The “Radical Perspective” a Brief Response

I want to thank Mike for posting something on this exciting area of Pauline research. I want to also commend my friend Mark Nanos for his perseverance after many years of feeling ignored and out alone on a boat. Mark the shore is coming to you!

I’m an evangelical to my core and the label “radical” in this context is just a step away from heretical. It sits along side words like “novel”. These are not compliments within evangelical circles. It is true that evangelicals feel uncomfortable with the portrait of Paul that is beginning to emerge from this post-New Perspective. But I don’t believe they should be. In my reading of the Bible a more thoroughly Jewish Paul is a more biblical Paul. The view is also theologically coherent. And while there is need for a fundamental reconsideration of the tenets of Pauline theology in light of this way of thinking, the essence of the traditional perspectives fight for “salvation by faith alone in Christ alone” remains a central element in Paul’s theology. My forthcoming Galatians commentary will show that even Galatians can be read – and is best read! – within a “Paul within Judaism” framework.

As for Michael’s post, I’m not a fan of the “main tenets” list. The way of thinking, however we might label it, is much too diverse to be characterize in such a list. It’s like trying to list what New Perspectivers believe in brief. This is impossible. I find many things in the list with which I agree, but others I don’t. What’s more, this list does not differentiate with respect to significance. Furthermore, the points in the list are open to interpretation. For example #5 “Jews are saved under the auspices of the Mosaic Covenant”. That is likely read as a reference to the “two ways” view. But that is not what many sympathetic to the way of seeing things believe. I certainly don’t. More accurate would be to say that those of this ilk think Christ believing Jews in some way remain under covenantal obligation to keep the Torah since with the coming of Christ the Torah in toto was not abrogated. We can argue about areas of the Torah that have been revised and annulled to be sure, but there has been no wholesale abrogation. This is because ethnicity was not erased by Paul.

Mention should be made of others like Justin Hardin and Todd Wilson, and there are others, who are sympathetic to this way of thinking. Both Justin and Todd wrote excellent essays on Paul from a Paul in Judaism perspective in our book Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Its Ecclesial Context and Biblical Foundations published by Zondervan. 

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