New Perspective 2

New Perspective 2 August 7, 2007

Today we will look at the second phase of the New Perspective on Paul. The first phase is the work of E.P. Sanders in 1977. The second phase was the work of Jimmy Dunn, and that began in 1982 and came to full fruition with his pumpkin book, The Theology of the Apostle Paul, in 20001998.
Dunn basically agrees with Sanders on Judaism: election-based, covenant-shaped relationship for Israel with God to whom God gives the Torah to know how to live as God’s people.

Where Dunn shifted things was with Paul, and he argued at first that Paul’s problem with his Judaizing opponents (not the same as “Judaism” as a whole) was that they were constructing a nation-based righteousness, a nationalistic righteousness, that kept Gentiles out because it was simply a nation’s faith.
Over time Jimmy shifted his language to the “sociological markers” of a community so that “works of the Torah” were not “merit-seeking works” but “boundary-marking works.” That is, the Judaizers were trying to make the Gentile Christians become Jews. The “works of the Law,” then, were not merit-shaped works but specific things like sabbath, food laws and circumcision. Think concretely, Jimmy was asking us to do, when we get to this expression “works of the Law.” Avoid thinking of the expression the way Augustine and Luther and Calvin do.
For Paul, one was a member of the Church, the people of God, by faith and not by works (by adhering to such things as circumcision, sabbath, and food laws — the works that separated Jews from Gentiles). So, Paul’s idea of faith was the way all people — Jews and Gentiles — could gain access to and enjoy the saving work of God in Christ.
Fundamentally, Paul’s mission was to form a new people of God, the Church, on the basis of faith and because it was by faith and not works (boundary markers) it was a people of God that could include Jews and Gentiles. Justification was God’s work of declaring and making righteous those who had faith in Jesus Christ; one might say then that justification was declaring who was the people of God.
Much more could be said, but our focus this week is on the core issues that are causing a stir for so many.

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  • Seth

    Where does this understanding of Paul and 2nd Temple Judaism fit with the discussion of Faith and works in the book of James?? Is faith without “boundary-marking works” dead? Is faith without “things such as circumcision, sabbath, and food laws – the works that separated Jew from gentiles” dead? This seems to make sense of Paul but turns James on it’s head. If we define works as customs of covenant, wouldn’t you have to then say that faith without customs of covenant is dead? Or does James meaning something else?
    Granted I’ve only thought about this for the length of time it took me to read your post and re-read James 1-2, but surely if you import this understanding of works into James then James becomes a reactionary rant, instead of a call to action.
    But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without [sociological markers of nationhood] is useless? – James 2:20
    That seems to make a pretty passage ugly, what am I missing?

  • Thanks for doing this series Scot. I have yet to properly understand both the NPP proper and the backlash against it in some quarters.

  • Jeremy

    Dear Scot,
    I’m enjoying this series. I look forward to further discussion. A side note: Dunn’s pumpkin book was out in 1998 (just pulled it off the shelf to check) instead of 2000. Not much difference in time, though. 🙂

  • Tim Gombis

    Seth (#1), I don’t think that Dunn would say that “works” in Romans and Galatians is the same thing as “works” in James. For Paul, in Rom/Gal, at least, “works” and “works of law” seem to be pointing to deeds done with an eye toward establishing one’s place within Judaism, thinking that such a standing carries weight with God for justification. For James, “works” seems to indicate a genuine obedience, over-against mere professions of faith.
    The mistake, it seems to me, at least, is for some to see Paul making a disjunction between “works” as genuine obedience over-against “faith,” thus separating the two. On such a scenario we’ve got the Paul vs. James problem. On the other hand, if Paul is arguing against the pursuit of establishing a socially-oriented identity, and in favor of “faith” as genuine response and obedience to God, then the Paul vs. James problem dissipates. Both favor the obedience of faith.

  • J. B. Hood

    “Justification was God’s work of declaring and making righteous those who had faith in Jesus Christ.”
    The “making” part may need some clarification–I know a number of folks including NPP sympathizers who will lose their breakfast if they read that sentence, since for many being made righteous is never about justification but sanctification.
    BTW I’m loving the Goldingay review, thought I’d throw that in since I haven’t commented on that string.

  • Gen 17:13 – “Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.” – You can see why they thought the Gentiles should do this. Of course in Acts 15 they agreed that this would not be a part of the Gentiles being brought in but only those things already part of the Torah required of aliens and strangers living among them. This, of course, was the backdrop of Paul’s defense of his gospel preaching in Galatia. His argument of Abraham’s faith makes sense but it still doesn’t explain how it went from everlasting sign of the covenant to not necessary any more. God didn’t tell Abraham – this will be a temporary sign until covenantal nomism becomes an issue so keep it up for a while until I tell you different. Any thoughts?

  • Scot,
    Just a quick question to clarify my own thinking. In your final paragraph, you say: “Fundamentally, Paul’s mission was to form a new people of God, the Church, on the basis of faith. . .”. I’m just wondering about the phrase, “to form a new people”, and whether or not it would be better to say “to form a renewed people.”
    Paul, as far as I can tell, does not say that the salvation project has utterly failed with the Jews, therefore an entirely new group of must be sought–one that was never before considered. (The scheme of heilsgeschichte seems to imply that gentiles were all along “meant” to be a part of the coming kingdom). He does, however, suggest that the basis upon which one enters the kingdom is in need of revision. Therefore, I am wondering if Paul is re-emphasizing (or, renewing) the faith-based ontology of the covenantal promise of Abraham. (I’m thinking Galatians 3, at this point).
    I’m open to critique/criticism on this, so feel free to offer what you must.

  • Scot, this has been a very helpful recap–keep it coming! I’ll be honest; for the past few years I’ve been reading some Wright and Sanders on this, and couldn’t really trace the essence of the new perspective the way you’ve distilled it. I still don’t see what all the fuss is about from my hardcore Reformed friends–I thought they liked covenantal understandings of things! I suppose one problem is, all of this becomes much more an eschatological and cosmic gospel, and less about individual righteousness a la Luther and later, even more individualized and psychologized readings of Paul.

  • Perhaps, there is a difference between good works and works of the law. The latter are identified with Jewish badges of righteousness, the former a product of faith for both Jew and non-Jew.

  • Matt: #5
    You said: “His argument of Abraham’s faith makes sense but it still doesn’t explain how it went from everlasting sign of the covenant to not necessary any more.”
    Because the “everlasting” Abrahamic covenant of faith had been confirmed beforehand by God, the Law of Moses which came hundreds of years later, could not disannul it.
    The Covenant of Moses differed from the Abrahamic in that it was conditional and national. Its blessings were to be received only if the Israelites were obedient. When the conditions were broken, the people suffered ‘nationally’. Individually, however, they could accept or reject the Abrahamic Covenant of faith left to them.
    From Paul we learn that the scope of the Abrahamic covenant had been widened into a New Covenant which would include those of the Gentiles who were born after the spirit without regard to physical descent.

  • What attracts me to the NP, though I am not fully sold yet (as I am still studying it) is that it captures what seems to be the underlying narrative of the story of Israel: God’s relationship with Abraham, and then with his covenant people, and how this narrative finds its climax in Jesus.

  • “…causing a stir for so many…” What exactly is the stir? Do the opponents of NPP think that Luther and Calvin’s innovative idea of ‘forensic righteousness’ is at stake? Is that where the ‘imputation” controversy breaks out?

  • Brian

    Maybe I’m slow…but I too do not see what all the fuss is from the reformed crowd. Also, I’m not sure I fully understand the distinction that Dunn is drawing. Is it simply that “works of the Law” had been viewed as “merit based works” by Calvin and Luther etc., and “be part of our nation by doing these specific ‘works'” is what Paul was really objecting to, as viewed by the NP folks?
    If that is the case, then perhaps the objection of our reformed friends is that they think “merit based works” somehow nullifies “sola fide” rather than demonstrating faith? Therefore, in their estimation, Paul couldn’t possibly be for any sort of merit based works and thus the NP is wrong? Am I on the right track here?

  • I think that Seth(1)’s comments brings up a bunch of interesting points, because, at least at a bare reading of James, it looks like a response to a controversy to someone who has read Romans too many times. I mean, really, when you read it, it looks like he’s in conversation with “Old Perspective Paul” people saying, “yes, you do in fact need works” (not that Old Perspective Paul was really against works, but that is a common way of misinterpreting him which has often needed correcting).

  • tim atwater

    Thanks for this series, and the excellent summary in part one.
    Re the differing meanings of ‘works’ in Paul (at least Romans, Gal, Philippians…) and James — i think you are right to say they are different —
    And even more helpful was the post yesterday of BW, who wrote
    “I don’t doubt that 1st century Judaism was “faith-based,” but that doesn’t stop or forbid its adherents or followers from having confidence in the flesh instead of God’s work. Most churches (regardless of stripe) proclaim the necessity of God-birthed faith; but when you sit many of these congregants down and ask them “so, what is your hope? what are you trusting in?” its not uncommon for people to say, “my good works; my prayer life; my…whatever” …
    With NPPers, i believe Paul knows the nuances of Judaism intimately… AND – as a tri-cultural Pharisee, Hellenic Jew, and Roman citizen who works w leather and hangs out w Gentiles… Paul also observes the universal human gap between our stated convictions (our official theologies) and our actual practice….
    You (Scot) had an interesting workout the other day exploring whether theological affirmations can in fact be a form of ‘works righteousness’ — i am quite sure they function that way in real life, whatever we think or say…

  • Dan Reid

    Way back in (could it be?) 1990 I wrote a somewhat substantial article on “The Misunderstood Apostle” for Christianity Today, introducing the New Perspective. Though personally sympathetic, I was trying to be even-handed, and I think I concluded on a note of “this will be interesting to watch.” As I recall, one CT editor commented that while it was an important article, it probably wouldn’t attract many readers! Not so now, huh? Maybe on this point at least, I can claim I was ahead of my time!
    By the way, how “new” is a perspective that’s at least twenty years old? (Some of this blog’s readers were still in their diapers.) And as Scot will no doubt point out, the New Perspectivites are not all the same.
    Good job, Scot. I’m glad you’re doing this.
    Dan Reid

  • B-W

    Seth in #1,
    Taking a different angle than Tim in #3 (although there’s nothing wrong with what he said), I might posit that James, writing later (I believe that’s right) than Paul, could be responding to a misinterpretation of Paul’s teachings. Suppose the “New Perspective” is correct, and Paul was talking about “boundary markers.” It’s still pretty easy to imagine that some in the early church read Paul’s letters, and thought of “works” in the same “merit-based” sense than many Christians have read that word throughout history. And James was arguing against that. Even if the “New Perspective” is correct, there’s no real need to have to reinterpret James at all.
    Of course, I’d be curious to see Scot’s reply to this.

  • tim atwater

    Question for Scot (and any other scholars out there)
    What about other strands of NPP?
    Richard Horsley, ed, Paul and Empire (which opened up the Paul and empire theme for me) — and especially the beautifully written (i think)
    Colossians Remixed by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat?
    Remixed persuasively situates Paul in contrast with the roman empire then and globalized capitalism as a (similarly) competing empire now, the principle competing real life truth claims with which the gospel must needs differentiate from (ala Romans 12:1-2)…
    I’m only half way through Colossians Remixed but am happy to finally find a convincing argument re Col 3:22–4:1 the slaves obey your masters part that seems so contrary to the first commandment on Sinai… (identity of God as liberator from slavery)…
    in the placing of Paul in the Jewish story of God, and esp Jeremiah 29… exile as plan B…
    Have you already posted on either or both of these? if so can you give the link, if not can you work in later??
    thanks and blessings

  • B-W

    Follow up to my own reply in #17.
    As I read that, it looks like I’m arguing that James is arguing for a “merit-based” works righteousness. I don’t mean that. I just mean that, as Christians have read Paul arguing against a “merit-based” righteousness (even if, as the “New Perspective” speculates, Paul actually meant something else), Christians began to think of works as unimportant, and James wishes to correct this misconception. Works, he would say, are important. They demonstrate faith. This does not mean that he though that they were a basis for righteousness.

  • David Garrett

    Have you read Krister Stendahl’s “Paul Among Jews and Gentiles” (1976)? It might be well worth your time and valuable for this discussion. In particular, he argues that “such a doctrine of justification by faith was hammered out by Paul for the very specific and limited purpose of defending the rights of Gentile converts to be full and genuine heirs to the promises of God to Israel.”

  • tim,
    The empire ideology theme one finds in Wright and Walsh-Keesmat is mostly a Tom Wright kind of NPP and not a feature, so far as I know, of either Sanders or Dunn.
    Yes, the word “works” in James brings in perhaps more than a wrinkle into this debate. One would have expected James to assert the works-as-badges view since he is at the head of the “men from James” who guides the Judaizing party (in Paul’s viewpiont). One can claim, with some persuasive force, that James is fighting another battle — perhaps against the Pauline front gone amok — but still one would have expected something along this line and one does not get it.

  • David,
    Yep, read it long ago and have referred to it a number of times. I agree; he’s in the mix. But, as I say, I don’t think the ball got rolling into a genuinely new perspective until the mix of Sanders’ major tome and Dunn’s distinct summary and re-use of Sanders’ perspective on Judaism.

  • Scot I look forward to reading more in this series – I have little knowledge about NPP.
    Does this NPP mean people from centuries past missed out or incorrectly interpreted Paul?

  • MartyS,
    Yes, a theme in the NPP is that Luther led us astray. That, however, is not good enough. Truth be told, it was Augustine — and that means 16 centuries. I don’t consider this impossible or even all that odd, but I do think the NPP need to think carefully about thinking everyone got things wrong.

  • I think that it is too simplistic to pit, lets say Luther against Dunn. I think that the Jews of the day were guilty of legalistic righteousness as a means of earning favour with God (as all humanity is outside of faith in Christ alone), and of “boundary markers” as well. I think the title of Carson’s books better describes the first century situation: “Variegated Nomism.” See his edited books here:
    I think that this is very serious because none of us want to be preaching a false gospel because of a misunderstanding of the first century situation, especially in light of Paul’s clear warning in Galatians 1:8:
    “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”

  • Scot, I really appreciate these posts. I have been doing a series of post on the “Household of God” and I am just coming up on Paul’s use of fictive family as the metaphor for the church (his most frequent metaphor). Both Jesus and Paul seem to use the “household of God” and ficitive family as the means for surmounting thus cultural exclusivism of the “Household of Israel” embraced by many Jews.
    Thanks again!

  • Scott Watson

    The NPP,which itself has diverse streams,simply calls the church to its historical task, which is not the only task it has but a very important one. And this has led to others exegeting the NPP also,which is an indispensible part of this task.The real problem is the knee jerk reactionary responses based on purely dogmatic theological concerns, since the Reformation was well ensconsed in the growth of historical and linguistic studies at the time. In a real sense, the reaction to the NPP is test of the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura:will “Protestant” readings and theologies as dogmatic tradition trump better historical readings of Paul and his epistles?

  • Todd A. Robinson

    Indeed what IS the “contrary gospel” of Galatians 1:8 from the NPP point of view? And what might be its modern counterpart (assuming it’s not the Reformed view of meritorious/generic works)?

  • Jason

    Scot – isn’t the connection between James and the Judaizing party (post 21) only valid on the assumption that James the bro of Jesus is the author? Is there anything in the text that demands this identification? (I don’t recall what the specific arguments are in favor of THE James.) If not, then it seems reasonable that a later James (whoever he might be) was responding to a kind of Paulinism run amok. We would then not necessarily expect a specific connection to Paul’s original formulation of “works of the law”, i.e. ethnic boundary markers.

  • Todd at #28,
    I don’t know how to read your comment other than as a question-that-is-really-an-accusation. Is that fair?
    Let me try. If one is NPP one might say something like this: the contrary gospel is the gospel that sorts out people in the Church on the basis of whether or not they live by the Torah. (I would not equate this with the legalism we find today, for I’m not sure that is what Paul was looking at.) Another way: the contrary gospel is a race-based or ethnic-based or culture-based set of parameters for who the true people of God is. The contrary gospel is, to take one more stab, anything that teaches we are acceptable to God on the basis of anything other than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Spirit.
    Yep. And I think he was. If he wasn’t, many would at least want to maintain a traditional connection, but one could just as easily say “not James, and not even connected to the James who was brother to Jesus.”

  • Tim Gombis

    A few thoughts (between department meetings, ugh!):
    1) Paul is not necessarily critiquing Judaism per se, but the pursuit of establishing a claim to justification based on the accumulation of credentials–i.e., establishing a good standing within Judaism/a Jewish community, thinking that this held sway before God. Paul says, on this basis no flesh will be justified before God.
    2) There are indeed texts in Paul where he uses “works” very much like James. E.g., Rom 2:6 (God “will render to every man according to his deeds”); also (especially!) 2 Cor. 5:10.
    In these passages, Paul sounds very much like James–God’s judgment is based on genuine response, which is “faith working itself out in love” (Gal 5:6).
    3) Dan Reid (hey Dan!), do you have an electronic copy of that CT piece?

  • Tim Gombis

    Todd (#28) and Scot (#30), might we say that the contrary gospel today is manifested in homogenous American churches, where we only fellowship with people like us? We should be manifesting genuine New Creation life by embracing people from every nation, of every tongue, every skin color, social class, age, ethinicity, etc., but are is our homogeneity an implicit and inadvertent rejection of the gospel of Christ? In this sense, historically speaking, the “anti-imperial” reading of Paul is the logical outgrowth of the NP reading of Paul.
    So, is it that today Paul would say to (some of) us, “don’t think that because you’re a nice and tidy Republican-voting evangelical that this carries any weight with God!”?

  • Josh

    On a earlier comment, I think it is wrong to insert the def. of Paul’s “works of the Law” into James’ context. One common ground rule for exegesis is that we have to read each epistle in its context and define words and phrases from that context whenever possible.
    The book of Acts is the best source to put all the epistles in context and it is a shame that it is often ignored. If one follows Paul’s missionary travels, there is a clear pattern. Paul comes, preaches the gospel, people believe, Jews from past travels and Jerusalem come behind him and tell the converts they must become “Jews.”
    A council is convened to settle the matters and it is decided that converts must desist from the obvious vices of pagan culture but they do not have take up definitive Jewish practices to enter into the fold of God’s flock.
    And there is a lot of common sense here. Many of the “taste and touch” laws were made to distinguish the Jews from the nations and prevent them from adopting pagan worship and practice. They were to be a holy nation; i.e. distinct from all others, in reality a priesthood to the nations around them, bringing them into the presence of God. Isaiah and other prophets prophesied that the nations would come and worship the true God and that his Spirit would be poured out on all people.
    Here is the question: When this happens, do those coming in from the nations adopt Jewish practices that made them distinct from the nations or do the Jews drop the particular practices that made them distinct because they(the distinctive practices) are no longer needed?
    The Jerusalem council voted for the latter. Paul stated that a true Jew is one who obeys the Law(moral aspect) from the heart. Those aspects of the law that are central to Jesus are central to Paul: love the Lord your God with all your heart,soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.
    If you notice, the only ones getting p.o.ed about the NPP are those denominations and groups who base all of their theology and practice off of justification by faith. Justification by faith is an awesome ASPECT of the Christian faith. However, making disciples, experiencing the Spirit of God that has been poured out in these last days, and practing an ethic that is centered and built upon divine love are also awesome aspects of the faith that have been neglected due to over emphasis on justification by faith.

  • Todd A. Robinson

    I probably didn’t word things well. Lemme preface by saying, I think NPP has hit on some really good points. I think much of Wright’s insight here. The Galatians 1:8 question is actually one that’s always thrown back at me whenever I suggest a more nuanced, less “legalism” position. Sorry it came out wrong from my end. I really was looking for what a helpful explanation would be from the NPP w/regards the anathema section of Gal 1. Thanks for the insight on it.

  • Josh,
    In the NPP view “works of the law” isn’t simply a Pauline expression; it is a Jewish technical expression for covenant markers.
    On Acts 15 … most take the stipulations of Acts 15 to be the identical stipulations from Leviticus for the “resident alien.” So, it’s not so non-Torah as you might think. I don’t think Jerusalem then decided as you suggest. They opted for turning Gentile converts into resident aliens.
    Good comments Josh; your teachers are doing a good job — even RVN!

  • Todd A. Robinson

    One more thought/question on Gal 1:8. Would marking people along “theological” lines be included in the anathema? There has been a strong tradition in Protestantism to “exclude” those who do not hold to “justification by faith alone” and mark them off as “out”. Would this (ironically!) fall into the same Pauline anathema for violating the “biblical” truth of justification by faith in Christ alone? I’m still trying (perhaps not very well) to bring this serious anathema into our own context.

  • Thanks Todd for your gracious response.
    On #36, yes. There is a theology at work here that Paul sees as spurious and dangerous to the life-giving and death-ending gospel of Christ. Yes, it applies to justification by faith. What is at stake here, though, is what justification by faith means. For some, j-b-f does not mean entering into the family of God but being described as in the family of God. (Wright has written on this the best perhaps, but he’s mellowed a bit on it.)
    In my judgment, marking people theologically is not anathema — as long as one’s got their gospel theology straight. Which is the QED, heh?

  • Josh

    Hey Scot,
    I have never heard of opting for the Gentiles to become resident aliens. That opens up a whole new aspect for me. I have WItherington’s Socio-historical commmentary on Acts on hand, so I think I will be checking out him to see if he offers any more info on this subject.
    Could you flesh out the term “covenant markers” in your last comment a little. I think I know what you mean but it’s still a little fuzzy in my mind.

  • Seth

    @ Josh in 33.
    Thank you for your comment. I wrote the first question in (#1) on James.
    Mr. McKnight wrote in his post that works of Dunn are an extension of E. P. Sanders work on context of (2nd Temple) Judaism. It would seem to me that both James and Paul are written in that context, and therefore both would/could be read against it.
    It is very interesting to read James against Acts, particularly keeping in mind Scot’s comment (#21) that James may be seen as a “Judaizer”.
    I don’t think you have to invent hypothetical disciples run amok to ease the tension. James mentions Rahab aiding of the spies. This is not an act of covenantial law but an act of assisting men in trouble.
    “Do not merely listen to the word” says James “but look after widows and orphans, stay pure, don’t show favoritism”.
    James seems to me to be talking about good works in their widest sense (unless one can argue that looking after the poor and committing treason by aiding spies are “sociological markers of nationhood”).
    James and Paul seen this way become two sides of the same coin. Paul says “You don’t have perform the “works” of Judaism, and James replies – but you must get to work.
    Just my thoughts, thank you all for your responses.

  • Josh,
    Covenant markers is Tom Holmen’s expression for actions that demonstrate one’s fidelity to the covenant. Very much along the line of Jimmy’s boundary markers — Jimmy sees them as things that separate from Gentiles and Holmen as things that demonstrate fidelity. Both are true.
    I like what you are saying and seeing in James.

  • Todd A. Robinson

    This James discussion is helpful for me too.
    I think the distinction between “these works” (good works) and “those works” (works of Torah) is important too in grasping why Jesus isn’t a legalist in the Synoptics. That is, I used to think that only the Gospel of John contained “gospel” since so many of Jesus’ evangelistic confrontations in Mt/Mk/Lk were so “worksy” (sell all, hate mother/father, etc.) and not “believey” (as in John, well at least in select verses!)
    This was also why I had such a hard time with Acts passages that so closely tied the moment of salvation with water baptism (Acts 2, 22). I was too busy trying to get rid of perceived (!) “legalisms” in the NT itself as a result of not seeing that the “works” that Paul vociferously excludes are not “these works” (which Jesus himself commands, and are therefore good) but “those works” (works of Torah).
    Rather “these works” are the necessary, if not concomitant, fruits of having given oneself to Jesus by faith alone. I’m sure I’m not being very clear on this (it always sounds so much better in my head!)

  • Scot,
    When I read the Galatians NAC volume authored by you, I understood you to be saying that “flesh vs. Spirit” was a major theme of the letter. Is that a fair statement?
    Also, would your current thinking on NPP affect how you would write such a commentary today? It probably seems impetuous to ask an author such a thing. If so, I apologize. Just trying to synthesize the little bit I have been able to read here today with the impact that my study in Galatians had on me.

  • Matthew,
    My commentary is an early foray into NPP stuff, but I’m very much along the line of a salvation-historical approach instead of a “works of the law” and soteriology approach.

  • Josh

    Hey Scot,
    Witherington doesn’t see the commands given concerning the Gentile converts as allowing resident aliens.
    WItherington notes that the Lev. 17-18 text refers to Gentiles dwelling with Jews in the Holy Land. Wrong context; the council decree is for Gentiles in the Diaspora. The only thing that links the Lev. text with the decree in Acts is the prohibition of the eating of blood and that’s it. There are sexual prohibitions in the Lev. text but the term found in Acts is porneia. If one looks at all the prohibitions in a holistic manner, it appears that the prohibitions are aimed at pagan worship. WItherington says that Paul was in complete compliance with these commands and that the best evidence is his earliest letter in 1 Thess. when he states that they turned from idols to the true and living God. The term porneia is also found in 1 Cor. 10: 7-8 in connection with pagan temple feasts and gives a good context for the word’s use in Paul’s vocabulary.
    I just went through Wright’s chapter on Idolatry in his book The Mission of God in the OT last night and I must say that Witherington’s explanation fits the bill the best in my book.
    It also cools down the supposed conflict between Paul and the Jerusalem council. If God was pouring out his SPirit on the Gentiles and blessing Paul’s ministry, the council said “yep, we are not going to get into God’s way.” The only thing was that Paul was not to allow any kind of syncretism (Israel’s old nemesis). But there were some in Jerusalem who wanted to go farther than making Gentile discples of Jesus. They wanted to make Jewish converts as well. These are the ones that Paul had the beef with.

  • Peggy

    I can see that this discussion will be going faster than I can keep up with…since my post at #62 yesterday will probably be the last on that thread…and I have yet to bring up my CovanentClusters site, where I can lay out what I’ve been talking about here and there on this site concerning covenant and covenant-keeping…
    …but that is the reality of today…and I will hope to keep reading what everyone else has to say and I will enjoy reading Scot’s posts on this topic.

  • Todd A. Robinson

    Hey Josh, would the Acts 15 decree sound something like this?
    “Okay, you guys DON’T have to be Jews. But you DO have to be Christians!”

  • Scot, I just want to say that I consider this post along with comments a wonderful resource. A great learning tool for me. Thanks.

  • Andrew Flemming

    It means:

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    […] New Perspective 2 (Dunn) […]

  • Two recent links on the New Perspective Issue: McKnight and Gathercole « Sets ‘n’ Service

    […] For those interested in playing the game of catchup with the New Perspective Issue there are two recent articles that I’ve found helpful. First is Simon Gathercole’s Christianity Today article (What did Paul really mean?); and Second is Scot McKnight’s five part series over at JesusCreed (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; and Part 5). […]

  • Recent Discussion on the New Perspective on Paul at PastorBlog

    […] New Perspective 2 […]

  • I believe it is instructive to note how, on the one hand, Paul does not advocate “works of the law,” and yet, on the other hand, he advocates “good works.” These are not equated in Paul’s theology.
    When Paul writes of “the works of the law,” or has them in mind when writing merely of “works,” he usually also makes reference to circumcision, cuisine and/or calendar — those aspects of the law that most distinctly distinguish Jews from gentiles (as noted by Jews and non-Jews alike, in the first century).
    Now, if one assumes that the law is an indivisible whole, then to discount any aspect of the law could be read as advocating lawlessness. Of course, upon any reading of Paul, this is NOT what he is advocating. And this is why his arguments assume divisibility of the law (Rom 2, especially, though compare Gal 2 with Gal 5 as well) and the temporality (Gal 3; Rom 4) of the old covenant constellation of law demands. Paul did not teach license, though given mistaken assumptions, one might infer as much. I suspect this is why Paul has to counter such mistaken inferences in his epistles. Perhaps this is precisely what James is countering too. After all, even a cursory reading of James shows that he is interested in a core set of moral demands (which dovetail perfectly with Paul’s own concerns, as when he writes to the Corinthians) rather than in advocating circumcision, the observance of Sabbath or festival days, or kosher laws.
    On top of this, when one considers how the OT prophets confronted Israel when she was characterized by immorality, idolatry and injustice, one finds that the prophets also confronted the presumptuous practice of the law’s demands of festival celebrations, sacrifices and circumcision. My suspicion is that this OT precedent undergirds and drives Paul’s distinction between “the works of the law” and “good works.”
    I’ll leave of here. I’m working on some of these thoughts in my own work at Durham. By the way, Scot, I’ve very much enjoyed my conversations with Jimmy. I’m certain it was a great joy to work with him as you did.
    Kind regards,