The New Perspective on Paul

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The New Perspective on Paul

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Redigerat: jul 7, 2007, 11:52 am

The group introduction suggests there is a new perspective on the Apostle Paul. I was totally unaware of such a thing. Anyone care to point me in the direction of a book or two that would enlighten me?

jan 19, 2008, 1:02 pm

James D.G. Dunn's The New Perspective on Paul is the best place to start. He will point you to numerous other books to dig deeper!

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Redigerat: jan 29, 2008, 5:43 am

One of the most important contributions to this new reading of Paul, or ‘new look’, was the publication of E. P. Sanders’s Paul & Palestinian Judaism in 1977. Although highly questionable in his interpretation of Paul’s theology, what Sanders did was, in effect, present a new perspective on *Judaism*. Sanders surveyed the Jewish texts of Paul’s era and made a case that Jews held to what he called “covenantal nomism.” In this view, the Jews were not at all concerned with how to ‘get in’ to a relationship with ‘God’ since Yahweh had established the covenant relationship because of his gracious election of Israel and made provision for human transgressions through the sacrificial system: therefore the purpose of ‘works’ concerned how one ‘stayed in’ or maintained the pre-existing covenant relationship. This naturally had immediate implications for Pauline interpretation.

The standard account of Paul’s opponents had suggested that the Jews were somehow proto-Pelagians (or 'semi-Pelagians') concerned with how one established a relationship with God and that this was what was at stake in ‘justification’. The question then for Paul in this view was whether one established a right personal relationship with God through the means of meritorious good works (such as prescribed by the Jewish law) or through the ‘principle’ of faith. Paul, it was argued, was adamant that it was the latter. What the publication of Sanders’s book provoked (although he was not necessarily original in all his arguments ) was a reassessment of the elements of continuity between Paul and his “ancestral faith,” the manner in which God had fulfilled the promises to Israel and therefore how Gentiles were to be included in the people of God. Terence Donaldson put it this way: “the new appreciation of the place of Israel in Paul’s thought replaces a framework of understanding—a universalistic paradigm, we might call it—the main contours of which were much more widely shared and more deeply rooted in Christian tradition”; that is, a paradigm that seems to treat Paul’s theology as a generic reflection upon human ‘sinfulness’ in need of a solution rather than a theology rooted in very Jewish questions concerning Israel’s covenant relationship with Yahweh and the problem of ‘the nations’.

The so-called ‘New Perspective on Paul’ (NPP) is thus not so much a single unified movement or a new position on Paul’s theology as a new conversation opened up concerning many ideas and phrases in Paul which seemed to have settled meanings within the previous view (though not without some exegetical puzzles) but were now being rethought.

Some of the most noteworthy exponents of the NPP are N. T. Wright, James D. G. Dunn, and Richard Hays... and Terence Donaldson as mentioned above.

nov 27, 2008, 4:13 pm

You might also want to check

jul 20, 2011, 7:55 am

At the Evangelical Theological Society last year (I think it was), Tom Wright addressed some of his critics (again). Here’s the link to his JETS article on justification – enjoy! :-)