A Brief Introduction to the New Perspective on Paul (NPP)

Every now and then I see some questions about this topic, and though the New Perspective on Paul isn’t very “new” anymore, it certainly isn’t dead either. I’ve posted a brief introduction to the topic below, from a paper I wrote on it years ago. Just to be clear, this post is not an endorsement of NPP, but an overview followed by a few possible objections.

The New Perspective on Paul

The New Perspective on Paul is the name given to a theological movement which questions long held assumptions in the Lutheran tradition of Pauline interpretation. The New Perspective on Paul began, for the most part, with the work of E.P. Sanders in the realm of Palestinian Judaism. What he discovered is that the Judaism of Paul’s day was nothing like what Paul described it as, at least as far as we have understood Paul. James D.G. Dunn and N.T. Wright jumped at the opportunity to reinterpret Paul in light of Sanders’ discovery, and came to similar conclusions about what has happened in our understanding of Paul. Paul has been almost completely misunderstood, and the culprit is traditional “Lutheran” interpretation based on anachronistic ideas stemming from the Reformation. It is the purpose of this article, after a brief description of the “Lutheran” Paul, to examine and summarize Sanders, Dunn, and Wright insofar as they have contributed to the New Perspective on Paul and to briefly offer a few possible methods of questioning the tenets of the New Perspective on Paul.

“Lutheran” Interpretation

There are particular features about Paul that interpreters of Paul have traditionally held in common with one another. Such commentators on Paul include Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley. Stephen Westerholm presents five theses held in common amongst these writers and most all of those who followed thereafter and loosely labels them “Lutheran” because they follow that tradition.

The first thesis is that, “Human nature, created good, has been so corrupted by sin that human beings are incapable of God-pleasing action”.[1] Since God is not pleased with human actions, everyone is subject to the just condemnation of God. God is just and good, and is not at fault for the evil actions and nature of human beings, even though some interpreters of Paul (such as Calvin) have proposed that God determined Adam’s choice to sin.[2] Adam’s nature was passed on to all of his descendents, namely, the entire human race, and thus everyone’s desires, intellects and wills are all affected by sin. According to the traditional interpreters, “On our own, human beings are incapable of doing, speaking, or even thinking anything truly good”.[3] To be sure, actions which are beneficial to society are recognized by these traditional interpreters; however nothing which is done is ever truly good in the sight of God as long as there is no proper relationship with the Creator.[4]

The second thesis traditionally agreed upon by the early Lutheran interpreters of Paul is that, “Human beings must be justified by divine grace, responded to in faith, and not by any works of their own”.[5] Since humans are fallen and incapable of doing any good before God on their own no works can merit God’s favor. Important to the topic of this paper is the insistence upon this theme allegedly being found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

 Our “Lutheran” Paulinists were well aware that Paul’s debate in Galatians was with those who advocated circumcision for his Gentile converts; but that, they contended, was only the starting point of his discussion. Paul quickly moves on to examine the nature, role, and limits of the Mosaic law as a whole; hence, when he rules out “the works of the law,” compliance with its demands as a whole must be meant.[6]

Paul is seen by these interpreters as holding all of these works, both in the Mosaic law as well as those humans may create, as being completely useless to justify us before God. Justification by grace is antithetical to justification by works and the former dismisses the latter as far as having any salvific value. By justification the Lutherans meant the “acceptance of sinners as righteous by God because their sins have been forgiven”.[7] By “faith” they meant “faith in Christ, God’s Son and our Savior” who, “atoned for sins”, his resurrection making the new life of believers at the least possible. This conviction belonged to all of the Lutherans Westerholm treats, though they did not all agree on the specifics. Faith is the route of access to what Christ has done, and many held that even the faith itself was a gift of God and not contributed by believers, but grounded in election.[8]

All since Adam have inherited Adam’s sinful nature. And all must be justified in the same way: through no works of their own, but through faith in the redemptive work of Christ.[9]

This is the gospel according to the Lutheran Paulinists, and they take it to have been taught already in “the promises made to Israel’s patriarchs, and it was foreshadowed in the ceremonies instituted by the Mosaic law; all who responded in faith to these adumbrations of the gospel were justified”.[10] The doctrine of justification of faith as described is strongly emphasized in the tradition being examined.

Justification by grace through faith leaves human beings with nothing of which they may boast in God’s presence. The (false) notion that human beings can   contribute to their justification opens the door to a presumption that ill suits creatures in the presence of their Creator.[11]

This last consideration is a third thesis that the writers in focus agree upon. Fourthly, and related to the last point, is that, “Those justified by faith apart from works must nonetheless do good works as believers”.[12] Good works are the marks of true believers in the true gospel.

There are a few other theses pointed out by Westerholm which the commentators in view typically agreed upon with some minor disagreements, but they are not as important as the fifth thesis.

The Mosaic law was given, in part, to awaken in human beings an awareness of their need of divine grace. Believers are delivered from its condemnation and need not observe its ceremonial prescriptions. The gift of God’s Spirit enables them (in some measure) to fulfill its moral demands.[13]

The Paulinists are virtually in total agreement with one another here. Redemption in Christ is foreshadowed by the ceremony of the Mosaic law and hence done away with in Christ, however the moral law of God is eternal and binding upon everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike. Again, the law of God is impossible to fulfill on one’s own because all are fallen, and compatible with this idea is that God has given the law to make unbelievers aware of their deplorable state, wherein they are guilty and stand under judgment of God. Justification is the one route of deliverance and forgiveness available to humanity accessible through faith in the work of Christ, and the Spirit works in those who receive this gospel by making it possible to fulfill the law of God.[14]

This is the manner in which the early Pauline interpreters presented what they saw as Paul’s arguments. Obviously, others have come along who disagree with these older readers of Paul in one area or another, and there are many disagreements at more detailed levels of the doctrines outlined above. However, a basic understanding of these traditional distinctives of the “Old Perspective on Paul” is important to have before moving on to the central focus of this paper, the “New Perspective on Paul”. The question that the new perspective essentially raises is as to whether or not Paul is being incorrectly read through the traditional model just described. If so, then Paul is not being dealt with fairly, and there could be remarkable repercussions to understanding him in a new light, the one which he intended to be understood in to begin with. The three scholars often cited as mostly responsible for developing this question and an answer to it as well as the results of the new view are E.P. Sanders, James D.G. Dunn, and N.T. Wright. Each thinker will be dealt with in turn in an effort to highlight their contributions to the New Perspective on Paul.

E.P. Sanders

The first thinker in our New Perspective on Paul “trinity” is E.P. Sanders. The central premise of E.P. Sander’s work as it relates to the so called New Perspective on Paul is that “Paul presents an essentially different type of religiousness from any found in Palestinian Jewish literature”.[15] There are of course certain similarities between Paul and Palestinian Judaism which are pointed out by Sanders. For example, Sanders finds the concepts of grace and works to be the same in both Paul and Judaism and describes the relationship between these two concepts in order to justify his claim.

There are two aspects of the relationship between grace and works: salvation is by grace but judgment is according to works; works are the condition of remaining ‘in’, but they do not earn salvation.[16]

On these two aspects of the theology of grace and works, Sanders finds Paul in agreement with Palestinian Judaism, in spite of those who have seen Paul in opposition to Palestinian Judaism at exactly this point. The relationship between grace and works in this view may initially seem difficult to understand because Paul holds it in tension. The view that God saves through grace and then rewards or punishes based on works within that salvation is not contradictory though, and in fact the view is proven to be coherent throughout Paul’s writings. Paul is also similar in thought to Palestinian Judaism in the area of expecting the parousia, though this is a general agreement only since Paul does not write with the specifics or in the style of apocalyptic writers.[17]

Paul sees the law through Jewish eyes as well, drawing a distinction between those facets of the law which are on a horizontal level between person and person, and those which are on a vertical level between person and God. Obviously, he pulls away from Judaism “on the ground of his soteriology, Christology, and pneumatology” which are not found in Judaism.[18] Thus, while there are certainly agreements between Paul and Judaism according to Sanders, they are found in places Pauline scholars have not always thought to look for them. There are also a number of differences between Paul and Judaism, some of which are major and found at points in the two theologies where most have not thought of them being before.

A major difference Sanders cites as existing between Paul and Palestinian Judaism is the meaning of “righteousness”.[19]

…to be righteous in Jewish literature means to obey the Torah and to repent of transgression, but in Paul it means to be saved by Christ. Most succinctly, righteousness in Judaism is a term which implies the maintenance of status among the group of the elect; in Paul it is a transfer term. In Judaism, that is, commitment to the covenant puts one ‘in’, while obedience (righteousness) subsequently keeps one in. In Paul’s usage, ‘be made righteous’ (‘be justified’) is a term indicating getting in, not staying in the body of the saved.[20]

This has the interesting effect of making the debate over whether righteousness is by faith or by works turn upon what is actually meant by “righteousness”. Paul does not believe one is “made righteous by works of law”, but rather by faith, whereas Judaism maintains that “one is righteous who obeys the law”.[21] Paul is talking about getting into the group of the righteous, while in Judaism the term is used of staying in.

The conception is that God acts, that Israel accepts the action as being for them, that God gives commandments, that Israel agrees to obey the commandments, and that continuing to accept the commandments demonstrates that one is ‘in’, while refusing to obey indicates that one is ‘out’.[22]

Sanders focuses a great deal upon these ideas of “getting in” and “staying in”, and they tie in directly to his emphasis upon the covenant.

It is the assertion of E.P. Sanders that the covenant between God and Israel is central to Judaism. Through drawing upon this central emphasis of the covenant within Judaism, Sanders has introduced the term “covenantal nomism” to pull together the act of grace wherein God makes possible the entry into the covenant upon His own initiative with the response of the Jewish people in living by the law.

The ‘pattern’ or ‘structure’ of covenantal nomism is this: (I) God has chosen Israel and (2) given the law. The law implies both (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 by God’s mercy rather than human achievement.[23]

Covenantal nomism presupposes a concept of repentance which according to Sanders is almost absent in the works of Paul. Repentance is necessary to the covenantal nomism program. A requirement of perfect obedience through a rejection of repentance with respect to keeping the law results in pessimism and destroys any hope in the system Sanders describes, ultimately ending Judaism itself. Paul rejects this important part of Judaism in favor of his own scheme.[24] In Paul this absence signals a change in thought. The pattern in Paul is one of being able to obey the law and to be saved, but “the flesh” is always causing trouble.[25] Paul’s conception of sin is hence also different from that in Judaism, for while Paul does hold that sin is transgression just as in Judaism, he focuses a great deal upon one being freed from its power and subjected instead to Christ as Lord for salvation.[26] Paul’s emphasis is quite often on dying to sin or the flesh as a power whereas Judaism only speaks to death with respect to sin as something needed to atone for it.[27]

According to Sanders, Paul differs with Judaism on the idea that both Gentiles and Jews must transfer from a perishing group to a group which will be saved. Judaism teaches that there is a group in covenant with God, namely Israel, and that individuals in this covenant group must maintain a piety and rightness before God in order to maintain membership in the group. Paul’s language of “oneness in Christ” and “Christ in you” is foreign to Judaism and cannot be taken analogously to Israel.[28]

A primary point of interest that E.P. Sanders dug up during his research of Judaism and its comparison to Paul has to do with the accuracy with which Paul describes Judaism during his attacks on it.

It is generally taken to be the case that Paul’s criticism was that Judaism was a religion of legalistic works-righteousness; that is, that he criticized the means (works of law) while agreeing with the goal (righteousness). His failure to mention the significance of the covenant as indicating God’s grace and of repentance as providing continuing access to forgiveness has been held either accurately to represent Judaism (the covenant conception receded in late Judaism) or to reveal ignorance of it.[29]

This is the traditional interpretation of Judaism allegedly through the eyes of Paul, but Sanders contends, “Our analysis of Rabbinic and other Palestinian Jewish literature did not reveal the kind of religion best characterized as legalistic works-righteousness”.[30] However, Sanders also writes that this is not the actual hinge pin of Paul’s argument against Judaism anyway. Paul adheres to an exclusivist view of salvation, which gives rise to the attitude he has toward the law. Any alleged method of salvation which is found outside of Christ, which the law might presumably be, is incorrect due to Paul’s soteriological view. While Paul thought it was good to be eager to follow the law as he writes in Romans 10.2 and Phillipians 3.6, he warns against Jewish boasting which could easily go hand in hand with an overly evident adherence to the law and transgressing against the law whilst knowing about it.[31] What is odd is that Sander’s insights imply that Paul critiqued Judaism not based upon what has traditionally thought to characterize Judaism, but rather that Paul critiqued it by virtue of its not being Christianity.

What is wrong with Judaism is not that Jews seek to save themselves and become self-righteous about it, but that their seeking is not directed toward the right goal. They are not enlightened. They do not know that, as far as salvation goes, Christ has put an end to the law and provides a different righteousness from that provided by Torah obedience (Rom. 10.2-4).[32]

To be sure Paul does make even harsher comments about the law such as in Galatians 3.19, but this is to be balanced with, for example, Romans and Philippians 3, where both the law and doing the law is good.[33] Salvation is of course still only in Christ in these places and so the law system is deemed “worthless”.[34] Paul does not need to talk about either repentance or grace in the covenant because his focus is firmly upon the “new glory”, his new “pattern of religion” described in 2 Corinthians 3.9-11, which simply put rules out the importance of the pattern of religion found in the preceding system of Judaism.[35] Sanders offers the following concerning Paul’s view of the law:

What is wrong with it is not that it implies petty obedience and minimization of  important matters, nor that it results in the tabulation of merit points before God, but that it is not worth anything in comparison with being in Christ (Phil. 3.4-11). The fundamental critique of the law is that following the law does not result in being found in Christ; for salvation and the gift of the Spirit come only by faith (Rom. 10.10; Gal. 3.1-5). Doing the law, in short, is wrong only because it is not faith.[36]

The investigation E.P. Sanders makes of Judaism, especially Palestinian Judaism, is disruptive to traditional Pauline interpretation. Sanders recognizes this, and attempts to fix it, however most agree that his correction to Paul’s alleged theology is lacking in explanatory power, if not completely awkward. What is important to the discussion at hand is that Sanders is successful in pointing out some major problems with Paul’s supposed view of Judaism.

Thus in all these essential points – the meaning of ‘righteousness’, the role of repentance, the nature of sin, the nature of the saved ‘group’ and, most important, the necessity of transferring from the damned to the saved – Paul’s thought can be sharply distinguished from anything to be found in Palestinian Judaism. Despite agreements, there is a fundamental difference.[37]

Where does the New Perspective on Paul figure into all of this? First, E.P. Sanders has pointed out a potentially serious problem, a problem which has apparently gone almost unnoticed or at least underdeveloped for a very long time. He does not spell out the consequences of his work to any great length, if he even realizes what they are. Nevertheless, the first step toward the New Perspective has been taken, and that is the realization that the Judaism of Paul’s time has been misunderstood. As already discussed, Palestinian Judaism was not, like Paul’s apparent description of it, a legalistic works based system where salvation and covenant membership was earned through good deeds and following the law.[38] However, Paul has traditionally been taken to be saying exactly that. Something is therefore wrong and must change.

We will dismiss the possibility that we have wrongly interpreted the interpreters of Paul, which is rarely thought of as an option for answering the dilemma before us. Another possibility is that E.P. Sanders is just plain wrong in his assessment of Judaism. If E.P. Sanders can be shown to be wrong, then there is no problem before us and things are as they have always been. This potential way out of the problem has been taken by some, and will be given a little attention toward the end of the discussion. For now though, given that E.P. Sanders is correct, we are left with two options. Either Paul misunderstood the Judaism of his day, or we have misunderstood Paul.

The first option, that Paul misunderstood the Judaism of his day, seems like quite a stretch. It is difficult, if not arrogant; to take with a straight face the claim that E.P. Sanders is able to understand the Judaism of Paul’s day better than Paul himself understood it. Nevertheless, those few who hold this position assert that Judaism was not legalistic, but Paul wrongfully thought it was. Stephen Westerholm writes that, “the implication that we are in a position to correct Paul’s understanding of first-century Judaism is at least startling, if not (as some would insist) grossly improbable”.[39] Therefore, this option will not be given any more attention.

The only option left is to propose that Paul has been misinterpreted, perhaps terribly misinterpreted. This solution is essentially the New Perspective on Paul. While many have seemingly ignored the problematic findings of Sanders and others have had somewhat knee-jerk reactions causing them to reassert old claims all over again, Dunn and Wright, most notably, have taken this route of solving the now apparent inconsistencies. Followers of these two scholars have, “held that Judaism was not legalistic, that Paul has been misread when he has been thought to reject it in those terms, and that the error is to be attributed to Luther and his heirs, whose views of Judaism we need not scruple to amend”.[40] The first thinker we will take up to this effect is James D.G. Dunn.

James D.G. Dunn

James D.G. Dunn desires to develop the findings of Sanders. He summarizes what Sanders has left scholars to work with. Dunn takes Sander’s claim to basically be that “the picture of Judaism drawn from Paul’s writings is historically false, not simply inaccurate in part but fundamentally mistaken” rather than that Paul is the one being misunderstood.[41] Paul presents a gospel to the Jews, the opposite of which is supposedly their own system already discussed. Yet what “is usually taken to be the Jewish alternative to Paul’s gospel would have been hardly recognized as an expression of Judaism by Paul’s kinsmen according to the flesh”.[42]

Sanders notes that Jewish scholars and experts in early Judaism have for long enough been registering a protest at this point, contrasting rabbinic Judaism as they understand it with the parody of Judaism which Paul seems to have   rejected.[43]

This is the way Dunn views the problem created by the research of Sanders, and what begins his search for an answer more satisfying than Sanders’ attempt at one.

Paul is traditionally understood as being set against Judaism especially in terms of his doctrine of justification of faith, which Luther and those following in that tradition (mentioned are Bultmann and Käsemann) have taken to be an important centerpiece of Christian theology.[44] Dunn writes that, “Paul seems to depict Judaism as coldly and calculatingly legalistic, a system of ‘works’ righteousness, where salvation is earned by the merit of good works”.[45] The danger is setting Luther, with his well known worries and disagreements with the legalistic Catholicism of the time, on top of Paul to create something which Paul never intended to say. Luther’s view is especially appealing to the sort of person who, like Luther, is often anxious and displeased with him or herself and possibly concerned about God’s view of him or her.

The Lutheran understanding of Judaism during Paul’s time is apparently quite far off the mark. Dunn acknowledges Sanders’ treatment of Palestinian Judaism and that from “the relevant Jewish literature for that period, a rather different picture emerges”.[46]

In particular, he has shown with sufficient weight of evidence that for the first-century Jew, Israel’s covenant relation with God was basic, basic to the Jew’s sense of national identity and to his understanding of his religion. So far as we can tell now, for first-century Judaism everything was an elaboration of the fundamental axiom that the one God has chosen Israel to be his peculiar people, to enjoy a special relationship under his rule. The law had been given as an expression of this covenant, to regulate and maintain the relationship established by the covenant. So, too, righteousness must be seen in terms of this relationship, as referring to conduct appropriate to this relationship, conduct in accord with the  law. That is to say, obedience to the law in Judaism was never thought of as a  means of entering the covenant, of attaining that special relationship with God; it was more a matter of maintaining the covenant relationship with God.[47]

In Dunn’s reading of Sanders we again find the emphasis upon the covenant with the law being given in order to keep one in the covenant or show that one is in the covenant. This is worked out and summarized in covenantal nomism. There is no need to belabor this point any further. Sanders has in effect shown that all are “guilty of modernizing Paul”, reading him through Lutheran glasses, and has thus shattered the traditional interpretation of Paul freeing scholars to being anew in interpreting Paul according to new data about his context. In other words, Sanders has opened the door for scholars, “to do what all true exegetes want to do – that is, to see Paul properly within his own context, to hear Paul in terms of his own time, to let Paul be himself”.[48]

Dunn is unimpressed with the solution Sanders has offered in response to the issues he raises. The focus of Sanders is placed almost exclusively upon the differences between Paul and the Judaism of his time, without any fair amount of redevelopment of Paul in light of his findings. Paul’s new religion was a different understanding of righteousness quite unlike that in Judaism, and Judaism was faulted for simply not being Christianity. Paul simply prefers the idea of righteousness being found in Christ more than it being found in the law in the manner Judaism taught. Judaism’s fault turns up being that it is not Christianity, and Paul seemingly rejects it on this basis alone. Dunn sees this as a less than satisfying end to the work of Sanders.

The Lutheran Paul has been replaced by an idiosyncratic Paul who in arbitrary and irrational manner turns his face against the glory and greatness of Judaism’s covenant theology and abandons Judaism simply because it is not Christianity.[49]

Things become stranger when one realizes that at the same time, those following Paul would have done the same sort of thing. There must be something deeper Sanders has missed, or some rather irrational behavior occurred in a number of Jewish believers in a very short amount of time for little to no reason.[50] What E.P. Sanders leaves us with is a picture of Judaism which does not seem to match up with the picture Paul provides of Judaism. Sanders attempts a messy reconciliation which makes Paul appear rather arbitrary in his thinking, and Dunn expresses that he is just as unconvinced with this new Paul as he is with the Lutheran Paul which preceded him. Thus Dunn sees the work Sanders has done as opening the door to a different approach to Paul which Sanders has not taken the time or effort to lead.[51] Again, Dunn actually finds the Paul of Sanders, “little more convincing (and much less attractive) than the Lutheran Paul”.[52]

I am not convinced that we have yet been given the proper reading of Paul from the new perspective of first-century Palestinian Judaism opened up so helpfully by Sanders himself. On the contrary, I believe that the new perspective on Paul does make better sense of Paul than either Sanders or his critics have so far realized.[53]

This is what Dunn seeks to prove in his treatment of what he terms the New Perspective on Paul.

Dunn begins to work out Paul’s theology by turning to Galatians 2.16, which he takes to most likely be Paul’s first mention of justification by faith and a good model for understanding other passages which mention it.[54]

We are encouraged in this hope by the fact that this first statement seems to grow out of Paul’s attempt to define and defend his own understanding of justification,   over against whatever view was held by his fellow Jewish Christian from Jerusalem and Antioch; and also that it seems to form the basic statement of his gospel on which he builds his plea to his Galatian converts to hold steadfast to the gospel as he first proclaimed it to them.[55]

Paul’s declaration in Galatians 2.16 comes after an account of an argument between Peter and Paul at Antioch regarding some of the practices of Jewish Christians. Thus, the verse, while it does not necessarily recount the words used by Paul in that encounter, must have something to do with it and probably represent the thinking behind Paul’s words to Peter. The verse also reflects the thinking of Psalm 143.2.[56] This must be taken into consideration when interpreting what is being said in Galatians 2.16. The important question to ask here is what Jewish Christians would have understood by what Paul writes. Certainly “being justified” is to be understood in terms of a Jewish outlook, given the considerations discussed. The “we” refers to the “Jews” (v. 15) even as opposed to the “Gentile sinners”; a Jewish use of “justified” is being employed.[57]

But this is covenant language, the language of those conscious that they have been chosen as a people by God, and separated from the surrounding nations. Moreover, those from whom the covenant people are thus separated are described not only as Gentiles, but as ‘sinners’. Here, too, we have the language which stems from Israel’s consciousness of election. The Gentiles are ‘sinners’ precisely   in so far as they neither know nor keep the laws given by God to Israel. Paul therefore prefaces his first mention of ‘being justified’ with a deliberate appeal to the standard Jewish belief, shared also by his fellow Jewish Christians, that the Jews as a race are God’s covenant people. Almost certainly, then, his concept of righteousness, both noun and verb (to be made or counted righteous, to be      justified), is thoroughly Jewish too, with the same strong covenant overtones – the sort of usage we find particularly in the Psalms and Second Isaiah, where God’s righteousness is precisely God’s covenant faithfulness, his saving power and love for his people Israel. God’s justification is God’s recognition of Israel as his people, his verdict in favour of Israel on grounds of his covenant with Israel.[58]

Paul is using covenant language that the Jews of his context would understand, appealing to Israel’s national identity as God’s chosen people. Paul’s argument must not be as foreign as one would suppose after having read Sanders, then, and this fits together perfectly with Dunn’s earlier point. Paul’s use of the justification language is just as strongly influenced by this same Jewish covenantal context, and must be read in this manner if he is to be properly understood.

Dunn draws further points from this larger one. Paul is not writing of a solely initiatory act of God when he writes about justification, nor is he leaving Judaism in asserting that justification is by faith.

God’s justification is not his act in first making his covenant with Israel, or in initially accepting someone into the covenant people. God’s justification is rather God’s acknowledgment that someone is in the covenant – whether that is an initial acknowledgment, or a repeated action of God (God’s saving acts), or his final vindication of his people.[59]

Remembering what Sanders has had to say with regard to the Jewish thought on getting in and staying in the covenant, Paul is read in a new, and very compatible light. God simply acknowledges someone’s “membership” in the covenant. This may occur for the first time, one hundredth time, or final time at judgment. Sticking closely to Galatians 2.16 one may see that there is a future sense to the second use of “justified”. The third use of the term in Galatians 2.16 is actually in the future tense.[60] Again, this fits with what has been discussed thus far in Dunn’s new understanding of Paul. Dunn also refers his readers to Paul’s spill about waiting for “the hope of righteousness” in Galatians 5.5, which is clearly language about the future.

‘To be justified’ in Paul cannot, therefore, be treated simply as an entry or initiation formula; nor is it possible to draw a clear line of distinction between Paul’s usage and the typically Jewish covenant usage. Already, we may observe, Paul appears a good deal less idiosyncratic and arbitrary than Sanders alleges.[61]

To put it bluntly, Paul is not Luther. If one begins to interpret Paul through Lutheran glasses, using categories from the Reformation, then Paul may incorrectly be read as setting out to refute commitment to a system of works righteousness. This is far off from what Paul is actually writing about, according to Dunn, and so it is a bad place to start an honest exegesis of Paul within his own context. If accurate historical exegesis of the Pauline texts is to be carried out then it must be done in cooperation with Israel’s beliefs about its covenant status. Leaving this out skews Paul’s intent in his arguments. Dunn writes that “Paul is wholly at one with his fellow Jews in asserting that justification is by faith”.[62]

That is to say, integral to the idea of the covenant itself, and of God’s continued action to maintain it, is the profound recognition of God’s initiative and grace in first establishing and then maintaining the covenant. Justification by            faith, it would appear, is not a distinctively Christian teaching. Paul’s appeal here   is not to Christians who happen also to be Jews, but to Jews whose Christian faith is but an extension of their Jewish faith in a graciously electing and sustaining God.[63]

Paul’s argument is much stronger than the Lutheran Paul’s argument, because it appeals to Jewish theological sensibilities, so to speak.

Paul continues attacking “works of the law” in his writing, which requires an understanding of what “works of the law” refers to. It is necessary to learn what the phrase means; because it might possibly contradict the conclusion Dunn has drawn. Dunn contends that this phrase refers to “covenant works”. As already mentioned, the immediate context of Galatians 2.16 includes the preceding description of the debates at Jerusalem and Antioch. Dunn, speaking of Paul, writes,

His denial that justification is from works of law is, more precisely, a denial that justification depends on circumcision or on observation of the Jewish purity and food taboos. We may justifiably deduce, therefore, that by ‘works of the law’ Paul intended his readers to think of particular observances of the law like circumcision and the food laws.[64]

Later on in Galatians 4.10 days and feasts are mentioned as well because all such particular practices were particularly Jewish in nature.[65] Jews were known for these outward practices of the law that Dunn maintains were “identity markers”.

It is clear, in other words, that just these observances in particular functioned as identity markers, they served to identify their practitioners as Jewish in the eyes of the wider public, they were the peculiar rites which marked out the Jews as that peculiar people.[66]

This is made quite clear even in Sanders’ study of the Jewish people, who took these to be the distinguishing marks of a Jew (even though such practices were not always exclusively Jewish). Non-Jews viewed these practices in such a manner as well. Thus, they were seen as a mark of the covenant. Dunn discusses these specific Jewish works of the law before concluding that “it would be virtually impossible to conceive of participation in God’s covenant, and so in God’s covenant righteousness, apart from, these observances, these works of the law”.[67]

The conclusion follows very strongly that when Paul denied the possibility of  ‘being justified by works of the law’ it is precisely this basic Jewish self-understanding which Paul is attacking – the idea that God’s acknowledgement of covenant status is bound up with, even dependent upon, observance of these particular regulations – the idea that God’s verdict of acquittal hangs to any extent on the individual’s having declared his membership of the covenant people by embracing these distinctively Jewish rites.[68]

Thus Dunn narrows the traditional referent of Paul’s “works of the law”. Paul is opposing a narrow nationalistic tendency amongst the Jews, not a works righteousness soteriological system.

‘Works of law’, ‘works of the law’ are nowhere understood here, either by his  Jewish interlocutors or by Paul himself, as works which earn God’s favour, as merit-amassing observances. They are rather seen as badges: they are simply what   membership of the covenant people involves, what mark out the Jews as God’s people; given by God for precisely that reason, they serve to demonstrate covenant status. They are the proper response to God’s covenant grace, the minimal commitment for members of God’s people.[69]

That is, Sanders’ covenantal nomism is, according to Dunn, precisely what Paul is addressing in Galatians and elsewhere, but he rejects that God justifies because of it. The grace of God is to more than just those who practice the distinguishing marks of the covenant, which tells a great deal about Paul’s views.

Paul’s view of works is not the one described by Luther and those who follow after, which is an anachronistic affair, according to Dunn.[70] When Paul writes about “good works”, he is referring not to good works in general as some sort of way to earn merit but rather to the specific good works of keeping the marks of the covenant, all of which has already been discussed. Dunn thus reads Sanders, recognizes that his concerns about Judaism not matching up with Paul are apparently correct, and then rereads Paul with the understanding that has been laid out here. It is not, as Sanders asserts, that Paul has somewhat arbitrary agreements and disagreements with Judaism, but rather that the view Sanders gives of Judaism is correct and the traditional view of Paul is incorrect. Paul is right in line with Judaism when it comes to the categories discussed. What, then, is Paul’s point with the Jewish Christians?

Paul’s point is precisely that these two are alternatives – justification by works of law and justification by faith in Jesus are antithetical opposites. To say that God’s favourable action towards anyone is dependent in any degree on works of the law is to contradict the claim that God’s favour depends on faith, faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed it is quite likely that Galatians 2.16 reflects the step by which Paul’s thinking hardened these two propositions into a clear-cut antithesis.[71]

Dunn reaches this conclusion through the argument between Paul and Peter, where the common ground is, “that ‘a man is not justified by works of law except through faith in Jesus Christ’”.[72] Faith in Jesus as Messiah qualifies justification through works of the law and thus restricts it. In other words, Paul is adding something onto covenantal nomism, and that is redefining faith in the Jewish scheme as faith in Jesus.[73] Faith is the route to justification, and justification can depend on nothing else, including ritualistic Jewish practices. The doctrine Paul teaches is in effect spinning traditional Jewish categories, making faith into specific faith in Jesus Christ and taking this to be the identity marker for the people of the covenant, not works in the narrow sense of the word already discussed.[74]

Now then, Dunn takes this to mean that while Jewish Christians are perfectly fine with retaining their Jewish rituals, Paul argues that “what is of grace through faith cannot depend in any sense, in any degree, on a particular ritual response”.[75] Faith in Jesus Christ is the basis for justification, not works. No one is justified through works of law unless that person is justified through faith in Jesus Christ.

 Perhaps, then, for the first time, in this verse faith in Jesus Messiah begins to emerge not simply as a narrower definition of the elect of God, but as an alternative definition of the elect of God. From being one identity marker for the Jewish Christian alongside the other identity markers (circumcision, food laws, sabbath), faith in Jesus as Christ becomes the primary identity marker which renders the others superfluous.[76]

While the Jews seem to be fine with covenantal nomism alongside faith in Christ, Paul argues that justification by faith in Christ fulfills what is lacking in the covenant and makes it a much broader ordeal. It is no longer specifically Jewish or contingent upon works.[77] Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus pressed Paul to fit Christ into the Jewish covenantal nomism. While other Jewish believers thought that the distinguishing characteristics of the covenant people were virtually untouched by the advent of Christ, Paul argued against the idea.

There is a major eschatological element to Paul’s argument according to the New Perspective on Paul. God wished to bless the nations, not just Israel, as found in Genesis 12.3, 18.18 and as cited in Galatians 3.8. When Christ entered the picture the time of fulfillment was brought about so that “the covenant should no longer be conceived in nationalistic or racial terms”, but rather to be “broadened out as God had originally intended – with the grace of God which it expressed separated from its national restriction and freely bestowed without respect to race or work, as it had been bestowed in the beginning”.[78] For Paul, the covenant had become characterized by something other than circumcision, dietary laws, and the Sabbath with the coming of Christ, and this ran counter to the narrow nationalistic marks these observances provided to those in the covenant.

Covenant works had become too closely identified as Jewish observances, covenant righteousness as national righteousness. But to maintain such identification was to ignore both the way the covenant began and the purpose it   had been intended to fulfill in the end.[79]

Dunn believes that this argument is inherent in Galatians 2.16 and that it more or less marks the crucial transition from Judaism to Christianity.[80]

It is important to notice and keep in mind that Dunn is not suggesting we return to the old antithesis between faith and works, for the works in Paul’s sights are not “good works” which merit salvation, but rather specific Jewish covenantal works which show that one is in the covenant. Further, there is nothing wrong with these specific works themselves, but rather the nationalism and racism which is behind them. They are not necessary markers of covenant participation, faith in Christ is.[81] It turns out that while Sanders, “in effect freed Pauline exegesis from its sixteenth-century blinkers”, he also made Paul ignorant about his own extremely familiar context and, “left us with a Paul who could have made little sense to his fellow Jews”.[82] Dunn has fixed this problem by pointing out that the problem is not with Paul, for Paul addresses the very same Judaism Sanders writes about, but rather the problem is with Paul’s interpreters who have traditionally viewed him through the Reformation commentary on the subject.[83] As already discussed, Dunn takes “works of the law” to be referring to specifically Jewish practices which once marked who was in the covenant, rather than holding them to refer to “doing the law” in an effort to be justified through merit.[84] It must also be kept in mind that Paul is not speaking specifically of individual rightness with God, so to speak, but about a whole new program due to the coming of Christ.

Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith should not be understood primarily as an exposition of the individual’s relation to God, but primarily in the context of Paul the Jew wrestling with the question of how Jews and Gentiles stand in relation to each other within the covenant purpose of God now that it has reached its climax in Jesus Christ. It is precisely the degree to which Israel had come to regard the covenant and the law as coterminous with Israel, as Israel’s special prerogative, wherein the problem lay. Paul’s solution does not require him to deny the covenant, or indeed the law as God’s law, but only the covenant and the law as ‘taken over’ by Israel.[85]

James D.G. Dunn thus takes the astute observations of E.P. Sanders and runs with them, turning traditional Pauline interpretation upon its head in an effort to reconcile Paul with the Judaism of his time.

N.T. Wright

The final thinker of our threesome directly involved in creating the New Perspective on Paul is N.T. Wright. N.T. Wright was one of the first scholars on the scene once E.P. Sanders had successfully made Pauline interpreters pause at the information coming from a thorough study of Palestinian Judaism. Wright immediately began to write against the idea of Judaism as legalism and a works-righteousness system and instead suggested that Judaism had essentially always been a religion filled with grace and that good works were only meant to maintain God’s covenant with Israel.[86] Wright likewise quickly picked up upon what we have already seen Dunn point out; that Paul has been terribly misrepresented by his interpreters.[87] Wright takes the New Perspective on Paul even further than does Dunn, emphasizing a sort of grand narrative whereby Israel relates to God. Wright agrees with Sanders’ assessment of Judaism, except that he does not believe Sanders has given the political factor its proper place in Judaism and so Sanders misses a great deal while anachronistically treating Judaism in a narrow religious sense.

Saul of Tarsus was not interested in a timeless system of salvation, whether of  works-righteousness or anything else. Nor was he interested simply in understanding and operating a system of religion, a system of ‘getting in’ and/or       ‘staying in’ (Sanders’ categories). He wanted God to redeem Israel.[88]

This results in Wright placing great emphasis upon the eschatological themes in Paul, which he obviously believes Paul himself does.

The term “justification” is understood in Wright’s system to be a law-court term. Within the context of Judaism from which this term stems, “it refers to the greatest lawsuit of all: that which will take place on the great day when the true God judges all the nations, more particularly the nations that have been oppressing Israel”.[89] Like Dunn, Wright is here taking justification to have a very strong implication for the future. When history is brought to its “conclusion”, God will judge and “justify” all the nations, both pagan and his own chosen nation Israel.[90]

‘Justification’ thus describes the coming great act of redemption and salvation, seen from the point of view of the covenant (Israel is God’s people) on the one   hand and the law court on the other (God’s final judgment will be like a great law-court scene, with Israel winning the case).[91]

Thus justification becomes for Wright an eschatological, rather than a soteriological, matter. He writes, “Putting it another way, the Jewish eschatological hope was hope for justification, for God to vindicate his people at last”.[92]

When Wright speaks of politics being preeminent in the discussion, he allegedly is working from within second-temple Judaic thought as a whole. Justification in this wide Jewish sense was a term employed to describe what would ultimately happen to Israel. Judaism had managed to hold tightly to the covenant promises of its God throughout extraordinarily trying times, and would eventually be tested and found faithful through its adherence to the covenant. Political circumstances in the Roman Empire placed a great and difficult weight upon Palestinian Judaism, yet the people of God cleaved to the promise of God to ultimately bring about justice.[93] In short, the ultimate purpose of the covenant was to “put the world to rights”, in Wright’s language.[94] God would eventually take care of the evil which had plagued Judaism and was plaguing Judaism during Paul’s time.

God himself was seen as the judge; evildoers (i.e. the Gentiles, and renegade Jews) would finally be judged and punished; God’s faithful people (i.e. Israel, or at least the true Israelites) would be vindicated.[95]

God would finally institute his justice and bring everything back into conformity with the way things are supposed to be ordered according to the just will of God.[96] Therefore if Paul is to be understood at all, he will have to be understood within the context of this Judaism. The political and eschatological categories are tied up in justification, and hence cannot be ignored. To ignore these two important emphases is to misunderstand and misrepresent Paul.[97]

While the Lutherans have typically held justification to be perhaps the most crucially important part of the gospel, they have apparently been pretty far off the mark. It is true that justification and the gospel are related and connected, but the gospel is not reducible to justification or vice versa, and justification does not even play the role in salvation that the Lutherans have held that it does anyway.[98] As one might bow the knee to one of the many pagan kings throughout Judaism’s history, the gospel is essentially that one must bow the knee before Jesus.

…Saul was not interested in a timeless system of salvation, whether of works-righteousness or anything else. He wanted God to redeem Israel. Moreover, he drew freely on texts from the Hebrew Bible which promised that Israel’s God would do exactly that.[99]

This is a very different concept from the traditional Lutheran interpretation of the gospel discussed at the beginning of this paper. According to Wright, the gospel is a heralding of the Lordship of Christ which asks for obedience of faith.

It is not, then, a system of how people get saved. The announcement of the gospel results in people being saved – Paul says as much a few verses later. But ‘the gospel’ itself, strictly speaking, is the narrative proclamation of King Jesus.[100]

The trouble then becomes determining who is a part of this covenant and who is not, who will be saved from the awful judgment of God and who will not. This appears to be another dimension to justification.

According to Jewish thought, eventually there will be a day upon which God “puts the world to rights” and acts in vindictive justice. This is a major part of justification in Palestinian Judaism. The question then becomes how it is determined, with more precision, who is among the true group of God’s people and who is not.[101] In the past, those who followed the Torah were always understood to be those whom God would benefit through serving this justice. Pausing at this point and comparing what has been stated so far to traditional interpretations of Paul will reveal enormous differences between the “two Pauls”. Justification turns out to be something entirely different, radically different, from what the traditional interpreters of Paul have led us to believe it is.

 ‘Justification’ in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God. It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future  and present, of who was, in fact, a member of his people. In Sanders’ terms, it was not so much about ‘getting in’, or indeed about ‘staying in’, as about ‘how you could tell who was in’. In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church.[102]

There is much to unpack in this definition. First of all, contra Luther, justification by faith has nothing to do with having a relationship with God. Further, justification is not a way to get into the body of the saved, or to even maintain a position in the body of the saved. Instead, justification is the way to tell who is in the covenant with God; who is “a member of his people”.[103] Thus developing the eschatological theme has actually led to an ecclesiological one as well. Wright explains that, “Justification in this setting, then, is not a matter of how someone enters the community of the true people of God, but of how you tell who belongs to that community, not least in the period of time before the eschatological event itself, when the matter will become public knowledge”.[104] The conclusion here is similar to Dunn’s; there were many who wanted to identify themselves as belonging to God’s people based upon the specifically Jewish works of the law, but this nationalism is to be rejected due to the coming of Christ and faith is to take its place.

Objections

As one can imagine, there has been no shortage of responses written with regard to the New Perspective on Paul. It is not the purpose of this paper to even attempt to mention all of these responses, much less to give even two of them an exhaustive treatment. It is sufficient to state that when such deeply engrained theological positions as the traditional Lutheran understanding of Paul are threatened, people are subject to somewhat knee-jerk reactions and will grasp for whatever straws are handy to refute the new view in question. Many of the attempted refutations of Sanders, Dunn and Wright have been premature and much less articulate than the work of these three men. Nevertheless, there are two possible routes of escape from the conclusions of the New Perspective on Paul which look promising and will be briefly dealt with here. The first of these potential objections concerns the work of Sanders.

As mentioned before, if the findings of Sanders are themselves called into question then the apparent problem which has led us this far will be staved off from the beginning and there will be no need to seek reinterpretation of Paul. Some scholars have noticed this and have taken it upon themselves to refute Sanders. Showing Sanders to be incorrect in his assessment of Palestinian Judaism could be attempted in a handful of different ways.

For example, Sanders himself writes, “It is certainly not the case that there is uniformity of systematic theology among the material studied, and this is not implied by arguing for a basic consistency in the underlying pattern of religion.”[105] The agreement within Judaism that Sanders finds is not an absolute or universal agreement, though to be fair it is a strong general agreement. Therefore Sanders writes,

Thus to the frequent assertion that there were numerous Judaisms in the Palestine of the period studied, one can reply yes or no, depending on just what is meant. There were obviously different groups and different theologies on numerous points. But there appears to have been more in common than just the name ‘Jew’.[106]

The potential argument raised in objection here is that Judaism is not monolithic, which is certainly true according to Sanders’ own words which were just cited. Of course, Sanders has taken this into consideration and offered the justification above. Nevertheless, there may be some wiggle room here. One interesting way to pursue this argument further might be through not only the texts which Sanders actually mentions as suggesting a different view from the majority of other Jewish texts, but also through a closer look at the documents from the Qumran community. Sanders finds that Paul, or the traditional interpretation of Paul, is actually in agreement with some of the themes found in the texts from Qumran.[107] For example, according to the Lutheran tradition Paul teaches that both Jews and Gentiles must transfer from the body of the perishing to the body of salvation. This concept has no parallel in Judaism so far as Sanders has determined, except for in the Qumran scrolls.[108] Again though, Sanders tries to dismiss these similarities as being only apparent. Some of them he cannot dismiss, such as the use of transfer language just cited. There are a few other thorns in the side of Sanders as well.

Thomas Schreiner has studied the same material on Palestinian Judaism as Sanders, and he has come to the conclusion that in fact, there was legalism in Judaism. Judaism was legalistic. The first indications of this are “the ‘sheer number and detail of laws which are codified in the Mishnah’”.[109] A much larger problem, perhaps, is that Sanders insists upon emphasizing the covenant, but the word is almost completely absent in the Jewish writings, which would lead one to speculate that the idea of covenant may not have been all as important to the Jews as Sanders supposes. Westerholm writes concerning Schreiner’s argument that, “theology may fairly be measured in part by what it stresses, and any theology (Jewish or Christian) that ‘claims to stress God’s grace but rarely mentions it and that elaborates human responsibility in detail inevitably becomes legalistic in practice, if not in theory’”.[110] This leads to another good question, which is why we should suppose that the Jewish people actually followed their religious theories as closely as we must assume that they did in order for Sanders’ argument to work. The U.S. Constitution contains no shortage of assertions, but the mere existence of the text itself is hardly proof that U.S. politicians actually believe and follow the Constitution or have even read it. Another possible parallel here might be Jesus’ sharp rebukes of the apparently legalistic Pharisees of his day who would have been twisting the law as they saw fit. Why should a modern interpreter of Paul assume that he or she is in a position to know better than Paul whether or not the Jews of his time were acting in accordance with their religion of grace (as opposed to legalism)? Thus, even given that Sanders is correct in his evaluation, there is no guarantee that Paul was off in his description of the Jewish practice of his time.

Schreiner puts forth one more argument based on Sanders’ writings.

Finally, though the rabbis were not formulating systematic theology in proposing why God elected Israel, two of the three answers they gave (as cited by Sanders) “betray a legalistic mindset”.[111]

These considerations are more than enough to start questioning or possibly attacking the first necessary part of the New Perspective on Paul as provided by Sanders in his assessment of Palestinian Judaism.

Another possible weak point in the New Perspective on Paul is Dunn’s apparently unnecessary qualification of “works of the law”. Recall that Dunn takes this phrase to refer to only those nationalistic practices of the Jewish people which they had started boasting in. It is questionable whether or not it is necessary to narrow the definition of this phrase as Dunn does. It is extremely difficult to read the passage in Romans 4.4-5 without getting the sense that Paul views works as the “meritorious” kind of deeds the Lutherans have always told us that they are.[112] Not only this but works are set in contrast with faith in this passage. Further, God justifies the ungodly, something else which seems foreign to both Dunn and Wright’s treatment of this subject. Not only does this plainly sound like transfer language, the language is also suspiciously indicative of a works righteousness understanding on the part of the Jews who may be reading Paul’s letter to the Romans. This is so evident that in his commentary on the passage, Dunn immediately asserts that the, “language used here (working, reckoning, reward) should not be taken as a description of the Judaism of Paul’s day. In particular, Paul is not castigating contemporary Judaism for a theology of (self-achived) merit and reward…”[113] It depends upon how convincing Dunn is in his argument as to whether or not he blatantly begs the question here with this bold assertion. We may be inclined to drop a significant portion of the New Perspective on Paul, the new understanding of “works of the law”, if we remain unconvinced by Dunn’s answer. To be fair, Dunn does present an argument, appealing to an Old Testament passage, before warning of a danger of focusing, “…too heavily on these verses without sufficient regard for the movement of his [Paul’s] thought in them…”.[114] Schreiner sums up the argument well.

For one thing, Paul uses “works” to refer generally to human deeds, and “works of law” to signify deeds demanded by the Mosaic law; the terms are not limited to the peculiar marks of Jewish distinctiveness (Rom. 2:6, 9, 10; 4:1-8; 9:11-12; 11:6; etc.) (Law, 52-54). For another, Paul’s charge throughout Romans 2 is that Jews are liable for divine judgment because they have transgressed God’s moral demands, not because they exclude Gentiles and trumpet Jewish prerogatives (55-56). Moreover, it is clear from the beginning of Romans 4 that Paul thinks human works in general can play no part in justification (54-55, 101). In a number of other Pauline texts, too, the alternatives of salvation by “doing” or by “believing” (without “doing”) are set forth, and the latter alone deemed viable (e.g., Gal. 3:11-12, 18; Rom. 9:32; 10:3, 5-13)[115]

These considerations alone show that Dunn should not be let off the hook so easily.

The two potential problems with the New Perspective on Paul presented here are not the only two, nor should their treatment be thought of as anything more than barely scratching the surface. They are provided here only to point out that such objections do exist, and may carry weight. A more thorough treatment would require not only studying a host of objections in greater depth, but also Sanders’, Dunn’s, and Wright’s responses to these objections. However, such a massive endeavor ranges well beyond the scope of this post.

Works Cited

E.P. Sanders. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion. Fortress Press. Philadelphia, PA. 1977.

E.P. Sanders. Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People. Fortress Press. Philadelphia, PA. 1983.

James D.G. Dunn. Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians. Westminster/John Knox Press. Louisville, KY. 1990.

James D.G. Dunn. Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 38A, Romans 1-8. Word. Dallas, Texas. 1988.

NRSV Harper Study Bible. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1991.

N.T. Wright. What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? Eerdmans. Cincinnati, OH. 1997.

Stephen Westerholm. Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics. Eerdmans. Grand Rapids, MI. 2004.


[1] Stephen Westerholm. Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics. Eerdmans. Grand Rapids, MI. 2004. Pg. 88.

[2] Ibid. Pgs. 88-89.

[3] Ibid. Pg. 89.

[4] Ibid. Pg. 90.

[5] Ibid. Pg. 90.

[6] Ibid. Pg. 90.

[7] Ibid. Pg. 90.

[8] Ibid. Pgs. 90-91.

[9] Ibid. Pg. 91.

[10] Ibid. Pg. 91.

[11] Ibid. Pg. 92.

[12] Ibid. Pg. 92.

[13] Ibid. Pg. 94.

[14] Ibid. Pg. 94.

[15] E.P. Sanders. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion. Fortress Press. Philadelphia, PA. 1977. Pg. 543.

[16] Ibid. Pg. 543.

[17] Ibid. Pg. 543.

[18] Ibid. Pg. 544.

[19] Ibid. Pg. 544.

[20] Ibid. Pg. 544.

[21] Ibid. Pg. 544.

[22] Ibid. Pg. 237.

[23] Ibid. Pg. 422.

[24] Ibid. Pg. 546.

[25] Ibid. Pg. 546.

[26] Ibid. Pg. 547.

[27] Ibid. Pg. 547.

[28] Ibid. Pgs. 546-547.

[29] Ibid. Pgs. 549-550.

[30] Ibid. Pg. 550.

[31] Ibid. Pg. 550.

[32] Ibid. Pg. 550.

[33] Ibid. Pg. 550.

[34] Ibid. Pg. 550.

[35] Ibid. Pg. 551.

[36] Ibid. Pg. 550. (Original emphasis.)

[37] Ibid. Pg. 548.

[38] Stephen Westerholm. Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics. Eerdmans. Grand Rapids, MI. 2004. Pg. 178.

[39] Ibid. Pg. 178.

[40] Ibid. Pg. 178.

[41] James D.G. Dunn. Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians. Westminster/John Knox Press. Louisville, KY. 1990. Pg. 184.

[42] Ibid. Pg. 184.

[43] Ibid. Pg. 184.

[44] Ibid. Pgs. 184-185.

[45] Ibid. Pg. 185.

[46] Ibid. Pg. 185.

[47] Ibid. Pgs. 185-186.

[48] Ibid. Pg. 186.

[49] Ibid. Pg. 187.

[50] Ibid. Pg. 187.

[51] Ibid. Pg. 188.

[52] Ibid. Pg. 187.

[53] Ibid. Pg. 187.

[54] “…yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law.” Galatians 2.16. NRSV Harper Study Bible. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1991.

[55] Ibid. Pg. 188.

[56] Ibid. Pg. 189.

[57] Ibid. Pgs. 189-190.

[58] Ibid. Pg. 190.

[59] Ibid. Pg. 190.

[60] Ibid. Pg. 190.

[61] Ibid. Pg. 190.

[62] Ibid. Pg. 191.

[63] Ibid. Pg. 191.

[64] Ibid. Pg. 191.

[65] “You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years.” Galatians 4.10. NRSV Harper Study Bible. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1991.

[66] Ibid. Pg. 192.

[67] Ibid. Pg. 193.

[68] Ibid. Pg. 194.

[69] Ibid. Pg. 194.

[70] Ibid. Pgs. 194-195.

[71] Ibid. Pg. 195.

[72] Ibid. Pg. 196.

[73] Ibid. Pg. 196.

[74] Ibid. Pg. 196.

[75] Ibid. Pg. 196.

[76] Ibid. Pg. 196.

[77] Ibid. Pgs. 197-198.

[78] Ibid. Pg. 197.

[79] Ibid. Pg. 197.

[80] Ibid. Pg. 198.

[81] Ibid. Pg. 198.

[82] Ibid. Pg. 201.

[83] Ibid. Pg. 201.

[84] Ibid. Pg. 201.

[85] Ibid. Pg. 202.

[86] Stephen Westerholm. Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics. Eerdmans. Grand Rapids, MI. 2004. Pg. 179.

[87] Ibid. Pg. 179.

[88] N.T. Wright. What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? Eerdmans. Cincinnati, OH. 1997. Pg. 32.

[89] Ibid. Pg. 33.

[90] Ibid. Pg. 33.

[91] Ibid. Pg. 33.

[92] Ibid. Pg. 34.

[93] Ibid. Pg. 117.

[94] Ibid. Pg. 117.

[95] Ibid. Pg. 118.

[96] Ibid. Pg. 117.

[97] Ibid. Pg. 117.

[98] Ibid. Pgs. 117-118.

[99] Ibid. Pg. 118.

[100] Ibid. Pg. 45.

[101] Ibid. Pg. 127.

[102] Ibid. Pg. 119.

[103] Ibid. Pg. 119.

[104] Ibid. Pg. 119. (Original emphasis.)

[105] E.P. Sanders. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion. Fortress Press. Philadelphia, PA. 1977. Pg. 423.

[106] Ibid. 423.

[107] Ibid. Pgs. 547-548.

[108] Ibid. Pgs. 547-548.

[109] Stephen Westerholm. Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics. Eerdmans. Grand Rapids, MI. 2004. Pg. 209.

[110] Ibid. 209.

[111] Ibid. Pg. 209.

[112] “Now to the one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due. But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.” Romans 4.4-5. NRSV Harper Study Bible. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1991.

[113] James D.G. Dunn. Word Biblical Commentary: Volume 38A, Romans 1-8. Word. Dallas, Texas. 1988. Pg. 204.

[114] Ibid. Pg. 204. (Brackets mine.)

[115] Stephen Westerholm. Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics. Eerdmans. Grand Rapids, MI. 2004. Pg. 210.


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