3 Critiques of Sander’s Paul Book

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Reviewed by Keener, Barclay, Eastman

Keener—- There are many new insights, readable, middle of the road, see Rom. 11.25-27. Clear and well organized. Critical consensus of which are genuine Pauline—7. Majority scholarly view about Paul’s relation to Judaism. Best way to understand Galatians is to shout the appropriate lines loudly. His understanding of the distinctive element of Paul’s faith…Christ is necessary for salvation. Says good things about Paul and women. Romans 15 climactic showing where argument was heading. Realized eschatology doesn’t pre-empt future eschatology. He follows Lightfoot on boundaries of Galatia. Hebrews from the 90? Visit to Jerusalem not after Acts 18.

Review by Eastman—- It bears the evidence of a lifetime of careful reading of Paul. ‘The problem with Judaism is that it is not Christianity’ he says. Solution to plight orientation. Bondage to sin is the plight, so dying to sin is the solution. Paul argues like a first century Jew, vivid picture of Paul pacing in a room as he dictates his letters. He is not an academic he is a man in motion. Modes of persuasion is one thing, substance is another. Physical realities walking hundreds of miles. Paul is perpetual guest of others. Paul’s thought was not static because he was man on the move. Theological reflection in midst of life is not systematic. History and theology can not be separated and they are both important. There is a gradual development of Paul’s thought. Paul is serious in his language about union with Christ—- but what does it mean? Two further possibilities. Heart of soteriology is participation, God sending Christ is God participating in the human realm, not just human participating in the divine. Romans 8 says the Spirit among you like Christ among you, it is something that happens between not merely within believer.

Barclay— Sanders work has made possible Barclay’s career as he began with Paul and Palestinian Judaism. Sanders here argues Paul is a Diaspora Pharisee not a student of Gamaliel. He makes Paul accessible to anyone. Still forthright critique of critiques of Judaism. Circumsion is not about achievement. To righteous and to faith as translations of the verbs. Not much of a critique of last 15 years of Pauline debate. Instead there is careful attention to what Paul actually says, and the personality of Sanders comes through, he tries to let Paul shine through. He is a person with strong emotions. ‘I always judge people by their best not their worst performance.’ He calls Paul a religious genius, Gal. 3 is his favorite argument in the whole world. He says that Paul’s conclusions come before his arguments. He is concerned with the thought behind the argument. He argues against idolatry because he is a Jew. Some views are cultural and some are based in a priori ideas. What’s made Paul valuable because he argued this way or that way? Did we take his arguments too seriously? We still take him seriously because he still influences Western thought. A historical approach allows us to see him as a person of his time, but if we leave him there we ignore his ongoing impact. The explanation of Paul has to be done in a way we can understand. Sanders says he doesn’t have categories to understand Union in Christ. Sanders uses the term mysticism. Why are ancient plays still staged? Because they still speak to the human condition.

Sanders response—- did I really leave Paul in the ancient world? Because of Paul’s eschatology his thought is difficult to translate for today. Ongoing contemporization if that is possible then the work is timeless. That Paul can be contemporized again and again shows his work is timeless. A believer is not the personification of Christ. The suffering of the converts is coterminous with the suffering of Christ. Sanders says his work emphasizes good deeds which Paul and we can do. Sanders takes Rom. 11.32 to mean all people will be saved. But Keener says he is speaking just of ethnic universalism. All Israel. He says he does focus on individual participation in Christ. He doesn’t see how social participation works. Eastman says modern individualism doesn’t fit ancient world or Paul. Barclay asks how do we know when Paul’s argument is a rationalization and when it is an important fresh expression of the thought of Paul? Sanders says, I rely on inspiration!!! We have non-realized eschatology in 1 Cor 15 and realized in 2Cor 5. He says we don’t know why he says what on these point. Dikaioun in LXX is used of innocence and or guilty, with no mystical sense. It is in Paul to be righteousness does involve participation. He doesn’t know that his readers understood him. A totally one off meaning of the verb in Paul.