The new perspective on Paul: its basic tenets, history, and presuppositions, FD Farnell

Tags: the Reformation, John Calvin, Pauline theology, New Perspective on Paul, Paul R, Martin Luther, Christianity, historical criticism, David Baron, Charles Feinberg, John Whitcomb, Robert Chisholm, preaching the gospel, Master's Seminary, Book Reviews, Israel, Timothy George, Dallas Theological Seminary, The Master's Seminary Journal, Jewish nationalism, Paul, the New Perspective on Paul, the righteous and the wicked, Paul the Apostle, Paul and the Law, historical Jesus, works of the law of Moses, King Jesus, the crucified Jesus, the letters of Paul, James D. G. Dunn, Presuppositions, justification by faith
Content: Roman religione-veil-unveiled-the-hijab-in-modern-culture.pdf">Book Reviewsrethinking-the-ford-nazi-connection.pdf">Thomas Watsonre-you-and-your-company-ready-for-the-imagination-age.pdf">human potentialcipleship.pdf">Academic Deanimplification-in-contemporary-selfhelp-literature.pdf">M. Scott Peckhe-living-bibliography-of-burma-studies-the-secondary-research.pdf">William D.s-islam-and-christianity-in-the-horn-of-africa-somalia-ethiopia.pdf">Christianity and Islamand-his-work.pdf">Christian Churchliterary-structure-of-the-old-testament.pdf">Book of the Laward-a-reconstruction-of-utility-and-welfare-economics.pdf">human actionthe-centered-life-initiative-equipping-the-saints.pdf">church membersauma-and-dissociation-neurological-and-spiritual-perspectives.pdf">spirit guideshats-bugging-me-about-literary-translation.pdf">written textsrench-international-school-victor-segalen-association-limited.pdf">DAVID WATSONthe-self-life-and-the-christ-life.pdf">Lord Jesus Christ005) 189-243 THE NEW PERSPECTIVE ON PAUL: ITS BASIC TENETS, HISTORY, AND PRESUPPOSITIONS F. David Farnell Associate Professor of New Testament Recent decades have witnessed a change in views of Pauline theology. A growing num ber o f evan gelica ls have endorsed a view called the New Perspective on Paul (NP P) which significa ntly depa rts from the Reformation emphasis on justification by faith alone. The NPP has followed in the path of historical criticism's rejection of an orthodox view of biblical inspiration, and has adopted an existential view of biblical interpretation. The best-known spokesmen for the NPP are E. P. Sa nders, James D. G. Dunn, and N. T. Wright. With only slight differences in their defenses of the N PP , all three have adopted "covenantal nomism," which essen tially gives a role in salvation to works of the law of Moses. A survey of historical elements leading up to the NPP isolates several influences: Jewish opposition to the Jesus o f the Gospels and Pau line literature, Luther's alleged antisemitism, and historical-criticism. The NPP is not actually new; it is simply a simultaneous convergence of a num ber o f old aberra tions in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. ***** W hen discussing the rise of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP), few theologians carefully scrutinize its historical and p resuppositional antecedents. Many treat it merely as a 20th-century phenomenon; something that is relatively "new" arising within the last thirty or forty years. They erroneously isolate it from its long histo ry of develop ment. The NP P, ho wever, is not new but is the revival of an old ideology that has been around for the many centuries of church history: the revival of works as efficacious for salvation. One should emphasize that the NPP is the direct offspring of historical-critical ideologies. The same ideologies that destroyed orthodox views of inspiration and the trustworthiness of the Scriptures gave rise to the NPP. Historical critics first questioned the inspiration and integrity of the Gospels and then moved with the same intent in the letters of Paul. The 189
190 The Master's Seminary Journal historical-critical search for the "historical Jesus" has led to the "search for the real Paul." Though many historical critics nominally maintained a Reformed perspective on Pauline literature, their work provided the fodder for the eventual confluence of ideologies that emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century as the N PP . Sadly, historical criticism has provided not only the avenue to produce the unorthodox concepts of the "historical Jesus" but also an unorthodox concept of the "historical Pau l," a Paul that bears little resemblance to the letters he wrote. For the NPP, eisegesis, not exegesis, of the biblical text dominates. Introduction to the New Perspective on Paul Pauline Theology's Radical Change in the Last Century Some may no t be aware of the qua litative and even substantively radical changes that have com e in und erstand ing Pauline the ology, especially in soteriology with its concepts of sola g ratia and sola fide and the forensic declaration of the righteousness of God apart from works that was hammered out on the anvils of the Reformation of 151 7. Som e even sugge st that such a "normative" understanding of Pauline theology has been wrong through the centuries of church history. A so-called New Perspective1 has arisen that has sought to replace the "old" perspective so firmly guarded by the Reform ation and its heirs. More accura tely, however, it is not a new perspective but a revival of an old perspective of works salvation as advocated by Roman Catho licism leading up to the Reformatio n. Some important reasons pro ve this. First, even the Reformer Calvin was aware of those who, like the NPP proponents today, interpreted the Pauline expression "works of the law" as referring to "ceremonies" rather than "the whole law." In commenting on the phrase in Rom 3:20, Calvin shows the NPP is not really new: Even among learned scholars there is some doubt about what is meant by the works of the law. While some extend them to include the observance of the whole law, others restrict them to ceremonies alone. The addition of the word law induced Chrysostom, Origen, and Jerome to accept the latter opinion, for they thought that this addition had a peculiar connotation, to prevent the passage from being understood of all works. . . . Even the schoolmen had a well-worn clichй that works are meritorious not by any intrinsic worthiness, but by the covenant of God. They are mistaken, since they do not see that our works are always corrupted by vices which deprive them of any merit. . . . Paul . . . rightly and wisely does not argue about mere works, but makes a distinction and explicit reference to the keeping of the law, which was properly the subject of his discussion. The arguments adduced by other learned scholars in support of this opinion are weaker than they should have been. They hold that the mention of circumcision is offered as an example which refers only to ceremonies. . . . [However] Paul was arguing with those who inspired the people with false confidence in ceremonies, and to remove 1The term "New Perspective on Paul" was coine d by a m ajor p ropo nen t, James Dunn (James D. G. Dunn, "Th e New P erspective on Paul," Bulletin of the John Ryland's Library 65 [19 83] 95 -122).
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 191 this confidence he does not confine himself to ceremonies, nor does he specifically discuss their value, but he includes the whole law. . . . We contend, however, not without reason, that Paul is here speaking of the whole law. . . . It is a . . . memorable truth of the first importance that no one can obtain righteousness by the keeping of the law.2 Second, the do ctrine of sola fide is a sine qua non of the Reformation, which sough t to return to the true intent of Paul's letters. Runia strikes at the heart of its importance: "For the Reformers, and those who stood in their tradition the doctrine of the justification of the sinner by faith alone (sola fide) was always of the utmost impo rtance. In the Lutheran Reformation it was called "the article upon which the church stands or falls (articulus ecc lesia stantis et cadentis ecclesiae)."3 Luther warne d in his Smalcald Articles, Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4, 12. And with His stripes we are healed, Is. 53, 5. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain victory and suit over us.4 He foresaw that a day would come after the Reformation's restoration of Pau l's doctrine of salvation through faith alone that some theologians would attempt to bring back the efficacy of works in justification. At one time, Packer observed, Luther anticipated that after his death the truth of justification would come under fresh attack and theology would develop in a way tending to submerge it once more in error and incomprehension; and throughout the century following Luther's death Reformed theologians, with Socinian and other rationalists in their eye, were constantly stressing how radically opposed to each other are the "Gospel mystery" of justification and the religion of the natural man."5 2John Calvin, "The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians," Calvin's Com mentaries, trans. Ross Mackenzie, eds. David W. Torrance and Thom as F. Torrance (Grand Rapids: Eerdm ans, 1960) 8:69-70 (em phases in the original). 3Klaas Runia, "Justification and Roman Catholicism," in Right with God, e d. D. A. Carson (London: published on behalf of the World Evangelical Fellowship by Paternoster and Baker, 1992) 197. Although Luther himself did not use this precise expression, he used similar ones. For further information, s ee H . George An ders on, T . Au stin Mu rphy, and Joseph A. Burgess, eds., Justification By Faith, Lutherans and Catho lics in Dialogue V II (Minneapolis: Augburg, 1985) 25, 320 n. 51. 4M artin Luther, The Smalcald Articles, A Reprint from the "Conc o rd i a T riglotta ." in Comm emoration of the Four-Hundredth Anniversary of the Presentation of This Confession of the Lutheran C h ur ch at S ch m alk ald en , G e rm any, in 1537 (St. Louis: Concordia, 1937) 4 (emphases in the original). 5J. I. Packer, "Justification in Protestant Theology," in Here We Stand, ed s. J . I. P acker et al. (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1986) 86.
192 The Master's Seminary Journal Basic Definition and Description of the NPP One will see through this faculty series of articles that when all the dust clears and the issue is seen for wh at it really is, the NPP supp orts a m ixture o f faith and works for justification, thereby violating the sole fide principle, so long held by orthodox Protestantism (as well as by the faithful church from the earliest centuries, e.g., Augustine). It truly is a revisionist hermeneutic that fatally undercuts this vital doctrine. Not only is the N PP , " at heart, a counter to the R eform ational view,"6 but it constitutes an assault on the gospel of God's grace (cf. Gal 1:8-10). This is at heart the definition as well as a description of the NPP. A Survey of the Reformation Paradigm on Paul and the Law Five Hundred Years of Reformation Heritage The Reformation perspective, wrongly labeled by some as the "Lutheran" perspective,7 on Pauline theology has dominated the vast majority of Protestant theologies. If one also considers the great church fathers, such as Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A .D.), this perspective had even deeper roots than the Reformation, dating back 1,100 more years to the early church itself. Westerholm remarks, In all essentials Augustine appears to represent what in many has come to be dismissed as the `Lutheran' reading of Paul . . . with his eleven-century headstart on Luther, his [Augustine's] dominance of Christian thinking throughout those years, and his demonstrable impact on the Reformers themselves, Augustine has a fair claim to be history's most influential reader of Paul.8 The Reformatio n app roach had two key eleme nts: first, the justification of the individual as the center of Paul's theology, and second, the identification of P aul's opponents as legalistic Jews (Judaizers) whom Luther and Calvin viewed as agreeing with the Roman Catholicism of their day. To say that the Reformation perspective has dominated Protestant scholarship to the present is no exaggeration. The Reformation view of Paul and that of Augustine posited the great doctrine of justification by faith as the central focus not only Paul's theology but also that of the whole Bible. Luther saw justification by faith as "the summary of Christine doctrine" and Calvin called it "the main hinge on which religion turns."9 Though the Reformers 6Thom as R . Sch reiner, The Law and Its Fulfillment (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993) 15. 7The inaccuracy of labeling the Reformation as the "Lutheran" perspective is that the majority of Reformers, such as M elanchthon and Calvin, also supported the essentials of the Reformation perspective. 8Steph en W esterholm , Perspectives Old and New on Paul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004) 3. 9John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McN eill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westm inster, 1960) III.xi.1 (1:726).
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 193 had differences, they were united o n a sinner's justification before God as the prime focus of biblical doctrine, especially in terms of soteriology.10 For instance, the two most prominent Reform ers, Luther and Calvin, agreed that justification by OT law was not possible due to its stringent demands for perfect obedience. Luther remarked, "[T]he commandments show us what we ought to do but do not give us the power to do it. They teach man to know himself that through them he may recognize his inability to do good . Tha t is why they are called the Old Testament and constitute the Old Testament."11 Calvin remarked, "Because observance of the law is found in none of us, we are excluded from the promises of life, and fall back into the mere curse. . . . [S]ince the teaching of the law is far abo ve hum an capacity, a man may view . . . the proffered promises yet he cannot derive any benefit from them." 12 For them, the P auline phrase "works of the law" (e.g., Gal 2:16; 3:10) refer not merely to ceremonial but all aspects of the OT commandments. Luther argued, "[F]or Paul, `works of the law' means the works of the entire law. Therefore one should not make a distinction between the Decalog and ceremonial laws. Now if the work of the Decalog does not justify, much less will circumcision, which is a work of the Ceremonial Law."13 Calvin similarly stated, "the context [Gal. 2] shows clearly that the moral law is also comprehended in these words [i.e., "works of the law"], for almost everything that Paul adds relates to the moral rather than the ceremonial law."14 Though the Reformers were united on the principle o f sole fide, Luther and Calvin differed significantly o n the relevance of moral aspects of OT law for believers in the NT era, i.e., its sanctifying effects. Luther's writings give the impression that the believer is free from the O T law o f Mo ses, even the moral law: It [the Law of Moses] is no longer binding on us because it was given only to the people of Israel. . . . Moses has nothing to do with us [NT saints]. If I were to accept Moses in one commandment, I would have to accept the entire Moses. . . . Moses is dead. His rule ended when Christ came. He is of no further service. . . . Exodus 20:1 . . . makes it clear that even the Ten Commandments do not pertain to us. . . . We will regard Moses as a teacher, but we will not regard him as our lawgiver--unless he agrees with both the NT and the natural law. . . . 10Buchanan remarked, "Few things in the history of the Church are more rem arkable than the entire una nim ity of the Reformers on the su bject of a sinner 's Jus tification before God " (J. B ucha nan, The Doctrine of Justification [reprint of 1877 ed .; Grand R apids: Baker, 19 77] 15 1). 11Martin Luther, "Treatise on Christian Liberty," 31:348, in Luther's Works , e d. H aro ld J. G rim m , gen. ed. H elmut T. Lehm ann. (Ph iladelphia: Fortress, 1957 ). 12Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 2.7.3 (p. 35 2). 13M artin Luther, "Lectures on Galatians " (1535), in Luther's Works , ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia, 1963) 26:122; see also 26:123-41, 248-68. 14John Ca lvin, "T he E pistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians," C alvin's Commentaries, trans. T. H. L. Parker, eds. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance (Grand R apids: Eerdm ans, 1965) 11:38.
194 The Master's Seminary Journal If I accept Moses in one respect (Paul tells the Galatians in chapter 5:[3]), then I am obligated to keep the entire law. For not one little period in Moses pertains to us.15 Luther saw the OT as binding only when it agrees with the NT and mirrors natural law: "I keep the commandments which Moses has given, not because Moses gave commandment, but because they have been implanted in me by nature, and Moses agrees exactly with nature."16 Although he believed that the OT law was abrogated, Luther saw an important significance of Moses for NT believers: its prophetic pointers to Christ: "I find something in M oses that I do not have from nature: the promises and pledges of God ab out Christ,"17 and its spiritual lessons: "[W]e read M oses for the beautiful examples of faith, of love, and of the cross, as shown in the fathers, Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and all the rest. From them we should learn to trust in God and love him."18 In contrast to Luther, Calvin maintained that although one is saved by grace through faith alone, keeping the moral law does not conflict with the NT message of grace, beca use for him the keeping of the moral law by the saved person was generated from a thankful re sponse to Go d's grace thro ugh obed ience. Calvin saw benefits from the moral law for the unsaved too: (1) its convicting and punitive power moves one to seek grace; (2) it acts as a deterrent for the unregenerate; (3) it is "the best instrument for [mankind] to learn more thoroughly each day the nature of the Lo rd's will to which they aspire, and to confirm them in the understanding of it"; (4) "by frequent meditation upon it be aroused to obedience, be strengthened by it, and be drawn back from the slippery path of transgression."19 Calvin went on to note that "certain ignorant persons, not understanding . . . rashly cast out the whole of Moses, a nd bid farewell to the two Tables of the Law." For Calvin, the ceremonial aspects of the O T law "have bee n abrogated no t in effect but only in use. Christ by his coming has terminated them, but has not deprived them of anything of their sanctity."20 Calvin saw the New Covenant as providing the Holy Spirit's enablement to live a godly life: [T]he proper use of the law, finds its place among believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already lives and reigns. For even though they have the law written and engraved 15Luther's Works 35:164-66. 16Luther's Works 35:168. 17Luther's Works 35:173. 18Luther's W orks 35 :173; cf . He inrich B ornkam m , Luther and the Old Testament, trans. Eric W. and Ruth C. Gritsch, ed. Victor I. Gruhn (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969) 81-218; Gerhard Ebeling, "On the Doctrine of the Triplex Usus Leg is in the Theology of the Reformation," in Word and Fa ith (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1963) 62-78. 19Institutes 2.7.7-12 (35 1-61). 20Institutes 2.7.16 (36 4).
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 195 upon their heart by the finger of God [Jer. 31:33; Heb. 10:16], that is, they have been so moved and quickened through the directing of the Spirit that they long to obey God, they still profit by the law.21 The moral law provided that instruction for believers as to what pleases God, and for those born-again, they long to please God for his gracious provision, though believers often fail in this present life; perfection awaits glorification.22 Another very important perspective of Protestantism inherited from the Reformers is its viewpoint on Judaism. To Luther, Calvin, and their successors, Judaism was essentially a legalistic religion that had as its core beliefs the need of earning salvation and justification through obedience to the law. They perceived a similar legalism in the Roma n Catholicism of their day. Typical is the following comment on Gal 2:10 by Luther regarding Judaism: I also believe that if the believing Jews at that time had observed the Law and circumcision under the condition permitted by apostles, Judaism would have remained until now, and the whole world would have accepted the ceremonies of the Jews. But because they insisted on the Law and circumcision as something necessary for salvation and constructed an act of worship and some sort of god out of it, God could not stand for it. Therefore He threw over the temple, the Law, the worship, and the holy city of Jerusalem.23 And again, Luther reacted strongly to all forms of legalism: Whoever surrenders this knowledge [of God's grace] must necessarily develop this notion: `I shall undertake this form of worship; I shall join this religious order; I shall select this or that work. And so I shall serve God. There is no doubt that God will regard and accept these works and will grant me eternal life for them. For He is merciful and kind, granting every good even to those who are unworthy and ungrateful; much more will He grant me His grace and eternal life for so many great deeds and merits!' This is the height of wisdom, righteousness, and religion about which reason is able to judge; it is common to all heathen, papists, the Jews, the Mohammedans, and the sectarians. They cannot rise higher than that Pharisee in Luke (18:11-12). They do not know the righteousness of faith or Christian righteousness. . . . Therefore, there is no difference at all between a papist, a Jew, a Turk, or a sectarian. . . .24 Calvin also shared this view of Judaism's legalism. In commenting on Rom 10:3, he wrote, 21Institutes 2:7.12 (360 ). 22For further comparison between Luther and Calvin on their approach to the O T, see D avid W right, "The Ethical Use of the Old Testament in Luther and Calvin: A Comparison," Scottish Journal of Theology 36 (1983):463-85. 23Luther, "G alatians " (1535), Luther's Works 26:105. 24Luther, "G alatians " (1 535 ), Luther's Works 26:396-97.
196 The Master's Seminary Journal Notice how they [the Jews] went astray through their unconsidered zeal. They wanted to set up a righteousness of their own, and their foolish confidence proceeded from their ignorance of God's righteousness. . . . Those, therefore, who desire to be justified in themselves do not submit to the righteousness of God, for the first step to obtaining righteousness of God is to renounce our own righteousness. . . .25 Commenting on Romans 10:4, he argued, The Jews might have appeared to have pursued the right path, because they devoted themselves to the righteousness of the law. It was necessary for Paul to disprove this false opinion. He does show [sic, "so"?] by showing that those who seek to be justified by their own works are false interpreters of the law, because the law was given to lead us by the hand to another righteouness. . . .26 To the Reformers, Roman Catholicism of their day had many parallels to the legalism of other religions, especially the Judaism of the NT (e.g., Matt 12:8-14; 15:1-20; 23:1 -36; R om 3 :27-4 :8; 9:30­1 0:8; P hil 3:2-11). They saw in Judaism a degeneration into attem pting to merit favor with God through good works, which the Reformers interpreted a s idolatry, i.e., glory goes to the human instrument rather than to God.27 Reformation Exegesis and View of Inspiration Very important, however, the Reformers anchored their views in grammatico-historical exegesis based in the original languages and nurtured them with an uncompromising view of the complete inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scrip ture. Terry, in his classic work on Biblical Hermeneutics, comments not only about the exposition of the R eform ation p eriod but also chang es in exegetical approach that followed soon after the Re formation. He notes that while the more rigid Lutherans at times exhibited a "dogmatic tone and method" in their use of Scripture and Reformed theologians broke away "from churchly customs and traditional ideas and treat the Scriptures with a respectful, but free critical spirit," In general exposition no great differences appeared among the early reformers. Luther and Melanchthon represent the dogmatic, Zwingli . . . and Beza the more grammaticohistorical method of scriptural interpretation. Calvin combined some elements of both, but belonged essentially to the Reformed party. It was not until two centuries later that a cold, illiberal, and dogmatic orthodoxy provoked an opposite extreme of lawless 25Calvin, "Romans," Calvin's Comm entaries 8:221. 26Calvin "Romans," Calvin's Comm entaries 8:221-22. 27Calvin, Institutes 3:14.1-17 (768-84); 3.15.1-7 (788-96); Luther, "Galatians " (1535), Luther's Works 26:33, 124-76; 266, 396. For a d efense of the Re formation position regarding Jud aism's legalism in Pau l's day, see R. H. Gun dry, "Grace, Works, and Staying Saved in Paul," Biblica 66 (1985):1-38; Brice L. M artin, Christ and the Law in Paul (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989).
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 197 rationalism.28 The Rise of the New Perspective Paradigm on Paul and the Law First Stimulus: Historical-Criticism's Rejection of Inspiration A very important key in understanding the NPP is that the "new" approach to Pauline theology was not founded so much on grammatico-historical exegesis of Scripture such as motivated the Reformers, but on the superimposition on scriptural interpretation of dogm atic, historical-critical ideologies and po litical correctness resulting from those presuppositions. Geisler has correctly observed another major factor that contributed to the fall of the Reformation and its high view of biblical inspiration and inerrancy: the willful imposition of ideo logies h ostile to the auth ority of the text: [W]ithin a little over one hundred years after the Reformation the philosophical seeds of modern errancy were sown. When these seeds had produced their fruit in the church a century or so later, it was because theologians had capitulated to alien philosophical presuppositions. Hence, the rise of an errant view of Scripture did not result from a discovery of factual evidence that made belief in an inerrant Scripture untenable. Rather, it resulted from the unnecessary acceptance of philosophical premises that undermined the historic belief in an infallible and inerrant Bible.29 The Reform ation view of both the centrality of justification and the righteousness of God in Pauline theology and the legalism of Judaism remained the dominant paradigm among P rotestant theologians, even among such radical theologians as Baur, Bultmann, and more recently Hans Hьbner,30 albeit with some differences in interpreting the text. Those differences centered in a who lesale adoption of historical-criticism in interpreting Paul's theology and NT theology in general. Terry's and Geisler's com ments expo se one of the underlying impetuses ultimately responsible for producing the NPP: historical-criticism with its hostile philosophical biases was imposed on the scriptural text that eve ntually not only undermined the sine qua non of inspiration and inerrancy but also served to 28M ilton S. Te rry, Biblical Interpretation (reprint; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, n.d.), 682. 29Norm an L. Geisler, "Inductivism, Materialism, and R ationalism : Bacon, Hobbes, and Spinoza," in Biblical Errancy: An Analysis of Its Philosop hica l Ro ots, ed. Norman G eisler (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981) 11. This excellent work presents a variety of articles that trace the underpinnings of historical-critical methodologies to baneful philosophical methodologies. 30Han s Hьb ner, Law in Paul's Thought, tran s. Ja m es C . G. G reig, e d. Jo hn R iche s (E dinb urgh : T & T Clark, 1984). Hьbner's radicalism is demonstrated by his bold assertions of an alleged inconsistency in Paul's thought and that Paul's thoughts developed regardin g the law, being strongly negative in Galatians, while turning positive and maturing over time when he composed R omans. H ьbner went so far as to say that Paul in Gal 3:19 believed that evil angels had imposed the law on the Israelites (see 1-11, 26-30).
198 The Master's Seminary Journal undermine these basic underpinnings of the Reformation application of grammaticohistorical exege sis to Pauline theo logy.31 Once a departure from an orthodox view occurred through the rise of historical-critical exegesis of the NT rather than grammatico-historical, the rise of the NPP was inevitable. The radical critic Bultmann maintained Luther's teaching on the law somewhat, but imposed historical-criticism in reinterpreting much of Paul's works, including existentialism, demythologization, a history-of-religions approach, all operating with the assumption of an uninspired text.32 This audacious and unjustified imposition of presupposed ideologies on the text under the assumption of rejecting inspiration and inerrancy was directly responsible for the rise of the NPP. Reventlow decried the "failure of exegetes to reflect adequately on their methodology and the presuppositions, shaped by their view of the world, which they bring to their work."33 He insisted tha t in biblical exegesis interpreters must search for "hidd en pr esup pos itions."34 This is a major factor in changes in Pauline theology and constitutes the first of two prime reasons for current changes in app roach to Pauline theology. Historical-critical ideology lies at the center of the NPP. Thielman notes changes caused by the emergence of the NPP. In discussing the legitimacy of NT theology, he writes, An increasing number of scholars are concluding that this or that aspect of Paul's theology, once thought important, hopelesslycontradicts the rest, and a few have decided that nothing in the letters is worth salvaging. . . . At the center of this negative evaluation of New Testament, and particularly Pauline, theology lies the recent cross-examination of Paul's view of the Jewish law. It would be hard to imagine a more fundamental principle of Protestant theology than Paul's dictum that salvation comes through faith alone, apart from works. Martin Luther's understanding of this statement lay at the heart of his protest against the Roman Catholic Church, and a variety of theologians, both Protestant and otherwise, came to agree that the great Reformer's interpretation of this statement was both historically correct and theologically necessary. During the past several decades, however, Luther's reading of Paul's statement about the Jewish law has come under devastating attack.35 31For bac kgrou nd o n the dam age o f histo rical-critic al ideo logies to the text of S cri ptu re, espe cia lly the Gospels, see F. David Farnell, "The Philosophical and Theological Bent of Historical Criticism," The Jesus Crisis, eds. Robert L. Thom as and F. David Farnell (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998) 85-131; Eta Linnemann, Historical Criticism of the Bible, Methodology or Ideology? trans. Robert Yarbrough (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990). 32For more about philosophical system s that und erm ined the inspiration an d authority of the text, consult Geisler (ed.), Biblical Errancy: An Analysis of Its Philosophical Roots 11-258. 33Henning Graf Reventlow, The Authority of the Bible and the Rise of the Modern W orld (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984) 1. 34Ibid., 4, 6. 35Frank Thielman, "Preface," Paul and the Law, A Contextual Approach (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1994 ) 9-10.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 199 The attack has been so devastating that some theologians dismiss the possibility of any consistency in Paul's theology. Sanders, reflecting the impact of historical criticism, argues that Paul was thinking in a knee-jerk "reflex" mode driven by his soteriology;36 that Paul's thinking about the law was frequently inconsistent or "aberrant" (e.g., Rom 2:12-16);37 and that Paul's view of the law in Romans 2 "cannot be harmonized with any of the diverse things which Paul says about the law elsewhere."38 Raisanin, deeply influenced by Sanders' thinking,39 argues that Paul is hopelessly inconsistent even within individual letters: "[C]ontradictions and tension have to be accepted as constant features of Paul's theology of law. They are not simply o f an accidental or peripheral nature."40 Instead of recognizing orthodox concepts of the inspiration, inerrancy, and divine guidance in Paul's thinking, the NPP imposes historical-critical postulations on the text. W ith the dominance of historical-critical ideologies, the question that now dominates in many NT circles is "Did Paul Have a Theology?" Reid relates, Not all are convinced . . . of the quality of Paul's thinking. Some forceful challenges to the notion that Paul had a coherent, consistent theology, free from contradictions have emerged. The most outstanding example is that of Heikki Rдisдnen, who has argued that Paul's statements about the law are logically inconsistent and are simply rationalizations for views that he arrived at by other means.41 Reid views the NPP as "A revolution in New T estament studies" that "will lead to a fresh und erstand ing of P aul."42 Historical-critical exegesis provided the platform to remold Pauline thought into a form accep table to transien t mod ern thou ght ap art from any consideration of authorial intent. Second Stimulus: Existentialism of the New Hermeneutic The close of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st have seen a radical departure in Pauline theo logy from the formerly dominant Reformation perspective. The change has been accurately termed a "paradigm shift" for the study of Paul: 36E. P . San ders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1977) 510. 37Ibid., 516. 38E. P. Sanders, Paul, The Law and th e Jew ish P eople [hereafter PLJ] (Philadelphia: Fortress,1983), 123. 39Rдisдnen credits Sanders with a great influence on his thought: "the publication of Sanders' illuminating work [i.e. Paul and P alestinian Judaism] was like a gift from heaven for my own qu est." See Heikki Rдisдnen, "Preface," Paul and the Law (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983) v. 40Ibid., 11. 41See Daniel G. Reid, "Did Paul Have a Theology?," Christianity Today (April 24, 1995):18-22. 42Daniel G. Reid, "The Misunderstood Apostle," Christianity Today (July 16, 1990):25.
200 The Master's Seminary Journal One of the most important challenges to current scholarship on Paul's letter to the Romans is to come to terms with an interpretive tradition marked by largely unacknowledged anti-Semitism while remaining true to Paul's purpose in writing the letter. If a `paradigm shift' is occurring in the study of Romans, stimulating scholars to revise the traditional anti-Judaic approach, the task is to provide a more adequate alternative. I believe that we are now in a position to suggest that this alternative involves a respectful coexistence between Jews and Gentiles in the context of a mission of world conversion and unification.43 In addition to the first stimulus--historical-critical ideologies--to the rise of the NPP, Jewett's comments reveal a second presupposition: an alleged anti-Semitism stemming from the Reformation or what might be called a "Holocaust hermeneutical override approach" to Pa ul. For quite a while before Jewett, a call for a "new paradigm" for reading Romans had been voiced. Porter commented, I intend to demonstrate that in the interpretation of Paul's letter to the Romans there are shared paradigms in the commentaries and "textbooks," that there is a growing sense that existing paradigms have ceased to function adequately, and that the dialogue between Christians and Jews, between the church and synagogue, is a major factor in making the existing paradigms inadequate. Furthermore, it is the [my] intent . . . to propose in a very preliminary fashion the implications of the "paradigm shift" for the interpretation of Romans.44 Glenn Earley, tracing the rise of the hermeneutical stimulus, terms the second presuppo sition as "the radical hermeneutical shift in post-Holocaust Christian thought" that has strongly influenced NT interpretation, especially Paul. He finds two phases in the shift: (1) "anti-Judaism in the Christian tradition was a necessary condition for the Holocaust" and (2) a "radical shift in Christian theology away from traditional interpretations of Judaism and the `New Testament' has been developed."45 Earley remarks, [E]fforts by Christian theologians to come to terms with the Holocaust have led to the recognition that a demonic strand of anti-Judaism runs all the way back to the first centuries of Christian tradition. This recognition has led . . . to a radical hermeneutical shift in the way that Christian scholars and theologians interpret their own tradition as well as Judaism's which . . . has led to an altered understanding of present-day Judaism and Christianity. Thus a shuttle-like dialectic between tradition and the present has begun.46 43Robert Jewett, "The Law and the Coexistence of Jews and Gentiles in Romans, Interpretation 39 (October 1985):341; cp. Calvin L. Porter, "A New Paradigm for Reading Rom ans: Dialogue Between Christians and Jews," Encounter 39 (Summer 1978):257-72. 44Porter, "A New Paradigm" 341. 45Glenn David Earley, "The Radical Herm eneutical Shift in Post-Holocaust Christian Thought," Journal of Ecumenical Studies 18 (Winter 1981):16. 46Ibid., 17.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 201 Such a hermeneutical shift has been strongly influenced by current existentialist thinking with its resultant postulation that preunderstanding excludes the possibility of objective interpretation. As a main influence on this Holocaust hermeneutic,47 Ear ley cites HansGeorg Gadam er's work. That work explained the process of understanding involved in interpretation through the New Hermeneutic's "hermeneutical circle" that was previously proposed by existentialists Ernst Fuchs and Gerhard Ebeling.48 The New Hermeneutic postulates an interaction between text and interpreter that brings new meaning to the text from the subjective experience of the interpreter. A set of principles of interp retation is not involved, but an existential or experiential understanding by which the interpreter and his biases approach the text for a new understanding whereby the interpreter himself is altered experientially. That hermeneutic rejects the scientific method and reverses the traditional app roach to interpretation by producing meanings not derived through traditional grammaticohistorical principles. Rather it imposes subjective opinions on the text derived from present cultural experiences of the interpreter. Simply stated, the interpreter's bias and not the historical meaning becomes the meaning of the text. The original context is overlooked. W hat the text means for a reader's present situation becom es the measure of what is true.49 As a result, an interpreter's whimsical bias controls the interpreted meaning of the biblical text. The text becomes a launching pad for the interpreter's viewpoin ts rather than being objectively understood as in grammaticohistorical exeg esis. The New Hermeneutic dismisses the conventional nature of language and the propositional nature of the biblical text. As the second major presupposition, the New Hermeneutic provided the ability to reinterpret the Pauline text without any consideration of his original meaning in favor of the interpreter's bias. No Uniform Interpretation in the NPP The NPP has not developed a broad consensus among its proponents.50 47See Ha ns-G eorg G adam er, Wahrheit und Methode, 2 Auflage (Tьbingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 196 5); En glish edition, Truth and Method, trans. Garrett Barden and John C umm ing (New York: Seabury, 1975); and idem , Philosophical Hermeneutics, trans. and ed. D avid E. Linge (Be rkeley, Los Angeles, London: U niversity of California, 1976). 48For exam ple, Ernst Fuch s, Hermeneutik, 2 Auflage (Bad Cannstatt: R. M ьllerschцn, 1958); Gerhard Ebe ling, Einfьhrung in Theologische Sprachlehre (Tьbinge n : J . C . B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1971); English edition, Intro duction to a Theological Theory of Language, trans. R. A. W ilson (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1973). 49For further information, consult James M. Robinson, "Part I. The Issue: Hermeneutic," in N ew Frontiers in Theology, vol. 2: T h e N e w Herm ene utic, eds. Jam es M . Robinson a nd John B. Cob b, Jr. (New York; Evanston, Ill.; and London: Harper & Row, 1964):1-77. 50For an excellent discussion, see the edited and expanded transcript given by J. Ligon Duncan, "The Attractions of the New Perspective(s) on Paul," A paper given at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi (October 2001); expanded at Tw in Lakes Fellowship Fraternal, Florence, M ississippi (April
202 The Master's Seminary Journal Historical criticism and the subjective bias of the New H erme neutic contribute directly to nonuniformity. The misnomered "Lutheran approach" had a broad consensus of und erstand ing because it anchored itself in grammatico-historical principles that promote objectivity. In contrast, each NPP proponent, although sharing some basics with others, has his own ideas so that the movement is more accurately "New Perspectives on Paul." The NPP might be seen as a loose aggregate of similar yet sometimes conflicting opinions. Although no single spokesperson for the viewpoint exists and no organization propagates it, the NPP has some prominant advocates. The three main prop onents, E. P. Sanders, James D. G. D unn, and N. T. W right agree with one another on some basics, but sharply disagree on others. Duncan speaks of the central common thread: At the heart of NPP's critique of both Protestant and Catholic interpretation of Paul is the charge that Reformational-era theologians read Paul via a medieval framework that obscured the categories of first-century Judaism, resulting in a complete misunderstanding of his teaching on Justification. The ideas of "the righteousness of God," "imputation," and even the definition of justification itself--all these have been invented or misunderstood by Lutheran and Catholic traditions of interpretation.51 Moo comments similarly: Scholarship on Paul and the the law in the last ten years has witnessed a "paridigm shift." For a long time, the dominant approach to Paul's teaching on the law was set within the framework of key reformation concepts. Against the background of Luther's struggles with "pangs of conscience" and a works-oriented Catholicism, this approach placed the justification of the individual at the center of Paul's theology and identified his opponents as legalistic Jews or Judaizers. These two key components of the old paradigm have been discarded as a decisively new direction in Pauline studies has emerged.52 Essentially, the NPP 's central tenet accuses the Reformers of subjective bias, at the same time com pletely ignoring the extreme bias of their own approach that promotes subjectivity through historical criticism and the New Hermeneutic. NPP proponents either accuse Paul of misunderstanding or misrepresenting Judaism (i.e., Paul was wrong), or redefine the opponents that Paul was criticizing, asserting that Luther and the Reformation heritage have misperceived Paul's opponents by misreading Paul. Westerholm comments, 2002); Glasgow Ministerial Fraternal, May 2002, Glasgow, Scotland; Reform ed T heological Sem inary, Jackson, Mississippi (September 2003) 3. 51Duncan, "The Attractions of the New Perspectives on Paul" 3; Robert Smith, "Justification in `The New P erspective on Paul,'" Reformed Th eological Review 58 (April 1999):16-30. 52Douglas M oo, "P aul an d the Law in the La st Ten Years." Scottish Journal of Theology 40 (1986):287; Moo wrote his article in 1986, so the NPP has had dom inance for over 20 years.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 203 The conviction most central to the "new perspective on Paul" pertains in the first place to Judaism, not Paul: first-century Jews, it is claimed (in dependence on E. P. Sanders' Paul and Palestinian Judaism), were not legalists who supposed that they earned salvation (or membership in the people of God) by deeds they did in compliance with the law. Since the "Lutheran" Paul rejected his ancestral religion because it pursued salvation by "works," our better understanding of Judaism requires a revolution in our understanding of the apostle. From this point paths diverge. It is possible to hold, with the new perspectivists, that Judaism was not legalistic while still holding, with the "Lutherans," that Paul thought it was: Paul, we must then conclude, was wrong. . . . More commonly it is held that Judaism was not legalistic, that Paul has been misread . . . and that the error is to be attributed to Luther and his heirs, whose views of Judaism we need not scruple to amend.53 One must stress that this re-reading o f Paul does no t result from an objective exeg esis of the text to correct an error but has been stimulated by acutely subjective biases of historical criticism and the New H ermeneutic. At the beginning of the 21st century, two diametrically opposed views on Pauline theology and his view of Judaism and the law compete for dominance: (1) The traditional "Lutheran" or Reformational paradigm as a correct understanding of Pau l's thought, rejecting the dominance of legalism in soteriology, whether expressed in Judaism of Paul's day or Roman C atholicism of Luther's. Paul opposed Judaism as a religion of works; the Reformers were correct in understanding Paul's opposition to the works of Judaism; Judaism, like Roman Catholicism, was legalistic. NPP p roponents have misrepresented the Judaism of Paul's day due to the church's em bracing of histo rical-critical ideo logy and a prejudicial hermeneutical bent. (2) The NPP is a needed corrective. Sec ond-T emple Judaism was a religion of grace. In this case, two sub-conclusions compete among NPP prop onents: either Pau l delibe rately misrep resented Ju daism in his epistles, or P aul's opposition to Judaism did not lie in a rejection of works. The old perspective has misunderstood Paul's thinking regarding Judaism for the last 500 years of church history.54 Paul was not opposed to works in matters of soteriology. Three Main Proponents of the NPP E. P. Sanders Sanders' Educational Background. Ed P arish Sande rs (1937 -) is Arts and Sciences Professor of Religion (N ew Testament and Christian origins) at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina. He received his Th.D. from Union Seminary (NY) 1966. In 199 0, he was awarded a D .Litt. by the University of Oxford and D.T heol. by the U niversity of Helsinki. He is a Fellow of the British Academy. He came to Duke U niversity from Oxford, where he was from 1984-1990 the Dean 53Steph en W esterholm , Perspectives Old and New (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 178. 54For further information, see ibid., 133.
204 The Master's Seminary Journal Ireland's Professor of Exegesis and also fellow of the Queen's College. Sanders, characterized as "The most influential scholar on P aul in the last quarter-century,"55 was the catalyst who brought the NPP thinking to the forefront of NT theology. His book, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (1977), and its impact on Pauline studies has led to a collapse of Reformation consensus regarding Paul's view of the law in the learned centers of theology.56 Sande rs, however, was no t necessarily the originator of the NPP thinking. As will be demonstrated below, much of his approach was anticipated through prior historical-critical ideologies o f Baur and the T ьbingen school, Schweitzer, Wrede, but esp ecially M oore and Jewish scholars such as M ontefio re (to m ention only a salient few).57 Importantly, this article will show that Sanders has not based his position on o bjective exegesis o f biblica l texts bu t on d ogm atically held , a priori thinking that co ntrols h is conclusions in the same way that he accuses Paul of doing. Influenced Heavily by Historical-Critical Ideologies. Sanders argued that Pau l's Christology is unclear as well as conflicting. On Rom 1:3-4 Sand ers remarks, The reader of this passage would understand that Jesus was `designated' Son of God, and further that he was designated such only at the time of the resurrection. In later terminology, this is an `adoptionist' Christology. Jesus was adopted by God as Son, not born that way," while in Philippians 2:5-11 Paul "goes to the other extreme" and "the passage basically states that Jesus Christ was pre-existent and was in some sense divine.58 Sanders concludes regarding Paul's writings, "One sees that is impossible to derive from Paul's letters anything approaching one single doctrine of the person of Jesus Christ. It is possib le that bo th the passages . . . are pre-Pauline in origin, in which case they show that he drew on, rather than composed, quite diverse statements, one offering a `low' Christo logy, the o ther a `high' Christology."59 As will be seen, by negating the authenticity of certain books recognized by orthodoxy as genuinely Pauline since the early church, Sanders' view of Pa ul's Christology is problematic. Deeply affected by historical-criticism , Sand ers de nies the apostolic origin of the canonical gospels, asserting, "W e do not know who wrote the gospels. . . . These men--M atthew, Mark, Luke and John--really lived, but we do not know that they wro te gosp els."60 Sand ers strongly differentiates between the Jesus of history 55Westerholm , Perspectives Old and New xiii. 56E. P. S ande rs, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, A Com parison of Patterns of Religion [hereafter PPJ] (London: SC M; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977). 57Sanders' pos ition is substantially that of Moore, but Sanders was more successful in popularizing the views than Moore. 58E. P . San ders, Paul, A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University, 1991) 95-96. 59Ibid., 96. 60E. P . San ders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: Penguin, 1993) 63.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 205 and the so-called Christ of faith. He argues that the Go spels are limited in their information about Jesus as a historical Jesus: "Nothing survives that was written by Jesus himself. . . . The main sources for our knowledge of Jesus himself, the gospels in the NT, are, from the viewpoint of the historian, tainted by the fact that they were written by people who intende d to glo rify their hero ,"61 and "[T]he gospels report Jesus' sayings and actions in a language that was not his own (he taught in Aramaic, the gospels are in Greek). . . . Even if we knew that we have his own words, we would still have to fear that he was quoted out of context."62 Again, he argues that the authors of the NT "may have revised their accounts to support their theology. The historian must also suspect that the ethical teaching that has so impressed the world has been enhanced by homiletical use and editorial improvements between the time of Jesus and the publication of the gospels."63 He also strongly advocates form and redaction-critical principles, stating, "The earliest Christians did not write a narrative of Jesus' life, but rather mad e use of, and thus preserved, individual units--short passages about his words and deeds. This means that we can never be sure of the immediate context of Jesus' sayings and actions," and "Some material [in the Gospels] has been revised and some created by early Christians."64 Sanders denies orthodox teaching of the deity of Jesus, arguing, "While it is conceivable that, in the one verse in the synoptic gospels that says that Jesus' miracles provoked the acclamation `Son of God,' the phrase means `more than human', I doubt that this was Matthew's meaning. . . . This title [Son of God] . . . would not make Jesus ab solutely unique."65 He adds, "Jesus' miracles as such proved nothing to most Galileans beyond the fact that he was on intimate terms with God. . . . Prob ably most G alileans heard of a few miracles--exorcisms and other healings--and regarded Jesus as a holy man, on intimate terms with God."66 Sanders also denies the virgin birth when he a rgues about Rom 8:14 -17 in discussing the term "Son of God," noting, "This is another passage that shows the definition of sonship as adoption . . . and he [Jesus] had been declared Son, not literally sired by God. . . ."67 Sand ers' Approach to the NPP. Strongly influenced by George Foot 61Ibid., 3. 62Ibid., 4. 63Ibid., 8. 64Ibid., 57. 65Ibid., 162. 66Ibid., 163-64. 67Ibid., 244.
206 The Master's Seminary Journal Mo ore, Sanders cited Moore's 1921 a rticle, "Ch ristian W riters on Juda ism,"68 and stressed that it "should be required reading for any Christian scholar who writes about Juda ism."69 Moore's central focus was that Paul's understanding of Jud aism was essentially wrong. Paul's focus on individual rather than national salvation and his neglect of the Jewish understanding of human repentance and forgiveness reveal that Paul missed entirely the significance of the law in Judaism. Moo re argued, "The prejudice of many writers on Judaism against the very idea of good works and their reward, and of merit acquired with God through them, is a Protestant inheritance from Luther's controversy with Catholic doctrine, and further back from Paul's contention that there is no salvation in Jud aism."70 In other words, not only Luther but also Paul missed the true character of Judaism as a religion of grace. M oore also asserted that this may be traced back to the NT writings that were more interested in polemics or apologetics of proving Jesus as Messiah. This factor caused an inaccurate reflection of Judaism in the NT era that has been carried down through the centuries.71 Where M oore only partially succeeded in his contentions, Sanders followed through with such thinking in greater detail. Reflecting Baur's historical-critical concept of Ha uptb riefe,72 Sand ers is selective in his evidence, excluding from consideration of Paul's pattern of religion in 2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians, and the Pastorals as well as dismissing the historical reliability of Acts' treatment of Paul.73 Sanders argued that Christians set about changing Paul to coincide with what became mainstream Christianity by adding new letters to the Pauline collection to prove Jesus' deity and by portraying him as always in agreement with Peter.74 Sanders also revealed a prior motive among his six "chief aims": "to 68George Foot Moore, "Christian Writers on Judaism," Harvard Theological Review XIV (Ju ly 1921):197-254. See also Geo rge Foot M oore, Judaism, In the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of the Tannaim, 3 vols., reprint of the 1927 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE Edition (reprint; Peabody, Mass.: Hendricksen, 1997). 69Sanders, PPJ 33. 70Moore, Judaism 93. 71Moore, "Christian Writers on Judaism" 197-221. 72Although m ore w ill be note d ab out B aur's contribution, sufficient to note here is that Baur concluded tha t on ly four epistles were genuinely Pauline, i.e., Romans, 1­2 Corinthians, and Galatians. Baur's position w as bas ed on ly on the stud y of these fo ur epis tles, which led him to m any false conclusions. Baur strongly influenced NT scholarship as a whole, other epistles subsequently being rejected, i.e., 2 Thessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, and the Pastorals. For a brief, historical overview of Bau r's pos ition, see S tephen Ne ill and Tom W right, The Interpretation of the New Testament 18611986, new ed. (Oxford and New Y ork: Oxford University, 1988) 25; Werner Georg Kьm mel, The New Testament: The H is to ry of th e I nv es tig atio n o f I ts Pr ob le m s, trans. S. McLean Gilmour and Howard C. Kee (Nashville and New Y ork: Abingdon, 1972) 120-43. 73A check of Sanders' "Index of Passages" reveals that these books are never considered in his study but overwhelmingly rendered to a handful of footnote references that gloss over these works. See PPJ 584-88. 74San ders, Paul, A Very Short Introduction 22.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 207 destroy the view of rabbinic Judaism which is still prevalent in muc h, perhaps most, New Testament scholarship" and "to establish a different view of rabbinic Judaism."75 Although he denies a polemical bias in dealing with anti-Semitism,76 he less than subtly reveals his bent on improving Judaism and Christian relations coupled with holocaustic hermeneutical preunderstanding so prevalent in NPP and refuting notion s that Jud aism in Paul's day was a religion of "legalistic worksrighteo usness ."77 Important also, Sanders develops his radical thesis apart from any concepts of the inspiration of Paul's writings, orthodox or otherwise. Sanders accuses Paul of contradictory or conflicting thinking in his writings. For example, in Romans 1­2, he argues, "There are internal inconsistencies with this section, not all the material actually lends itself to the desired conclusion, and there are sub stantial ways in which parts of it conflict with the positions of Paul elsewhere adopted. . . . [T]he treatment of the law in chapter 2 [Romans] cannot be harmonized with any of the diverse things which Paul says about the law elsewhere."78 Apparently, for Sanders, Paul's concept of the law is based on reflex thinking rather than careful accuracy regarding Judaism. Sanders classic positional statement accuses Paul not only of reflex but also dogmatic thinking: Paul's thought did not run from plight to solution, but rather from solution to plight. . . . It appears that the conclusion that all the world--both Jew and Greek--equally stands in need of a savior springs from the prior conviction that God had provided such a saviour. If he did so, it follows that such a saviour must have been needed, and then only consequently that all other possible ways of salvation are wrong. The point is made explicit in Gal. 2:1: if righteousness could come through the law, Christ died in vain. The reasoning apparently is that Christ did not die in vain; he died and lived again "that he might be Lord of the dead and living" (Rom. 14:9). . . . If his death was necessary for salvation, it follows that salvation cannot come in any other way. . . . There is no reason to think that Paul felt the need of a universal saviour prior to his conviction that Jesus was such.79 Pau l's thinking stems from his dogmatically held conviction that "[i]t is the Gentile question and the exclusivism of Paul's soterio logy which dethrones the law , not a misunderstanding of it or a view predetermined by its background," not a preChristian dissatisfaction with the law or a post-Christian accusa tion that Judaism is legalistic.80 Sanders deprecates Paul's reaso ning by conc luding, "In short, this is 75Sanders, PPJ xii. 76Ibid., x iii. 77Ibid., 33. 78Ibid., 123; cf. Jewett, "The Law and the Coexistence of Jews and Gentiles in Romans" 347. 79Sanders, PPJ 443 (em phasis in the original). 80Ibid., 497 (see 442-97 also).
208 The Master's Seminary Journal what Paul finds wrong in Judaism: it is not Christianity."81 Another of Sanders' distinctive contributions is the idea that the long-held conviction (as also expressed in the writings of the NT) that Palestinian Judaism was legalistic is entirely wrong. He contends that such a position is no t supported by Jewish literature of the Second-Temple Period. Instead he speaks of the Jewish position in Pau l's day as "covena ntal nomism." H e describe s covenantal nomism as "the view that one's place in God's plan is established on the basis of the covenant and that covenant requires as the proper response of man his obedien ce to its commandments, while providing means of aton ement for transgressio n."82 For Sande rs, Judaism affirmed entrance into the covenant through God's grace. However, "The intention and effort to be obedient constitute the condition for remaining in the covenant, but they do not earn it."83 Sanders further remarks that in rabbinic literature "obedience maintains one's position in the covenant, but it does not earn God's grace as such"84 and that a "major shift" occurs between Judaism and Paul regarding righteousness. In Judaism, righteousness implies one's maintaining his status among the elect; in Paul, righteousness is a term implying transfer into the body of the elect.85 Sanders further delineates that Paul did not reject the law because no one could obey it perfectly or because devotion to the law resulted in legalism. Instead, Paul rejected the law because he believed that salvation was only through Christ, not that the law had any inherent defects.86 Taking and applying his thesis to the Reformatio n, Sanders a rgues, "M artin Luther, whose influence on sub sequent interp reters has been eno rmous, made P aul's statements central to his own quite different theology";87 "Luther, plagued by guilt, read Paul's passages on `righteousness by faith' as meaning that God reckoned a Christian to be righteous even though he or she was a sinner";88 and further, Luther's emphasis on fictional, imputed righteousness, though it has often been shown to be an incorrect interpretation of Paul, has been influential because it corresponds to the sense of sinfulness which many people feel, and which is part and parcel of Western concepts of personhood, with their emphasis on individualism and introspection. Luther sought and found relief from guilt. But Luther's problems were not Paul's, and we 81Ibid., 552 (emphasis in the original). 82Ibid., 75 (see also 236). 83Ibid., 180 (emphasis in the original). 84Ibid., 420 (emphasis in the original). 85Ibid., 140. 86Ibid., 420. 87San ders, Paul, A Very Short Introduction 53. 88Ibid., 57.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 209 misunderstand him if we see him through Luther's eyes.89 He argues that Paul reveals in Phil 3:6-9 that "The truth finally comes out: there is such a thing as righteousness by the law. Further, it is not wicked [contra Luther and the Reformational heritage]. In and of itself it is `gain' (Phil. 3:9). It becomes wrong only because God has revealed another one."90 Sanders relates, "Paul fully espoused and obse rved a `work -ethic', as long as the go al was the right one. His opposition to `works of the law' was not motivated by dislike of effort," and again, "He [Paul] did not, however, regard effort in doing good as being in any way opposed to mem bersh ip in the bo dy of C hrist."91 Sanders argues that while Paul did not require Christians to keep the cultic aspects of the law (circumcision, Sabbath, food laws) that created social distinctions between Jews and G entiles,92 he did, however, want Gentiles to keep what Sande rs terms "his [Paul's] own reduction"93 of the law. He summarizes Paul's view of law for Christians in the following manner: (1) Paul held the normal expectation that membership in the "in group" involved correct behavior. One of the ways in which he stated that expectation was that Christians should fulfill "the law" or keep "the commandments." (2) In passages in which he requires the fulfillment of the law, he offers no theoretical distinction between the law which governs Christians and the law of Moses; put another way, he does not distinguish between the law to which those in Christ die and the law which they fulfill. (3) In concrete application, however, the behavior required of Christians differs from the law of Moses in two ways: (a) Not all of Paul's admonitions have a counterpart in Scripture; (b) Paul deliberately and explicitly excluded from "the law," or held to be optional, three of its requirements: circumcision, days and seasons, and dietary restrictions.94 Sanders asserts, however, that Paul was inconsistent and non-systematic with his viewp oints of Christians and the law: "We cannot determine to what degree he was conscious of his own reduction of the law. . . . [H]e offered no rationale for his de facto limitations, but insisted that those in the Spirit keep what the law requires (Rom. 8:4)."95 Efficacious Nature of Law in Soteriology. The implications of Sand ers' hypothesis are stunning for orthodox soterio logy. Christianity's, especially Paul's, acceptance of Jesus is based on presumptive bias and negativity toward Judaism, 89Ibid., 58. 90Ibid., 142. 91Ibid., 119, 120. 92Sanders, PLJ 100-102. 93Ibid., 103. 94Ibid., 104. 95Ibid., 103.
210 The Master's Seminary Journal which logic is entirely dogmatic and capricious o n Paul's part. Jesus as the means of salvation reflects Christianity's prejudice rather than being grounded in Scripture as it competed with Judaism for adherents. Paul's lack of systematic presentation of the believer's relationship to law opens the door to seeing Paul as favorable to Christians "in covenant" as required to keep law to sustain that covenant relatio nship. The practical implication if Sanders' logic is taken to its inevitable conclusions is that Judaism has equal viability with Christianity as a means of salvation, especially since it is grounded in a religion that always viewed salvation by grace but maintenance of that salvation in covenant by works. Any attempt to integrate such thinking can only bring works in through the back door as Luther had warned. Though Sanders' view of Judaism has been accepted to at least some degree, his solutions in terms of Paul's theology have not been so widely accepted. James D. G. Dunn Dunn 's Educational Background. James D. G. Dunn (1939- ) is Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham, England. He holds the M.A. and B .D. degree s from the University of Glasgow and a Ph.D. and B.D. from Cambridge. Dunn is another of the three most notable proponents of the NPP. Though Sanders' work was the catalyst for the NPP , Dunn's efforts have popularized and defended this "new" approach. Dunn argues that Sanders' Paul and Palestinian Judaism deserves the accolade of "breaking the mold" in Pa uline studies and the designation "what amounts to a new perspective on Paul."96 In his magnum opus on understanding the NPP, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (1998), Dunn argues, "A fresh attemp t at a full restatem ent of P aul's theo logy is made all the more necessary in the light of what is now usually referred to as `the new perspective on Paul.'"97 He avily Influenced by Historical-Critical Ideology. Dunn operates his assertions apart from any consideration of inspiratio n, whether orthodo x or aberrant, for NT canonical books. Dunn, like Sanders, has been heavily influenced by historical-critical theories. Dunn asserts that the canonical Gospels cannot be a secure starting point to formulate Jesus' theology: "[T]hough a theology of Jesus would be more fascinating [than one of Paul], we have nothing firsthand from Jesus which can provide a secure starting point. The theologies of the Evangelists are almost equally problematic, since their focus on the ministry and teaching of Jesus makes their own theologies that much more allusive."98 Assuming the Two-Source hypothesis, Dunn notes, "[I]n two at least [i.e., Matthew and Luke] of the four cases [i.e., the canonical Gospels] we have only one document to use [i.e., Mark]; we can 96Dunn, "Th e New P erspective on Paul" 97; see also Jam es D . G. D unn , The Theology of Paul the Ap ostle (Grand Rapids and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 1998) 338-39. 97Dunn, Theology of Paul 5. 98Ibid., 13.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 211 speak with some confidence of the theology of that document."99 For Dunn, what Jesus actually taught and preached is illusive since it was mediated through "Evangelists" (i.e., not the traditional authors of the Gospels but unknown evangelists). Dunn also denies the orthodox view of the deity of Jesus Christ, insisting that no theology of Christ's pre-existence is present in Paul: "Paul does have a conception of the preexistent Christ."100 An examination of his theology of Paul reveals that, like Sanders, Dunn also has been influenced by Baur's concept of Hauptbriefe. He attributes Pauline authorship to eight epistles: Romans, 1­2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1­2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.101 The others--Colossians, Ephesians, 1­2 Timothy, and Titus--were written by Timothy or other pseudepigraphers. Dunn offers no evidence to support his assumptions about authorship. Furthermore, Dunn's rejection of Ephesians as post-Pauline fits conveniently within his assertions. For instance, he readily admits that Eph 2:8-9 supp orts the traditional Lutheran approach of "works of the law": "The traditional understanding of the phrase within Protestant theology is that it denoted good works done as an attempt to gain or achieve righteousness. . . . The post-Pauline Eph. 2:8-9 looks very much like a confirmation of this . . . (cf. 2 Tim. 1:9 and T it. 3:5)."102 His acceptance of the Lutheran position appears likely if he had not accepted an abbreviated approach to the NT canon. Dunn 's Approach to the NPP. In terms of the NP P, Du nn also reveals a second assumption imposed on NT exegesis: Martin Luther read his own situation into Paul's writings, resulting in the errors of justification by faith and antiSemitism. He praises Sanders in reflecting this assumption: Sanders has been successful in getting across a point which others had made before him . . . that Protestant exegesis has for too long allowed a typically Lutheran emphasis on justification by faith to impose a hermeneutical grid on the text of Romans. . . . The emphasis is important, that God is the one who justifies the ungodly (4:5), and understandably this insight has become an integrating focus in Lutheran theology with tremendous power. The problem, however, lay in what the emphasis was set in opposition to. The antithesis to "justification by faith"--what Paul speaks of as "justification by works"--was understood in terms of a system whereby salvation is earned through the merit of good works. This was based partly on the comparison suggested in the same passage (4:4-5), and partly on the Reformation of the rejection of a system where indulgences could be bought and merits accumulated. . . . The hermeneutical mistake was made of reading this antithesis back into the NT period, of 99Ibid., 13. 100Ibid., 292. 101Ibid., 13. 102Ibid., 354.
212 The Master's Seminary Journal assuming that Paul was protesting against in Pharisaical Judaism precisely what Luther protested against in the pre-Reformation church--the mistake . . . of assuming that the Judaism of Paul's day was coldly legalistic, teaching a system of earning salvation by the merit of good works, with little or no room for the free forgiveness and grace of God."103 As he continues, Dunn adds, "It was this depiction of first-century Judaism which Sanders showed up for what it was-- a gross caricatu re, which, regrettably, has played its part in feeding an evil strain of Christian anti-Semitism.104 For Dunn and many others who espouse the "New" Perspective on Paul, the "Old" perspective of M artin Luther's and his Reformation heirs who continued teaching justification by personal faith and its alleged gross mischaracterization of second-temple Judaism are directly responsible for a virulent Gentile Christian antiSemitism that led to (1) Nazi racialism to promote its philosophy of the master race and to embark on the genocide o f the Jews in the 1940s, (2) South African apartheid, and (3) even some forms of contemporary Zionism.105 In other words, Luther read his own situation into his theology, the obvious implication being Luther's ruinous theological mistake has grossly misled Protestant theology for the last five-hundred years, culminating in the tragedy of the Holocaust in which millions of Jews lost their lives. In this line of thought, Dunn also echoes the thinking o f Krister Stend ahl, arguing, "[A]s Krister Stendahl pointed out, this portrayal has been too much influenced by Luther's own experience of grace, set as it was against the background of the medieval Church's doctrine of m erits and salvation as something which could be paid for in installments." 106 Stendahl, in addressing the Annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in 1961 asserted that modern experience has caused a misunderstanding of Paul. He said, "[T]he Pauline awareness of sin has been interpreted in the light of Luther's struggle with his co nscience. B ut it is exactly at that point that we can discern the most drastic difference between Luther and Paul, between the 16th and the 1st century, and, perhaps, between Eastern and Western Christianity."107 Stendahl continues, "In Phil. 3 Paul speaks most fully about his life before his Christian calling, and there is no indication that he had had any difficulty in fulfilling the L aw. On the contrary, he can say that he had been `flawless' as to the righteousness required by the Law (v. 6). His encounter with 103James D. G . Du nn, Romans 1­8, Word Biblical Comm entary, vol. 38A (Dallas: Word, 1988) lxv. 1 0 4 I b id . 105D . G. D unn and A lan M . Sug gate, The J ustic e of God, a Fresh Look at the Old Doctrine of Justification by Faith (Grand Rapids: E erdm ans, 1993) 28; D unn, Romans 1­8 lxv. 106James D. G . Du nn, Jesus, Paul and the Law (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox, 1990) 1011. 107Krister Sten dah l, "Th e A pos tle P au l and the Introspective Conscience of the West," Harvard Theological Review LVI (July 1963):200.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 213 Jesus Christ . . . has not changed this fact."108 Dunn laments that Stendahl's point has "been too little `heard' within the community of NT scholarship. For Dunn, the hermeneutical grid of Luther's preunderstanding has had an unfortunate impact on Protestant theology. Dunn builds upon the work of Sanders, but he also disagrees with him on some points. Dunn considers Sanders' assertion that Paul rejected Judaism simply because it was not Christianity as ill-advised, noting, He [Sanders] quickly--too quickly in my view--concluded that Paul's religion could be understood only as a basically different system from that of his fellow Jews. . . . 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 was not Christianity. . . .109 Though Dunn endorses Sanders' definition of Judaism as "covenantal nomism,"110 his own explanation goes against both the Lutheran/Protestant characterization of Judaism as legalistic and Sanders' view of Paul as arbitrary. In referring to his Manson Mem orial lecture in 1982, Dunn argues for the crux of his thesis: "M y conclusion . . . is that what Paul was objecting to was not the law per se, but the law seen as a proof and badge of Israel's election; that in denouncing `works of the law' Paul was no t disparaging `goo d works' as such, but observances of the law valued as attesting membership of the people of God-- particularly circumcision, food laws and Sab bath." 111 Thus, for Dunn, the term "works of the law" does not refer to good works in general or to Jewish legalism but should be limited to Jewish nationalidentity boundaries that excluded Gentiles from salvation, i.e., circumcision, Sabbath, and dietary restrictions, which Dunn terms the "social function of the Law".112 His position is that Paul's opposition to "works of the law" stemmed from the fact that these social functions of the law "confined the grace of God to members of that nation."113 For Dunn, "Sanders did not follow through this insight [i.e., covenantal nomism-- getting in by grace; living within by works] far enou gh or with sufficient consistency."114 For Jews, these social functions became the "test cases 108Ibid., 200-201. 109Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Law 186­87; Dunn, Rom ans 1-8 lxvi. 110Dunn, Rom ans1-8 lxv. See a lso D. Ga rlington, "Obedience of Faith," Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2/38 (Tьb ingen: M ohr-Siebeck, 199 1). 111Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Law, 11. 112Du nn r em arks , "A nthr opolog ists and socio logists have made us aw are of the fact that any social grouping will inevitably have various features and characteristics which provide the group's selfdefinition (consciously or unconsciously) and m ark it off from various other groups . . . Two key words . . . are iden tity and boundary ." For further information, see Dunn , Jesus, Paul and the Law 216-19. 113Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Law 11-12. 114Du nn, Romans 1­8 lxvi.
214 The Master's Seminary Journal of covenant loyalty," marking them out as the people of God.115 Dunn believes that the social function of the law is consistent with the idea of "cove nantal nomism ." He asserts that "Galatians is Paul's first sustained attempt to deal with the issue of convenantal nomism" and "covenantal nomism is the issue underlying Paul's argum ent in G alatians."116 The crux interpretum for D unn's understanding of "works of the law" lies in Gal 2:16 and 3:10-16. Dunn regards Gal 2:16 as "the most obvious place to start" for a NP P understanding.117 Comm enting on Reformation understanding of the expression, he laments, "Unfortunately exegesis of Paul's teaching here has become caught up in and obscured by the Refo rmatio n's characteristic polemic against merit, against the idea that anyone could earn salvation [by good works]. . . . The mistake was to assume too readily that this was wh at Paul too w as attacking."118 For Dunn, the Reformation idea of "works of the law" as legalism centering in Luther's assertion that Paul was speaking of the whole law, not just the ceremonial parts, was mistaken.119 Galatians 2:16 (cf. also Gal 3:10-14;120 Rom 3:20-2) states, "Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in C hrist Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works o f the Law shall no flesh be justified" (eivdot, ej ОdeР. ot[ i ouv dikaiout/ ai a;nqrwpoj evx e;r gwn n o,mou eav .n mh. dia. pis, tewj VIhsou/ Cristou/( kai. h`meij/ eivj Cristo.n VIhsou/n epv isteu,samen( i[na dikaiwqw /men evk pi,stew j C ristou/ ka i. ouvk evx er; gwn no,mou( ot[ i evx er; gwn nom, ou ouv dikaiwqhs, etai pa/sa sar, x). For Dunn, the term "works of the law" in these p laces "m ost ob viously" refers to "circumcision and food laws." He comments, That is what was at issue--whether to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ requires also observance of these `works', whether . . . it is possible to conceive of membership of the covenant people which is not characterized by precisely these works. The Jerusalem Christians having conceded the argument about circumcision, so far as `getting in' was concerned, drew the line at food laws: a membership of the chosen people which did not include faithfulness to food laws and purity rituals of the meal table was for them too much a contradiction in terms. And Peter, Barnabas and other Jewish Christians in Antioch evidently agreed, however reluctantly or not--the threat to Jewish identity was 115Ibid., lxxi. 116Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Law 242 (also 251-57). 117Ibid., 188. 118James D. G. Dunn, The Parting of the Ways (London and Philadelph ia: SC M and Trinity, 1991) 135-36. 119Interes tingly, Luther attacks Jerome for limiting this phrase to ceremonies only: "Hence the opinion o f J ero m e and others is to be rejected when they imagine that here Paul is speaking about the works of the C eremon ial law, not about those of the D ecalog." See Luther, "Com men tary on G alatians," Luther's Works 26:138; I 3.17.2 (804-5). 120For Dunn, G alatians 3:10-14 is his "test case" for the appropriateness of his view. See Dunn, Jesus, Paul and the Law 225-32.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 215 too great to be ignored.121 Dunn takes the expression eav n. mh, (ean m ) in 2:16 to m ean "excep t": According to the most obvious grammatical sense, in this clause faith in Jesus is described as a qualification to justification by works of law, not (yet) as an antithetical alternative. Seen from the perspective of Jewish Christianity at that time, the most obvious meaning is that the only restriction on justification from works of law is faith in Jesus as Messiah. The only restriction, that is, to covenantal nomism is faith in Christ. But, in this first clause, covenantal nomism itself is not challenged or called into question--restricted, qualified, more precisely defined in relation to Jesus as Messiah, but not denied. Given that in Jewish self-understanding covenantal nomism is not antithetical to faith, then at this point the only change which the new movement calls for is that the traditional Jewish faith be more precisely defined as faith in Jesus Messiah.122 Dunn's approach does not center justification in an individualistic, soteriological doctrine as understood by the Reformation, but turns it into primarily a sociological doctrine to include Gentiles among the people of God. Covenantal nomism--getting in by faith, staying in by obedience-- for Gentile believers teaches that justification by works only has the primary restriction that those works are to be centered in Jesus Christ. Though Gentiles get in by God's gracious actions through Messiah, works keep them within the community of God under the rubric of covenantal nomism. Dunn's interpretation opens the doo r decisively to justification by works, for works are "restricted, qualified, more precisely in relation to Jesus as Messiah, but not de nied."123 Paul's negative words in Galatians are not to works in general but to a "particular ritual response"--circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath--but not to good works in general.124 Dunn relates again, "For Paul justification by faith had to do as much, if not more with the breaking down of the ra cial and national exclusiveness of Israel's covenant claims, than with his own personal experience of grace as persecutor of the Church of God."125 Regarding Rom 3:27-30 where Paul's theme of boasting cresc endos, he asserts, "justification by faith is a corollary of Jewish monotheism, directed primarily against the exclusiveness of Israel's own claim upon that on e God." 126 In Rom 10:3 , he again asserts, "Once again the belief against which justification by faith is directed is the belief that Israel's privilege and prerogative as God's elect people had to be established and defended against Gentile 121James D. G. Dunn, "Works of the Law and the Curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10-14) ," New Testament Studies 31 (October 1985) 528. 122Dunn, "New Perspective on Paul" 112. 123Ibid., 112. 124Ibid., 113. 125James D . G. D unn , "Th e Justice of God ," Journal of Theological Studies NS 43 (April 1992):11. 126Du nn, "T he Ju stice of G od" 1 2; cp. also D unn , Romans 1­8 153-55, 158-59, 183-94.
216 The Master's Seminary Journal encro achm ent."127 Dunn has come under severe criticism for his position in his ground- breaking "New Pe rspec tive on Paul" article as well as his other works, and has attempted to qualify his assertions. For example, Bruce pointed out that Dunn's interpretation of eav n. mh, as "except" in the construction of Gal 2:16 runs "co unter to the Greek idio m" thereby re ndering a crucial point of Dunn's crux interpretum as a grammatical solecism.128 Yet, Dunn maintains this translation in order to sustain his thesis. Schreiner has po inted o ut the D unn's view of "wo rks of the law" fails to observe correctly with the contextual argument that Paul builds in Rom 2:1 7-29 in relationship to Rom 3:20 whereby Paul in 2:17-29 faults them not for circumcision but for disobedience to the law in general.129 Silva's criticism of Dunn faults Dunn's "point of departure" which is Sanders' basic position, noting that Sanders operates (1) "with an understanding of `legalism' that is at times fuzzy and ambiguous, at other times quite misleading," and (2) "with an inadequate understanding of historical Christian theology."130 Dunn's comments reveal the tenuous exegetical nature of his assertions regarding the phrase "works of the law" in Romans 3 as well as Galatians 2, for he assumes what he is trying to prove and reduces Christ's death to the narrow view of removing boundary markers of the law rather than seeing it as removing the curse of the whole law (cf. Gal 2:20). As a result, Cranfield has taken Dunn to task for his exegesis of the term "works of the law" that Cranfield labels as "unconscionably tortuous."131 Dunn has responded to Cranfield's criticism, claiming that "Cranfield appears to ignore, mo re or less com pletely, the social context and ramifications of such a view of the law and its requirements."132 He also remains adamant that "Paul's gosp el of justification by faith is clearly aimed at Jewish assumption of privileged status before God."133 Efficacious Nature of Law in Soteriology. In sum, Dun n, like Sanders, opens the door for destroying the doctrine of sola fide ("faith alone"). Preunderstandings stemming from covenantal nomism and its bound ary markers, 127Dunn, "Th e Justice of God " 12; cp . also Jam es D . G. D unn , Romans 9­ 16, vol. 38B (Dallas: Word, 1988) 595-96. 128F. F. Bruce, "Paul and the La w in Recent Research," in Law and Religion, ed. Barnab as Lindars (Cambridge: James Clarke, 1988) 125. 129Thom as R. Schreiner, "`Works of the Law' in Paul," Novum Testamentum 33 (1991):227. 130Moisйs Silva, "The Law and Ch ristianity: Dunn's N ew Synthesis," Westminster Theological Jou rna l 53 (1991):347-48. 131C. E. B. Cranfield, "`The W orks of the Law ' in the E pistle to the R om ans," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 43 (1991):92; cp. Dunn, "Works of the Law and Curse of the Law" 536-39. 132James D. G. Dunn, "Yet Once More--`The Works of the Law,'" Journal for the Study of the New Testament 46 (1992):102. 133Ibid., 111.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 217 control Dunn's exegetical decisions; indeed, Dunn is guilty of the same charge leveled against Luther: subjectively controlled exege sis. Mo reover, nothing inhibits Dunn's conclusions degenerating into works-righteousness except for personal denials that it does not. Dunn's assertion that "what I say is not and should not be conceived as an attack on the P rotestant doctrine of justification" stands in direct opposition to his assertion that Luther's conversion experience and the insight which it gave him also began a tradition in biblical interpretation, which resulted for many in the loss or neglect of other crucial biblical insights related to the same theme of divine justice. And particularly in the case of Paul, Luther's discovery of "justification by faith" and the theological impetus which it gave especially to Lutheran theology has involved a significant misunderstanding of Paul, not least to "justification by faith" itself.134 One wonders if Dunn's approach to the NPP resembles a purpose of dialectical thinking: an intentional design to conceal his actual theological position from opponents, but to reveal his true position to those who ardently support him. N. T. Wright Wright's Educational Background. The third m ain pro ponent of the NPP is Nicholas T hom as W right (19 48- ) who, until recently, was Canon Theologian of W estminster Abb ey. He is now Bishop of Durham, one of the highest ranking bishops in the Church of England. He formerly was Dean of Lichfield Cathe dral in England. He received his bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees from Oxford University. He taught for twenty years at Cambridge, M cGill, and Oxford Universities. Of the three main proponents of the NPP, W right is the only one who considers himself an evangelical, as he has commented, "I see myself as a deeply orthodox theolo gian."135 Because Wright calls himself an evangelical, his writings have had a powerful impact on the spreading of the NPP among evangelicals. Influenced Heavily by H istorical-Critical Ideologies. Wright, however, displays a middle-of-the-road approach to biblical research, weaving a conflicting tapestry of radical and mod erate ideological concepts. He describes his studies at the University: "There was all this liberal stuff on the one hand, and the n the no ble evangelicals sa ving the day. Of course, I realized before my first year at W ycliffe Hall was over that you couldn't divide scholars like that."136 He proceeds to speak of his growing respect for liberals such as Rudolf Bultmann and Joachim Jeremias.137 He now finds his greatest difficulties in relating to conservative Christians, not 134Dunn, "The Justice of God" 2. 135Tim Stafford, "The New T heologians," Christianity Today (February 8, 1999):46. 136Ibid., 44. 1 3 7 I b id .
218 The Master's Seminary Journal liberals.138 Certain factors indicate, however, that Wright would be definitely in the left-leaning areas of British evang elicalism. Acco mmoda ting his rese arch to Baur's concept of Hauptbriefe, Wright confines evidence for his work, What Saint Paul Rea lly Said , to selected epistles of Paul: "Most of what I say in this book [What Saint Paul Really Said] focuses on material in the undisputed letters, particularly Romans, the two Corinthians letters, Galatians and Philippians. In addition, I regard Colossians as certainly by Paul, and Ephesians as far more likely to be b y him than by an imitato r."139 Such a capricious approach not only impugns the orthodox NT canon, but also slants evidence for his position by pro viding opp ortunity to ignore passages that do not support his position (e.g., Eph 2:8-10; Tit 1:9). W right apparently takes an agnostic position on Pauline authorship of the Pastoral Epistles: "It would be just as arbitrary to exclude them from a `Pauline' section as to include them, since even if, as most scholars have supposed, they are not by Paul himself, they are clearly by someone, or more than one person, who thought they should belong closely with his work and thought."140 He also questions Pau l's authorship of the Pastorals because of no mention of resurrection in them.141 W right participates in what he has labeled the "Th ird Quest for the Historical Jesus." He writes, "I still believe that the future of serious Jesus research lies with what I have called the `Third Quest,' within a broadly post-Schweitzerian frame."142 Based on philosophical skepticism, historical-critical discussions of the last two centuries have distinguished between the Jesus of the Gospels-- the Christ of Faith--and the Jesus of history--the Jesus as He existed in a time-space c o n ti nu u m .1 4 3 The discussions have included three quests for the "historical" Jesus. The First Quest covered the period from Reimarus (1694-1768) to Schweitzer (1906­Von Reimarus zu Wrede). It was an extrem ely skep tical que st that denied the trustwo rthiness of the Gospels and the rest of the NT. The Second Quest reacted to Bultmannian skepticism. Ernst Kдsemann started this quest in 1953. It reopened the question of the "historica l Jesus" and the "Christ of faith." Some consider it less skeptical than the First Quest, but it was only slightly less skeptical. Influenced by W rede's radical perspective, its skepticism resulted in the Jesus Seminar. The Third Quest has run from the 1980s. It attempts to place Jesus within the Jewish context of the NT era. It has roots in Jewish studies of older scholars like Strack-Billerbeck and Joachim Jeremias, and is now impacting the NT, bringing the NPP to the forefront 138Ibid., 46. 139N. T . W right, Wh at Sa int P aul R eally Said (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997) 8. 140N. T . W right, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003) 267. 141Ibid., 271. 142N. T . W right, Jesus and the Victory of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996) 78. 143See Thom as and Farne ll (eds.), Th e Jes us C risis ; Eta Linne m ann, Bib lical C riticism on Trial, trans. Robert Yarbrough (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2001).
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 219 of NT discussion.144 Although it is the least skeptical of the quests, it remains heavily skeptical merely by continuing the "search" for the "historical Jesus." The question is whether the T hird Q uest sho uld be d istinguished from the Second. W right distinguishes the two beca use of his personal demarcations that are now accepted by others.145 He contends that the New Quest [i.e., the Second Quest] is old and the Third Q uest is new due to its emphasis on Jewish studies. It could be a matter of emphasis rather than a distinction.146 Because of its roots in historical criticism and skepticism, the Third Quest is not easily separated from the previous ones. W right's assertions about the importance of Jewish sources raises the question of why, for an accurate portrayal of Jesus, evangelicals should not give primary attention to the Gospels whose writers ha d sup ernatural guidance in presenting Jesus as He truly was in history. All secondary sources-- at best problematic, at worst false--must take a bac k seat to NT revelation. Ab out twenty years ago Alexander issued cautions regarding rabbinic sources: An expert Rabbinist could not but be impressed by the New Testament scholar's new-found enthusiasm for things Rabbinic. However, he would be less impressed to discover that this enthusiasm is not always matched by knowledge, or tempered with caution. Much recent New Testament work is seemingly ignorant of the problems, debates and achievements in the current study of early Judaism, and its methodology in the use of early Jewish source has advanced little beyond pioneering works such as Davies' Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (1948), Duabe's New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (1956), and Gerhardsson's Memory and Manuscript (1961).147 Alexander identifies some of the weaknesses in evidence in many NT scholars' handling of Rabbinic literature.148 He catalogues the following as important warnings in dealing with such secondary sources: (1) the state of the texts--many rabbinic sources still do not have critical editions; (2) the understanding of the texts-- in their understanding of the text many rely on mediaeval scholars who imposed their views on the early sources; (3) the dating of the texts-- dates of rabb inic sources are problem atic at be st, relying on questionab le dates reached on subjective grounds; (4) accuracy of the attributions-- critics who question the credibility of the Gospels fall into the trap of unquestioning acceptance of a logion 144For further discussion on these Qu ests, con sult N. T . W right, Jesus and the Victory of God 3-124; N. T. Wright, The Contemporary Quest for Jesus (Minn eapolis:Fortress, 2002). 145W right, Jesus and the Victory of God 78-82. 146See John Reumann, "Jesus and Ch ristology, " in The New Testament and Its Mod ern Interpreters, eds. Eldon Jay Epp and G eorge W. M acRae (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989), with Wright's response (Jesus and the Victory of God 83-84). 147Ph ilip S. Alexander, "Rabbinic Judaism and the New Testament," Z eitschrift fьr die neutesta me ntlich e W issen sch aft 74 (1983):237. 148Ibid., 238.
220 The Master's Seminary Journal attributed to someone in a text ed ited long after (5 00 o r more years) that pe rson's death; (5) anachronism--"Many New Testament scholars are still guilty of massive and unsustained anachronism in their use of Rabbinic sources. Time and again we find them quoting texts from the 3rd, 4th or 5th centuries AD, or even later, to illustrate Jewish teaching in the 1st cen tury."149 However, any religion changes and develops through time. Academic caution demands that the Judaism of Hillel in the first centur y A.D . was probably not identical with the Judaism of Hoshaiah in the 3rd.150 Two events could have profoundly influenced the development of early Judaism and diverted it into new channels: the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the defeat of Bar Kochba in A.D. 135; (6) Parallelomania--"New Testament scholars are still afflicted b y the sco urge o f parallelomania."151 They crud ely juxtapose elements of early Judaism and Christianity, detect similarities, and on the basis of these supposed similarities conclude that Christianity has "borro wed from," or "been influenced by" Judaism.152 For evan gelicals, the questionable application of rabb inic sources along with the skepticism of any Third Quest must cause extreme caution. Alexander's cautions are still pertinent. He more recently warned, "It is . . . extremely difficult, using strictly historical criteria, to lay down a norm for Judaism in the first century. . . . Rabbinic Judaism c anno t easily be equated with normative Judaism before the third century C.E., and even then only in Palestine." 153 Adding more questions about Wright's approach are the following samples of his ideological criteria: (1) he affirms use of tradition criticism in the Gospels (i.e., "criterion of dissimilarity") but with "great caution," placing the burden of proof for authenticity upon the Gospels, his disclaimers notwithstanding.154 (2) He states, "The critics of form-criticism have not, to my knowledge, offered a serious alternative model to how the early church told its stories."155 (3) He refers to the Gospel stories in terms of his own modified version of "myth": "The gospels, then, are myth in the sense that they are foundational for the early Christian worldview. They con tain `mytholo gical' language which we can learn, as historians, to decode in the light of `other apocalyptic' writings of the time."156 For Wright, "Jesus and his contemporaries" did not take apocalyptic language "literally, as referring to the 149Ibid., 244 (emphasis in the original). 1 5 0 I b id . 151Ibid., 245. 152Ibid., 243, cf. also 238-46; and Samuel Sandm el, "Parallelomania," Journal of Biblical Literature 81 (1962):1-13. 153Philip S. A lexander, "`The P arting of the Ways' from the P erspective of Judaism," in Jews and Christians, the Parting of the Ways A.D. 70 to 135; ed. James D. G. Dunn ( G rand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) 2-3. 154W right, Jesus and the Victory of God 86. 155Wright, The New Testament and the People of God 424. 156Ibid., 426 (emphasis in the original).
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 221 actual end o f the time-space universe."157 (4) He claims that `"Jesus-stories' were invented or po ssibly adap ted for the needs of the com munity."158 (5) Wright is very vague regarding authorship of the Gospels. He explains, "I make no assumptions about the actual identity of the evangelists, and use the traditional names for simplicity only."159 W right's Approach to the NPP. W right takes his typical moderating stance in accepting the NPP. Abo ut Sanders he writes, "[U]ntil a major refutation of his central thesis is produced, honesty com pels one to d o business with him. I do not myself believe such a refutation can or will be offered; serious modifications are required, but I reg ard h is basic poin t as estab lished." 160 He c onten ds, "Sa nde rs' main thesis . . . is that the picture of Judaism assumed in most Protestant readings of Paul is historica lly inaccurate and theo logically misleading."161 He "strongly disagrees with Sanders on some points, and wants to go a good deal further than him on some others."162 Wright also criticizes Sanders for "a somewhat unsystematic treatment of different Pauline themes. Nor has he [Sanders] offered very much verse-by-verse exegesis."163 He co ncedes, "Sa nders' proposal had its own agenda at the level of the study of religions . . . and indeed was in some ways a plea to see Christianity from a modernist comparative-religion perspective rather than a classical theological one."164 Such admissions from Wright are telling because they reveal that the NPP is as guilty of a priori thinking as the Protestant-Lutheran traditions so heartily condemned by the NPP, and perhaps more so. Wright also admits that no fundamental agreement exists in Pauline studies: "The current situation in Pauline studies is pleasantly confused."165 He agrees with Sanders and Dunn that the Judaism of Paul's day was not a religion of self-righteousness in which salvation depended on human works: "Christians should regard Jews with a good deal more respect than in the past, and in particular should not saddle them with a form of religion of which they are innocent."166 For W right, "the traditional" picture of Judaism as self-righteous legalism promoted by Luther and the Reformation ("though by no means exclu- 157Ibid., 425. 158Ibid., 426, cf. 424-26 also. 159Ibid., 372 n. 4. 160Wright, Wh at Sa int Paul R eally Said 20. 161W right, "A Fresh Perspective on Paul," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 83 (Spring 2001):21. 162Wright, Wh at Sa int Paul R eally Said 18. 163Ibid., 19. 164Wright, "A Fresh Perspective on Paul" 22. 165Wright, Wh at Sa int Paul R eally Said 20. 166Ibid., 19; cf. N. T. Wright, "The Paul of History and the Apostle of Faith," Tyn dale Bu lletin 29 (1978):79-80.
222 The Master's Seminary Journal sively") is "false": "My case here is simp ly stated: the tradition of Pauline interpretation has manufactured a false Judaism for him to op pose."167 For W right, as with Sanders and Dunn, Luther and others have wrongly imposed their own historical situation of oppo sition to Rom an Catho lic legalism on Pa ul's writings.168 The idea that Paul was "p roto-Pelagian . . . who thought he could pull himself up by his moral bootstraps" is "radically anachronistic . . . and culturally out of line (it is not the Jewish way of thinking). . . . [W]e have m isjudged ea rly Judaism, especially Pharisaism, if we thought of it as an early version of Pelagianism."169 W right also contends that Paul should be abso lved o f any charge of antiSemitism (being a self-hating Jew). Paul was not criticizing Jews for using the law, as falsely charged by Lutheranism. Instead, Paul directed his criticism toward Jewish nationalism: If we ask how it is that Israel has missed her vocation, Paul's answer is that she is guilty not of "legalism" or "work-righteousness" but of what I call "national righteousness", the belief that fleshly Jewish descent guarantees membership of God's true covenant people. This charge is worked out in Romans 2:17-29; 9:30­10:13, Galatians, and Philippians 3. . . Within this national "righteousness", the law functions not as a legalist's ladder but as a character of national privilege, so that, for the Jew, possession of the law is three parts of salvation: and circumcision functions not as a ritualist's outward show but as a badge of national privilege. Over against this abuse of Israel's undoubted privileged status, Paul establishes, in his theology and in his missionary work, the true children of Abraham, the world-wide community of faith.170 For Wright, Paul's real concern in his controversy with Jewish leaders centered in their treatment of Gentiles in terms of inclusion (nationalism) rather than in legalism. For Wright, "the tradition of Pauline interpretation has manufactured a false Paul by manufacturing a false Judaism for him to oppose."171 W right also adds his own emphases to NPP. One of these is Rom 2:17-29, calling it "a somewhat neglected passage ."172 He says that Paul was not criticizing Jews for legalism, but presents "a detailed and sensitive critique of Judaism as its advocates present it"173 (cf. also Rom 3:27-29; 9:30­10 :13; Galatians 2­4; Phil 3:211). Paul's critique centers on (1) Jewish boasting about being the exclusive chosen peo ple of God, (2) Jewish breaking of the law (or sin), not legalism, (3 ) Paul is positive about Go d's law itself, for he focuses his attack on the "abuse" of the law 167Ibid., 78. 168Ibid., 87. 169Wright, Wh at Sa int Paul R eally Said 32. 170Wright, "The Paul of History and the Apostle of Faith" 65 (em phasis in the original). 171Ibid., 78. 172Ibid., 82. 173Ibid., 82 (emphasis in the original).
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 223 claiming national righteousness (not legalism), and (4) P aul's attack against Jewish trust in the law and circumcision as badges of national privilege rather than "`true circumcision' which keeps the law from the heart." In this section Paul outlines his theology of the church as Israel, the people of God.174 For Wright, the gospel is a message about the Lordship of Jesus Christ: It is not . . . a system of how people get saved. The announcement of the gospel results in people being saved. . . . But the `gospel itself, strictly speaking, is the narrative proclamation of King Jesus. . . .' His [Paul's] announcement was that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth had been raised from the dead; that he was thereby proved to be Israel's Messiah; that he was thereby installed as Lord of the world. Or, to put it yet more compactly: Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, is Lord.175 W right also contradicts the Reformation doctrine of justification and sole fide. For W right, an examination o f Galatians indicates "[w]ha t Paul means by justification . . . is not `how you b ecom e a Christian', so much as `how you can tell who is a memb er of the cove nant fam ily.'"176 He argues, "Justification is thus the declaration of God, the just judge, that som eone has had their sins forgiven and that they are a member of the covenant family, the family of Abraham. That is what the word means in Paul's writings. It doesn't describe how people get into God's forgiven family; it declares that they are in. . . ."177 W right argues again, "D espite a long tradition to the contrary, the problem Pa ul addresses in Galatians is not the question of how precisely someone becomes a C hristian or attains to a relationship with God. . . . The problem he addresses is should his ex-pagan converts be circumcised or not?"178 To Wright, justification is corporate rather than individual; it is primarily eschatological rather than imm ediate. Yet he straddles the fence on the issue, for though justification from his perspective is primarily eschatological, he contradicts himself: "Justification in the present is based on God 's past accomplishment in the Messiah, and anticipates the future verdict. The present justification has exactly the same pattern ."179 W right refers to eschatolog ical judgme nt in Rom 2 :13: "Po ssession of Torah had become, in Jewish thought, a badge of privilege, a talisman, a sign that Israel was inalienably God's people. No says Paul. What counts is doing Torah. . . . Israel's ethnic privilege, backed up by possession of Torah, will be of no 174Ibid., 82. 175Wright, Wh at Sa int Paul R eally Said 45-46. 176Ibid., 122. 177N. T. W right, "The Shape of Justification," Bible Review 17 (April 2001):50. 178Wright, Wh at Sa int Paul R eally Said 120. 179Wright, "The Shape of Justification" 8.
224 The Master's Seminary Journal avail at the final judgment if Israel has not kept Torah."180 He is unclear whether the believer's standing before God depends on works or on Christ's sacrifice. Wright goes on, "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. . . . 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.181 For W right, justification by faith is not Paul's gospel, though it is implied by that gosp el. It does not represent Paul's answer to the question of how an individual can be saved or enjoy a right relationship with God: [I]f we come to Paul with these questions in mind--the questions of how human beings come into a living and saving relationship with the living and saving God--it is not justification that springs to his [Paul's] lips or pen. . . . The message about Jesus and his cross and resurrection--"the gospel" . . . is announced to them; through this means, God works by his Spirit upon their hearts; as a result, they come to believe the message; they join the Christian community through baptism, and begin to share in its common life and its common way of life. That is how people come into relationship with God.182 For Wright, justification does not describe how people get in to G od's family; it declares that they are in. He never clarifies when an individual comes into the family of God. His position is, therefore, quite nebulous, b ut he asks his read ers to dismiss centuries of understanding from Augustine through Luther and accept it. Adding to W right's ambiguity regarding the ro le of works in justification is his interpretation of "works of the law" (exv er; gwn no,mou, ex ergЗ n nomou; cf. also Rom 9:32) in Gal 2:16; 3:10-14. W right disagrees with Dunn on some m inor points in Gal 3:10-14: "[W ]hile I disa gree w ith Dunn's exegesis of this particular passage, I am in substantial agreement with his general thesis about `works o f law' in Pa ul, and indeed I think that my reading of this text supports this position better than his does. . . . The work of Sanders, and later Dunn, has served in some ways as confirmation of the general line I had taken." 183 Yet, Wright affirms that "works of the law" refer to "the badges of Jewish law observance" (cf. also Phil 3:2-11) and "table fellowship."184 He, therefore, reflects Dunn's interpretation rather than 180N. T. W right, "The Letter to the Romans," NIB 440. 181Wright, Wh at Sa int Paul R eally Said 119. 182Ibid., 116. 183N . T. W right, The Climax of the Covenant (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992) 139 n. 10; for minor disagreements between Wright and Dunn on Gal 3:10-14, see ibid., 137-56. 184Wright, "Justification" 8, 50.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 225 substantially differing with him.185 For W right, Paul is not so much arguing against meritorious works, as he is arguing against racial exclusion: "Justification in Galatians, is the doctrine which insists that all those who share faith in Christ belong at the same table, no matter what their racial differences, as together they wait for the final new creation."186 W right also changes traditional understanding of the "righteousness of Go d." He rejects the traditional Protestant view of imputation of righteousness "as denoting that status which humans, on the basis of faith, as a result of the gosp el," or as Luther believed, "God's moral activity of punishing evil and rewarding virtue."187 For Wright, the Protestant view describes more of a "legal fiction" of imputation.188 It is not "som ething tha t "`counts before'" Go d" or "avails with Go d." Instead, he argues that the term refers to "Go d's faithfulness to his promises, to his covenant," having a qualitative idea rather than a status. It is righteousness as a moral quality (genitive of possession). On Paul's comments in Phil 3:9 where Paul states,"and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith," he remarks, First. It is membership language. When Paul says he does not have a righteousness "of my own", based on Torah, the context of the previous verses must mean that he is speaking of a righteousness, a covenant status, which was his as a Jew by birth, marked with the covenant badge of circumcision, and claiming to be part of the inner circle of that people by being a zealous Pharisee. That which he is refusing in the first half of the verse 9 is not a moralistic or self-help righteousness, but the status of orthodox Jewish covenant membership. Second, the covenant status Paul now enjoys is the gift of God: it is `a . . . righteousness from God.'189 He also rejects the traditional concept of imputation of the righteousness of Go d. Overturning Augustinian and Reformation understanding of imputation,190 W right argues, "If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imp utes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plantiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom."191 185Cf. Dunn , Jesus, Paul and the Law 216 -19; idem , The Epistle to the Galatians (Peab ody, M ass.: Hendrickson, 1993) 134-41. 186Wright, What S aint P aul R eally Said 122. 187Ibid., 100, 102. 188Ibid., 102. 189Ibid., 124. 190Ibid., 116. 191Ibid., 124.
226 The Master's Seminary Journal Efficacious Nature of Law in Soteriology. A logical result of W right's (as well as Sand ers' and Dun n's) po sition is the opening wide of the contribution of meritorious works in salvation. W right does not explicitly declare that a p erson 's works are grounds for a righteous standing before God, but dismisses standard texts used by the Reformers and their Protestant heirs as support for their case. That amb iguity leads toward the Romanist/works position. At the very least, the barriers to the a contribution of works in salvation have been removed-- nothing prevents W right (or his followers) from logically moving toward human effort as having a soteriological impact. The Historical and Philosophical Motives of the NPP How did this N PP develop? The discussion above has noted two main stimuli behind it: historical-critical ideology based on philosophy and the New Hermen eutic with its subjective interpretation of the bib lical text. The develop ment stemmed from the same presuppositions that generated historical-critical ideologies (such as source, form, redaction, tradition criticism), unorthodox views of inspiration of the OT and NT , aberrant views o f Synop tic develop ment, and the overall rejection of the historicity, integrity, and the authority of the biblical texts.192 Its historical, theological antece dents make the NPP far from neutral or a mere "rethinking" of the Reformational persp ective. It was spurred by philosophies, generated from a preunderstanding replete with prejudicial thinking, not from an objective exegesis of the Pauline texts. Important also is the fact that w hile adm ittedly man y historical-critical ideologists such as Baur and Bultmann maintained a nominal Lutheran perspective on Paul, historical-critical approaches provided the avenue through which the NPP cou ld develop. Especially as the inerrancy and authority of Scripture were undermined through historical-criticism, the NPP co uld rema ke Paul's theology into something palatable to a "politically-correct" explanation that predo min ates in much of theology today. Tracing the impact of these presuppositions on Pauline studies reveals that the NPP did not appear suddenly on the scene. Basic presupp ositions and philosophical developments have facilitated its rise. Although historical beginnings of any movement can be at times gradual, the beginnings of the NPP are traceable to several key movements and figures. Jewish Opposition to the Gospel's Presentation of Jesus Througho ut church history, Jewish theologians, with perhaps some exceptions, have expressed strong antipathy not only towards Jesus and the Gospel acco unts of His life but also towar d P aul, his theology, and his statements regarding. Scrip turally, this is not a surprise to astute Christian theologians, especially since 192For a succinct history of historical-critical ideologies, consult F. David Farnell, "Philosophical and Theological Bent of Historical Criticism," in Th e Jes us C risis 85-131.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 227 Paul warned in 1 Cor 1:18­2:14 that God sovereignly planned that a crucified M essiah would be a stumbling block to the Jews ("we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumb ling block, and to Gentiles foolishness," 1 Co r 1:23 ; cf. Rom 9:30-33; 10:1-4). God 's program for including Gentiles in salvation also included the judicial blinding of Israel (Rom 11:1-36). W ithin about the last hundred years, however, a Jewish reclamation of Jesus has come, including a recasting of Jesus into a image acc eptable to J ews.193 The new image is in sharp contrast to how He is portrayed in the Gospels, one that is more palatable to non-believing Jewish sensibilities. Many Jews now declare that Jesus is/was a rabbi among rabbis, a part of Israel's literary heritage.194 Hagner provides a major clue as to how a Jewish "reclamation" of Jesus was possible: "Building on the results of radical Protestant scholarship, Jewish writers argue that the Jesus of the Gospels is to a very large extent the product of the faith of the later church. The actual Jesus of history, on the other hand , is regard ed as belo nging w ith Judaism rather than Christianity."195 In essence, modern Jews have used historica lcritical ideologies (source, form, redaction, tradition criticism, History-of-Religions Scho ol, etc.) derived from radical Gentile Christian scholars that denigrated the historicity of the Gospels in order to rem ake Jesus into someone who was acceptable to them. They used these ideologies to drive an artificial wedge between the "Jesus of History" (how Jesus actually was in history) and the "Christ of faith" (how Jesus is portrayed in the canonical Gospels), thereby reinventing a Jesus who is unoffensive to them. The NT's "rock of offense" and "stumbling stone" for Jews (Rom 9:33; 1 Pet 2:8; cf. Isa 28:16) was removed by constructing a qualitatively different Jesus than the Gospel portrayals. Jewish Opposition to Paul and His Presentation of Judaism Until the mod ern period , Jews were mostly silent in their sharp disagree- ments with Pa ul. A few scattered, albeit elusive, references to Paul are possible. For example, some Jews consider Aboth 3.12 as speaking of Paul when it notes someone "who profanes the Hallowed things and despises the set feasts and puts his fellow to shame publicly and makes void the Covenant of Abraham our Father [negating circum cision] and discloses meanings in the Law which are not according to the 193For an excellent study of this Jew ish reclam ation of Jes us, con sult Do nald A . Ha gner, The Jewish Reclamation of Jesus (Grand R apids: Zondervan , 1984). 194Harry A. W olfson, "How the Jews w ill Reclaim Jesus," The Meno rah Journal (1962):25-31; reprinted in Jud aism and Ch ristia nity, ed. J. B. Agus (New York: Arno, 1973). For an excellent review of how Jewish theologians have approached Paul in mod ern Jewish thou ght, consult Donald A . Hagner, "Paul in Modern Jewish Thought," in Pauline Studies: Essays Presented to Professor F. F B ruc e on his 70th Birthday, eds. D onald A . Ha gner an d M urray J. H arris (G rand R apids: E erdm ans, 1 980 ) 143 -65. 195Hagner, "Paul in Modern Jewish Thought" 143.
228 The Master's Seminary Journal Halakah."196 Klausner considers b. Shabb ath 30b a reference to Paul when it speaks of a pupil of Gamaliel as having exhibited "impudence in matters of learning."197 Two main reasons may account for this: First, Jews ignored Paul's theology as patently wrong and dangerous. Since Christian missionary endeavors found great success with Paul's thoughts, Jews ignored Paul so as not to support his ideas unintentionally, ideas that threatened Jewish interests. Second , Jewish and Christian hostilities contributed to silence. Hagner notes, Explaining the silence was the precarious situation of the Jews under a Christian tyranny that existed from the fourth century to the nineteenth-century Emancipation--the ultimate, but slowly realized, fruit of the Enlightenment. As long as this oppression continued, Jews were unable to speak publicly and objectively about Jesus, Paul or Christianity. Thus the history of the Jewish study of Paul is closely parallel to the history of the Jewish study of Jesus. With the new climate of freedom produced by the gradual acceptance of Jews into European society came the first scholarly assessments of Jesus and Paul from Jewish writers.198 The Enlightenment, "a prejudice against prejudice" movement that used philosophy to destroy the authority of the OT and NT, gave impetus and freedom to Jewish assaults on the G ospels as well as the P auline Epistles.199 Gay summarizes the essence of Enlightenment leaders: "Theirs [the Enlightenment proponents'] was a paganism directed against their Christia n inheritance and depend ent upon the paganism of classical antiqu ity, but it was also a modern paganism, emancipated from classical thought as much as from Christian dogma."200 Ironically, Jewish opposition to the Jesus of the Gospels and to Pa ul's portrayal of Judaism found an ally in the meteoric rise of historical-criticism in Gentile circles tha t stemmed from philosophy's invasion of theology. The impact of individual approaches along with their sum-total effect upon the trustworthiness of the NT confirmed ce nturies-old Jew ish criticism of Pa ul. As noted below, from so-called "Christians" of "massive scholarly erudition" came theories that affirmed what the Jews had felt long ago, i.e., that Paul's epistles and the Gospels had 196Kittel traces the possibility that Paul is alluded to by Rabbi Eleazar in the Mish na (Abot 3.12). See Gerhard Kittel, "Paulus im Talmud," in Rabbinica (Leipzig: Heinrich's, 1920), 1-16; He rber t Da nby, The Mishnah, tran slated from the Hebrew with Introduction and Brief Explanatory Notes (London: Oxford University, 1933) 451. 197Joseph Klaus ner, Fro m J esu s to Paul, trans. William F. Stinespring (New York: Macmillan, 1943) 308-11. 198Hagner, "Paul in Modern Jewish Thought" 144. 199See Farn ell, "Ph ilosop hica l and T heo logical B ent of His torical C riticism," in Th e Jes us C risis , 96-97. 200Peter Gay, The Enlightenment, An Interpretation: The Rise of Modern P aganism (N ew Y ork: W . W. Norton, 1966) xi.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 229 imported elements foreign to Judaism.201 The impact was profound. The theories cast Paul as an inventor of a new religion inconsistent with the Judaism of his day and a radical departure from what Jesus had taught. As Hagner observes, "To have such views [against Paul] uttered not out of a context of religious polemics or apologetics, but from what claimed to be `objective,' `scientific' Christian scholarship was indeed a boon to the Jewish perspective."202 Bruce tellingly notes, Although he [Paul] was rabbinically trained, his reappraisal of the whole spirit and content of his earlier training was so radical that many Jewish scholars have had difficulty in recognizing him as the product of a rabbinical education. They have found it easier to appreciate the Prophet of Nazareth (who, indeed, was not rabbinically trained) than the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul presents an enigma with which they cannot readily come to terms.203 Jewish scholars made good use of Gentile-originated historical-criticism, and their criticisms, in turn, influenced the thinking o f such N PP proponents as Sande rs, Dunn, and W right. For instance, Sanders devotes the "Preface," "Introduction," and "Part One" of his seminal work Paul and Palestinian Judaism to formulating his view of "covenantal nomism" by reviewing the emphasis of Jewish scholars such as Claude Go ldsmid Mo ntefiore204 and Hans Joachim S choeps on correcting improper thinking on Judaism, which Sanders terms "the `wearing struggle' to get Christian scholars to see Rabbinic Judaism (or Pharisaism) in an unb iased light."205 For Sanders, Christian theology from Paul through the Reformation was primarily a result of anti-Semitism. Montefiore, the most influential Jewish writer of the early 20th century, decried "the imaginary Rabbinic Judaism, created by Christian scholars, in order to form a suitably lurid background for the Epistles of St. Paul."206 Montefiore asserted, "[T]here is m uch in Paul which, while dealing with Judaism, is inexplicable by Juda ism."207 Montefio re denied that Paul ever knew authentic Rabbinic Judaism: "[T]he prese nt writer is going to argue that Paul's pre-Christian religion must have been, in many important points, very unlike the religion of a representative Rabbinic 201Hagner, "Paul in Modern Jewish Thought" 146. 202Hagner, "Paul in Modern Jewish Thought" 146. 203F. F. B ruce, Paul the Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) 462. 204Claude Goldsm id M ontefiore, Judaism and St. Paul, Two Essays (London: M ax Gosch en, 1914 ); see also "Ra bbinic J udaism and th e Ep istles of St. P aul," The Jewish Q uarterly Review 13 (Janu ary 1901): 161-217. 205Sanders, PPJ 35. 206C. G . M ontefiore, Judaism and S t. Paul, Two Essays (London: Max Goschen, 1914) 65. 207C. G. Montefiore, "Rabinnic Judaism and the Epistles of St. Paul," Jewish Quarterly Review 13 (January 1901) 167 (emphasis in the original); reprinted in Jud aism and Ch ristia nity, ed. J. B. Agus (1973).
230 The Master's Seminary Journal Jew of the year 500."208 Although Sanders does not agree with everything that these Jewish scholars pro pose, he d oes affirm the central thesis of their works that true rabb inic Judaism was a religion of grace rather than the traditional understanding of Protestant scholars that it was based on legalism and works-righteousness. Sanders dismisses this latter view, arguing that Jewish literature has demonstrated the former position to be accurate. Profound ly under such influence, Sand ers stated in his seminal work, Pau l and P alestinian Ju daism , that among his six purposes for writing this work was "to destro y the view of Rabbinic Judaism which is still prevalent in much, perhaps most, New T estament scholarship"; "to establish a different view of Rabbinic Judaism"; to argue for a certain understanding of Paul"; "to carry out a comparison of Paul and Palestinian Judaism."209 Luther's Alleged Antisemitism W orsening the negative reaction against the Lutheran and Reformed positions on Pauline theology has been the harsh anti-Sem itic stateme nts of Luther in his later years. The most famous such treatise of Luther is On the Jews and T heir Lies (1543), written when he was around sixty years of age (b. 1484 and d . 1546).210 The treatise caused widespread dismay, not only among Jews contemp orary with Luther, but also in Protestant circles. Melanchthon and O siander were unhappy with its severity, an d B ullinger re lated Luther's words to the Spanish Inquisition.211 Luther's proposals were quite severe, especially in the fourth section of his work.212 Fortunately, Luther's proposals did not receive widespread appro val, and the treatise did not sell as well as his p ro-Jewish treatise, That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, produced twenty years earlier (1523). Realizing the volatility of Luther's words, the editors of the American edition of Luther's Works state that they have "played so fateful a role in the development of anti-Semitism in Western cu lture" that many attribute to them the eventual rise of anti-Se mitism in G erma ny and the Holocaust.213 That caveat shows the difficulties caused by the treatise: "Publication of this treatise is being undertaken only to make available the necessary documents for scholarly study of this aspect of Luther's thought. . . . Such publication is in no way intended as an endorsement of the distorted views of Jewish faith and practice or the defamation of 208Montefiore, Judaism and St. Paul 17. 209Sanders, PPJ xii. 210For the complete text see Martin Luther, "On the Jews and Their Lies," in The Christian in Soc iety, vol. 47 of Luther's Works, ed. Franklin Sherman, gen. ed. He lmu t T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971) 137-306. 211For an excellent treatment of the history and reaction surroun ding this article, see "Introduction to `On the Jews and Their Lies,'" in Th e C hris tian in Soc iety, vol. 47 of Luther's Works 123-36. 212See Luther, "On the Jews and Their Lies" 267-92. 213"Introduction to `On the Jews and Their Lies'" 123.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 231 the Jewish people which this treatise contains."214 In the fourth section, Luther suggests the following actions for Christians against the Jews: What shall we Christians do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews? Since they live among us, we dare not tolerate their conduct, now that we are aware of their lying and reviling and blaspheming. . . . First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn. . . . Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. . . . Third, I advise that that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. . . . Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach. . . . Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. . . . Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. . . . Seventh, I recommend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow. . . . 215 Luther stopped short of encouraging physical harm to Jews, however. He cautioned pastors of Protestant churches to warn their people against the Jews, but not to "curse them or harm their persons. . . . For the Jews have cursed and harmed themselves more than enough by cursing the Man Jesus of Nazareth . . . which unfortunately they have been doing for over fourteen hund red years."216 Nevertheless, he called for the expulsion of the Jews from Germany: they should "be expelled from the country and be told to return to their land and their possessions in Jerusalem." He called them " a brood of vipers and children of the devil."217 Earlier in life, he had not shown such marked prejudice. In 1523, Luther published That Jesus Christ was Born a Jew, a work greeted positively by Jewish readers throughout Europe. Luther wrote, They [i.e., popes, bishops, sophists, and monks] have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs rather than human beings; they have done little else than deride them and seize their property. . . . I have heard myself from pious baptized Jews that if they had not in our day heard the gospel they would have remained Jews under the cloak of Christianity for the rest of their days. For they acknowledge that they have never yet heard anything about Christ from those who baptized and taught them. I hope that if one deals in a kindly way with the Jews and instructs them carefully 214Ibid., 123. 215Ibid., 268-72. 216Ibid., 274. 217Ibid., 276, 277.
232 The Master's Seminary Journal from the Holy Scripture, many of them will become genuine Christians and turn again to the faith of their fathers, the prophets and patriarchs.218 Various theories have been pro pou nde d for L uther's change from sympathy for Jews to outright antagonism. Suggestions have ranged from declining health to splinter movements in the Reformation that saddened him. Perhaps the answer lies in his treatise itself: Jewish o bstinac y or refusal to accept conversion. Jewish historian Marvin Lowenthal (1890-1969) remarks, Luther entertained high hopes of converting the Jews. By stripping Christianity of its centuries of Catholic accretions he felt that he was making it attractive and acceptable to the members of the Old Faith. Unfortunately for both parties, while he thought he was bringing the Jews nearer to the church, they thought he was approaching the synagogue. A few Jews even waited on Luther to persuade him to take the final step. . . . But as the Protestant movement matured, Luther's attitude changed. He grew embittered to discover that the Jews were as deaf to Martin of Eisleben as they had been to Paul of Tarsus. He became alarmed to find among the sects which sprouted like mushrooms in the fertile soil of Protestant resolve a dangerous tendency to revert to Jewish type; to deny the Trinity, to look upon Jesus as a prophet rather than a deity, to observe the seventh day as the Sabbath, and to take the Old Testament with a literalness embarrassing to the New--in short, to go "Jewish" as the Humanists had gone "ancient."219 Rightly or wrongly, Luther has received a great share of blame for the rise of the Holocaust, especially since some nominal Lutherans in the 20th century participated with Hitler in the rise of the Third Reich. The NPP is in many ways a reaction to perceive d P rotesta nt (i.e., German Lutheran) church passivity or, in some cases, sympathy toward Nazi atrocities in W orld W ar II. Historical-Criticism as the Primary Agent of Change Much has already been noted about Gentile Christian scholar's assault on the trustworthiness of the NT , especially the Gospels, and their contrast of Jesus' teachings with those of Paul. Historical criticism provided the means through which Scrip ture's authority was rejected, aiding the rise of the NPP. M any historical-critics remained nominally Protestan t-- or Lutheran-- in approach to Paul, their ideologies providing the fertile gro und fo r the N PP eventually to challenge the theological basis of the Protestant Reformation, especially in its approach to Paul's epistles. F. C. Baur (1792-1860). Prominent in the assault on the NT was Ferdinand Christian Baur, founder and uncontested leader of the "T ьbingen School" 218M artin Luther, "That Jesus was B orn a Jew," in Luther's Works, vol. 45 , ed. W alther I. B rand t, trans. Walther I. Brandt (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1962) 200. 219M arvin Lowen thal, The Jews of G ermany, A Story of Sixteen Centuries (New York and Toronto: Longmans, Green and Co., 1936) 158-59.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 233 of German radical biblical criticism and a tutor of Strauss.220 Hagner observes, "The modern debate of this problem [of a radical difference b etween Jesus' and P aul's preaching] goes back to F. C. Baur, who regarded Paul as an innovator and who was followed in this by others among whom W endt, Goguel, Wred e and Bultmann deserve special mention."221 Although Baur and the Tьbingen school he headed remained nominally Lutheran in their view of Paul and eventually fell into disrepute because of radical scholarship, Baur's effect on Gospel and Pauline studies had lasting effects, including several contributions that aided the development of the NP P. First, with no substantive basis Baur pursued a do gmatic view of Scripture through his imposition of Fichtean-Hegelian philosophy on the biblical text, especially Paul's epistles. This view became the foundation of his understanding of the entire NT, especially Pauline and Petrine epistles and the history of the early church. Baur based this philosophical imposition on the sheer hubris of his personality. He represented a more moderate approach to Hegel's philosophy (actua lly derived from Fichte), for as Corduan notes, "Baur's appropriation of Hegel is far more subtle than those of other Hegelians."222 In 183 1, Baur published an essay entitled , "Die Christuspartei in der korinthischen Gemeinde, der Gegensatz des petrinischen und paulinischen Christenthums in der д ltesten K irsche, der A postel Petrus in Rom," ("The Christ-party in the Corinthian Church, the Conflict Between Petrine and Pauline Christianity in the Early Church, the Apostle Peter in Rome") in which he asse rted that apostolic Christianity was marked by deep cleavage between the Jerusalem church and th e Pauline mission.223 On the one side was Jewish Christianity represented by Peter that maintained a Judaizing form of Christianity and on the other side was Paul who insisted on the abolition of Jewish legalism. This assumption affected all interpretive data from the NT epistles. Paul's mention of divisions in the Corinthian church between himself and Peter (1 Cor 1:11-12) became ce ntral to this imposition. Second, Baur theorized a radical contrast betwe en Jesus' and Paul's teachings. The historical-critical dicho tomy b etween Jesus and Paul continued with his The Church History of the First Three Centuries, in which he posits, But the apostle takes up an attitude of so great freedom and independence not only towards the older apostles, but towards the person of Jesus himself, that one might be 220For further information, see Peter C. Hodgson, "General Introduction," in Ferdinand Christian Baur, On the Writing of Church H istory, ed. Peter C. H odgson (N ewY ork: Oxford University, 1968) 140; Neill and Wright, The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1986 20-30. 221Hagner, "Paul in Modern Jewish Thought" 146; see also V. P. Furnish, "The Jesus-Paul Debate: From Bau r to Bu ltman n, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 47 (1965) 342-81. 222Winfried Corduan, "Transcendentalism: Hegel," in Biblical Errancy 94. 223Ferdinand Christian Bau r, "D ie Christuspartei in der korinthischen Gemeinde, der Gegensatz des petrinischen und pau linischen Christenthum s in der дltesten Kirsche, der A postel Petrus in Rom ," Zeits chr ift fьr T heo logie 4 (1831):61-206.
234 The Master's Seminary Journal inclined to ask whether a view of his relation to the person of Christ can be the right one which would make the apostle Paul the originator and first exponent of that which constitutes the essence of Christianity as distinguished from Judaism. . . . He bears himself but little like a disciple who has received the doctrines and the principles which he preaches from the Master whose name he bears. . . . [H]is whole Christian consciousness is transformed into a view of the person of Jesus which stands in need of no history to elucidate it.224 The assertion of a dichotomy between Paul and Jesus along with the rise of the History-of-Religions school (see below) that widened the gap more sharp ly, even tually aided the ca se of Jewish theologians that Paul had imported ideas foreign to Judaism and invented a religion contrary to Jesus' intentions.225 Third, Baur in "Die Christpartei" used this Hegelian-Fichtean paradigm on the NT Epistles. Boo ks that clearly reflect either Pauline or Jewish (Petrine) theology were dated early while books reflecting an alleged synthesis of this thinking were considered late. Based on this paradigm, Baur considered only Rom ans, Galatians, and 1­2 Corinthians as legitimately Pauline. These became known as the "Hauptbrief" or "chief epistles," since the Tьbingen school considered these epistles the only genuine epistles coming from Paul; the rest were dismissed. Baur viewed the P astorals as late-second century documents written against Gnostics and Marcionites. He saw the Prison Epistles and Philemon as written in A.D. 120140 and as coming from an alleged P auline school. First and Second Thessalonians were written after Paul (A.D. 70-75) and were of inferior theological quality. His students and followers applied this scheme to the rest of the NT through what is now known as Tend enz criticism as either Pauline (e.g., Hebrews, 1 Pe ter), Petrine-Judaizing (e.g., James, Matthew, Revelation), editing and conciliatory (e.g., Luke-Acts; Mark), or catholicizing (e.g., 2 Peter, Jude, John). Those ideas came into the 20th century and are held by NPP scholars (Sanders, Dunn, Wright, et. al).226 The surface rejection of the radicalism of Baur and Tьbingen has not nullified their impact. Hafemann remarks, Baur's consistent attempt to provide a comprehensive and coherent understanding of history of the early church on the basis of historical reasoning alone, without recourse to supernatural interventions or to explanations based on the miraculous, did propel biblical scholarship into the modern world. Moreover, Baur's work also set the stage for the 224Ferdinand Christian Bau r, The Chu rch History of the First Three Centuries, 3d ed., trans. and ed. Allan Menzies (London: Williams and Norgate, 1878) 1:49-50. 225Hagn er, "Paul in M odern Jew ish Though t" 146; Bau r's m ajo r w orks, e specially Paul, The A pos tle of Jesus Christ, His Life and Work, His Epistles and His Doctrine, trans. Eduard Z eller, 2 vols. (reprint of 18 76 ed .; E ug en e, O re. : W ipf an d S toc k P ub lish ers , 200 3), als o set the stage for the 20th-century deb ate over the relationship between the life and teachings of the "historical Jesus" and the theology of Pau l. 226For further in form ation, con sult Kь m m el, The New Testament: The History of the Investigation o f I ts Pr ob le m s 127-133.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 235 debate in the twentieth century over the relationship between the life and teaching of the historical Jesus and the theology of Paul.227 Baur's a priori impo sition of philosophical concepts on Scripture as interpretive tools also facilitated the rise of such scholars as Wred e and Bultmann whose works also contributeed to rise of the NPP.228 Baur's treatment of Paul also led to a 20thand 21st-century development of Paul's view of the law and his own understanding of the gospel, including a search for an alleged center in Paul's theology. The Religionsgesc hichte Schule. The History-of-Religions school as represented in the works of Pfleiderer, Heitmьller, Gunkel, Bousset, Reitzenstein, and Bultmann (to name a few) also contributed to the development of the NPP. This was a group of influential German biblical scholars from 1880 to 1920 who, based upon com parative study of religions, exp lained Christianity as a Near Eastern religious syncretism.229 They focused on Paul since he among all the NT writers allegedly exhibited the greatest Hellenistic influence. Discoveries involving the Mystery Religions and Gnosticism provided a rich source fo r finding p arallels with Paul's theology. The person most responsible for widely disseminating this view was W illiam Reitze nstein (1 861 -193 1). H is most famous work, Die Hellenistischen Mysterien-religionen (1910), asserted that Pa ul must have b een acquainted with Hellenistic mystery religions that profoundly influenced his thinking. He sough t to establish the direct dependence of early Christianity on Hellenistic, Mandaea n, and Iranian ideas. Reitzenstein identified Paul as a Hellenistic mystic and G nostic whose religious experience matched that of the H ellenistic m ystics. He claimed that Paul borrowed his presentation of Christ from the pre-Christian Gnostic redeemer myth. He emphatically declared that Paul knew Hellenistic religious literature and that such literature had a pro found influence on him as he proclaimed the Jew ish faith in a Hellenistic world.230 Another leader in this movement was Wilhelm Bousset (1865-1920) who in his Kyrios Christos (1913) alleged that in Hellenistic Christianity the "Kyrios Christos" concept replaced the eschatological Son of Man in earlier Christianity and 227S . J. Hafemann, "Paul and His Intepreters," in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, ed s. G era ld F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1993) 668. 228Though Wrede and Bultmann were essentially still Lutheran in appro ach, their ideas stimulated discussion that would lead to the NPP. 229For overviews of the development of the Relig ions ges chic hte S chu le or History-of-Religions scho ol, see K ьm m el, T he Ne w T es ta m en t: Th e H is to ry of th e I nv es tig atio n o f I ts Pr ob le m s 206-25, 24580; N eill and W right, The Interpretation of the NT 1861-1986 168-79. 230Richard Reitzen stein, De r H ellen istisch en M yster ienr eligionen, Ihre Grundgedanken und Wirkungen (Leipzig und Berlin: Bruck und Verlag von B. G. Teubner, 1910); see also English translation He llenis tic Mystery-Religions, Their Basic Ideas and Significance, trans. John E. Steely (Pittsburgh: Pickwick, 1978).
236 The Master's Seminary Journal that it along with many other biblical concepts were based on the ancient myths of Babylonian and Egyptian instead of Jewish origin. Bousset claimed that in many cases Christians were involved in mystery religions before they were converted and transferred concepts of the mystery-gods to Christianity.231 Ernst Tro eltsch, who formulated the three basic principles of historical critical metho dolo gy (criticism, analogy, correlation), was also a memb er of the History-of-Religions school.232 The principles expressed the hostile prejudice and skepticism of the school against the supernatural in the NT. He labeled himself "the systematic theologian of this approach."233 Another notab le exam ple of ardent proponents of the History-of-Religions school was Rudolf Bultmann, who although he was essentially Lutheran in approach, created a vast chasm between the Jesus in the Gospels and the one in Pauline writings and an even larger gap between Judaism and Paul. Bultmann viewed Paul as influenced by "Gno stic terminology" and as "the founder of Christian theology."234 The widespread effect of this school was the impression that Paul had combined nominal Jewish ideas within the fram ework of a d ominant syncretistic Hellenism (especially Hellenistic Mystery Religions) and Gnosticism to create a new religion. Paul's central theology (e.g., his alleged, mysticism, his C hristology, soterio logy, ecclesiology) stemmed from the strong impact that these influences had upon him. Under this impression, many Jewish scholars, who disliked the image of Judaism in the Pauline epistles, and historical-critical scholars viewed Paul as the founder of a new religion. Many Jews considered the findings o f the History-ofReligions school as explaining why Paul came to such supposedly bizarre conclusions regarding Judaism: the influence of H ellenistic concepts that distorted his portrayal of the true Judaism of his day. Historical-critics explained alleged differences betwe en Jesus and Paul by Paul's susceptibility to Hellenizing syncretism. Although the History-of-Religions school was responsible for dealing a death-blow to the domination of Baur's concept of Hegelian-Fichtean dialectics in explaining elements of the Pauline epistles, that influence s from both helped to contribute to the rise of the NPP is an interesting aspect of history. The Impact of W ilhelm W rede (1859-1906). Wilhelm Wrede is another major contributor to the rise of the NPP. W rede was primarily a historian, rather than a theologian, with an extrem e skep ticism tow ard the NT . He also wa s strongly 231See W ilhelm B ousse t, Kyrios Christos, trans. John E. S teely (Nashville: Abingdon, 1 970). 232For further information, see Ernst Tro eltsch , "H istorica l and D ogm atic M ethod in T heo logy" (1898) (11-32); "Christianity and the History of Religion" (1897) (77-86); "The Dogmatics of the History-of-Religions School" (87-108 ), in Religion in History, essays translated by James Lu th er A da m s and W alter F. Bense with an Introduction by Jam es Luther Adams (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991). 233See Troeltsch, "The Dogmatics of the History-of-Religions School," in Religion in H istory 87. 234See Ru dolf Bu ltman n, The Theology of the New Testament, complete in one volume, trans. Kendrick Grobel (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951, 1955) 164-87 (especially 181, 187).
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 237 influenced by and appreciative of the History-of-Religions school. He is remembered primarily for his effect on Gospel studies, but he also contributed to the NPP. Wrede's influence on Gospel study was expressed primarily through his Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien ("The Messianic Secret," 1901). Perrin remarks, "W ilhelm W rede . . . sounded the death knell" regarding the historicity of Mark "by demonstrating that a major aspect of the Marcan narratives was precisely the `mythic' and, in so doing, opened the door for the entry of redaction criticism upon the scene."235 In his Orig in of the New Testament, Wrede asserted that "science has destroyed that idea" of "the sup ernatu ral origin of the Bible" and "shattered even the simplest facts" of the Bible.236 Furthermore, he noted, "[T]he books of the New Testament were not, as was once thought, literally dictated to the human authors by God Himself; rather they were written by men in a way entirely human."237 T he origin of the NT is "a historical, and a purely historical question," yet "This does not impugn the religious value of the New Testament."238 Following Baur's example of imposing philosophical ideas upon the biblical text, W rede imposed his own skeptical philosophy not only on the Gospels but also upon Paul. He based his assertions on the sh eer force of h is perso nality w ith no objectivity and a paucity of exegesis of central Pauline passages. Wrede's treatment of the Pauline text has little respect for the documents because of his skepticism. Wrede's widely acclaimed and popular work, Paul,239 was the first major challenge to the centrality of justification, a doctrine supported in the Protestant Reformation. In this ground-breaking work, he argued for a wide chasm between Paul and Jesus (reflective of Baur but even more extreme): "the name `disciple of Jesus' has little applicability to Paul. . . . He [Paul] stands much farther away from Jesus than Jesus himself stands from the noblest figures of Jewish piety."240 For W rede, historic Christianity through the centuries is not modeled on Jesus but on Paul, whom he terms "the second founder of Christianity" [emphasis in original], although Paul was inferior to Christ. Nevertheless, Paul "exercised beyond all doubt the stronger-- not the better-- influence."241 Foundational for the eventual development of the NPP, Wrede argued that the doctrine of justification was not central to Paul's thought, but only developed as a response to Paul's conflict with Judaism: 235Nor m an P errin, W h at is Re da ctio n C ritic is m ? (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 7. 236W ilhe lm W rede, The Origin of the New Testament, trans. James S. H ill (London and New York: Harper & Brothers, 1909) 3. 2 3 7 I b id . 2 3 8 I b id . 239W ilhe lm W rede. Paul, trans. Edward Lumm is (Boston: Am erican Unitarian Association, 1908 ). 240Ibid., 165. 241Ibid., 179, 180.
238 The Master's Seminary Journal The Reformation has accustomed us to look upon this as the central point of Pauline doctrine: but it is not so. In fact the whole Pauline religion can be expounded without a word being about this doctrine, unless it be in the part devoted to the Law. It would be extraordinary if what was intended to be the chief doctrine were referred to only in a minority of the epistles. That is the case with this doctrine: it only appears where Paul is dealing with the strife against Judaism..242 Seminal to the thinking o f the NPP , W rede com ments regarding P aul's purposes for his doctrine of justification: "Two purposes, then, come really into play: (1) the mission must be free from the burden of Jewish national custom; (2) the superiority of the Christian faith in redemption over Judaism a whole must be assured. The doctrine of justification is nothing more than the weapon with which these purposes were to be won."243 Long before the N PP conc ept of a Pauline emp hasis on corporate rather than individual salvation (e.g., Wright), Wrede began a shift toward similar thinking: Luther asks, how does the individual man, who stands in the church and shares the church's faith in the redemption, overcome the tormenting uncertainty whether salvation and the forgiveness of sins holds good personally for him? His answer is, he reaches a personal certainty when he recognizes that it depends absolutely on grace, which God has unconditionally promised. Paul has not the individual in mind at all; the question of personal salvation plays no part in his exposition. . . . We must not then conceive of justification as a personal experience of the individual, or a subjective, psychical process. . . . It is rather conceived in the same mode as the death of Christ, which holds good for all who belong to Christ.244 According to W rede, Paul's thought finds its primary background in Apoca lyptic Judaism: The framework of the whole Pauline teaching is formed by the Jewish idea of a contrast between two worlds (жons), one of which is present and earthly, the other is future and heavenly. Here we have the foundation of the Pauline way of regarding history. . . . All is Jewish, from the judgment with its wrath and retribution to the great "oppression" before the end, to the "blast of the last trumpet," to the victory of Messiah over the hostile spirits.245 Like the NPP that would follow, Wrede described Paul's epistles as filled with contradictions and inconsistencies: "Pertinacious and impulsive, turbulent and stable, inconsiderate and tender, in his intolerance bitter to the po int of hardness and acrimony, and yet a man of soft sensibility; unyielding and yet pliant; all enthusiasm 242Ibid., 123. 243Ibid., 127-28 (emphasis in the original). 244Ibid., 131-32. 245Ibid., 139-40.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 239 and glow, all sober prudence; a thinker, a mediator, and yet even more a restless toiler--no scheme will suffice to comprehend the whole man."246 Paul never attemp ts "to unfo ld a system of do ctrine."247 Paul's thoughts are "somewhat elastic. . . . His points of view and leading premises change and traverse each other without his perceiving it. It is no great feat to unearth contradictions, even among his leading thoughts."248 The sum total of these tho ughts is that Wrede acted entirely apart from any concept of inspiration, with the result that he performed no objective or thorough exegesis of the biblical text. The Impact of Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) . Schweitzer's understanding of Paul, although not as well-known, was similar to Wrede's. In contrast to W rede, however, Schweitzer had nothing but contempt for the History-of-Religions school, especially in its attempt to find oriental and Hellenistic influences on Christianity. Ironically though, he borrowed their method, finding in Judaism the background of Jesus, early Christianity, and Paul.249 In his studies, Schweitzer came under the philosophical influence of Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche.250 He has been called an irrational rationalist, but the term tha t best describ es him is "mystic."251 Even more so than Wrede, Schweitzer was among the most thoroughgoing escha tologists of all historical critics. Yet he dogmatica lly read his philosophy into the biblical text without considering exegetical data from the text. As with Wrede, such imposition stemmed more from his personality and reputation than from objective interpretive data. In Schweitzer's The Problem of the Lord's Supper (1901),252 he developed ideolog ical approaches as a matrix he would use on later studies of Jesus253 and 246Ibid., 39-40. 247Ibid., 74. 248Ibid., 77. 249For an excellent sum m ary, see W illiam Baird , History of New Testam ent Research (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003) 2:229-37. 250Schw eitzer completed his D .Phil. dissertation on K ant (Die Relig ions philo sop hie K ants ) in July 1899. 251Baird, A History of New Testam ent Research 2:230. 252For further information see John Reum ann, "`The Problem of the Lord's Supper'" as Matrix for Albert Schweitzer's `Quest of the Historical Jesus,'" New T estament Studies 27 (1981):476. 253Albert Schw eitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, First Complete Edition, ed. John Bowden, trans. W . M ontgomery, J. R. Coates, Susan Cupitt, and John Bowden from the German Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung, published by J. C. B. Mohr, Tьb ingen [1906, 1913, 1950] (M inneapolis: Fortress, 2001). Bowden's edition has been produced in response to some perceived tra nslatio nal err ors in Montgomery's fam ous English translation. Bow den remarks, "[W]hen I started com parin g it [Montgom ery's translation] to what Schweitzer had w ritten, I was horrified. M ontgomery had a kind of bom bas tic, end-of- the-nineteenth-century style which con trasts strikingly with Schweitzer's clear, m atter-of -fact and often witty prose." See "Editor's Note," The Quest of the Historical Jesus, First
240 The Master's Seminary Journal Pau l:254 (1) as a device, a survey of the history of research on the subject and (2) his solution to the prob lem centered on this dogm atically imposed assumptio n of a thoroughgoing eschatology, i.e., an apocalyptic understanding of the kingdom of God.255 This apocalyptic approach was so overwhelming in determination of Schweitzer's thinking that it would eventually cause his rejection of Protestant emphasis on justification as a center of Paul's thinking. In Schweitzer's The M ystery of the Kingdom of God, he set forth the idea that Jesus' eschatological (i.e., apocalyptic) conviction "must from the beginning, even in the first Galilean period, have lain at the basis of his p reach ing!"256 Echoing the thinking o f W rede 's Messianic Secret,257 Schweitzer maintained that Jesus recognized himself as the M esssiah at his bap tism, but kept his messiahship secret, arguing, What we call the Transfiguration is in reality nothing else but the revelation of the secret of messiahship to the Three. . . . There is in fact an inward connection between the Baptism [of Jesus] and the Transfiguration. In both cases a condition of escstasy accompanies the revelation of the secret of Jesus' person. The first time the revelation was for him alone; here the Disciples also share it.258 Schweitzer also posits a secret passion. He asserts that Jesus expected that the messianic woes would happen during His ministry, but when they did not, Jesus decided He would inaugurate the messianic feat by sacrificing himself. Schweitzer believed that Jesus was ho pelessly mistaken: "W ith his death he destroyed the form of his `Weltanschauung,' rendering his own eschatology impossible."259 Instead, "he [Jesus] gives to all peo ples an d to all times the right to apprehend him in terms of their thoughts and conceptions, in order that his spirit may pervade their `Weltan- Complete E dition xi. 254A. Sch weitzer, Die Mystik des Apostels Paulus (Tьbingen: J. C. B. M ohr [Pau l Siebeck], 1930 ), English translation, Th e M ysticis m o f Pa ul the Ap ostle , trans. W. M ontgomery (N ew Yo rk: H enry H olt, 1931). See also A. Sch weitzer, Geschichte der paulinischen Forschung von der Refo rm ation bis a uf die Gegenw art (Tьbingen: J. C. B. M ohr [Paul Siebeck], 1912), English translation, Paul an d H is Interpreters: A Critical History, trans. W. M ontgomery (N ew Y ork: Macm illan, 1951 ). 255For information, see R eum ann, "Th e Problem of the `Lord's Supp er' as M atrix for Albert Schweitzer's `Quest of the Historical Jesus'" 475-87. 256Albert Schweitzer, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God, translated and introduced by W alter Lowrie (London: A. & C. Black, 1925) 87. 257W rede's thinking differed from S chweitzer here in that Wrede contended that Jesus never presented himself as M essiah bu t that the evangelist who wrote M ark used it as a literary device to exp lain the p ost-E aster chu rch' s pro clam ation o f Jes us a s the Messiah, while Schweitzer believed that the "m essia nic secret" was not a literary device but was contained in the pre-Marcan tradition. See Schweitzer, The Quest 302, 303-14. 258Schweitzer, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God 180-81. 259Ibid., 251.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 241 shauung' as it quickened and transfigured Jewish eschatology."260 Based on his reading of apocalyptic into any analysis of the biblica l text, Schweitzer formu lated his best known work, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, that was originally known by its 1906 German title Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben-Jesus-Forschung. In this famous work that chronicles the First Quest for the "historical Jesus," Schweitzer praised the Deist Reimarus' work as "one of the greatest events in the history of criticism" bec ause of Reimarus' apo calyptic appro ach to und erstanding Jesus.261 He dismissed previous liberal attempts at reconstructing a life of Jesus as failures because they did not appreciate the apocalyptic element that he had identified. He also lauded D. F. Strauss' Life of Jesus since "we also find in it a positive historical impact . . . as the historical perso nality which emerges from the mist of myth is a Jewish claimant to the messiahship whose world of thought is purely eschatological."262 For Schweitzer, all scholarship between Reimarus and Johannes Weiss "appears retrograde" because of a failure to appreciate apocalyptic thoug ht.263 Schweitzer's heroes in this work were four: Reimarus, Strauss, J. W eiss, and Schweitzer himself.264 His Quest crescendos to the following thought about Jesus' apocalyptic hopes in the G ospels: The Baptist appears, and cries: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." Soon after that comes Jesus, and in the knowledge that He is the coming Son of Man lays hold of the wheel of the world to set it moving on that last revolution which is to bring all ordinary history to a close. It refuses to turn, and He throws Himself upon it. Then it does turn; and crushes Him. Instead of bringing in the eschatological conditions, He has destroyed them. The wheel rolls onward, and the mangled body of the one immeasurably great Man, who was strong enough to think of Himself as the spiritual ruler of mankind and to bend history to His purpose, is hanging upon it still. That is His Victory and His reign.265 Schw eitzer's summary of Jesus' life: Jesus miscalculated both personally and apocalyptically and was killed for His error. After Schw eitzer's imposition of historical-critical slants and assumption of apocalypticism on the Gospels, he turned to impose the same on Paul. Reflecting a similar position to many others like Sanders in the NPP, Schweitzer stressed 2 6 0 I b id . 2 6 1 I b id . 262Schweitzer, The Qu est 90. 263Ibid., 23. 264For the agenda behind Schweitzer's Quest, see S. J. Gathercole, "The C ritical and D ogm atic Agenda of Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of the Historical Jesus," T y n d al e B ulletin 51 (2000):261-83. 265Od dly, this quote does not appear in the lastest edition of Schweitzer's Ques t, i.e., Bowden's edition (200 1). S ee Alb ert Schw eitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, Introduction by James M . Robinson, trans. W . M ontgom ery from the first G erm an ed ition, V o n R ei m ar us zu W rede [1906] (New York: Macmillan, 1968) 370-71.
242 The Master's Seminary Journal alleged Pauline contradictions. He criticized previous works on Paul: The odd thing is they [previous writers on Paul] write as if they understand what they were writing about. They do not feel compelled to admit that Paul's statements taken by themselves are unintelligible, consist of pure paradoxes, and that the point that calls for examination is how far they are thought of by their author as having a real meaning, and could be understood in this light by his readers. They never call attention to the fact that the Apostle always becomes unintelligible just at the moment when he begins to explain something; never gives a hint that while we hear the sound of his words but the tune of his logic escapes us.266 According to Schweitzer, Paul's thinking was not only contradictory but was also marked by two important elements that governed it. The first is "Christ-mysticism" that is historic-cosmic. Schweitzer argued, "The fundamental thought of Pauline mysticism runs thus: I am in C hrist; in Him I know myself as a being who is raised above this sensuous, sinful, and transient world and already belongs to the transcendent; in Him I am assured of resurrection; in Him I am a child of God." 267 Schweitzer labels Paul's "being in-Christ" as "the prime enigma of Pauline teaching."268 This mystic element, however, was derived from a second mo re pred ominant element, Paul's eschatology: "[T]his mystical element is actually derived from the eschatological concept of the Community of God in which the Elect are closely bound up with o ne ano ther and with the Messiah."269 Once again, for Schweitzer, his theory of apocalypticism dominated and prejudiced his interpretation. Because of his overwhelming preoccupation with apocalyptic elements in the Gospels and Pa ul, Schweitzer deliberately shifted from the Reformational emphasis on justification as dominant in Pauline writings to an overwhelming preoccupation with Pauline apocalypticism and mysticism. He noted, Paul is . . . forced by his mysticism to recast the doctrine of the atoning death of Jesus, in the sense of inserting into it the doctrine of freedom from the Law. This is not possible by straight-forward logic, because there is no argument against the validity of the Law to be derived directly from the atoning death of Jesus. All that can be done therefore is to bring the doctrine of the freedom from the Law into close connection with the doctrine of the atoning death of Jesus by means of logical ingenuities. This Paul does by showing by the argument from Prophecy that the only valid righteousness is that which comes from faith alone, and that works righteousness is incompatible with faith- 266Albert Sch weitzer, Paul and His In terpreters, trans. W. Montgomery (New Y ork: Macm illan, 1951) 37. 267Albert Sch weitzer, The Mysticism of the Apostle Paul (German title Die M ystik d es A pos tles Paulus), trans. W illiam M ontgom ery with a p refatory note b y F. C . B u rk itt ( New Y ork: H enry H olt, 1931) 3. 2 6 8 I b id . 269Ibid., 116.
New Perspective on Paul: Basic Tenets, History, and Presuppositions 243 righteousness. It is possible for the idea of righteousness apart from the works of the Law to be expounded by means of this ingenious reasoning; but it could never have arisen out of it. The doctrine of righteousness by faith is therefore a subsidiary crater, which has formed within the rim of the main crater--the mystical doctrine of redemption through the being-in-Christ.270 Baird's summary o f Schweitzer is significant: "W ith an arrogance excusable only in a genius, he imagines all preceding work has been mistaken. His passionate argumen ts, punctuated by either/ors, tend to oversimplify and exaggerate. . . . Schweitzer demonstrates the danger of presuppositions in historical research--paradoxically, both in his critique of others and his own results."271 Conclusion Regarding the NPP The NPP is not new; it is old. Similar approaches have been around throughout the centuries of church history. Although many of its supporters issue loud attempts at denial, close scrutiny reveals that the NPP is the revival of works as efficacious for salvation which Luther and others in church history warned would happen. Moreover, it is the direct product of historical-critical ideologies. Importantly, often ignored by its proponents as well as its critics, is that the same road that led to the destruction of the orthodox concepts of Scripture, especially the Gospels, also led to NPP. Though many historical critics were nominally Lutheran or Reformed in their views of Paul, their philosophically motivated proposals facilitated the rise of not only a "search for the historical Jesus" but also a "search for the historical Paul." A fortuitous, well-timed convergence in the 20 th and early 21st centuries of historical-critical ideologies, political correctness, and eisegesis of Pauline texts by such men as Sanders, Dunn, and W right have led to the emergence and prominence of the NPP. 270Ibid., 224-25 (emphasis added). 271Baird, History of New Testament Research 2:237.
TMSJ 16/2 (Fall 2005) 245-259 THE REFORMERS' UNDERSTANDING OF PAUL AND THE LAW Irvin A. Busenitz Vice President for Academic Adm inistration and Professor of Bible and Old Testament For about two thousand years the doctrine of justification by faith has been the bedrock of Ch ristianity, bu t recently the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) has proposed that such a teaching rests on a misunderstanding of Paul that was propagated by the Reformers. The NPP advocates a view of second-temple Judaism that was free from legalism an d focuse d on an exc lusivism based on racial privilege. Such texts as Acts 13:38-39, Luke 18:14, and Rom 9:30-32 show that Judaism of that day was d efinitely legalistic, however. Rabbinic writings of the same period confirm that fact. Writings of early church fathers such as Clement of Rome, Tertullian, Chrysostom, and Augustine reflect the church's belief in justification by faith as a contrast with early Jewish legalism. Thomas Aquinas and other Roman Catholic sources of the Middle Ages show a belief in Paul's picture of Judaism as teaching justification by human me rit. Luther continued the tradition of the church's belief in justification by faith and its antithesis, the works of the law. Though differing slightly from Luther's view of the law, Calvin co ncu rred w ith him that justification before God was unattainable without divine intervention in regeneration. Evidence is clear that the Reform ers we re no t merely rea cting to conditions of their day as the NPP contends, but continued a tradition of justification by faith alone handed down from the early church. ***** N o doctrine is of greater importance throughout the history of mankind than the doctrine of justification. Since the opening pages of human history, man has had an insatiable hunger to know how to have his sins atoned for and how to propitiate the demands of a holy God (Job 9:2; 25:4). Furthermore, in the evangelical world, no doctrine has been of greater import and significance than justification by faith alone--the Reformation principle of sola fide. Martin Luther rightly contends that 245
246 The Master's Seminary Journal "if the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost."1 Despite the bedrock foundation of this marvelous truth, history's earliest records display mankind's repeated abandonment of God's gracious provision of divine acco mplishment. The pentateucha l records of Mo ses to the epistles of Paul tell of a recurring infiltration of human efforts to attack and overrun the simple gospel of grace. Until recently, Protestants rarely questioned the sola fide principle. The doctrine of justification by faith alone, which reverberates with clarion precision throughout the pages of NT history and echoes through the corridors of the early church, was clearly heard, understood, and embraced. From Jesus to the NT writers to the stalwarts of the early church and beyond, the doctrine of justification b y faith was considered to be the soteriological "pearl of great price." But the integrity of this sine qua non was not maintained without a price, a fact all-too-vividly recorded in the annals of church history. In the fifth century, it was the central battleground in the theological contest between Augustine and Pelagius.2 So significant wa s this dispute that it is said to have been the fountainhead of the Reformation more than a millennium later. N. T. Wright ties the two together when he notes that the Reformation doctrine of justification "owes a good deal b oth to the controversy between Pelagius and Augustine in the early fifth century and to that between Erasmus and Luther in the early sixteenth century."3 But in acknowledging this connection, Wright quickly adds that this historic Protestant view of justification "does no t do justice to the richness and p recisio n of Paul's doctrine, and indeed distorts it at various points."4 In agreement with this accusation, proponents of the New Perspective on Paul (mostly NPP hereafter) claim that church historians and theologians, regardless of the era in which they spoke and wrote, have misunderstood Paul's teaching on the law. In general, NP P ad herents expressly argue against sola fide, lobbying vigorously for Protestants to rethink the historic teaching in light of a more recent understanding of what Paul really meant. Responding to the claim that justification-- namely, a description of how persons become Christians--is the central theme of the entire Roman epistle, Wright asserts that "this way of reading Romans has systematically done violence to that text for hundreds of years, and that it is time for the text itself to be heard again."5 Although NPP advocates have expressed dismay with a wide spectrum of 1Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, in Luther's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis: Concordia, 1963) 26:9. 2Historians have appropriately stressed that it was Pelagius who was provoked by Augustine's earlier declarations in his Confessions: "His mature views on human weakness and divine grace were essentially in place long before the Pelagian conflict erupted" (Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004] 3-4). Also cf. Friedrich A. Loofs, "Augustine," The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1949) 1:369. 3N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997) 113. Also cf. E. P. Sanders, Paul (Oxford: University Press, 1991) 44. 4What Saint Paul Really Said 113. 5Ibid., 117.
The Reformers' Understanding of Paul and the Law 247 prominent historical church leaders, it appears that the ax-head of NP P theology is aimed most directly at the roots of the Reformation. The Reformers and their sola fide teaching-- the very core of the split with the Roman Catholic Church-- are the focal point of the assault. The frontal attack seems directed primarily at Luther and Calvin, who, it is claimed, have misunderstood Paul's teaching in Romans and Galatians and have seriously misconstrued the doctrine of justification. E. P. Sande rs, another proponent of NPP , agrees. Writing on Galatians 2­4 and Romans 3­4, he argues, "The subject-matter is not `how can the individual be righteous in Go d's sight?' but rather `on what grounds can Gentiles participate in the people of God in the last days?'"6 According to the NPP, Reformers viewed the apostle Paul's writings through a works-righteousness lens of medieval times and perspectives.7 In doing so, they misunderstood, misconstrued, and mistook the true perspective of secondtemp le Judaism, resulting in a radical misinterpretation of Paul's true teaching. Attempting a more direct hit on the Reformers, Sanders contends that Luther interpreted Paul's teaching on justification through the eyes of a guilt-ridden conscience. He writes, Luther, plagued by guilt, read Paul's passages on `righteousness by faith' as meaning that God reckoned a Christian to be righteous even though he or she was a sinner.... Luther's emphasis on fictional, imputed righteousness, though it has often been shown to be an incorrect interpretation of Paul, has been influential.... Luther sought and found relief from guilt. But Luther's problems were not Paul's, and we misunderstand him if we see him through Luther's eyes.8 Simply put, Sanders is arguing that first-century Judaism was not a religion that taught "boo tstrap" justification, i.e., the Pharisees were not teaching a works-based righteousness. The Judaism of Paul's day, according to the NPP, understood salvation in terms of the co venant com munity of Israe l-- a community brought together by Go d's grace. Jews, it is argued, were not made right with God through their own merits but through His covenant. Consequently, their emphasis on keeping the law had nothing to do with salvation but with maintaining one's place in the covenant community. Thus it is believed that Paul's concern is not Judaistic legalism; it is not a belie f whereby one could merit G od's final acquittal on the b asis of good works. Rather, they contend that the apostle's focus was Jewish exclusivism, the feeling that covenant membership is derived on the basis of racial privilege.9 Obviously, in the thinking of this new p erspe ctive, the R eform ers had gotten it wrong. Neither they nor the apostle Paul needed to defend sola fide. Rathe r, the Re formers had mistakenly 6Sanders, Paul 50. 7Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said 114. 8Sanders, Paul 49. 9Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said 129. Earlier, he explains: "Justification, in Galatians, is the doctrine which insists that all who share faith in Christ belong at the same table, no matter what their racial differences" (122).
248 The Master's Seminary Journal read back into first-century Judaism their own medieval perspectives. Or had they? Had the Reformers misconstrued the Pauline doctrine of justification? Did the Pharisees believe that their ho pe of heaven rested on G od's gracious choice? Has the church been misled by the church fathers and more rece ntly by the Re formers in its understanding of the nature of justification? These are the questions that must be answered. Justification in Early Judaism First-Cen tury Perspective. Taking a brief look at first-century Judaism, the NPP argues that the concept of justification is not to be understood in a soteriological sense but in an ecclesiological sense.10 In other word s, Paul's statements against trusting in the works of the law focus on the Jewish understanding of who could (or could not) share in their covenant-community. These second-temple Jews were insisting on an exclusive Jewish membership in the covenant. Paul was addressing that issue, arguing that covenant-status was availab le to bo th Jew and G entile through the Messiah. But does NT literature substantiate this understanding of justification? Is first-century justification to be viewed ecclesiologically rather than so teriologically? A look at a few passages indicates otherwise. In Acts 13:38 -39, while preac hing at Antioch o n his first missionary journey, Paul proclaims: "Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is justified from all things, from w hich you could not be justified through the law of Moses." Most notably in these verses, the apostle equates the forgiveness of sins with justification (contra the NPP). Justification deals with soteriology, not ecclesiology (contra the NPP ). Jesus, explaining His parable of the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer, d irectly con nects justification with soteriology, not ecclesiology. He remarks, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other..." (Luke 18:14). Roma ns 9:30-32 is equally definitive in its discussion of works-salvation within the teachings of Juda ism. Sp eaking of this passage, L eon Morris observ es: "It is quite clear that righteousness is being used to denote a standing, a status, a verdict of acquittal, and not an ethical q uality."11 10In What Saint Paul Really Said, Wright contends: "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 standard Christian language, it wasn't so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church.... Those who adhered in the proper way to the ancestral covenant charter, the Torah, were assured in the present that they were the people who would be vindicated in the future.... 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..." (119, emphasis in the original). 11Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976) 275. It could be claimed that the Pauline epistles never directly contrast law and gospel, and thereby maintained that Paul's argument against the works of the law is not connected with soteriology. However, Paul "does frequently set law in opposition to grace, faith, and promise; and he similarly juxtaposes works of the law and faith as mutually exclusive ways of seeking God's righteousness" (Douglas J. Moo, "`Law,' `Works of the Law,' and Legalism in Paul," Westminster Theological Journal 45/1 [Spring 1983]:74]).
The Reformers' Understanding of Paul and the Law 249 Rabbin ic Perspective. The rabbinical writings of early Christianity reflect similar perspectives. The rabbis taught that mankind could, by some means, acquire merit with God by perso nal efforts. A rab binical acco unt, dated at the end of the first century A.D., relates, When R[abbi] Eliezer fell ill, his disciples went in to visit him. They said to him, Master, teach us the paths of life so that we may through them win the life of the future world. He said to them: Be solicitous for the honor of your colleagues, and keep your children from meditation, and set them between the knees of scholars, and when you pray know before whom you are standing and in this way you will win the future world.12 The context of Paul's warnings and the explicit statements expressed by some first-century rabbis indicate that Judaism of that day was teaching that justification before God required hu man merit. T hat is what Paul was ob jecting to so tena ciously.13 His conc ern was not ecclesiology; it was soteriology. Justification in the Early Church Fathers A similar understanding of first-century Judaism is continued in the early church fathers, regardless of whether they were writing from the perspective of the Western Church, the Eastern Church, or the North African Church. Such earliest voice s reiterate the apostle P aul's und erstand ing of sola fide. Clement of Rome (late 1st c.). Of those writings attributed to Clement, the most important is his Epistle to the Corinthians. Denying that the works of the law can make a contribution to justification by faith, he writes: "We, therefore, who have been called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, neither by our wisdom or understanding or piety, nor by the works we have wrought in holiness of heart, but by the faith by which almighty God has justified all men from the beg inning." 14 Tertullian (m id 2n d c.). Born in Carthage, North Africa, upon conversion to Christianity in mid-life, Tertullian turned away fro m the study of law to studying Thus, Wright's argument that "justification" in Pauline writings lacks connection with NT soteriology is without foundation. Also cf. the Book of Jubilees 15:25ff. B 12 Berakhoth 28b (Soncino trans., 173). The Mishnah has similar implications: "Salvation for Tannaitic Judaism is essentially national--the nation's enjoyment of peace and prosperity in its own Land. It is not, however, overtly messianic.... The individual who keeps the commandments will be rewarded by God, but ultimately his salvation consists of enjoying the blessings of the fulfilled covenant as a member of the Community of Israel. The rewards of righteousness are essentially this worldly.... Tannaitic Judaism can be seen as fundamentally a religion of works-righteousness.... There is little hint in Tannaitic sources that God can simply forgive sinners without any action whatsoever on the sinner's part" (Philip S. Alexander, "Torah and Salvation in Tannaitic Literature," Justification and Variegated Nomism, eds. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O'Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001] 2:300). 13Augustine, quoted by Luther in his Romans commentary, notes that the apostle Paul "vehemently inveighs against the proud, arrogant persons who glory in their works" (Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, trans. J. T. Mueller (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1976) 28. 14W. A. Jurgen, The Faith of the Early Fathers (Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 1970) 1:9.
250 The Master's Seminary Journal theolo gy. Though many of his writings have been lost, occasional glimpses of how he understood the law and its role remain. One such glimpse is found in his debate with Marcion. Tertullian there argues that Paul remembered that the time was come of which the Psalm spake, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast off their yoke from us;" since the time when "the nations became tumultuous, and the people imagined vain counsels;" when "the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ," in order that thenceforward man might be justified by the liberty of faith, not by servitude to the law, "because the just shall live by his faith." Now, although the prophet Habakkuk first said this, yet you have the apostle here confirming the prophets, even as Christ did. The object, therefore, of the faith whereby the just man shall live, will be that same God to whom likewise belongs the law, by doing which no man is justified.15 Chrysostom (mid 4th c.). Despite being born into wealth in Antioch of Asia Minor, John Chrysostom eschewed the pleasures of the world , choo sing instead to live a very sim ple life in the study of Scripture and preaching. It is said that he was easily "recognized in his sober exegesis, occupied with determining the literal sense of his text."16 His sermons, some of which provide glimpses into his understanding of Paul and the law, cover almost every book of the Bible. In his sermon on Rom 1:17, he notes that man's righteousness is "not thine own, but that of God... For you do not achieve it by toilings and labors, but you receive it by a gift from above , contributing o ne thing only from your own store, `believing.'"17 In his Rom 3 :31 hom ily, he contends that goo d works are the result of justification by grace: "But since after this grace, whereby we were justified, there is need also of a life suited to it, let us show an earnestness w orthy the gift."18 Speaking on Rom 4:1ff, he interprets the apostle Paul as arguing that it was impossible to be saved otherwise than by faith. He is now intent upon showing that this salvation, so far from being matter of shame, was even the cause of a bright glory, and a greater than that through works.... For reflect how great a thing it is to be persuaded and have full confidence that God is able on a sudden not to free a man who has lived in impiety from punishment only, but even to make him just, and to count him worthy of those immortal honors.19 Augustine (mid 4th c.). Like T ertullian two centuries earlier, Augustine 15Quintas Tertullian, "Against Marcion," in vol. 3 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers, eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968) 5.3.432. 16Erwin Preuschen, "Chrysostom," in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1952) 3:74. 17John Chrysostom, Romans, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, trans. J. B. Morris and W. H. Simcox (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979) 11.349. 18Ibid., 11.380. 19Ibid., 11.385-86.
The Reformers' Understanding of Paul and the Law 251 originated from near Carthage, North Africa. Having had little childhood instruction in the Christian faith,20 he too k great delight in criticizing the OT Scriptures, scorning the sacraments of the church, and holding frequent debates with believers.21 However, after his conversion to Christianity in his early thirties, he turned his intellect and extensive education toward writing and defending the faith. Augustine believed that the OT law had three expressions: the eternal, unchanging laws; the ceremonial laws that foreshadowed the com ing of Messiah and His redemptive work; and the moral law, encapsulated in the Decalogue minus the Sabbath command. Augustine was quite explicit as to his perspective of first-century Judaism. Speaking of Rom 3:20, he remarks, "The law brings the knowledge, not the overcoming, of sin."22 In Rom 9:31-32 Paul writes that Israel, in their pursuit of "a law of righteousness," "d id not arrive at that law ... because they did no t pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works." This passage, Augustine taught, indicates that they tho ught they could "establish their ow n righteo usness."23 Thus it is clear that Augustine taught justification by God's grace apart from any pe rsona l works or merit.24 Justification in the Middle Ages Thomas Aquinas. Born outside of Rome in 1225, Thomas Aquinas was first educated at a nearby monastery and then later studied in Germany with Albertus Magnus. Under the influence of this famous philosopher, Aquinas was introduced to the Greek philosophers, filling the framework of Aristotle with the dogmas of the church.25 It can be argued that Roman Catholic theology, from the Middle Ages until the 20While Augustine credits his mother for much of what he later became, "she was not always the ideal of a Christian mother that tradition has made her appear" (Friedrich Loofs, "Augustine," in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1951] 1:365). He adds: "Her religion in earlier life has traces of formality and worldliness about it; her ambition for her son seems at first to have had little moral earnestness and she regretted his Manicheanism more than she did his early sensuality" (ibid.). 21Even his exposure to the allegorical interpretations by Ambrose (Milan) did not placate his ridicule and antagonism for the Scriptures. 22Augustine, "On Grace and Free Will," in vol. 5 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) 10.22. 23Augustine, "The Spirit and the Letter," in Augustine: Later Works, trans. John Burnaby (London: SCM, 1955) 50.29.233-35. 24Though Augustine did intimate that sins are pardoned in baptism (Augustine, "On the Trinity," in vol. 5 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 14.17.23), Stephen Westerholm (Perspectives Old and New on Paul [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004] 9-10) notes that Augustine elsewhere contends that the sacrament of baptism (like OT circumcision) accompanies faith ("On Marriage and Concupiscence," in vol. 5 of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 2.24). 25"He owed not only his philosophical thoughts and world-conception to Aristotle, but he also took from him the frame for his theological system" (Reinhold Seeberg, "Thomas Aquinas," The New SchaffHerzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. Samuel M. Jackson [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950] 11:427).
252 The Master's Seminary Journal prese nt, has be en influen ced more by A quinas than any other individual.26 He was a prolific writer, and laid out the fullest expression o f his theology in the Summa. Though he embraced the concept of justification by grace, believing that this justification includes the remission of sins, he also held that the sacraments were efficacious--they both contain grace and cause grace. "In a single statement the effect of the sacraments is to infuse justifying grace into men. W hat Ch rist effects is achieved throug h the sac rame nts."27 The Roman Church. Throughout the Middle Ages, the Roman Church continued to teach justification by grace through faith. Altho ugh it mistakenly held to a faith that is made active through good deeds (contra sola fide),28 it continued to hold onto a form of justification by grace. Remarkably, while embracing a form of justification that required a works-based "cooperation," they still maintained that Paul was teaching against a works-based justification in Romans and Galatians. Catholic theologian D. M. Crossan observes, In the Pharisaic theology, ... emphasis was placed on a growing and expanding system of laws and prescriptions. Two evils came from this change. The mass of Mosaic legislation took on the appearance of a burden, of an obligation, forced upon man from outside his own being; and secondly, the faithful, exact, and minute fulfillment itself of all these many prescriptions became the basis for one's union with God, the cause rather than the effect of one's relationship with Him....29 Comm enting on P hil 3:6, C rossan writes, "If one accepted Pharisaic norm that justification arises from a flawless fulfillment of all the law's requirements, he was perfect. According to such a theory, man really accomplishes his own justification.... Paul refers to the theory repeatedly as justification `in' or `from' or `by' the Law and/or its works (G al 2.21; Ro m 3.2 0; 8.3 ; 10.5 ; 11.3 1)."30 Given the works-based justification that is so indelibly imprinted on Roman Catholic theology, one might ex pect Rom anists to understand Paul in accord with the NPP perspective. But that is not the case. Surprisingly, like many of the church fathers of the first fifteen centuries before, they believed that the ap ostle vie wed firstcentury Judaism as teaching a justification by human merit. 26Augustine, considered by many to be the "Father of Western Christianity," also left an indelible mark on Christianity some 800 years earlier. 27Seeberg, "Thomas Aquinas" 426. 28According to the Council of Trent: "If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and be disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema" (Council of Trent, "Decree Concerning Justification," [1547], Canon 9). Also cf. Georg Kraus, "Justification," in Handbook of Catholic Theology, eds. Wolfgang Beinert and Francis Fiorenza (New York: Crossroad, 1995) 418. 29D. M. Crossan, "Justification," in New Catholic Encyclopedia (reprint; Palatine, Ill.: Jack Heraty & Associates, 1981) 8:78. 30Ibid. Crossan adds: "The Judaizers apparently argued for the continuing value of the Mosaic Law, based on a theory of justification through its works" (8:79).
The Reformers' Understanding of Paul and the Law 253 Justification in the Reformation Ma rtin Luther's Perspective. The Reformers are charged by NPP proponents with misreading and misconstruing Paul's instructions on the role of the law in justification. That accusation is directed against the Reformers in general, but the attack is aimed most decidedly at the writings of Martin Luther. Luther's firm stand against the ecclesiastical giant of his day, his theological acumen, his articulate preaching, and his prolific pen placed him at the vanguard of the Reformation, and thus put him in the crosshairs of all who might take issue. The impact of this former monk for more than half a millennium, together with his contribution to the discussion of Paul and the law, cannot be underestimated. Tho ugh reared in the strict religious environment of the Roman Catholic Church, Martin Luther gained little biblical knowledge in his early years. Greatly fearful of the wrath of God in his youth, a feeling that was intensified by the death of a friend, he left behind his law studies and entered the Augustinian monastery in 1505.31 During this time, Luther became greatly influenced by the twelfth-century Bernard of Clairvaux, an influence that prompted Luther to pursue a life of inner piety. At the same time Saint Augustine of Hippo w as also leaving his mark on this young monk. W hile the influence of Bernard of Clairvaux ignited Luther's passion for piety and a longing for freedom from guilt, the thinking of Augustine a millennium earlier impacted his eventual understanding of the role of the law and its distinction from salvation by grace through faith. A year after his ordination to the priesthood in 1507, Luther was assigned to W ittenberg, first as a pro fessor o f philoso phy and later as a lecturer in theo logy. His lectures on Romans and Galatians began to influence him profoundly. Though he remained devoted to the Roman C atholic Church for more than a decade,32 his study in these P auline epistles led him to embrace the doctrine of sola fide-- a justification by faith alone apart from any works of the law. T he imp act of this newly discovered doctrine became, for Luther, the principal teaching of Paul's epistles and the central issue of his ultimate struggle with the Roman Catholic Church. There is little ambiguity regard ing Luther's perspective of the apostle Paul's teaching on the law. In his Introduction to the Epistle to the Romans, a boo k that he calls "the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel," Luther provides a reasonable summary: Abraham was justified by faith alone, without any works.... The Scriptures, in Genesis 15, declare that he was justified by faith alone, even before the work of circumcision. But if the work of circumcision contributed nothing to his righteousness, though God commanded it and it was a good work of obedience; then, surely, no other good work will contribute anything to righteousness.... Then he brings forth another witness, viz., David, in Psalm 32, who says that a man is justified without works.... Then he gives the 31J. B. Clark, "Martin Luther," in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950) 7:69. 32Initially his concerns were not directed specifically at the church, but at the sale of indulgences and the teaching that these indulgences were effective to reduce time in purgatory. That issue led him to nail the Ninety-five Theses to the Wittenberg church door and soon thereafter to confront directly a growing litany of the church's teaching.
254 The Master's Seminary Journal illustration a broader application, and concludes that the Jews cannot be Abraham's heirs merely because of their blood, still less because of the works of the law, but must be heirs of Abraham's faith, if they would be true heirs. For before the law--either the law of Moses or the law of circumcision--Abraham was justified by faith and called the father of believers.... Therefore, faith alone must obtain the grace promised to Abraham.33 Four major tenets of Luther's view of Paul and the law34 are germane to this study: 35 1. The law is meant to crush self-righteousness and to drive sinful mankind to seek the mercy of the Savior. Luther taught that the law was designed as a "great hammer" used by God to drive man to utter despair and show man his need for the Savior. He writes that the law "is the hammer of death, the thundering of hell and the lightning of God's wrath, that beats to powde r the obstinate and senseless hyp ocrites. W herefo re this is the proper and absolute use of the law, ... to beat down and rend in pieces that beast which is called the opinion of righte ousness... ."36 To Luther, this was the primary use of the law. 2. Mankind is justified before God, not by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. To Luther, Gal 2:16 is the apex of Paul's soteriology, highlighting God's provision in Christ as the only means of deliverance from sin's condemnation. Commenting on this verse, he writes, The Law is a good thing. But when the discussion is about justification, then is no time to drag in the Law. When we discuss justification we ought to speak of Christ and the benefits He has brought us. Christ is no sheriff. He is `the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world' (John 1:29). We must know that we are nothing. We must understand that we are merely beneficiaries and recipients of the treasures of Christ.37 "In faith we approach Christ as a bride would her groo m, for a marriage in which all possessions are shared: C hrist, the Bridegroom , acquires our `sins, death, and 33Luther, Romans xx. 34It must be understood here that Luther is not speaking of the God-ordained civil laws (usus politicus) that are applied to all of God's creation and serve as the foundation of human law (e.g., Rom 13:3-4). Rather, he is speaking of those laws of God (usus theologicus) that show man his hopeless despair and his need for the redemption. "Civil laws and ordinances have their place and purpose. Let every government enact the best possible laws. But civil righteousness will never deliver a person from the condemnation of God's Law" (Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, trans. Theodore Graebner [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1949] 106). 35The four are adapted from Westerholm, Paul 23. 36Luther, Romans 139-41. 37Luther, Galatians 68.
The Reformers' Understanding of Paul and the Law 255 dam nation' while we receive his `grac e, life, and salvation.'"38 3. Believers, though declared righteous in the eyes of God, remain sinners throughout their earthly lives. Luther views sin as a present fact of life for the believer. The believer is both sinner and righteous at the same time (simul justus et peccator). "Sin is always prese nt, and the god ly feel it. But it is ignored and hidden in the sight of God, because Christ the Mediato r stands between."39 The Christian is a new creature and thus counted righteous, but the "old man" will always b e there, attemp ting to pull one back under the law. 4. Believers' relationship with God is not determined by the law, though the law continues to identify and judge their sin. As was noted earlier, Luther believed that the law had a twofold purpose. First, it was given to all mankind to govern civil life in general. Second, it was designed to show mankind their inability to keep the law and arouse them to the peril of their hopeless condition.40 In spite of his occasional remarks to the effect that "the righteous need no law to admon ish and constrain them ,"41 Luther did conc ede that, within this second use, the law could show the believer his sin an d call him to repentance. Speaking of the Ten Co mmandm ents in his Large Catechism, he writes, "Let all wise men and saints step forward and produce, if they can, any work like that which Go d in these commandments so earnestly requires and enjoins under threat of his greatest wrath and p unishm ent... ."42 Luther's past struggles with the guilt of his sin and his need for personal piety inevitably led him to view the law in a largely negative way. "His focus centered on the law as condemnatory and as po inting up huma nity's dep ravity, with little note of any beneficial function o f the law beyond that o f restraining sin."43 In general, he held tenaciously to the two uses of the law, conceding only slightly that 38Martin Luther, The Freedom of a Christian, in Luther's Works, trans W. A. Lambert, ed. Helmut T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1957) 31:351. "It is in fact an arranged wedding, planned by God so that when he looks at us, sinners though we are, he need see only the righteousness of Christ; and seeing us so, he can welcome us as his children into his kingdom" (Westerholm, Paul 31). 39Luther, Galatians 26:133. Cf. Westerholm, Paul 36-37. 40Calvin views Luther's "accusing" feature of the law to be accidental. Calvin argues that "it is an accident that the law inflicts a mortal wound on us...." (John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, trans. Ross Mackenzie [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960] 145). Also see Calvin, The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, trans. T. A. Smail (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964) 4445. 41Luther, Galatians 27:96. 42Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, trans. Robert H. Fischer (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1959) 54 [1:333]. Cf. Paul M. Moyer, "Law and Gospel: With Particular Attention to the Third Use of the Law," Concordia Journal 6/5 (September 1980):198. 43Robert K. Rapa, "The Meaning of `Works of the Law' in Galatians and Romans," in Studies in Biblical Literature (New York: Peter Lang, 2001) 31:18.
256 The Master's Seminary Journal the law might be o f any ben efit to the believer. "Justification by faith" and "the works of the law" were considered to be absolutely antithetical. Whether his focus was on first-century Judaistic thought or directed toward the Roman Church of his day, he was adamant that sinners are unable to propitiate God's wrath and me rit divine favor by means of good works. John Calvin's Perspective. Whereas Luther began his education by studying law and only later began to engage in theological pursuits, Calvin began preparing for the priesthood and then later switched to study law. A child prodigy by many accoun ts, by the age of twelve he became a chaplain at his hometown cathedral about 60 miles northeast of Paris. At nineteen, he left the priesthood to pursue a law degree and, having come under the influence of human ism, left a few years after that to begin studying the hum anities.44 W hile studying the humanities in Paris, he came under the influence of Professo r Me lchior W olmar, a highly-regard humanist who spoke favorably of the Refo rmatio n. This encounter was one of the factors that led to his "sudden conversion" and his renewed study of the Scriptures. Like Luther, he had no intention of leaving the Roman Church at this time. But the growing persecution of Protestants in France led him to reconsider, as he sudd enly found himself being driven from place to place within Fra nce, G erma ny, and Switzerland. While passing through Geneva, his close friend Farel convinced him to stay. Calvin was more of a quiet type, desiring to find a place of solitude where he might study and write. However, hearing that his French countrymen were being falsely accused and su bseq uently burned at the stake for their faith, Calvin concluded that he had no choice b ut to sup port them to the utmo st of his ability. In the preface to his commentary on the Psalms, he reveals his motivations: This was the consideration which induced me to publish my Institutes of the Christian Religion. My objects were, first, to prove that these reports were false and calumnious, and thus vindicate my brethren, whose death was precious in the sight of the Lord; and next, that as the same cruelties might very soon after be exercised against many unhappy individuals, foreign nations might be touched with at least some compassion towards them and solicitude about them.45 Although Calvin is often remembered for his strong theological perspectives, he viewed practical theology as preeminent. He felt passionately about the need to live according to the Wo rd. Warfield writes: "Ethics and theology were handled in the closest connection.... In opp osition to the lax views of sin and grace which the Roman Church inculcated, he revived the Augustinian doctrine in order by it to co nque r Rome."46 44Benjamin. B. Warfield, "John Calvin," in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950) 2:353-55. 45John Calvin, Commentary upon the Book of Psalms, Calvin's Commentaries, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: AP&A, n.d.) 118. 46Warfield, "John Calvin" 356.
The Reformers' Understanding of Paul and the Law 257 Two aspects of Calvin's understanding of the law call for delineation-- first, his definition of "law," and second, his perspective on the uses of the law. Calvin defined "law" in two different ways. In one sense, he believed that it could refer to "the whole `form of religion handed down by God through M oses.' ... Th is Mosaic religion was a reminder (or renewal) rather than a replacement of the covenant of mercy God made with Abraham.... Thus, when the `entire law' is in view, the gospel itself must be se en as confirming, not supplanting, it."47 Calvin pointed to Psalm 19, whe re the p salmist gives a glowing tribute to the law, as an example of this type of the law. In a narrower sense, however, Calvin argued that "law" could have reference to God's righteous requirements, given to Moses on M t. Sinai, in contrast with the gospel of God's grace.48 The apo stle Paul, acco rding to Calvin, speaks of this type in Rom 8:2 as "the law of sin and death." Calvin concludes that it is this narrower sense that Paul has in mind when he discusses the law. "Although the covenant of grace is contained in the law, yet Paul removes it from there, for in opposing the Go spel to the law he regards only what was peculiar to the law itself, viz. command and prohibition, and the restraining of transgressor s by the threat of death. He assigns to the law its own quality, by which it differs from the Gospel."49 In addition to these two definitions of the law, Calvin contends that the law has three p rimary uses or roles in the lives of mankind. H is perspective in this regard is, generally speaking, a reflection of Martin Luther and other early Reformers. For the most part, Calvin borrows Luthe r's view of the two use s of the law (though in reversed order),50 and then adds a third use. Calvin believes the first use is to reveal mankind's sinfulness and depravity in the searching headlights of the righteousness of God.51 Justification before God is unattainable apart from divine intervention in regeneration. "This punitive function of the law serves both to terrify the wicked and make the believer realize how dep endent upon G od o ne rea lly is."52 The second use, according to Calvin, is to restrain the lawlessness of mankind, protecting society in general from the criminal element of the unregenerate. He writes, The second office of the law is to cause those who, unless constrained, feel no concern 47Westerholm, Paul 50. Cf. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed. John McNeill (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960) 2.7.1, 2.9.4. 48Calvin, Institutes 2.9.4. 49Calvin, Romans 168-69. 50Calvin, Institutes 2.7.6-13. According to Luther, the first use of the law was to restrain civil disobedience, and secondly, to awaken within mankind his hopeless condition. Philipp Melancthon, a contemporary of Luther, was the first to add a third use. 51Calvin, Institutes 2.7.6-9. 52Rapa, "Works of the Law" 18.
258 The Master's Seminary Journal for justice and rectitude, when they hear its terrible sanctions, to be at least restrained by a fear of its penalties. And they are restrained ... because, being chained as it were, they refrain from external acts, and repress their depravity within them, which otherwise would have wantonly discharged.53 Calvin adds a third use that encompasses the dimension of exhortation and admonition for believers. Luther only alluded to the idea that the law could instruct believers on how to live. After all, he was writing to a people who felt the full burden of the wrong use of the law under Roman Catholicism. He wanted to avoid having people feel that, after they had believed, they would again need to work at obtaining heaven.54 Calvin, on the other hand, make s this third use the principle role of the law. He writes that this use "finds its place among believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already lives and reigns... . To this flesh the law serves as a whip, urging it, like a dull and tard y animal, forwards to its work; and even to the spiritual man, who is not yet delivered from the burden of the flesh, it will be a perpetual spur that will not perm it him to loiter."55 Thus for Ca lvin, the law has a m uch m ore p rominent role in the life of the believer than it does for Luther. For Luther, the law does not prompt good works within the believer--that is the role of the Spirit of God. Conclusion Are the Reformers guilty as charged by the advocates of NPP? W as Luther's reaction to Paul the consequence of his own guilt-ridden conscience? Did Calvin view Pauline literature through the lens of medieval struggles with the Roman Church? Are the Reformers mistaken about Paul? The evidence clearly indicates otherwise. Luther and the Reformers were not merely reacting to the m ediev al philosophies of their day. On the contrary, they were reacting to the Roman C hurch's growing endorsement and embracement of the same doctrinal fallacies that were rampant in first-century Judaism. There is little doub t that, to a degree , the Reformers compared some of Pau l's word s in his epistles, especially Romans and Galatians, to the current situation of their day. Luther, for example, applied the Galatians arguments both to Paul's opp onents and to the circumstances of his own day. He remarks: "If the law of God is weak and useless for justification, much more are the laws of the pope weak and useless for justification"56 53Calvin, Institutes 1.321. 54Paul M. Moyer, "Law and Gospel" 194. Later, Luther would write that "the law is to be retained so that the saints may know which works God requires" (Quoted from Luther's "Second Disputation Against the Antinomians" [Jan. 13, 1538] by Werner Elert, Law and Gospel, trans. Edward H. Schroeder [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1967] 1) 55Calvin, Institutes 1:323. Cf. Moyer, "Law and Gospel" 197. 56Luther, Galatians 26:407. Also cf. Westerholm, Israel's Law and the Church's Faith: Paul and his Recent Interpreters (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988) 5.
The Reformers' Understanding of Paul and the Law 259 Though Calvin does not discuss the works of the law with the same focus as Luther, he does reject any hint of man's ability to propitiate the demands of a righteous God through human merit. In the matter of justification by faith alone, Luther and Calvin walke d side by side. As with Luther, Calvin understood justification by faith as "the main hinge upon which religion turns."57 W right, along with other NPP proponents, has claimed that the R eformers' perspective of Paul is mistaken. On the contrary, the evid ence indicates that their understanding of Pa ul, so eloquently stated and warmly embraced for the past 500 years, has been the p redo minant understanding throughout NT history, from the days of Christ until now. The accusation that Luthe r's theology of Paul was misguided by his guiltridden conscience misses a greater point, namely, that the Reformation's perspective of the "works of the law" in Pauline literature was not something new. Rather, it was a continuation of understanding that permeated the perspective of the first-century church and reverberated in the pulpits of the early-church fathers. Its sometimesflickering flame was carefully fanned down through the Middle Ages to the Reformation, where valiant, faithful men p ut their lives o n the line to re-ignite it in the hearts of men. The evidence is undeniable. The doctrine of justification by faith alo ne is not just 500 years old. It is a sacred legacy that has been passed do wn over the p ast two millennia. May all who come behind us find us faithful. 57Calvin, Institutes 3:14.
TMSJ 16/2 (Fall 2005) 261-276 THE NEW PERSPECTIVE'S VIEW OF PAUL AND THE LAW Jack Hughes* Scho lars have not reached a consensus concerning Paul's view of the law. Disagreement prevails even among those who believe in verbal plenary inspiration. Paul's frequent references to the law come in many different co ntexts. Interpreting each reference accurately within its own con text and synthesizing the interpretations into a systema tic whole a re difficult challenges. The New Perspective [NP]on Paul has amplified the existing problem. Founders of the NP take a historical, highercritical, cove nan tal ap proach to interpreting Paul. Their low view of Scripture and their high view of extra-biblical literature have produced an entirely new way of understanding Paul's view of the law and have led many to redefine key theological terms related to both law and gospel. The NP on Paul leads those who subscribe to it outside the limits of orthodox theology. ***** Introduction Macedonian legend tells of a poor man named Midas who lived during a time of universal unre st. One day M idas entered town with his ox-cart, weary and despondent over the future that lay ahead of him. Little did he know but on that very day the Phrygian elders had called a council to discuss an ancient oracle that told of a man pulling an ox-cart who would bring peace and prosperity to their people. The council spotted Midas and appointed him king. Thankful for his good fortune, Midas erected a shrine and dedicated it to Zeus. The shrine contained his wagon, hitched to a pole. On the pole hung a large knot with hundreds of tightly interwoven strands of rope made from bark. No ends *Jack Hughes, an M.Div. alumnus of The Master's Seminary and a D.Min. alumnus of Westminster Theological Seminary, Escondido, California, is Pastor/Teacher of Calvary Bible Church, Burbank, California, and a Faculty Associate in Homiletics at The Master's Seminary. 261
262 The Master's Seminary Journal were exposed. After many months the bark hardened and eventually the knot was moved to the nearby town of G ordium, which was ruled b y Gord ius, Midas' father. Eventually, an oracle prophesied that whoever loosed the Gordian knot would become lord and ruler of all Asia. Many attempted to unravel the knot, but failed. In fact, visiting Gordium without attem pting to loosen the knot was considered bad luck. Eventually the son of Philip II, King of Macedonia visited Gordium. He was a young military man facing the conquest of Persia. Not wanting to have bad luck, the young man went to the shrine of Zeus and for two hours tried to undo the Gordian knot while the peop le of the city watched. Finally, in a fit of frustration he pulled out his sword and slashed at the kno t, expo sing its hidden ends which allowed him to unravel it. The young man went forth to conquer the known world. His name was Alexander the Great. This story illustrates the difficulty in understanding Paul and the law. The subject is a theological Gordian knot. Its complexities are great. Its scope broad. Its implications deep. T heological presuppositions and hermeneutical alliances radically affect how one understands Paul's views of the law. W alt Kaiser has said, "The way to test the greatness and incisivene ss of any truly evangelical theology is to ask how it relates biblical law to God's gospel of grace. The history of the Church's achievement on this issue has not been remarkable or convincing."1 This writer is not deluded into thinking that he can cover thoroughly the New Perspective's views on Paul and the law in a single journal article. Many voluminous tomes have discussed and are still discussing Paul and the law. The purpo se of this article is first to state some of the problems encountered when stud ying the subjec t; second, to survey the founders of the New Perspective [hereafter, usually NP] and their views of Paul and the law; and finally, to offer some pastoral perspectives on theological issues like the NP. PROBLEM S ENCOUNTERED WHEN STUDYING PAUL AND THE LAW Before the NP, scholars took one of three general approaches in an attempt to unravel the theological knot of Paul and the law. At one end of the spectrum was the No-Law View. The No-Law View sees little continuity between the Old and New Testame nts when it comes to law and grace. This camp is typically dispensational and asserts that Christians are not under any law. It would champion texts like Rom 6:14, "[Y]ou are not under law, but grace."2 The No-Law View believes Christians 1Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., "God's Promise, Plan, and His Gracious Law," JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY 33/3 (September 1990):290. 2Sumner Osborne, "The Christian and Law," Bibliotheca Sacra 109/435 (July 1952):241; John A. Witmer, "A Review of Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, Part 2," Bibliotheca Sacra 149/595 (July 1992):268. Biblical quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise
The New Perspective's View of Paul and the Law 263 have died to the law--all law. Various NT texts, without reference to their contexts, seem to state emphatically that the Christian is under no law at all. The No-Law View has come under fire primarily from two directions. First, those who hold to the No-Law View are accused of being antinomians. If there is no law that a Christian mu st obey, it is argued, then Christians live in a state of lawlessness. Thus the Christian is free from any law to do anything he wishes without consequence. In order to sin, one must have law, for sin is a violation of law. Paul affirms this in Rom 4:15, "[F]or the law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation." The No-Law View is difficult to reconcile with 1 John 3:4 which says, "Everyone who p ractices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness." Related to the first objection is the difficulty in trying to explain how all the commands in the NT directed toward believers are not law. Jesus in the Great Commission of M att 28:20 calls the church to "make discip les of all nations, teaching them to observe all that He commanded" (emphasis added). Paul writes in 1 Cor 7:19, "W hat matters is keeping the commandments of God" (emphasis added). In 1 Cor 9:21 P aul describes himself as being "under the law of Christ" (emphasis added). In Gal 6:2 Paul calls on readers to "fulfill the law of C hrist" (emphasis added). Clearly, certain texts teach that the Christian is under obligation to obey the commands or laws of Christ. How, one wonders, can those who hold to the No-Law View continue to do so in light of this? One writer, representative of the No-Law View, explains what governs the NT believer with these words: "Accord ing to dispensationalists, the rule of life for the Christian is living in submission to the indwelling Ho ly Spirit (E ph 5:18) and in His power (Gal 5:16, 18 , 25), manifesting His fruit (vv. 22­23 ), a higher rule of life than the Law."3 This is an unsatisfactory explanation for many who are quick to point out that Christians would not know how to walk in "submission to the Spirit" or live according to the "rule of life for Christians" if it were not for the commandments or laws found in the Bible and particularly the NT. At the other end of the spectrum is the view that may be called the OldLaw-Edited View. Calvin, though having slightly a different perspective on the law, might be in this camp.4 This view sees more continuity between Old and New noted, except for the capitalization of "law," which throughout this article is lower case for consistency's sake. 3John A. Witmer, "A Review of Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, Part 2," 267. 4Ralph Allen Smith, Calvin's CovenantalPronomianism, in multi- part onlineessayseries: "Calvin on Natural Law,"; "Calvin on the Judicial Law of Moses (Part 1),"; "Calvin o n the Judicial Law of Moses (Part 2),"; all accessed 8/28/05. See alsoJohn Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 2.7.1, as cited in Jean Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846; reprint, Oak Harbor, Wash.: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997) 2.7.1.
264 The Master's Seminary Journal Testaments when it comes to law and grace. Those in this camp believe Christians are to some extent bound by law. For example, C. E. B. Cranfield in a classic Scottish Journal of Theology article argued for the enduring nature of the law of Moses.5 He systematically attempted to show that neither Jesus nor Paul argued that the law of Moses has been abolished. His conclusion is that believers are still under the law of Moses, but in an edited way. First, the law has been edited in that Christ has taken away the curse of the law. Seco nd, it is edited in that the sacrificial portions of the law have been fulfilled in Christ. The moral aspects of the law, it is argued, are still binding on the Christian, not as a means o f salvation but as God's h oly rule of life. Some in the Old-LawEdited camp have divided the law into three distinct categories, moral, civil, and cerem onial.6 They argue that the moral aspects of the law of Moses are still binding, but not the civil and ceremonia l. T he Ten Commandments, the heart of the moral law, still governs the Christian as a rule of life. This view overcomes some of the weaknesses of the No-Law View by avoiding the impression that Christians are antinomians directed subjectively by some mystical inner moving of the Holy Spirit. It places the Christian under the moral law of God found in the objective text of Scripture, but not under the sacrificial or civil regulations which governed Israel as a theocracy or the ocratic monarchy. The weaknesses of this view are that texts in the NT seem to state directly that Christians are not und er the law of M oses: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ" (John 1:1 7). "Fo r sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace" (Rom 6:14). "But if you are led by the Sp irit, you are not under the law" (Gal 5:18). "For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the divid ing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the law of com man dme nts contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity" (Eph 2:14-16). Obviously, a tension exists when trying to synthesize texts which seem to say Christians are not und er the law of M oses and the texts which teach that they must obey com mands found in the law of Moses. This tension has
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