Thursday, January 20, 2005

Summarizing the New Perspective on Paul

Some of you may have little interest in this post. But the following is a summary of the so-called "new perspective on Paul" that has been going on in New Testament studies for the last 25 years or so. It is drawn Donald A. Hagner, “Paul and Judaism: Testing the New Perspective,” in Revisiting Paul’s Doctrine of Justification: A Challenge to the New Perspective, by Peter Stuhlmacher (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 75-105. This first post is a summary only. The next post will outline Hagner's response.

1. First-century Judaism was not and is not a religion where acceptance with God is earned through the merit of righteousness based on works.

2. Justification by faith is not the center of Paul’s theology but instead represents a pragmatic tactic to facilitate the Gentile mission.

3. Two fundamental question: What was the nature of first-century Judaism? and What is at the heart of Paul’s Christianity? In other words, What was the difference between Saul the Pharisee and Paul the Christian?

3.1 Paul’s theology has been misunderstood because it has been read through the lenses of Luther and the Reformation

3.2 Paul experience not conversion to a new faith, not a change of religion, but a call and commission to bring the gospel to the Gentiles

3.3 Paul’s main concern was the Jewish-Gentile problem, specifically the conversion of the Gentiles, rather than any universal human problem.

3.4 Paul had no quarrel with the law (and hence Judaism) per se.

3.5 Paul’s arguments against “works of the law” do not concern the issue of righteousness by obedience to the law, but simply Jewish badges of identity that separated Jews from the Gentiles.