Tossing Tridentine and Reformation Ships

Frank Matera, in his Galatians commentary (SP) writes that the alleged calm between Protestants and Catholics on Galatians has been broken by the New Perspective on Paul. He says: “[A] new storm has broken upon the Galatian sea, a storm so powerful that it is tossing both Tridentine and Reformation ships, laden with their traditional exegesis of Galatians, to and fro” (p. 27).

That is a nifty way to put it, but I wouldn’t go with Matera when he says that the problem that Paul was responding to was a social problem. I think it clear that the social and soteric go together. At the end of the day, Paul is arguing that Gentiles do not have to become “Jews” in order to become “Christians.” But if entrance into Judaism means entrance into a covenant with blessings, promises, identity, and salvation, then it is entrance into a salvific state. That is why I coined the term “ethnocentric nomism” to describe the view that Paul was opposing. As such, “works of the law” is not works done in a legalistic spirit, nor simply boundary markers; rather, it is the Jewish way of life codified in the Torah; and it is the way to righteousness and life.


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  • Richard

    Can you direct me to where you more fully unpack the meaning of “ethnocentric nomism?” Thanks.

  • Richard Worden Wilson


    You are one clever and wise dude–a socio-soteristic synthesis is where we need to be in understanding the gospel, and moving forward with Jesus and Paul, and uh, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter, and James, as well as the other guys from way back then. You go guy! Still, it is ethnocentrism that makes the “boundary markers” of nomism significant, right? So, not so big difference between your perspective and the NTWright new perspective, uh huh.

  • Jeff Martin

    It might not be that simple. It could very well be that the Jews thought it as simply an upgrade in membership status if the Gentiles were circumcised. Paul wanted to show through Scripture that what they were trying to say could not hold water. SO both you and Matera are right!