Discussions of Paul and the Mosaic Law have bogged down over the last several years as the sun has set on what might be called “the new perspective era.” Two new books have appeared, however, that treat the issue from new angles of approach.
Preston Sprinkle, my former teammate on our world championship softball team (well, intramural champs, but we were unstoppable) has written Paul and Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation.
He takes up and advances Francis Watson’s approach in his book Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith, applying Watson’s proposal to a comparison between Paul and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The second book is by Brian Rosner, called Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God.
Most studies on this issue traverse the same territory–Romans and Galatians–but Rosner focuses on 1 Corinthians. This very well may bring a new dimension to the discussion, which would be warmly welcomed.
Understanding “Paul and the law” is critical to the study of the New Testament, because it touches on the perennial question of the relationship between the grace of God in the gift of salvation and the demand of God in the call for holy living. Misunderstanding can lead to distortions of one or both. This fresh and valuable study is something of a breakthrough, bringing neglected evidence to the discussion and asking different questions of the material, while also building on the work of others. Brian Rosner argues that Paul undertakes a polemical re-evaluation of the Law of Moses, which involves not only its repudiation as law-covenant and its replacement by other things, but also its wholehearted re-appropriation as prophecy (with reference to the gospel) and as wisdom (for Christian living).
4 thoughts on “Two New Books on Paul & the Law from IVP”
A proposal to compare Paul and the Dead Sea Scrolls is bound to be fruitful, at least as much as comparing Paul to John the Baptist.
I may have to go out and get Sprinkle’s book, and possibly read Watson, thanks in part to your clear review.
With respect to the second review, which also touches upon themes these last few posts have been exposing, was Paul indeed re-evaluating the Law of Moses or was he re-evaluating the Pharisaic exegesis of it? (Paul had been a Pharisee after all)?
Jesus seems to have had no problem with it (the Law), whereas he did have a problem with the leaven (exegesis) of the Pharisees. This implies that Jesus understood it, and that Paul had to arrive at the same understanding; which means what Paul was re-evaluating was his former perspective and not the Law itself.
It’s not clear then, why when Christians look back at the Law all they grasp is the leaven of the Pharisees (the very thing the Messiah rejected) as opposed to the thing Jesus understood (which had been given to the Israelites in the first place)! Nevertheless, a wholehearted re-appropriation of prophecy as a preminiscence of the the gospel is bound to be instructive.
Haddon Anderson (@HaddonAnderson)
I’ll never forget playing left/center field when Sprinkle blasted a tape-measure shot over my head. Nearly reached 72!
I still get the creeps when I recall how he nearly took off one pitcher’s head with a line shot up the middle. Took his hat off and I’m glad that’s all it did!!
Haddon Anderson (@HaddonAnderson)
Yikes! He hit missiles. He was revered around campus for this.