Lambrecht and R.W. Thompson, Justification by Faith: The Implications of Romans 3:27-31(Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1989).  Justification signifies the universality of God’s love and marks the demise of boasting in ethnocentric particularism.

Eduard Lohse, “Theologie der Rechtfertigung im kritischen Disput – zu einigen neuen Perspektivenin der Interpretation der Theologie des Apostels Paulus,” Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen 249 (1997): 66-81.

Mark C. Mattes, The Role of Justification in Contemporary Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).

Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (Cambridge: CUP, 1986).

Alister McGrath, “Justification,” in DPL, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1993), 517-23.

Richard K. Moore, Rectification (‘Justification’) in Paul, in Historical Perspective, and in the English Bible: God’s Gift of Right Relationship (3 vols.; Edward Mellen Press, 2002).  Moore’s massive tome argues for a relational model of Paul’s doctrine of justification.

Stephen Motyer, “Righteousness by Faith in the New Testament,” in Here We Stand: Justification by Faith Today (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986), 33-56.  All should note Motyer’s comment: “there is no doctrine of justification in the New Testament, rather, there is a doctrine ofrighteousness” (p. 34).

Peter O’Brien, “Justification in Paul and Some Crucial Issues of the Last Two Decades,” in Right with God: Justification in the Bible and the World (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1992), 69-95.

John Piper, Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002).  A robust defense of the traditional Reformed view of imputed righteousness.  The section on the pastoral significance of the doctrine of justification (pp. 27-39) is superb.  Also available electronically at the Desiring God website.

Joseph Plevnik, “Recent Developments in the Discussion Concerning Justification by Faith,” TJT 2 (1986): 47-62.

P. Sedgwick, “Justification by Faith: One Doctrine, Many Debates?” Theology 93 (1990): 5-12.

Thomas R. Schreiner, “Did Paul Believe in Justification by Works? Another Look at Romans 2,”BBR 3 (1993): 131-58.

Mark A Seifrid, Justification by Faith: The Origin and Development of a Central Pauline Theme(NovTSup 68; Leiden: Brill, 1992).

Mark A. Seifrid, Christ, our Righteousness: Paul’s theology of justification (NSBT 9; Downers Grove: IVP, 2000).

Mark A. Seifrid, “In What Sense is ‘Justification’ a Declaration?” Churchman 114.2 (2000): 123-36.

Mark A. Seifrid, “Paul, Luther, and Justification in Gal 2:15-21,” WTJ 65 (2003): 215-30.

Robert Smith, “Justification in ‘the New Perspective on Paul’,” RTR 58.1 (1999): 16-30.

Robert S. Smith, Justification and Eschatology: A Dialogue with “The New Perspective on Paul”(Doncaster: Reformed Theological Review, 2001).

Robert Smith, “A Critique of the ‘New Perspective’ on Justification,” RTR 58.2 (1999) 98-113.

George Vandevelde, “Justification between Scripture and Tradition,” ERT 21 (1997): 128-148.

N.T. Wright, “Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism,” in The Great Acquittal, ed. G. Reid (London: Collins, 1980), 13–37.

N. T. Wright, “Justification,” in New Dictionary of Theology, eds. Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wright (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1988), 359-61.

N.T. Wright, “The Shape of Justification,” Bible Review 17 (April 2001): 8, 50. Available electronically at: http://www.thetpaulpage.com/Shape.html.  Wright’s response to Paul Barnett’s critique.

N. T. Wright, “New Perspectives on Paul.” Paper presented to 10th Edinburgh DogmaticsConference August 2003.  Available electronically at:http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_New_Perspectives.htm.

John Zeisler, “Justification by Faith in Light of the ‘New Perspective’ on Paul,” Theology 94 (1991): 189-94.

Law and Works of the Law

Martin Abegg, “Paul, ‘Works of the Law’ and MMT,” BAR 20.6 (1994): 52-55, 82.

M. G. Abegg, “4QMMT C 27, 31 and Works Righteousness,” DSD 6 (1999): 139-47.

M. G. Abegg, “4QMMT,” in DNTB, eds. Craig A. Evans and Stanley E. Porter (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2000), 709-11.

Martin G. Abegg, “4QMMT, Paul, and ‘works of the law’,” in Bible at Qumran: Text, Shape and Interpretation, eds. Peter W. Flint & Tae Hun Kim (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 203-16.

A. J. Bandstra, “Paul and the Law: Some Recent Developments and an Extraordinary Book,” CTJ25 (1990): 249-61.

Jacqueline C. R. de Roo, “The concept of ‘works of the law’ in Jewish and Christian literature,” inChristian-Jewish Relations Through the Centuries, eds. Brook W.R. Pearson & Stanley E. Porter (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), 116-147.

Robert Badenas, Christ the End of the Law: Romans 10.4 in Pauline Perspective (JSNTSup 10; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1985).

M. Bachmann, “4QMMT und Galaterbrief, MIQSAT MA ‛AŚEY HA-TORAH und ERGA NOMOU,”ZNW 89 (1998): 91-113.

Otto Betz, “The Qumran Halakah Text Miqsat Ma’ase Ha-Torah (4QMMT) and Sadducean, Essene, and Early Pharisaic Tradition,” in The Aramaic bible: Targums in Their Historical Context, eds. D.R.G. Beattie and M.J. McNamara (JSOTSS 166; Sheffield: SAP, 1994), 176-202.

C. E. B. Cranfield, “‘The Works of the Law’ in the Epistle to the Romans,” JSNT 43 (1991): 89-101.

James D. G. Dunn, “Works of the Law and the Curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10-14),” NTS 31 (1985): 523-42.

James D. G. Dunn, ed., Paul and the Mosaic Law (WUNT 89; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1991).

James D. G. Dunn, “Yet Once More – ‘The Works of the Law’: A Response,” JSNT (1992): 99-117.

James D. G. Dunn, “4QMMT and Galatians,” NTS 43 (1997): 147-53.

Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “Paul’s Jewish Background and the Deeds of the Law,” in According to Paul: Studies in the Theology of the Apostle (New York: Paulist, 1993), 18-35.

Lloyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987).

G. Hamerton-Kelly, “Sacred Violence and ‘Works of the law’,” CBQ 52 (1990): 55-75.

Hans Hübner, The Law in Paul’s Thought, trans. James C.G. Greig (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1984).

Veronica Koperski, What are They Saying About Paul and the Law? (New York: Paulist, 2001).

Hermann von Lectenberger, “Paulus und das Gesetz,” in Paulus und das antike Judentum, eds.Martin Hengel & Ulrich Heckel (Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1991).

Bruce Longenecker, “Lifelines: Perspectives on Paul and the Law,” Anvil 1 (1999): 125-30.

Brice L. Martin, Christ and the Law in Paul (NovTestSup 62; Leiden: Brill, 1989).

Douglas J. Moo, “‘Law’, ‘Works of the Law,’ and Legalism in Paul,” WTJ 45 (1983): 90-100.

Douglas J. Moo, “Paul and the Law in the Last Ten Years,” SJT (1987): 287-307.

C. Marvin Pate, The Reverse of the Curse: Paul, Wisdom, and the Law (WUNT 2.114; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2000).

Heikki Räisänen, Paul and the Law (WUNT 29; 2d ed.; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1986).

Robert Keith Rapa, The Meaning of ‘Works of the Law’ in Galatians and Romans (New York: Peter Lang, 2001).

Peter Richardson, Stephen Westerholm, et. al., Law in Religious Communities in the Roman Period: The Debate Over Torah and Nomos in Post-Biblical Judaism and Early Christianity (SCJ 4; Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1991).

Calvin J. Roetzel, “Paul and the Law: Whence and Whither?” CBR 3 (1995): 249-75.

Thomas R. Schreiner, “Is Perfect Obedience to the Law Possible?  A Re-examination of Galatians3:10,” JETS 27 (1984): 151-60.

Thomas R. Schreiner, “Paul and Perfect Obedience to the Law: An Evaluation of the view of E. P. Sanders,” WTJ 47 (1985): 245-78.

Thomas R. Schreiner, “‘Works of the Law’ in Paul,” NovT 33 (1991): 217-44.

Thomas R. Schreiner, The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993).

Moises Silva, “The Law and Christianity: Dunn’s New Synthesis,” WTJ 53 (1991): 339-53.

R.B. Sloan, “Paul and the Law: Why the Law Cannot Save,” NovT 33 (1991): 35-60.

Klyne Snodgrass, “Spheres of Influence: A Possible Solution to the Problem of Paul and the Law,”JSNT 32 (1988): 93-113.

Frank Thielman, From Plight to Solution: A Jewish Framework for Understanding Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians and Romans (NTS LXI; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989).

Frank Thielman, Paul and the Law: A Contextual Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1994).

Lauri Thurén, Derhetorizing Paul: A Dynamic Perspective on Pauline Theology and the Law (WUNT 2/110; Tübinen: Mohr/Siebeck, 2000).

Peter J. Tomson, Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakha in the Letters of the Apostle to the Gentiles(CRINT; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990).

Chris Alex Vlachos, “Law, Sin, and Death: An Edenic Triad? An Examination with
Reference to 1 Cor 15:56.” JETS 48 (2004): 277-98. Vlachos argues that the theological soil from which Paul derived his law problematic was the Genesis Fall narrative, where the serpent expropriated the prohibition to provoke the first transgression. Rather than being polemically motivated, or being precipitated in response to either legalistic or nationalistic tendencies, Paul’s concern with the law was thus driven by primeval considerations.

Michael Winger, By what Law?  The Meaning of Nomos in the Letters of Paul (SBLDS 128; Atlanta: Scholars, 1992).

N. T. Wright, “The Law in Romans 2,” in Paul and the Mosaic Law, ed. J. D. G. Dunn (Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1996), 131–50.

N. T. Wright, “Paul and Qumran : When Paul shuns the ‘works of the law,’ is he referring to the very works commended by the Dead Sea Scroll known as MMT?” Bible Review 14 (1998): 18, 54.

Studies on Judaism in Light of the NPP

Fredrich Avemarie, Tora und Leben: Untersuchungen zur Heilsbedeutung der Tora in der frühen rabbinschen Literatur (TSAJ 55; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1996).

Fredrich Avemarie and Hermann Licentenberger, eds.  Bund und Tora: Zuratheologischen Begriffsgeschicgte in alttestamentlicher, frühjüdischer und urchristlicher Tradition (WUNT 135; Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1996).

Friedrich Avemarie, “Erwählung und Vergeltung: Zur optionalen Struktur rabbinischer Soteriologie,”NTS 45 (1999): 108-26.

J. M. G. Barclay, Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora from Alexander to Trajan (323 BCE – 117 CE)(Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996).

Gabriele Boccaccini, Middle Judaism: Jewish Thought, 300 B.C.E to 200 C.E. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991).

Marcus Bockmuehl, Jewish Law in Gentile Churches: Halakhah and the Beginning of Christian Public Ethics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000).

D. A. Carson, Peter O’Brien and Mark A. Seifrid, eds., Justification and Variegated Nomism: Volume 1 – The Complexities of Second-Temple Judaism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001). Chapters include: “Psalms and Prayers (Daniel Falk); “Scripture-Based Stories” (Craig A. Evans); “Expansions of Scripture” (Peter Enns); “Didactic Stories” (Philip R. Davies); “Apocalypse” (RichardBauckham); “Testaments” (Robert A. Kugler); “Wisdom” (Donald E. Gowan); “Tannaitic Literature” (Philip S. Alexander); Targumic Themes (Martin McNamara); “Qumran” (Markus Bockmuehl); “Josephus” (Paul Spilsbury); “Philo” (David M. Hay); “Righteousness Language in the Hebrew Scriptures” (Mark A. Seifrid); and “Pharisees” (Roland Deines).

Karl T. Cooper, “Paul and Rabbinic Soteriology: A Review Article,” WJT 44 (1982): 123-39.

Ellen Juhl Christiansen, The Covenant in Judaism and Paul: A Study of Ritual Boundaries as Identity Markers (AGAJU 27; Leiden: Brill, 1995).

James D. G. Dunn, The Parting of the Ways Between Christianity and Judaism and Their Significance for the Character of Christianity (London: SCM, 1991).

M. A. Elliott, The Survivors of Israel: A Reconsideration of the Theology of Pre-Christian Judaism(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000).

Paul Garnet, “Qumran Light on Pauline Soteriology,” in Pauline Studies, eds. D.A. Hagner andMurray J. Harris (FS for F.F. Bruce; Exeter: Paternoster, 1980), 19-32.

Beverly Roberts Gaventa, “Comparing Paul and Judaism: Rethinking our Methods,” BTB 10 (1980): 37-44.

Martin Hengel and Roland Deines, “E.P. Sanders’ ‘Common Judaism’, Jesus, and the Pharisees,”JTS 46 (1995): 1-70.

Timo Laato, Paulus und das Judentem (Ǻbo: Ǻbo Akademi, 1991).  Laato recognizes Sanders’ contribution of undoing the caricature of Judaism as “legalism” but criticizes Sanders on various points: (1) Sanders fails to adequately appropriate the late nature of rabbinic materials; (2) Sanders does not recognize the difference between Paul and Judaism as being Paul’s pessimistic outlook on the human condition; and (3) Sanders is effectively arguing for a concept of “normative Judaism” which did not exist in the first-century (see esp. 65-82).

Jacob Neusner, “Comparing Judaisms,” History of Religions 18 (1978-79): 177-91.

Jacob Neusner, “E.P. Sanders Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People,” in Ancient Judaism: Debates and Disputes (Brown Judaic Studies 64; Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1994).

Jacob Neusner, Judaic Law from Jesus to the Mishnah: A Systematic Reply to Professor E.P. Sanders (Atlanta: Scholars, 1993).

Jacob Neusner, “Mr Sanders’ Pharisees and Mine: A Response to E P Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah,” SJT 44 (1991): 73-95.

Jacob Neusner, “The Use of Later Rabbinic Evidence for the Study of Paul,” in Approaches to Ancient Judaism, ed. W. S. Green (6 vols.; Chico: Scholars, 1980), 2:43-63.

George W. E. Nickelsburg, Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins: Diversity, Continuity, and Transformation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003).  See chapter 2 “Torah and the Righteousness of Life” and chapter 3 “God’s Activity on Behalf of Humans” which compares and contrasts the soteriologyof Christianity and Judaism.  Nickelsburg does not think Judaism can be characterized as “works-righteousness” and the main Christian differences between the two were Christological.

George W. E. Nickelsburg and Robert A. Kraft, eds., Early Judaism and its Modern Interpreters(SBL; Atlanta: Scholars, 1986).  See esp. “Introduction” pp. 20-21.

Stanley E. Porter and Jacqueline De-Roo, eds. Concept of the Covenant in the Second TemplePeriod (Leiden: Brill, 2003).

E. P. Sanders, The Jewish Law (London: SCM, 1990).

E. P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE (London: SCM, 1992).

J. J. Scott, “Crisis and Reaction: Roots of Diversity in Intertestamental Judaism,” EQ 64 (1992): 197-212.

Mikael Winninge, Sinners and the Righteous: A Comparative Study of the Psalms of Solomon and Paul’s Letters (ConBNT 26; Stockholm, Almqvist & Wiksell, 1995).

N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (COQG 1; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992).

Commentaries that Engage the NPP

Brendan Byrne, Romans (Sacra Pagina; Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier, 1996).

William Dumbrell, Romans: A New Covenant Commentary (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2005).

James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8 (WBC; Dallas, TX : Word, 1988).

James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9-16 (WBC; Dallas, TX : Word, 1988).

James D. G. Dunn, Galatians (BNTC; London: A&C Black, 1993).

Don B. Garlington, Exposition of Galatians: A New Perspective/Reformational Reading (Eugene,Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2002).

A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans: A Narrative Defense of God’s Righteousness (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2002).

R. David Kaylor, Paul’s Covenant Community: Jew and Gentile in Romans (Atlanta: John Knox, 1988).

Richard N. Longenecker, Galatians (WBC; Dallas, TX: Word, 1990).  Longenecker is sympathetic to works by Sanders but maintains that Paul’s opponents were still “nomistic” and “legalistic”, see esp. pp. xcviii, 86.

Frank J. Matera, Galatians (Sacra Pagina; Collegeville, MN: Litrugical Press, 1992).

Scot McKnight, Galatians (NIVAC; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995).

Peter T. O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians (NIGTC; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991).

Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998).  The draw back of this commentary is that in a subsequent work (Paul Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ) Schreiner has changed his mind from a transformative understanding of justification to a strictly forensic view.

Charles H. Talbert, Romans (Macon: Smyth and Helwys, 2002).

Ben Witherington, Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004). Witherington approaches Romans through the grid of socio-rhetorical criticism and also attempting to offer a non-Reformed reading of the epistle.  The excursus on “A Closer Look: Righteousness in the LXX, Early Judaism and Paul” (pp. 52-54) and “A Closer Look: ‘Justified’ and Concepts ofCovenental Nomism” (pp. 102-7) are useful and represent a middle ground in regard to faith and obedience.

Ben Witherington, Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998).

N. T. Wright, “Romans,” in New Interpreter’s Bible (ed. Leander E. Keck; Nashville: Abingdon 2002), 10:395-770.

N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: Romans (London: SPCK; 2004).

On-Line Resources

Mark M. Mattison (Webmaster).  “The Paul Page: Dedicated to the New Perspective on Paul.”www.thepaulpage.com/.  This site has a range of articles, reviews and debates about the NPP. Authors hyperlinked in the site range in stature from established scholars to amateurs.  This is probably the best website for the NPP to date and is becoming frequently cited in books and articles.

Mark Goodacre (Webmaster).  “New Testament Gateway.”  http://www.ntgateway.com/.  By far the best New Testament resource site on the web.  Goodacre’s link to Pauline studies has a good selection of on-line Pauline publications available including those relevant to the NPP.  The site is regularly updated and it contains exclusively scholarly contributions.

Kevin Bush (Webmaster).  “NTWright Page.” http://www.ntwrightpage.com/.  This site contains a selection of writings and audio sermons from N.T. Wright, bishop of Durham.

Peter M. Head.  The History of the Interpretation of the Apostle.  This page is a part of a series of lectures on the history of the interpretation of the Apostle Paul.  See:

(1) “Lecture 7: E.P. Sanders and the New Perspective on Paul,”http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Tyndale/staff/Head/Lent_07_Handout.htm.

(2) “Lecture 8: Responses to the New Perspective on Paul.”http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Tyndale/staff/Head/Lent_08_Handout.htm.

(3) “Justification and Variegated Nomism: Cambridge Seminar for NT PhD students.”

http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/Tyndale/staff/Head/J&VN.htm.

The New Perspective and Catholic-Protestant Debate

by Edward L. Hamilton

What is grace, and why should we know about it?

Grace is the universal quality of God’s redemptive acts throughout history, the sense in which whatever mercy or love God chooses to extend to us is a consequence of His own divine initiative, and not “owed” to us on account of our own merits. That definition of grace is universally acknowledged by virtually all Christians in every tradition, and is not under the purview of such theological reconsiderations as are recommended by the new perspective on Paul.

What is under the microscope is the question of what is meant by phrases like “justification by faith” and “the righteousness of God.” The new perspective would advise us that both Protestants and Catholics have spent most of the last five centuries misusing these terms, in the sense that their significance within the debate has been largely tainted by a context alien to the one in which Paul was natively functioning.

When Paul (in Romans, the Corinthian epistles, and Galatians) introduced this language, he never intended it to serve as a template for the ordo salutis. He was always (and exclusively) functioning on the “exclusivism grid” (i.e., responding to a challenge from Judaizers about how the boundaries of a covenantal community are to be defined), rather than the “soteriological grid” (i.e., trying to tell us “how to be saved”). Both Protestants and Catholics tend to use “justification” and “salvation” as if they were interchangeable, or at minimum as if the former were the first stage of the latter. But that simply isn’t what Paul wants to discuss, and forcing him to speak on this topic using the justification/righteousness texts will invariably result in a distortion of his contextual meaning.

Justification (as understood in the new perspective) is fundamentally a corporate and eschatological concept that makes sense only within the covenantal framework of Israel’s identity. The Jews were not hoping, generically, that the Messiah would come in glorious judgment to tell them that they were basically good, decent people who deserved a slot in some state of beatific post mortem bliss. They were expecting, concretely, that their faithfulness to the covenants established between God and the patriarchs would result in their public vindication before the nations that had been oppressing them. Justification would be accomplished for all Israel collectively, at the eschaton, as a culmination/climax of that covenantal history, proving that Israel’s faithfulness had not been in vain.

Now, Paul does fully intend to reinterpret certain elements of the way in which that precise sort of justification is to be recognized in any individual — how we will know who has membership within the covenant community — but he has no intention of altering the definition itself. Justification will still be corporate, it will still be tied to the identity of Israel (i.e., the matter of determining who are the true children of Abraham), and it will still remain a distinct concept from one’s personal salvific status before God (whatever that kind of language could have meant to a second-temple Jew). The only alteration is that it will no longer be recognized on the basis of certain external observances of the Torah, nor even the Abrahamic mark of circumcision. It will be recognized entirely on the basis of faith.

Those who had faith (like the Roman centurion, or the Syro-Phoenecian woman, or the Samaritan woman at the well) are members of the covenantal community, regardless of their ethnicity or praxis. Those who lacked faith (like the hypocritical scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the law) were definitely outside that covenantal community, regardless of the meticulousness of their implementation of cultic ordinances. Nor could those who had faith, but were outside the Jewish cultural circle, be obligated to embrace those rites before they could be admitted to the community. They were already in it, and anyone who denied them membership was operating from a flawed understanding of how justification ought to work.

Does this mean that there is an opposition between faith and rite? As Paul might say, me genoito,may it never be! Rite remains a vital expression of the community’s active spiritual life and communion, and Paul was more than willing to continue to execute the requirements of the Torah with every bit as much zeal as before. But he would firmly forbid any suggestion that the fully realized grace of the new oikonomia of Christ was contingent on universalizing those ritual elements. Gentiles remain ethnoculturally Gentiles, Jews remain ethnoculturally Jews, and the latter cannot force the former to comply with their praxis. God will, in the end, declare all those in Christ to be members of the covenant community on the basis of their faith, and nothing else. And so nothing other than faith could be required as a badge of identification within that community. The circumcised and the uncircumcised alike were truly the heirs of Abraham.

Note that none of this has any direct bearing on how to resolve the longstanding debate between Catholics and Protestants about the sequence and composition of the ordo salutis, and how it involves “works.” All the new perspective does is remove a huge reference set of proof texts from this arena by pointing out that they belong in a different one, allowing the debate to be resumed using passages that really are intended to address the issue of “how one becomes a Christian,” mostly in the gospels and Acts, where there is a much less technical usage of “justification” (when it rather rarely occurs, such as in James). Whereas Catholics, on balance, may be quite enthusiastic about the prospects of returning to the debate under those conditions, Reformational Prostestants will be far more daunted. Indeed, the fact that the most stringent opposition to the new perspective is from the Reformed camp suggests that this recalculation of the odds in the soteriological battlefield is understood as recalculating the odds rather heavily in favor of Rome. As a Protestant, I think this may be a premature conclusion, but as a somewhat Arminian Protestant, I probably have less to lose in the battle anyway.

On the other hand, the new perspective offers some challenges to the Catholic camp as well. Protestants definitely have some measure of faith — no one seriously disputes that these days — and that faith does establish them as children of Abraham. I think that Sanders, Dunn and Wright would disagree strongly with Rome’s policy of a closed communion table and a “canonical” standardization of the boundaries of the Church, and argue that this is precisely the sort of behavior that Paul was harshly criticizing. Of course, they are Protestants, so one might expect as much!

Synopsis of the new perspective as it bears on the Catholic-Protestant debate: If justification is defined in the way that Paul would have wanted, then the Protestant motto “sola fide” is entirely correct. We are assured of our future vindication as members of the covenant community on the basis of faith, not on the practice of some specific ritual form. If justification is defined in the (inaccurate) way that most Catholics and Prostestants use it today, on the other hand, then the Catholics may very well be entirely correct. The ordo salutis perhaps does extend beyond a single intial event, and post-baptismal stages may very well involve an important role for works which cannot be disentangled from true faith. Catholics, if they so desire, can go on insisting all true faith must yield corroborating deeds, and Protestants, if they so desire, can go on objecting. That debate is simply orthogonal to the one about exclusivism that the epistles beloved by Luther were written to address.

Or even more briefly: Justification is by faith alone. But salvation (possibly, or even probably) isn’t. Justification is not salvation itself, but rather an (ecclesiologically relevant) metadoctrine about one (important) dimension of Jewish eschatology. Reformational Protestants definitely have the right language — for the wrong reasons and with the wrong interpretation. Catholics might have the right substance — but have been fighting an ill-conceived battle for centuries, in which they have misunderstood a collection of specialized texts nearly as much as Protestants have. That could be a basis for humility and irenicism on both sides.

Paul as the New Abraham

by Pamela Eisenbaum

In Paul Among Jews and Gentiles (1977), Krister Stendahl argued convincingly for dispensing with the notion of conversion as applied to Paul’s religious experience, and for substituting the “call” of Paul.1 Based on a compelling exegesis of Galatians 1, Stendahl demonstrated that Paul describes his “vision” of the risen Christ like the call narratives of the Hebrew prophets, particularly Jeremiah and Isaiah.2 Rather than seeing Paul’s missionary zeal as the consequence of his conversion from Judaism to Christianity (which did not yet exist as a definable religion), Stendahl demonstrated that Paul’s vision and his mission were inextricably linked from the start. The vision was, in fact, a call to proclaim the word of the Lord, like the prophets of old; the only difference was Paul’s message would be directed not to his fellow Jews, but rather to Gentiles. Paul believed it was time for the final in-gathering of the nations, and he was being called to help carry out the project. So persuasive wasStendahl that his interpretation became the dominant understanding of Paul’s religious experience and mission, at least among Anglo-American scholars. The “call” is often understood as foundational to the “new perspective” on Paul.

In recent years, however, Stendahl’s model has been challenged. Perhaps the most thoroughgoing challenge has come from Alan Segal. In Paul the Convert (1990), Segal revives the conversion model, although he develops a much more sophisticated notion of conversion based on sociological and anthropological studies. Segal conceives of Paul as converting not from Judaism to Christianity, but from one form of Judaism (Pharisaism) to another (belief in Jesus).3 For Segal, Paul’s switch from the former to the latter involved a radical transformation, a transformation not fully appreciated by Stendahl and the scholars who have followed his lead.

The work of Stendahl and Segal has, generally speaking, marked out the principal options in recent Pauline studies. In arguing against the classical Lutheran understanding of the radical discontinuity between Paul’s life before and after Christ, Stendahl had to emphasize strongly the continuity between Paul’s life as a Jewish Pharisee and his life after his “call.” Since Stendahl’s landmark work, however, a bifurcation has arisen in Pauline scholarship. In general, those who follow the call model tend to emphasize continuity in Paul’s life experience, while those who follow the conversion model tend to emphasize discontinuity. A correlation exists between, on the one hand, those who presuppose Stendahl’s call model and therefore interpret Paul’s theology and teachings as reflective of first-century Judaism and, on the other hand, those who presuppose some sort of conversion and thus understand Paul as fundamentally transformed and standing outside the bounds of Judaism.4

The issue of continuity in Paul’s religious identity between his earlier life as a Pharisee and his subsequent life in Christ arises because of the mixed messages that seem to come through in his letters. Paul obviously understands himself as a Jew, both before and after his call. As he says in Gal. 2:15, “We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners.” Statements such as this give a clear indication that Paul is just as Jewish after his call as before, and that his identity as a Jew distinguishes him from Gentiles. Yet, as many have shown, Paul speaks as if there is a huge disjuncture between his former life in Judaism and his life in Christ (Gal. 1:11-24; Phil. 3:7-8).5 The ambiguity present in Paul’s letters toward Judaism needs to be acknowledged. In Gal. 2:15, when he reminds his audience that he is a “Jew by birth,” does he use the modifying expression “by birth” (physei) in order to qualify his Jewishness, or does he mean it more as a boast? To put it in modern terms, is Paul simply saying he is a Jew ethnically but not religiously, or is he saying he is a Jew through and through?

I align myself with the new perspective on Paul, and in this chapter I wish to build on Stendahl’swork and that of other new perspective scholars, while at the same time taking seriously Segal’s critique. I will offer an alternative paradigm for understanding Paul’s experience of the revelation of Jesus and his religious identity. I believe Stendahl was right to use the language of “call,” but the call that best reflects the apostle’s experience is not so much the call of the classical prophets as it is the call of Abraham, a figure who embodies both Jew and non-Jew. In what follows I will argue that Paul implicitly understands himself as an Abrahamic figure who establishes a new kind of family, one made up of Jews and Gentiles. I will first describe how the call of Abraham resembles Paul’s mission and then explore who Abraham is for Paul in particular. It is my contention that the importance of Abraham for Paul is not as an example of faith to Gentiles. Rather, Abraham is apatrilineal ancestor who encompasses “many nations” and thus enables Jews and Gentiles to become kin. This understanding of Israel’s patriarch mirrors Paul’s self-understanding because Paul’s mission is to create kinship ties between Jews and Gentiles as joint members of the family of God, as Stendahl’s work on Romans has so ably demonstrated.6

Paul and Abraham Share a Calling

To paraphrase Gen. 12:1-3, Abraham is asked to leave his homeland and separate from his kin with the promise that God will make of him a great nation; he will be blessed and through him “all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Broadly speaking, this is what happens to Paul. He experiences a divine call described literally as God’s revealing his son “in” him, though it is more typically translated “to” him (Gal. 1:15), which results in his migratory sojourn among foreign peoples, so that he might preach the message God has told him to preach.

To be sure, the biblical language of Abraham’s call is not present in Gal. 1:11-17, whereas the language of Jeremiah (1:4-5) or Isaiah (49:1-6), particularly regarding being set apart while in the womb, does appear. I do not wish to deny the resonance between the language of the prophets and that of Gal. 1:11-17, but I think that Paul’s overall transformative experience is more akin to Abraham than to Jeremiah or Isaiah. The fact that Paul uses Abraham as a model figure in two of his epistles suggests that we look to Abraham as a model for Paul’s own identity.7 Although Paul is certainly familiar with the prophets and quotes from both Jeremiah and Isaiah, Abraham is a personto Paul in a way that Jeremiah and Isaiah are not.

The description of events in Gal. 1:11-17 has two essential components: (1) God’s call (1:15) to Paul, which comes in the form of the revelation of his son and which presumably caused some sort of religious transformation, and (2) the commissioning of his task to go to the Gentiles, which results in the peripatetic existence that characterizes Paul’s life thereafter. Two similar components appear in the opening verses of Genesis 12: (1) Abraham is called by God to leave his home and family, though no details are given as to how God revealed himself, and (2) this event leads not only to the blessing of Abraham’s own family, but to the blessing of “all the families of the earth.” The second effectively constitutes what Paul calls God’s “promises” to Abraham. These promises are repeated and expanded as the story of the great patriarch moves along. Most significantly, God promises to give Abraham a land currently occupied by foreigners, the Canaanites, and to give Abraham a great progeny; Abraham will become the “ancestor of a multitude of nations” (Gen. 17:2-6).

While narrative details clearly differ for Paul and Abraham, their biographies share a similar pattern. Both are called by God to a purpose that benefits not only them and their families, but also the rest of humanity. Both Paul and Abraham become alienated from their communities of origin as a result of their experience. In Abraham’s case, God literally calls him away from his family and kin; in Paul’s case, God’s call implicitly results in his alienation from the Jewish community of which he was once fully a part. Both Paul and Abraham become travelers among other peoples.

No doubt the call of Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3 is sketchy, but the portrait of Abraham popular in Paul’s time resembles Paul’s self-understanding in a more obvious way. Abraham’s call is widely understood to have meant rejection of his former way of life.8 Abraham turns from idolatry to worship of the one true God. In other words, Abraham is widely considered to be the first monotheist. Often this tradition includes a description of Abraham’s original family as idolatrous and thus the reason for Abraham’s separation from his people. Numerous texts can be mustered to illustrate this image of Abraham:9

And the child [Abraham] began to realize the errors of the land that everyone was going astray after graven images and after impurity … and he separated from his father so that he might not worship the idols with him. (Jub. 11.16-17)

And when all those inhabiting the land were being led astray after their [idols], Abraham believed in Me and was not led astray with them. (Pseudo-Philo, Liberantiquitatum biblicarum 23.5).

He thus became the first person to argue that there is a single God who is the creator of all things, and that whatever any of these other things contribute to the good of theworld, they are enabled to do so at His command, and not by any inherent force of their own. … Because of these ideas the Chaldeans and the other people ofMesopotamia rose up against him, and having resolved, in keeping with God’s will and with His help, to leave his home, he settled in the land of Canaan. (Josephus, Ant.1.154-57)

James Kugel argues that the tradition of Abraham as the first believer in the God of Israel may derive from Joshua:

And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Your ancestors lived of old beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and ofNahor; they served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan.'” (24:2-3)10

Because Abraham’s story begins with his being called away from home and involves many years of journeying, Philo allegorized the patriarch’s life as the process of coming to ultimate enlightenment of the divine.11 The very same reason that Abraham can be claimed as the originary ancestor of Israel requires that Abraham also be recognized as having been transformed from one sort of person to another. In other words, if Abraham is the first Israelite, then Israelites did not exist prior to Abraham, thus Abraham cannot have originally been an Israelite; he must have been something else first. Indeed, both Philo and Josephus consider Abraham the first proselyte, because Abraham was originally a Gentile who entered into a covenant with God by being circumcised only as an adult.12 Furthermore, some ancient exegetes believed that Abraham came to monotheism through his precocious study of the stars, since the Chaldeans were famous for their skill at astronomy. In some strains of postbiblical tradition, the Israelite patriarch excels not only in the science of astronomy, but in wisdom and virtue generally, such that he becomes the mentor and teacher of other peoples like the Phoenicians and Egyptians.13

I do not wish to argue for Paul’s direct textual dependence upon any of the postbiblical sources cited above. Because the traditions I have cited appear in a wide variety of sources and are therefore commonplace understandings, it is virtually certain that Paul was familiar with at least some of them. Significantly, however, one scholar has recently demonstrated that the tradition of Abraham “as the one who rejected idolatry and astral worship in favor of the worship of the creator God” is evidenced in Romans 4.14 Obviously such an understanding of Abraham bears on the connection between Abraham and Gentiles that I will discuss momentarily. For now, I wish to emphasize that the notion of Abraham as one religiously transformed could well have functioned paradigmatically for Paul’s self-understanding. Abraham’s life as popularly conceived in Paul’s time constitutes the closest biblical paradigm to Paul’s experience. In other words, Abraham provides a model internal to Jewish tradition for a kind of religious transformation that results in sojourning among Gentiles and thus helps us to explain how Paul can sound so Jewish and yet so removed from his fellow Jews.

Just as Abraham is considered the quintessential hero whose divine call leads to his abandonment of a former way of life and wandering among foreign peoples who receive the benefit of his wisdom, so Paul can understand himself as fundamentally Jewish and yet transformed by his religious experience into someone who must go live abroad among foreign peoples and teach them God’s wisdom. Paul speaks of his “former life in Judaism” (Gal. 1:13), often in direct contrast to his subsequent life in Christ, from which he counts all that came before as a loss (Phil. 3:4-7). Paul may be Jewish but he no longer lives among Jews, partly because of his own mission and partly because of their hostility.15

Paul’s missionary travels not only alienate him from his home but also they are intended to benefit the other peoples (ethne) among whom he is destined to live. As Stendahl made clear, Paul’s central identity is as the apostle to the Gentiles. This we know not just from Gal. 1:11-17, but from many texts.16 In Gal. 1:23-24, Paul explicitly recalls how his religious experience has influenced other believers: “‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ And they glorified God because of me.” Paul positions himself as a model, hence his frequent exhortation, “Be imitators of me,” to the non-Jewish peoples of the world in order to teach them how to be worshipers of the one true God.

Most important, Paul positions himself as a new kind of patriarch, capable of unifying the multitude of nations who are already potentially related to one another through Abraham. As I intend to show in the next section, Abraham is primarily father Abraham for Paul, as for most any other Jew. The difference, however, is that Paul emphasizes the biblical claim that Abraham was destined to become the father of a multitude of nations and not just the father of the Jews.17 Paul thinks of his preaching to the Gentiles as a kind of spiritual birthing process, as indicated by his frequent use of parental imagery for himself, as well as his persistent use of kinship terms.18 By his preaching, Paul makes willing Gentiles legitimate members of Abraham’s family, which is the equivalent of making them children of God, as Gal. 3:26-4:7 makes clear. By informing Gentiles of the blessings promised to Abraham and his seed, they become heirs of the divine promises, and Paul, as thebestower of the inheritance, has become their father. Insofar as Paul establishes this newly constituted family of God, Paul functions as a founding father, just like Abraham.

Abraham and the Gentiles

My argument that Paul thinks of himself as a kind of Abraham redivivus depends not only on Paul’s self-description but also on Paul’s particular understanding of Abraham, specifically, demonstrating that Paul understands the relationship between Abraham and believing Gentiles not as one of analogy but as one of kinship. The majority of scholars assume Abraham is an exemplary figure for Gentiles both in Galatians and Romans. Recently, however, some have begun to recognize that Abraham-as-ancestor may be more significant in Paul’s thinking than Abraham-as-example.19 As one writer avers, “The idea is that the Gentiles are blessed not simply like Abraham but because of Abraham. Abraham becomes the reason why Gentiles experience salvation, not the example of howan individual becomes saved.”20 To be sure, both letters introduce the discussion of Abraham with the famous quotation from Gen. 15:6 (“Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”), but both letters use it to make the point that Abraham’s righteousness is connected to his status as the great patriarch. Moreover, Paul argues that Christian believers can claim Abraham as their father and claim to be the rightful heirs of God’s promises to Abraham. In polemical terms, Abraham is not just the father of the Jews but of Gentile believers also, and not just metaphorically or spiritually speaking. Abraham is just as much the patriarch of believing Gentiles as he is of Jewish believers.

Scholars have observed that Paul sometimes describes Abraham and Gentiles similarly. For example, Paul essentially labels Abraham a “former idolater and polytheist” when in Rom. 4:5 he indirectly calls the patriarch “ungodly” (asbes), a word commonly used of Gentiles and which Paul himself uses to emphasize the idolatrous state of Gentiles in Rom. 1:18.21 Similarly, the beginning of Galatians 4 makes mention of “elemental spirits” (ta stoicheia tou kosmou; Gal. 4:3,9) to which Gentiles were once enslaved. Although there exists much speculation about exactly what Paul refers to here, it is likely that this is an allusion to Abraham’s attention to the stars prior to his conversion to monotheism. If so, Paul once again connects the Gentiles’ former lives to Abraham’s former life.22

While scholars take note of the descriptive connections between Abraham and Gentiles, they generally think of these connections as analogical and rhetorical. They argue that Paul manipulates his rhetoric so as to bolster his use of Abraham as an example of faith for Gentiles.23 Paul’s analogies between Abraham and Gentiles are not intended to prove a genetic or ancestral connection between the two. In contrast, I think the connections Paul makes are there to reinforce what he understands to be a relation of kinship, albeit one that needs to be formally acknowledged. People who are kin are supposed to be similar to one another; those who belong to the same family share important characteristics.24 The emphasis for Paul, however, both in Galatians and Romans, is not on the way Gentiles can be like Abraham if they emulate his faith; the emphasis is on their existing relatedness to him which they can now claim.

I do not have space for a detailed exegesis of Galatians 3 and Romans 4, Paul’s two lengthy discussions of Abraham, but I do want to highlight some texts, focusing particularly on those places where Paul refers to Abraham’s being the “father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5) who are blessed because of him (Gen. 12:3).

Because Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” so you see, those descended of faith — they are the sons of Abraham. And scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations out of faith, proclaimed the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying “In you shall all the nations be blessed,” so that those who are descended of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. (Gal. 3:6-9)25

The NRSV translates oi ek pisteos, a phrase that occurs repeatedly in this context, as “those who believe,” and the RSV translates “men of faith.” These translations reflect the reigning assumption that the faith of individual believers is what counts for Paul, their faith should resemble the faith of Abraham, and by virtue of this similarity they can be called “sons of Abraham.” According to this view, the relationship between Gentiles and Abraham is one of affinity. The language of kinship is the rhetorical or metaphorical means of making this point.

In contrast, I translate oi ek pisteos as “those descended of faith,” because the preposition ekmeans “out of” or “derived from” and can be used for a person’s lineage.26 Since the focus of Paul’s concern here is defining who the true children of Abraham are, using language of descent is appropriate. If Paul meant to say “those who believe” are children of Abraham, he would not have used the phrase oi ek pisteos.27 But he would most likely have used the active participle, oipisteuontes, or some equivalent, as he does elsewhere.28 Rather, ek consistently connotes origins or derivation and points toward the source of something, and Paul’s usage is no different. Thus, ekpisteos means that “faith,” at least in this case, does not refer to the personal interior belief of an individual but to an external source of faith from which one derives benefit. Being a descendant of Abraham entitles one to certain benefits, namely, receiving the blessings as God promised, as Paul reminds his audience in verse 8. Therefore, it is not the believers’ own faith to which Paul refers in this passage, but most likely Abraham’s faith. This interpretation is corroborated by Rom. 4:16, where the expression to ek pisteos Abraam appears, which I translate “those descended from the faith of Abraham.”29

Just what does it mean to be descended from the faith of Abraham? I believe the answer can be found in Rom. 4:16-22, which happens to be the other place where Paul quotes Genesis to illustrate Abraham’s ancestral connection to the nations:

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise will be guaranteed according to grace to all his descendants, not only to those who are descended from law, but also to those descended from the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. As it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations” in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righeousness.”30

Here Paul makes clear that Abraham’s quintessential act of faith is the conception of Isaac. Therefore, those who are “descended of faith” are those born of Abraham through Isaac. To be sure, Abraham is considered faithful in general, and many other of his actions could be labeled faithful, but this particular procreative act counts as the faithful act second only to Christ’s act of faith because it aids God in fulfilling God’ promises.31 Abraham’s act of faith is to start a family on behalf of God; he produces offspring that bear God’s blessing. Put another way, Abraham’s act of faith provides God with heirs which, by the way, is exactly what Paul thinks he is doing.

What’s more, the heirs include “the nations.” Although it was not commonly emphasized, it was not unusual for Jewish interpreters to mention Abraham being the father of Gentiles.32 In some cases, Abraham was understood to be the ancestor of certain Gentiles to whom Jews could then claim a kinship relation.33 What is unusual, however, is that Paul explicitly connects the promise that Abraham will be the father of many nations to the conception of Isaac. Although this linkage is unprecedented, it makes exegetical sense, since the biblical story indicates that the promise for multitudinous progeny and heirs is fulfilled, at least initially, with the birth of Isaac. For Paul, Abraham’s act of faith gives birth to Jewish and gentile heirs; it marks the beginning of a line of descendants who will fulfill God’s promises.

The similarity between Romans and Galatians with regard to Abraham being the father of Jews and Gentiles means that Paul’s claim in Gal. 3:29 that the Gentiles are “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” need not be seen only as a metaphor in his argument with the Jewish-Christian teachers at Galatia, who purportedly claim that the Galatians need to be circumcised to belong to Abraham. I think Paul thinks the Galatians are just as much the offspring of Abraham as are Jews.34

Both Jews and gentile believers are descendants of Abraham, but their Abrahamic inheritance is dependent upon being properly “adopted.” Contrary to popular belief, Paul’s argument in Galatians and Romans does not assume Jews are biological descendants (kata sarka), while Gentiles become descendants by “adoption” (uiothesia). He uses the term explicitly of Jews in Rom. 4:9: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption.” When Paul speaks of uiothesia, he does not wish to emphasize the Gentiles’ lack of physiological connection to Abraham. He simply means that the Gentiles are now in the process of claiming their inheritance, whereas Jews have already received it. The term mans “to become a son,” with all the rights and privileges thereof.35 Having the claim of inheritance to one’s father’s estate is of far greater significance in determining familial status than mere biology.36

Part of the reason that the conception of Isaac is so important as Abraham’s act of faith is that Paul understands the story as evidence that the claim to God’s promises is required for descendants to be recognized as true heirs. As Paul says:

For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but “it is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. For this is what the promise said, “About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.” (Rom. 9:6-9)

“Children of promise” are Abraham’s descendants through Isaac, those born by God’s action, and not merely human procreation. The problem with unbelieving Jews from Paul’s point of view is that, while they were fully informed claimants to their divine inheritance through Abraham, they are now rejecting it. The problem with Gentiles is that they have not previously had a chance to claim their inheritance. That is where Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, comes in. As a “descendant of Abraham,” one who already holds claim to the inheritance, Paul can declare Gentiles part of Abraham’s legitimate offspring, able to grant them their rightful inheritance as “heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).

Paul makes clear that Abraham’s family never was constituted kata sarka, but by means of spiritual descent, which is not dependent on biological birth and blood relations, but which is nevertheless a bona fide lineage. Turning again to Romans 4, I translate verse 1: “What shall we say? Have we found Abraham to be our forefather according to the flesh?”37 The inferred answer is, of course, no! Paul’s point is that physical descent does not make one a rightful child or heir. The same point is implicit in Paul’s allegory of Sarah and Hagar in Galatians 4. Any Jews who consider themselves descendants of Abraham do not hold this privilege by virtue of physical descent; otherwise, Abraham’s children by Hagar would be counted as heirs along with Sarah’s, which neither Paul nor any other Jews of his time believed to be the case. Paul’s argument in Romans 4 can be summarized as follows: If a Jew’s status before God is not dependent on biological lineage, then surely such lineage is not required for Gentiles either.38

Paul, Abraham, and the Gentiles

Virtually ubiquitous in current scholarship on Paul, at least for those who subscribe to the new perspective, is that the apostle wished to break down the barriers that divide people, specifically the barrier between Jews and Gentiles.39 The essence of the new perspective on this question looks something like this: Paul as a Hellenistic Jew followed monotheism to its logical conclusion.40Believing in the divine impartiality of God, and as a result of his experience of the risen Christ, Paul was led to abandon the idea of Israel’s uniqueness in the pursuit of theological and anthropological universalism. Jews “by birth” no longer hold the privileges they once held. Paul spiritualizes the understanding of Israel, so that anyone who has faith, Jew or Gentile, can be part of Israel. According to this view, genealogy no longer counts in the makeup of one’s identity. As one scholar has put it, Paul renders “all genealogies irrelevant.”41

I, too, believe Paul’s project consists in his trying to construct, or perhaps reconstruct, a single family made up of Jews and Gentiles. But, in contrast to others, I do not think Paul devalues genealogy; rather he restructures genealogical lines in order to reconfigure the boundaries that unite and divide people. As a Hellenistic Jew Paul knows implicitly that one’s genealogy is notcoterminus with biology.

Biology is never the sole factor in determining kinship relations. Social processes, such as marriage and adoption, always aid in the construction of family and genealogy, though such processes are manifest in as many different ways as there are different cultures. Cultures that construct genealogies through the patriline, that is, exclusively through the father’s line extending back to a single male ancestor, tend to depend upon social structures even more. As sociologist Nancy Jay has shown, paternity must be explicitly constructed, since it cannot be observed; but, because it is constructed, it is a more flexible form of genealogical identity.42 Usually, focus on a single male ancestor is designed to provide society with a coherent social identity. Furthermore, concern forpatriliny appears most frequently in those societies in which families are part of more extended and complex kin groups, for example, clans, tribes, and where the transfer of property needs conscious attention.43

Claiming to be the descendants of Abraham, as Jews had done for centuries prior to Paul, was likely not taken as literally by the Jews of Paul’s time as modern scholars often think. Rather, the focus on Abraham and patrilineal genealogies linking Jews to him probably indicates some anxiety about the fluid boundaries of Israel as a people and the need to establish a coherent identity. Several reasons can be adduced to support this assertion. First, by this time, the possibility of conversion already exists.44 Since a person can become a member of the Jewish community, and since the Jewish community collectively understands itself as descended of Abraham, one not biologically related to Abraham can be made into a descendant and a legitimate heir of theAbrahamic promies.45 Second, some scholars have recently argued that circumcision constitutes a blood sacrifice by which men lay claim to their sons as members of God’s covenant people, much as Jay describes. Indeed, if Jews saw themselves as automatically legitimate descendants of Abraham, why perform the rite of circumcision, which includes the blessing, “Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us by his commandments, and commanded us to admit him [the child] to the covenant of Abraham our father”?46 It seems fairly clear that circumcision gave a Jewish father the ability to make his son a descendant of Abraham, rather than having to depend on a preexisting biological condition.47 I imagine this symbolic function became even more important once Jewish identity was established by the matrilineal principle. Finally, there is evidence in both ancient Jewish and Christian circles that men could claim powers of reproduction through the dissemination of religious instruction, rather than through fertility. HowardEilberg-Schwartz, who quotes from an array of rabbinic texts, says the following:

Rabbis fathered “children” through the teaching of Torah. As the learning of Torah emerged as the paridigmatic religious act in the rabbinic community, it absorbed the symbolic capital which had earlier been invested in procreation. Concerns about reproduction and lineage were symbolically extended from the human body to Torah knowledge itself.48

Like the rabbis, Christians could understand their preaching and the making of converts as an alternate form of reproduction. Such an understanding is implicit in the oft-recited claim that Christians “are made, not born.”49 Christian asceticism led to the high valuation of virginity and sexual abstinence, along with the consequent devaluation of physical reproduction.50 Yet Christians kept increasing their numbers. I contend that this attitude, namely the procreative use of teaching and preaching to increase numbers, is implicitly present in Paul. After all, as Eilberg-Schwartz has ably demonstrated, because the Jewish God did not create by copulation with a consort but rather through speech, and because of the common association made between creation and procreation, seeing the procreative potential of human speech is not much of a leap.51

Paul makes that leap in Rom. 4:17. In his description of the conception of Isaac, Paul refers to God as the one “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” Paul here draws an explicit connection between God as creator and Abraham as procreator. Paul’s retelling of the conception of Isaac in Rom. 4:17-22 (quoted earlier) is ethereal and devoid of sexuality. By describing Abraham’s body as being “as good as dead,” Paul removes any image of virility that might connote sexual activity. He paints a picture of the conception as a faithful enactment of the divine promise, which makes it into an entirely mental endeavor on Abraham’s part: “he grew strong in faith as he gave glory to God.” The point is not only to communicate that this procreative act is really a form of divine, and not fleshly, action but also to emphasize that lineage does not depend on biology.

In conclusion, Paul’s description of Abraham’s procreative act of faith mirrors his self-understanding as apostle to the Gentiles. Paul creates Abrahamic descendants not through biological reproduction but through his preaching and teaching. He is a verbal progenitor, struggling to “form” Christ in his gentile “children” (Gal. 4:19; 1 Cor. 4:14-15). Just before he begins his discussion of Abraham in Galatians, Paul says, “Does the one who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by faith that comes by hearing?” (Gal. 3:5).52 The NRSV translates the last phrase as “your believing what you heard,” which again places the emphasis on the believer’s personal faith. But it seems to me much more likely that the “faith that comes from hearing” refers to Paul (or, hypothetically, to any preacher of the gospel) transmitting information about the faith that has been enacted on their behalf, whether by Abraham or by Christ.53 More specifically, the “information” is really the divine promises God made originally to Abraham and by extension his family. As Paul says in Gal. 3:14, “that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Paul’s proclamation of the divine promises transmits the Abrahamic inheritance to those willing to hear it, and those who accept that inheritance are now Abraham’s heirs.54 Once Paul’s Gentiles become part of the lineage of Abraham, they not only receive God’s promises, they help God enact God’s promise to the great patriarch that he would become the “father of many nations.” And helping God to realize God’s promises is apparently what Paul really means by “faith.”

Postulating Abraham as Paul’s missionary model helps explain the seeming contradictions in Paul’s understanding of himself. The figure of Abraham could simultaneously serve as the ultimate symbol of Israel and the point of contact between Israel and the rest of the peoples of the world. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, never stopped being a Jew, but because his mission took him into foreign terrain, he came to understand what it means to be an “other,” so much so that he partly became an “other.”

Notes

JSNT = Journal for the Study of the New Testament
NovT = Novum Testamentum
NTS = New Testament Studies

SJT = Scottish Journal of Theology

1Stendahl, Paul among Jews and Gentiles, and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976).

2See esp. Jer. 1:4-5; Isa. 49:1-6.

3Although Segal frequently uses the language of Judaism and Christianity. See A. Segal, Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).

4Scholars in the continuity camp include John Gager, Lloyd Gaston, and Mark Nanos; those in the discontinuity camp include E.P. Sanders, Francis Watson, and Stephen Westerholm. New perspective scholars like James D.G. Dunn and N.T. Wright fall somewhere in between, though see the critique of the new perspective by Nanos in The Mystery of Romans (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 4-8.

5Segal, Paul the Convert, 117-33; A.J. Hultgren, “The Self-Definition of Paul and His Communities,”Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok 56 (1991): 78-100.

6See most recently, Krister Stendahl, Final Account: Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995).

7Commentators frequently assume Paul made use of Abraham in his discussion in Galatians only because Paul’s opponents invoked the great patriarch as part of their argument that the Galatians needed to be circumcised. J.L. Martyn is one of the most articulate defenders of this position; see “A Law-Observant Mission to the Gentiles: The Background of Galatians,” SJT 38 (1985): 307-24, reprinted in Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997). Some have made a similar kind of argument for Paul’s use of Abraham in Romans; see the discussion of J.S.Silker, Disinheriting the Jews: Abraham in Early Christian Controversy (Louisville, KY: Westminster / John Knox, 1991), 52-76. I do not wish to dispute such claims in this essay, but my emphasis here is on Paul’s perduring understanding of Abraham, apart from polemics. Much of my case depends upon an image of Abraham that would have been shared by various Jews (as well as god-fearers and proselytes). As J.M.G. Barclay has pointed out, it is quite likely that Paul shared much of the same vision of Abraham as the rival teachers, even if such commonality is obscured by the polemic about circumcision (“Mirror-Reading in a Polemical Letter: Galatians as a Test Case,”JSNT 31 [1987]: 73-93).

8The characterization of Abraham in early Judaism is rich and varied, as surveys of the subject have shown, extending far beyond what I have covered here. Abraham was known for his hospitality, for having been given apocalyptic insights about the future of human beings, for having been an intermediary between God and others, and, perhaps most famously, for his faithful obedience to God. Because these qualities are either too generic or commonly attributed to other biblical figures, they are not terribly useful for my purposes in this essay.

9James Kugel has collected many examples of postscriptural texts illustrating various facets of Abraham’s call in The Bible as It Was (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1997), 133-48. The translations from the pseudepigraphic texts quoted here are his.

10Ibid., 133-34.

11See Migration of Abraham and On Abraham 71.

12See Philo, Virt. 212-17; Josephus, Ant. 1.7; 2.159-60. Abraham must be at least seventy-five years of age, which is how old he is when he leaves Haran, according to Gen. 12:4.

13See the quotations of Pseudo-Epolemus and Artapanus in Eusebius, Prep. Ev. 9.17.3-4, 9.18.1; as well as Josephus, Ant. 1.167-68.

14Edward Adams, “Abraham’s Faith and Gentile Disobedience: Textual Links between Romans 1 and 4,” JSNT 65 (1997):55.

15Cf. Segal, Paul the Convert, 122: “Paul recommends for everyone conversion to a life of spiritual transformation, not a life defined by ceremonial obligations. In so doing he takes the part of the gentile Christian community in which he lives. Paul’s constant theme of the opposition of faith and law is a social and political justification for a new variety of community. It matches the opposition between Jewish and gentile Christianity.” Of course, I do not think Paul universalizes his religious transformation and therefore expects it of others. Rather, if Paul models his religious transformation on Abraham, as I argue, then such transformation plays a unique role for him in his particular mission. Furthermore, it binds people of different sorts together, instead of separating them from one another.

16E.g., Gal. 2:1-10; Rom. 1:1-6,13; 15:15-21.

17Although many ancient Jewish interpreters explicitly recognize that Paul is the father of many nations, this aspect of Abraham’s identity more often than not lay dormant in Jewish exegesis. See W.D. Davies, The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994), 166-77.

18See, e.g., Gal. 4:19; 1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Thess. 2:11. Although Paul’s use of kinship terms is most often understood metaphorically, I believe such terms are theologically and socially significant.

19See the excellent discussion of Stanley Stowers in Rereading Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 227-50. Stowers points out that people who are kin are also expected to manifest the same characteristics as their ancestors, which may render the contrast between Abraham-as-example and Abraham-as-ancestor ultimately meaningless.

20Michael Cranford, “Abraham in Romans 4: The Father of All Who Believe,” NTS 41 (1995): 73, italics his.

21Adams, “Abraham’s Faith and Gentile Disobedience,” 59. A similar observation is made by James Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988), 205.

22Cf. Wis. 13:15 and see the discussion by J.L. Martyn, Galatians, AB (New York: Doubleday, 1998), 399-400.

23In addition to those already listed, see Francis Watson, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: A Sociological Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1986), 136-42.

24That is, no doubt, why some Hellenistic and rabbinic authors were compelled to say that Abraham observed Torah, even though he lived long before Sinai. Since Jewish law is seen by such authors as essential to Jewish identity, they could not imagine that their ancestral patriarch did not observe Torah. See, e.g., Sir. 44:20.

25Translation is mine, based on the NRSV.

26Cf. John 1:13 and especially Rom. 1:3, ek spermatos David, translated in the NRSV as descended from David. See also the discussion in Stowers, Rereading Romans (225-26, 237-43), who finds that “[t]he article with ek is well known in Greek as a way of denoting origins, participation, and membership” (240). He cites Lucian, Vit. Auct. 43 as an example. AlthoughStowers’s discussion focuses on Romans 3-4, not on Galatians 3, and I would probably not agree on all exegetical points in both texts, his work with regard to this issue is foundational to my own.

27Cf. Segal (Paul the Convert, 119), who translates the phrase “those who are under faith, a phrase defining his audience sociologically, describing how they entered Christian community.” I do not see, however, that such connotations are implicit in the preposition ek.

28Cf. Rom. 3:22, 4:11.

29My claim about Abraham resembles debates about whether pistis Christou is a subjective or objective genitive, whether one is justified by Christ’s own faithful act on the cross, or by one’s own faith in Christ. See Richard B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ: An Investigation into the Narrative Substructure of Gal. 3:1-4:11 (Chico, Calif.: Scholars, 1983).

30I have again modified the NRSV.

31Cf. Stowers, Rereading Romans, 230,243.

32Even Ben Sira, who fundamentally thinks of Abraham as the father of the Jewish nation, introduces the patriarch by calling him “The great father of a multitude of nations.”

33In 1 Macc. 12:21 and Josephus, Ant. 12.226, Jews and Spartans are said to be related because both are descended from Abraham.

34Cf. Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 144. My work is very much indebted to Boyarin’s, but my reading of Galatians 3 differs markedly form his.

35Cf. Paul’s use of the term in Rom. 8:14-15.

36This is evident from Paul himself when he says in Gal. 4:7: “So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.” See also Carolyn Osiek, “Galatians,” in Women’s Biblical Commentary, ed. Carol Newsom and Sharon Ringe (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster / John Knox, 1998), 424.

37Cf. Richard Hays, “Have We Found Abraham to Be Our Forefather according to the Flesh? A Reconsideration of Rom. 4:1,” NovT (1985): 79-86.

38See Cranford, “Abraham in Romans 4,” 75.

39As N.T. Wright says, “The presupposition of Paul’s argument is that, if there is one God — the foundation of all Jewish belief — there must be one people of God. Were there to be two or more peoples, the whole theological scheme would lapse back into some sort of paganism, with each tribe or race possessing its own national deities” (The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992], 170).

40As Paul says in Rom. 3:29, “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes of Gentiles also….”

41Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus and Other Problems for Men and Monotheism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 228. To be fair, he qualifies this comment later on the same page by stating, “Thus although Paul repudiates genealogy as the defining feature of the Christian community, he does not totally eliminate it. Jews by birth retain an identifiable status with distinctive practices.”

42See Meyer Fortes, “The Structure of Unilineal Descent Groups,” American Anthropologist 55 (1953): 25-34.

43Nancy Jay, Throughout Your Generations Forever: Sacrifice, Religion, and Paternity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), xxiv, 34.

44I follow the opinion of Shaye Cohen that conversion most likely originates in the Maccabeanperiod (The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999], 109-39). Certainly by Paul’s time, we have a great deal of evidence attesting to the existence of proselytes (proselyte essentially functions as the Greek term for a convert to Judaism).

45I realize the claim that proselytes are as much descended of Abraham as native-born Jews is not unproblematic, given the well-known mishnaic text that claims that Jews cannot say “O God of our fathers” when reciting prayers (m. Bik. 1.4). At the same time, the Talmud declares the convert to be “like an Israelite in all respects” (b. Yebam. 47b). As Cohen argues (Beginnings of Jewishness,154-74, 324-40), proselytes form a lower caste within the Jewish community, even as they are theoretically full members of the Jewish community. However, that proselytes were sometimes treated as second-class citizens is not altogether different from Paul’s understanding of Gentiles in Christ. On the one hand, Paul claims there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, and yet he also claims that the Jews are special, possessed of certain privileges. In both cases, one who shares no kinship relations becomes officially integrated into the kin group, even if initially the awareness that the person has other origins cannot be ignored. This problem, however, seems to be overcome within a generation. As Cohen argues, the rabbis seem to regard the progeny of proselytes (assuming marriage to a Jewish woman) no longer as proselytes but as Jews, who in fact now have Jewish fathers.

46See the discussion by L. Hoffman, Covenant of Blood: Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 64-154. The quotation of the blessing is taken from Hoffman’s detailed description of the rite of circumcision (70).

47Cf. Roman society, the paterfamilias can reject a biological child if he so chooses. Conversely, he can fully adopt one to whom he has no biological relation and make him heir to his property. In traditional Roman religion, the paterfamilias must ritually recognize his own child in order for that child to be recognized legally and socially as a member of the family.

48Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus, 212-13.

49See, e.g., Tertullian, Apology, 3.1.18.

50The fifth-Century Syrian Christian Aphrahat gives evidence that Jews charged Christians with abrogating God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, because they valued sexual abstinence so highly. From their perspective, however, Christians were multiplying their numbers, even if not always through sexual reproduction. See the discussion in D. Boyarin, Carnal Israel: Reading Sex in Talmudic Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 7,141.

51See Eilberg-Schwartz, God’s Phallus, esp. 199-242.

52Another modification of the NRSV which reads, “Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?”

53Cf. Rom. 10:14-17.

54The analogy of the will in Gal. 3:15-18 is therefore most appropriate.

From Richard A. Horsley, ed., Paul and Politics: Ekklesia, Israel, Imperium, Interpretation(Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International), 2000, pp. 130-145. Reprinted by permission.

Not Either/Or but Both/And

by Wan Chee Keong

If E.P. Sanders’ characterization of first century rabbinical Judaism as ‘covenantal nomism’, with its emphasis on ‘God’s goodness and generosity, his encouragement of repentance and offer of forgiveness’ is correct, as opposed to the traditional understanding, ‘through Lutheran spectacles’ (cf. James D.G. Dunn, ‘Jesus, Paul, and the Law’, p. 185), as ‘earning righteousness/salvation through good works’, then, according to Paul, what was wrong with Judaism? Did Luther misinterpret Paul?

‘Covenantal nomism’ excluded the Gentile from God’s covenant people; it was never legalistic. Fair enough. Dunn has highlighted the nationalistic/racial/Gentile-excluding nature of the Mosaic Covenant/Law; the gospel did threaten the ‘peculiar identity’ of Israel. The ‘curse’ of the Law in Galatians 3:10 was on those who failed to keep the Law in its entirety because it is impossible to do so; it was also on the Gentile because he cannot keep the Law at all — he does not have the Law! Although Philippians 3:6 and Luke 1:6; 2:25 show that it is possible to be ‘blameless (or righteous) according to the Law’, it is not a righteousness that can justify. It is not God’s righteousness, which alone can justify.

In terms of comprehensive scope, personal appeal, unconditional force and universal application, the Law was unrivalled in the world. Indeed ‘salvation is of the Jews’. Paul the Christian, however, found something amiss with the Mosaic Covenant/Law. Paul saw it as ‘strange/interim grace’, in the light of Jesus Messiah. (I owe the word ‘strange’ to C. F. Evans’ designation of Rom.13.4 as the ‘strange’ work of Christ.) It was inadequate grace. What was wrong with Judaism was, in rejecting Christ, it could only see the Mosaic Covenant/Law through a veil; it couldn’t see its strange and interim andinadequate nature.

In Gal. 4:21-30, Paul’s equation is Mosaic Covenant=Mt. Sinai=Hagar=present Jerusalem=slavery.Israel was called as God’s elect to prepare for the coming of Messiah. The Mosaic covenant wasinterim grace. The Jews are God’s elect only in principle. This is clear from Rom. 2:28, 29; 9:6-8. They had certain advantages (Rom. 3:2; 9:4, 5) but these only, as it were, prequalified them. In the final analysis, ‘both Jews and Greeks are under the power of sin’ (Rom.3:9).

The Jews had a zeal for God but ‘not according to knowledge’ (Rom.10:2). It was when Saul the Pharisee turned to the Lord on the road to Damascus that the veil was lifted and he saw the Mosaic Covenant/Law and Israel as the ‘elect’ as it really was (2 Cor. 3:14-16). ‘[T]he glory and greatness of Judaism’s covenant theology’ (Dunn, p. 187) is valid up to a point. To Paul, however, ‘what had glory in this case has no glory on account of the glory that surpasses it’ (2 Cor. 3:10).

The Law was God’s gift to Israel. It was an integral component of His covenant with Israel as His ‘elect’. It was not wrong per se that the Jews ‘boasted’ in God, ‘having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and the truth.’ (Rom. 2:20). ‘The Law is holy and the commandment is holy and righteous and good’ (Rom. 7:12). There is, however, something amiss with the Law. The Law has its ‘ill’ effects. The Law excludes the Gentile; it shuts him out from the Covenant (Gal. 3:10)! It is‘strange’ grace.

J.W. Drane, an evangelical, views Galatians 3:19 as amounting to ‘a categorical denial of the divine origin of the Torah’ (Paul: Libertine or Legalist?’, p. 34), while H. Hübner sees it as meaning the Law ‘is the product of demonic angelic powers’ (pp. 24-36, ‘Law in Paul’s Thought’). These are extreme views. As I see it, Paul regards the Law, not as real/direct grace but virtual/indirect grace. How so?

On the one hand, it enslaves the Jew: it is a yoke (Gal.5:1; Acts 15:10). It condemns him (Rom.3:19; 2 Cor. 3:9); it ‘kills’ him (Rom. 7; 2 Cor. 3:6, 7). The Law brings about wrath (Rom. 4:15).

On the other hand, it separates mankind into two: Jew and Gentile, circumcised and uncircumcised. It shuts out the Gentile from the Abrahamic blessing and designates him a ‘sinner’ (Gal. 2:15; 4:17, 21-31; Eph. 2:11,12). The Law was our pedagogue, says Paul (Gal. 3:19). Whether we understand pedagogue as the confining and restricting regulations which separate Jew from Gentile (N.J. Young, ‘Paidagogos: the social setting of a Pauline metaphor’, pp.150-76), or as functioning in the guarding and protecting of Israel from the defiling idolatry of the Gentiles (T. D. Gordon, ‘A note on Paidagogos in Gal.3:24,25′), the implication is the same: the Law excludes the Gentile and enslaves the Jew.

The Law was not abrogated or nullified but fulfilled and taken up into the Law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21). This explains why the righteousness of those who follow the Law of Christ successfully will exceed the righteousness of the devotees of the Law, the scribes and Pharisees. Although the Law is not ultimate or complete, it is absolute and eternal; it is therefore relevant to Christians as revelation.

‘The Law is holy and the commandment is holy and just and good’. In other words it is divine,absolute and eternal. But it has many disadvantages: it is not ultimate or all-encompassing (the Jews had to supplement it with the Talmud); it is not God’s principal or final Word (it ispreliminary/interim), and it excludes the Gentile!

With such a critique of the Mosaic Covenant/Law, occasioned by the nature of the gospel, no wonder Saul the Pharisee persecuted the early church and was subsequently persecuted himself. There is a modicum of truth in the accusation against Paul in Acts 21:28. Acts 21:21 is not true, of course, but Paul’s preaching did imply that. I doubt if he would have protested if Christian Jews stopped circumcising their children or walking according to the customs.

But Jesus the Messiah, He is ‘amazing’ grace! He is God’s eternal, absolute, ultimate, exhaustive, principal and final Word. Judaism kept the Law to maintain and demonstrate its status as God’s ‘elect’, not to ‘earn’ righteousness, but it is still ‘working’, still a matter of ‘works’. This is not God’s way. It is of the ‘flesh’. The gospel is a matter of repentance and grateful acceptance of God’s truegrace, a gift to be received. Scripture, God’s Word, says this: Galatians 3:11,12. Saul the Pharisee, Zacharias and Elizabeth, and Simeon may have been ‘blameless according to the Law’ but they were not justified. Only truly perfect righteousness can justify; and that means the ‘righteousness of God’, which is perfect (Rom.1:17; 3:21-26). As long as it is ‘works’, even if it is to ‘maintain’ one’s status as the ‘elect’, it implies merit. But God’s righteousness is a gift. It is ‘reckoned’ (logizesthai): shall we say ‘bestowed’? Romans 4:4 is decisive.

The way of ‘works’, whatever the motive, is putting the cart before the horse. It won’t work. God’s way is a matter of ‘being’; of letting the Spirit of Christ have His way in and through us. This works.

Luther was right after all: justification by grace through faith is an important part of the gospel. Rabbinical Judaism is one of ‘strange’ grace and ‘works’. It is ‘off’ because the Mosaic Covenant/Law itself is ‘off’, in the light of Jesus Messiah’s coming.

Raisanen is right in saying there are tensions (but not inconsistencies, as he maintains) in Paul’s understanding (Dunn, p. 215). Jew and Gentile, male and female: there is no difference in Christ (Gal.3:28). So are they all equal? Paul’s answer seems to be yes and no. The Jews possess some unique advantages: their ‘prequalifications’ (Rom.3:2; 9:4,5).

Paul condemned the ‘saboteurs’, the false brethren, who tried to get his Gentile converts into bondage under the Law — not rabbinical Judaism, not the unbelieving Jews. For the latter, Paul had ‘great sorrow and unceasing grief.

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