James Dunn on Germans and the NPP

James Dunn on Germans and the NPP July 30, 2013

In the latest issue of Early Christianity, James Dunn has an article on “A New Perspective on the New Perspective on Paul,” largely interacting with German scholarship as he expounds what the benefits of the NPP have been. A few interesting quotes:

[T]he ‘new perspective’ should not be defined or regarded as an alternative to the ‘old perspective’. The ‘new perspective’ does not pretend or think or want to replace all elements of the ‘old perspective’. It does not regard the ‘new perspective’ as hostile or antithetical to the ‘old perspective’. It asks simply whether the ways in which the doctrine of justification have traditionally been expounded have taken full enough account of Paul’s theology at this point. It is not necessary to call into question what have traditionally been taken to be the the central emphases of Paul’s doctrine.

The social dimension of the doctrine of justification was as integral to its initial formulation as any other. It was not a corollary which Paul drew from his primary emphasis at a later date; as an apostle he was never anything other than apostle to the Gentiles. This emphasis was at the heart of his gospel, why he felt so committed to it and why he defended it  so resolutely. A doctrine of justification by faith which does not give prominence to Paul’s concern to bring Jew and Gentile together is not true to Paul’s doctrine.

To repeat, ‘works of the law’ is a more general phrase, which refers to the principle of keeping the law in all its requirements. But when the phrase comes in the context of Paul’s mission to Gentiles, and particularly of Jewish believers trying to compel Gentile believers to live like Jews, then its most obvious reference is particularly to the law in its role as a wall diving Jew from Gentile, the boundary markers which define who is ‘inside’ and who is ‘outside’, that is, inside the law/covenant and outside the law/covenant people.

Not a bad read, tries to bring balance to the discussion, and the footnotes give a wealth of resources on a number of recent German interactions with the NPP.

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