the new perspective on paul evaluation and critique
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The New Perspective on Paul: Evaluation and Critique. What is the New Perspective? History of the NPP: the writers and their writings Beliefs of the NPP What is the Old Perspective? Essential beliefs Responses of the Old Perspective to the NPP What can we learn from this discussion?.

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What is the New Perspective?
    • History of the NPP: the writers and their writings
    • Beliefs of the NPP
  • What is the Old Perspective?
    • Essential beliefs
    • Responses of the Old Perspective to the NPP
  • What can we learn from this discussion?
what is the new perspective
What is the New Perspective?
  • What Paul finds wrong with Judaism:
  • For Sanders, Judaism was wrong because Christianity was right.
  • PPJ, 552: “This is what Paul finds wrong in Judaism: it is not Christianity.”
  • Law, 47: “What is wrong with the law, and thus with Judaism, is that it does not provide for God’s ultimate purpose, that of saving the entire world through faith in Christ.”
what is the new perspective4
What is the New Perspective?
  • What Paul finds wrong with Judaism:
  • For Dunn and Wright, Judaism was wrong because it demonstrated nationalistic pride, ethnocentrism, and racism in regard to the inclusion of Gentiles.
what is the new perspective5
What is the New Perspective?
  • What Paul finds wrong with Judaism:
  • Wright, “History,” 65: “If we ask how it is that Israel has missed her vocation, Paul’s answer is that she is guilty not of ‘legalism’ or ‘works-righteousness’ but of what I call ‘national righteousness,’ the belief that fleshly Jewish descent guarantees membership of God’s true covenant people.”
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What Paul finds wrong with Judaism:
  • Dunn, “Justice,” 14: “The classic Protestant understanding of justification . . . has missed or downplayed what was probably the most important aspect of the doctrine for Paul himself . . ., the fundamental critique of Israel’s tendency to nationalist presumption, not to say racial pride.”
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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:
    • The maintenance of one’s covenantal status before God, i.e., staying in right relationship with God; declaring someone to be a part of the covenant people.
    • Dunn, “New Perspective,” 190: “God’s justification is . . . God’s acknowledgement that someone is in the covenant.”
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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:
    • Wright, Justification, 96: “For Paul, ‘justification’ . . . always had in mind God’s declaration of membership, and that this always referred specifically to the coming together of Jews and Gentiles in faithful membership of the Christian family.”
    • Wright, Justification, 100: “[Justification] denotes a status. . . . It means ‘membership in God’s true family.’”
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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:
    • Donaldson, Paul, 171: “Righteousness . . . is a covenant term: to say that one is righteous is not, in the first instance, to say that the person conforms with some absolute standard of moral perfection, but that the person is a member in good standing of the covenant community.”
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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:
    • Since N. T. Wright has written the most detailed description of justification among the NPP advocates, we need to delineate the significant points of his understanding of justification:

1. The righteousness of God is God’s faithfulness to his covenant; it speaks about what God does, i.e., an effect of his righteousness, rather than who God is, i.e., possessing the attribute of righteousness.

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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

Thus, Wright treats the righteousness of God merely in terms of the actions of the Judge rather than in terms of his attribute of righteousness.

“For a reader of the Septuagint . . . ‘the righteousness of God’ would have one obvious meaning: God’s own faithfulness to his promises, to the covenant.” (What Paul Said, 96)

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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

God’s righteousness is “his faithfulness to his covenant promises to Abraham” (Climax of the Covenant, 36).

“[God’s] ‘righteousness’ connotes the notion of God’s covenant faithfulness because of which he [saves]” (Justification, 52).

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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

2. The justification of the sinner is “the status that someone has when the court has found in their favor” (Justification, 69). And what is that status? This justification is the declaration that someone is in the covenant. “’Justification,’ as seen in 3:24-26, means that those who believe in Jesus Christ are declared to be members of the true covenant family” (What Saint Paul Really Said, 129).

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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

2a. The basis of this declaration is the person’s faith: “on the basis of faith we . . . receive the verdict ‘member of the family’” (Justification, 112).

2b. The reason people are declared to be members of the covenant family is the faithful death of the Messiah. This is why “the faith of Jesus Christ” is understood as a subjective genitive, i.e., “faithfulness of Jesus Christ,” rather than as an objective genitive, i.e., “faith in Jesus Christ.”

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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

“God always intended that his purposes would be accomplished through faithful Israel [note Wright’s understanding of the meaning of ‘covenant’ as God’s single plan through Israel for the world]. That has now happened . . . in the single person of Israel’s faithful representative” (Justification, 114).

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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

3. Because justification is the declaration that a Christian is in the covenant family, the concept of receiving Christ’s righteousness as a result of that declaration is a “category mistake.” In other words, Wright has no room in his explanation of justification for the concept of imputed righteousness.

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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

“If we use the language of the law-court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom. For the Judge to be righteous

what is the new perspective18
What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

does not mean that the court has found in his favour. For the plaintiff or defendant to be righteous does not mean that he or she has tried the case properly or impartially. To imagine the defendant somehow receiving the judge’s righteousness is simply a category mistake. That is not how the language works. . . . If and when God

what is the new perspective19
What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

does act to vindicate his people, his people will then, metaphorically speaking, have the status of ‘righteousness.’ . . . But the righteousness they have will not be God’s own righteousness. That makes no sense at all” (What Saint Paul Really Said, 98-99). And in case Wright might have wanted to adjust this statement at all, he states in his most

what is the new perspective20
What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

recent book (Justification, 133-34), “It is quite illegitimate to seize on [Paul’s ‘in Christ’ language] and say that therefore [Christians] have something called ‘the righteousness of Christ’ imputed to them.”

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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:
    • Wright is much happier to see the benefits of Christ coming to believers by virtue of their union with Christ. “The people over whom that verdict (‘righteous,’ ‘members of God’s family’) is issued are those who are ‘in the Messiah’” (Justification, 101).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

4. The law-court scene during which believer’s are declared to be in the covenant is the final judgment. And the basis of that final judgment is the death of Christ and the life lived by the Christian.

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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

“Paul has . . . spoken in Romans 2 about the final justification of God’s people on the basis of their whole life” (Fresh Perspective, 121).

“Present justification declares, on the basis of faith, what future justification will affirm publicly (according to [Rom] 2:14-16 and 8:9-11) on the basis of the entire life” (What Paul Said, 129).

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What is the New Perspective?
  • Justification:

“This declaration, this vindication, occurs twice. It occurs in the future . . . on the basis of the entire life a person has led in the power of the Spirit – that is, it occurs on the basis of ‘works’ in Paul’s redefined sense. And near the heart of Paul’s theology, it occurs in the present as an anticipation of that future verdict, when someone responding in believing obedience to the call of the gospel, believes that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead” (“New Perspectives,” 260).

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What is the New Perspective?
  • “Works of the Law”:
    • Covenant works, i.e., Jewish identity markers; works done in obedience to the law of the covenant, particularly observances of the law that were characteristically and distinctively Jewish such as circumcision, observance of Jewish calendar days and food laws. Works of the law are bad, not because they show the desire to gain favor with
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What is the New Perspective?
  • “Works of the Law”:

God by doing good works but because they are Jewish and do not include Gentiles.

    • Sanders, Law, 20: “The question is not about how many good deeds an individual must present before God to be declared righteous at the judgment, but, to repeat, whether or not Paul’s Gentile converts must accept the Jewish law in order to enter the people of God or to be counted truly members.”
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What is the New Perspective?
  • “Works of the Law”:
    • Wright, What Paul Said, 130: “[Israel] was determined to have her covenant membership demarcated by works of Torah, that is, by the things that kept that membership confined to Jews and Jews only.”
    • Dunn, “Works of the Law,” 109: “‘Works of the law’ do not denote any attempt to earn favour with God. . . . What we do see, and see in plenty, is a Jewish assumption of ‘favoured nation’ status, and the corollary
what is the new perspective28
What is the New Perspective?
  • “Works of the Law”:

assumption that even when Jews sin it is not so serious as Gentile sin. It is this attitude and misapprehension which Paul sums up in the confidence of justification by works of the law. The clear implication being that it is his ‘works of the law’ (since they maintain his covenant status and document his distinctiveness from Gentile sinners)

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What is the New Perspective?
  • “Works of the Law”:

which give the ‘Jew’ his false confidence and which cloak the seriousness of his sin.”

    • Dunn, Theology, 363-64: “’Works of the law’ are what distinguish Jew from Gentile. To affirm justification by works of the law is to affirm that justification is for Jews only, is to require that Gentile believers take on the persona and practices of the Jewish people.”
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Gospel?
    • NPP advocates tend to emphasize a “big Gospel” in one sense while at the same time minimizing the essence of what the Gospel message should be.
    • N. T. Wright offers the following cryptic statements about the definition of the Gospel:
    • “The announcement of the gospel results in people being saved. . . . But ‘the Gospel’
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Gospel?

itself, strictly speaking, is the narrative proclamation of King Jesus” (Wright, What Paul Said, 45).

    • “The crucified Jesus of Nazareth [has] been raised from the dead; that he was thereby proved to be Israel’s Messiah; that he was thereby installed as Lord of the world” (Wright, What Paul Said, 46).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Gospel?
    • “‘The Gospel’ is a message primarily about Jesus, and about what the one true God has done and is doing through him” (Wright, Justification, 156).
    • Wright notes four aspects about the Gospel as he articulates it (Wright What Paul Said, 60):

1. “In Jesus . . . the decisive victory has been won over all the powers of evil.”

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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Gospel?

2. “In Jesus’ resurrection the New Age has dawned.”

3. “The crucified and risen Jesus was, all along, Israel’s Messiah, her representative king.”

4. “Jesus was therefore also the Lord, the true king of the world, the one at whose name every knee would bow.”

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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Gospel?
    • The Gospel is not just for the individual, in fact for the NPP it is much more corporate and wide-sweeping:
    • “The gospel is not . . . a set of techniques for making people Christians. Nor is it a set of systematic theological reflections, however important. The gospel is the announcement that Jesus is Lord – Lord of the world, Lord of the cosmos, Lord of the earth, of the ozone layer, of whales and waterfalls, or trees and tortoises” (Wright, What Paul Said, 153-54).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Gospel?
    • “The doctrine of justification by faith is not what Paul means by ‘the gospel’” (Wright, What Paul Said, 132).
    • “‘The gospel’ is not an account of how people get saved” (Wright, What Paul Said, 133).
    • “Paul’s gospel to the pagans was not a philosophy of life. Nor was it, even, a doctrine about how to get saved” (Wright, What Paul Said, 90).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Gospel?
    • “The gospel is not . . . a set of techniques for making people Christians” (Wright, What Paul Said, 60).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?
    • “The key question facing Judaism as a whole was not about individual salvation, but about God’s purposes for Israel and the world” (Wright, Justification, 56-57).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?
    • “There was indeed one divine purpose, from creation through Abraham and Moses to the monarchy and the prophets, and on into the long exile from which God’s people had now emerged” (Wright, Justification, 58).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?
    • “Paul’s view of God’s purpose is that God, the creator, called Abraham so that through his family he, God, could rescue the world from its plight” (Wright, Justification, 73).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?
    • “This single purpose, this plan-through-Israel-for-the-world, this reason-God-called-Abraham (you can see why I prefer the shorthand ‘covenant’ . . .) finally came to fruition with Jesus Christ” (Wright, Justification, 74).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?
    • “The ‘covenant’ . . . is not something other than God’s determination to deal with evil once and for all and so put the whole creation (and humankind with it) right at last” (Wright, Justification, 74).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?
    • For Wright (Justification, 74-75) the “covenant” (which is God’s purpose for the world) can be described in four steps:

1. The Israelites of the OT and the 2nd temple period saw themselves as the people of the creator God whose purposes stretched beyond them and out into the wider world.

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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?

2. The particular focus of this purpose is centered on the story of Abraham with whom God established a covenant (Gen 15 and 17); this covenant’s promises and warnings are delineated in Deuteronomy 27-30.

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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?

3. There was a sense in 2nd temple Judaism that this single story of God with his people Israel was continuing to move forwards towards whatever fulfillment God might eventually have in mind.

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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?

4. Paul holds onto this story and rethinks it in the light of Jesus “through whom at last the one God would fulfill the one plan to accomplish the one purpose, to rid the world of sin and establish his new creation and [in the light] of the holy spirit, the operating power of the [covenant].”

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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?
    • One particularly unique element emphasized by Wright in this storyline is the idea of the covenantal curse of the ongoing exile that Israel was experiencing as she awaited God’s release from exile: “Many first-century Jews thought of the period they wereliving in
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?

as the continuation of a great scriptural narrative, and of the moment they themselves were in as late on within the ‘continuing exile’ of Daniel 9” (Wright, Justification, 42).

    • Jesus is the one who will help to bring this exile to an end.
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?
    • To summarize this storyline: “God had a single plan all along through which he intended to rescue the world and the human race, and that this single plan was centered upon the call of Israel, a call which Paul saw coming to fruition in Israel’s representative, the Messiah” (Wright, Justification, 18-19).
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What is the New Perspective?
  • What is the Bible’s Big Idea/Storyline in relation to Soteriology?
    • In order to be included in this storyline, people need to receive justification, the status of being in the covenant family.
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