New Perspective on Paul
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Evaluate the “New Perspective” on Paul’s exposition of the doctrine of justification by faith alone


Since the groundbreaking work in E. P. Sanders’ monograph, “Paul and Palestinian Judaism”, a paradigm shift had taken place within New Testament scholarship with regards to the center of Pauline theology. Although by no means a monolithic movement, the New Perspective represents a fundamental rethinking of what the gospel really means. The present paper sought to analyze and evaluate New Perspective views on the doctrine of justification sola fide primarily through interaction with major proponents.

Some common characteristics among New Perspective interpreters are the serious attempt to place Paul within his socio-religious framework in first century Palestine, offering a more positive evaluation of Judaism and response to Schweitzer’s agenda-setting question about the center of his theology as understood from the epistles. [1] In this discussion, we would proceed by interacting with Stendahl on hermeneutical presuppositions, Sanders on Jewish socio-religious context and finally, N.T. Wright on exegesis of key passages related to justification sola fide . [2]

Before tracing the historical development of New Perspective, we must say a word about the classical perspective on Paul. Traditionally, Reformed interpreters like Luther and Calvin have painted a portrait of Paul as self-righteous Pharisee who strived to earn his salvation by observing the law and amass good works with his own effort. This form of legalism was characteristic of the Judaism of his day. On that fateful road to Damascus, Paul had a conversion encounter with the resurrected Christ. As expounded most fully in Romans, Paul came to understand that one’s legal or forensic standing before God was not based on works of the law, but justified freely through faith alone. The Law-Gospel antithesis described the function of the Law as a means to terrify the sinner with God’s justice so as to seek refuge in the imputed righteousness of Christ sola gratia (Luther) or primarily a revelation of the perfect, divine will (Calvin) . [3] Previously regarded as the orthodox article of faith on which the Church either stands or falls, the doctrine of justification sola fide was the material cause of the Reformation movement.

The Quest for the Historical Paul

However, this consensus among Paul’s interpreters has been steadily eroded over the past thirty years. Perhaps the herald of the new interpretive paradigm was Swedish Lutheran theologian, Krister Stendahl. In his essay, "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West”, Stendahl argued that since Augustine’s Confessions, Christians have misunderstood Paul through the lens of the inward-looking, individualistic mindset of Western culture . [4] Thus, the apostle’s original concerns about the communal relationships between Jews and Gentiles were obscured. The result is nothing short of an expose of the conceptual baggage carried by the Reformers as they approach the text. In relation to justification sola fide, Tom Wright also pointed out that the church’s understanding of justification was forged in the battlefields of Pelagius against Augustine in the fifth century and Erasmus against Luther in the sixteenth century . [5] If we can’t approach the Pauline corpus with an introspective, guilt-ridden conscience in search for a gracious God, how then shall we read?

After Stendahl heralded the impending paradigm by exposing the presuppositions of Reformation paradigm, the floodgates were opened with the publication of Sanders’ influential “Paul and Palestinian Judaism.” In the preface, Sanders spoke of his attempt to “compare Judaism, understood on its own terms, with Paul, understood on his own terms.” Based on his research on ancient literature on Palestinian Judaism (as in non-Diaspora), Sanders argued that the caricature of Judaism as a legalistic religion was a historically false “straw man”. He proposed that within the pattern of religion found in Second Temple Judaism dubbed covenantal nomism, “obedience maintains one’s position in the covenant, but it does not earn God’s grace as such .” [6] Obedience is required to “stay in” God’s covenant but “getting in” was always based on God’s electing grace. In His mercy, God has chosen Israel and given them the law. Transgression is punished. However, the law has provided means of atonement for the restoration of covenant relationship. Salvation is therefore not earned but solely by grace alone. While qualifying the drawbacks of using the term “soteriology ,” [7] Sanders wrote that:

"When a man is concerned to be ‘in’ rather than ‘out’, we may consider him to have a ‘soteriological’ concern, even though he may have no view concerning an afterlife at all… covenantal nomism is the view that one's place in God's plan is established on the basis of the covenant and that the covenant requires as the proper response of man, his obedience to its commandments, while providing means of atonement for transgression ." [8]

Granted that Paul the Pharisee had reoriented himself to a new Christian community whom he had previously persecuted, there was essentially no change in his “pattern of religion”. There was no radical, salvific discontinuity between the post-Damascus, Pauline doctrines of justification by faith and the tradition of his fathers. If Sander’s historical analysis is correct, how then shall we understand the polemics of Paul that “a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law”? If Paul was interacting with covenantal nomism, a religion of grace, what do we make of his doctrine of justification by faith?

Here, Sanders argued that Paul began with a prior conviction that Jesus is the universal Savior of all, and any reference to human plight is the necessary, rhetorical outworking from that dogmatic conviction . [9] He didn’t start with any plight of humanity or a pre-conversion dissatisfaction with the Law. [10] The only problem Paul had with Judaism was: It is not Christianity. If Sanders’ solution does not appear simplistic, many New Perspective scholars were nonetheless dissatisfied with his reinterpretation of Pauline theology despite standing upon the revolutionary foundation which he laid.

Eschewing a Lutheran Law-Gospel antithesis yet discontented with Sanders’ proposal, N.T. Wright offered a more promising alternative for understanding the doctrine of justification by faith. He argued that nationalistic “boundary markers” like circumcision, Sabbath and food laws marked out the pious Jews as evidence of being God’s covenant-keepers, in anticipation of the Yahweh’s eschatological vindication of their status as true Israel . [11] Since Paul never abandoned Judaism, his fiery polemics against the works of the law should be understood within his new vocation as the apostle to the Gentiles. James D.G. Dunn, another New Perspective scholar argued rather similarly that the Damascus Christophany was primarily Paul’s calling to the Gentile mission while remaining within covenantal nomism . [12] The apostolic herald of the Christ was on a crusade to remove such culture-specific badges that separated Jews and Gentile Christians as a covenant community. We shall look more closely how Wright reformulate the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith.

To begin with, Wright argued that God’s righteousness should be understood as His covenant faithfulness to His promises to Israel, instead of the distributive justice of God . [13] Thus Luther’s notion of iustitia Dei is ruled out as a Latin irrelevance. Wright framed God’s righteousness as “that aspect of God’s character because of which He saves Israel despite Israel’s perversity and lostness… thus cognate with His trustworthiness on the one hand, and Israel’s salvation on the other. [14] Carried over to a forensic law court setting, Israel comes before the divine Judge pleading her case against her pagan oppressors. God is righteous when He is faithful to His covenant to vindicate Israel’s case as promised. Israel is righteous or justified “as a result of the decision of the court” in an eschatological fulfillment . [15]

Although Wright stresses the forensic dimension of justification, it was not about how someone might enter God’s covenant community but of “how you can tell who belongs to that community” before end-time Judgment. Justification was “God’s eschatological definition, both future and present, of who was, in fact, a member of His people… It wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology, not so much about salvation as about the church. ” [16] The issue of salvation at the heart of Pauline theology centers on Jesus and the proclamation of His kingship. Justification is not about getting in or staying in a covenant relationship with God, but the boundary markers that indicate to us in the present who would be part of the vindicated Israel in the future.

The Case for Paul, the Apostle of Faith

If the New Perspective on Paul is right, then the article of faith upon which the Church stands or falls is shaken to the core. While some evangelicals eagerly jump on the bandwagon, other theologians offer knee-jerk response against it by pointing out its radical departure from historic creeds. Ultimately we need to evaluate these views in the following order – presupposition analysis, socio-historical context and exegesis.

To begin with, we could examine Stendahl’s thesis that Paul’s “robust conscience” necessarily precludes an acute, introspective awareness of sin as a peculiarly Western idea . [17] For example, Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18 seems to suggest that a contrite spirit is the requirement for being “justified”. David, the Eastern Psalmist, may have a robust conscience (Psalm 17: 1 – 5) but he is also known for struggling with inward guilt in Psalm 51. These two themes seem to interplay in tension throughout the Old Testament until they find a resolution and harmony at the event of Jesus’ crucifixion. Philippians 3:6 should not be taken as proof-text that Paul considered himself to have kept the law perfectly. Colin Kruse commented, “This verse is found in a context in which Paul deals with externals, the evidences of his Jewish pedigree and piety… It is better then to understand Philippians 3:6 in terms of misplaced pride in which the apostle indulged in pre-Christian days. It does not reflect his views about the possibility of perfect obedience. ” [18]

In another significant contribution, Frank Thielman proposed that ancient Jewish literature, canonical or otherwise, contained a common pattern in which Israel’s inability to keep the law (the plight) will be cured in the eschatological future where God will free Israel to obey His commands (the solution) . [19] Instead of being plagued by personal sins, Paul was burdened by Israel’s corporate failures, which resulted in Gentile oppression. Thielman also argued that there were Jews who believed in a synergistic relation between human effort and divine grace as the means of eschatological vindication. Against such beliefs, the post-Damascus Paul wrestled valiantly in Philippians 3: 2-11 and Colossians 2:13-14. Paul’s movement “from plight to solution” could then make a lot of sense within his own Jewish milieu, not as an imposition of Western categories.

We could also note that New Perspective is itself not based on ‘presuppositionless’ exegesis. The new Paul has emerged from the terrible aftermath of Auschwitz. The Nazis’ propaganda in support of the Holocaust was shockingly dressed in Christian garb. Isn’t it tempting to construct a Paul who could easily evade charges of anti-Semitism by opposing mere boundary markers yet essentially in agreement with Judaism? Following Schweitzer’s critique of the historical Jesus project, the quest for Paul is also in danger of becoming a self-reflection of the spirit of the age . [20] Our prevailing postmodern mood in general is intolerant of religious exclusivism. In the face of imposing challenge from secularism and naturalism, N.T. Wright’s proposal to undercut the central Catholic-Protestant debate on justification, as a peripheral issue of ecclesiology, is attractive to sensitive believers who long for unity in Christ’s Body. However, if justification by faith is essential to Paul’s apostolic gospel as asserted by the Reformers, compromise would be too high a price to pay for such perceived tactical advantage . [21] As responsible exegetes, we need to identify the lens with which we ourselves interpret the data otherwise the meaning of the text is skewed. While exegesis cannot be done without a perspective provided by one’s presupposition and reading community, the text can address and even change our lens if necessary . [22]

At this point, it would be well for us to consider the socio-religious background of Paul in connection with first-century Palestinian Judaism. More recently, scholarly research into the soteriological pattern found in diverse Jewish literature from apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Philo, the Dead Sea Scrolls and other rabbinical traditions had cast doubt on whether “covenantal nomism” was an adequate description of Palestinian Judaism. In volume 1 of “Justification and Variegated Nomism”, the contributors’ findings seemed to suggest that Second Temple Judaism was much more complex and lack uniformity. [23] In a review, Craig Blomberg listed some texts especially 2 Enoch, 4 Ezra, Testament of Abraham and 2 Baruch that seem to favor a more legalistic theology. The data gathered by Sanders’ study can also be interpreted in support for a legalistic Judaism. For instance, the sheer number and minute detail of laws in Mishnah, that the covenant is not even mentioned in Tannaitic writings and the rabbinic explanation of God’s election on the basis of Israel’s choice to accept the covenant or on the merits of their forefathers . [24] Friedrich Avemarie’s investigation showed that rabbinic Judaism tends to hold the emphasis of “electing grace” and “works” in tension without any neat, unified system as what Sanders proposed . [25] In light of this correction, we cannot readily dismiss Paul’s admission that his pre-conversion status before God was not only based on electing grace, but also his zealousness for the law, circumcision, ancestry and legalistic righteousness (Galatians 1:14, Philippians 3:5-6).

In reality both Romanism and past/present Judaism could be more accurately categorized as “semi-Pelagian”, instead of what Wright described as “proto-Pelagian”. Both patterns of religion teach that man and God are “co-operators in salvation, that grace could complement and supplement human nature ”. [26] The issue ever hinges on the little word “sola” in sola fide and sola gratia. Hence, a more variegated construction of first century Judaism allows Paul’s polemics against the law to be understood in soteriological terms.

Sifting the Epistles of the Apostle

Before discussing key passages in Paul’s epistles which would have decisive bearing in the debate, we are confronted with what Kasemann called the central concept of Pauline theology - ‘the righteousness of God’ (dikaiosune theou). According to Old Testament scholars like Gerhard von Rad, it meant God’s ‘covenantal faithfulness’ to fulfill His saving promises to Israel. It seems like a necessary correction to the view of righteousness understood as conformity to an ethical norm . [27] However, the grid of ‘covenantal faithfulness’, on which the weight of Wright’s thesis rests, is too narrow to support the datum in Old Testament where God’s righteousness is also demonstrated specifically in fulfilling His punitive, non-saving promises to Israel . [28] Therefore, Mark Siefrid’s caution that the words ‘righteousness’ and ‘covenant’ are rarely used in the same context in Old Testament should be considered more seriously. [29]

John Piper offered a more plausible alternative after surveying Old Testament texts like Psalm 143 and Daniel 9: “While God’s allegiance to the covenant is a real manifestation of God’s righteousness, nevertheless the most fundamental characteristic of God’s righteousness is His allegiance to His own name… His commitment to Israel is penultimate. His commitment to maintaining the glory and honor of His name is ultimate. ” [30] It is because God’s glory should be revealed before a watching world that both His punitive justice and saving faithfulness are manifested. In Isaiah’s prediction of God’s eschatological saving acts closely related to His righteousness, the ground for Israel’s salvation is God’s passion for His own glory:

“For the sake of my name I delay my wrath and for my praise I restrain it for you, in order not to cut you off… For my own sake, for my own sake I will act, for how can (my name) be profaned? And my glory I will not give to another”. (Isaiah 48:9-11)

If the righteousness of God refers to neither distributive justice nor covenantal faithfulness but to God’s commitment to the glory of His name, how shall we exegete ? [31]

Commenting on the epistle to Galatia, Wright pointed out that the issue in Antioch was not how one may be saved, but who one is allowed to eat with? Can Gentile Christians share full table-fellowship or do they need to be marked out by circumcision as part of the covenant community? However, this proposal failed to account for Paul’s own assessment of the situation in Galatians 1:6-9. His indictment of his opponents (to the point of throwing eternal anathema) lies in their perversion of the gospel of Christ itself. The inconsistency of Jewish Christians separating themselves from Gentile believers is symptomatic of a more serious lapse in the nature of Paul’s gospel (Galatians 2:14). If the gospel is a royal announcement of Jesus as Lord, not justification by faith, why would Paul charge them of preaching another gospel that nullifies Christ’s death ? (Gal 2:21) [32]

A compelling case for viewing justification by faith as a ‘covenant-entry’ issue can be made by taking seriously the link between Abraham’s blessing and the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:14). Christ redeemed us that the blessing given to Abraham would be realized in that the nations would receive the promise of the Spirit by faith in Christ. Being declared as righteous through faith, apart from the law, (Gal 3:6) is the basis for receiving the Spirit and not least, covenant-entry into Abraham’s family (Gal 3:2, 6-7) . [33] Contra Wright, Paul’s discourse in Galatians does not merely indulge in peripheral bickering on how one is defined as a member of Abraham’s covenant community. Justification of the Gentiles by faith is nothing less than the ‘gospel’ announced in advance to Abraham so that the nations would now enter into his covenant blessings.

In response to scholars who envision justification sola fide as later ecclesiological issue, Seyoon Kim pointed out that Paul himself interpreted the Christophany as the pleasure of God “to reveal his Son in me” (the gospel) “so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles” (the commission) . [34] If Paul developed justification by faith much later during the Antioch controversies about the place of Gentiles, as Dunn suggests , [35] then the polemical context in Galatians 1 and 2 would make little sense. Here, Paul defended his law-free gospel, apostleship and the Gentile mission as having an inseparable and divine origin in the Christophany. If he came to realize justification sola fide apart from the law only much later, the argument would inevitably fall apart . [36] Luke’s account would concur that the commission Paul received from Christ to both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 1:16) is primarily salvific - “to open their eyes from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God so that they may receive forgiveness of sins ” (Acts 22:16-18). [37]

Regarding the crucial passage of Romans 3:21-31, Wright argued that God had demonstrated His covenant faithfulness when He dealt with sin in the cross and resurrection so that covenant membership is now available to both Jews and Gentiles. The boasting of Romans 3:27 is the racial boast of the Jew to Gentiles, not that of the successful moralist to God. Otherwise, it does not logically follow that Paul should retort, “Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is He not of Gentiles also? ” [38] In the covenantal context, justification means that believers are declared or defined, in the present, to be true covenant members on the basis of faith, not by circumcision or natural descent.

However, the force of Wright’s argument is blunted significantly if we take note of Paul’s ad absurdum strategy in Romans 3:29. His opponents did not historically hold the view that Yahweh is a provincial deity of the Jews only. Rather, Paul is carrying his opponents’ position to its undesirable logical conclusions. Simon Gathercole pointed out that if obedience to the Torah were God’s appointed means to justification, then He would have no concern for Gentiles who did not have access to Torah . [39] Therefore it is more likely that the boasting refers to the confidence that God would vindicate Israel before the Gentiles by virtue of Israel’s election and obedience to Torah . [40] It does not necessarily imply self-righteousness, only that Paul’s contemporaries wrongly assumed that they had fulfilled the requirements of Torah. Theirs was a failure not merely to include Gentiles in the covenant, but also a failure to know God in a salvific sense, which Paul agonized over in Romans 9. There is no distinction between those who have Torah and those who don’t because all have sinned and failed to reflect the glory of God (Romans 3:23). In Romans 1, Paul indicted mankind as having knowledge of God but failed to glorify Him as God and exchanged His glory for images of the created. The centrality of God’s glory in Christ is carried over in Romans 3:21 – 31 where God’s righteousness required vindication or demonstration because of the proposal that God had left sins committed beforehand unpunished and justified sinners freely (verse 26) . [41] In contrast, to avoid playing off justice with mercy, Wright’s interpretation exhibited no such tension evident in the text. Rather, justification of God’s community is only expected of His covenantal faithfulness. The passing over of sins committed by those who dishonored God’s glory threw a long shadow over God’s “righteousness” precisely because God’s commitment to the honor of His name is at stake. Therefore the cross as a sacrifice of atonement or propitiation for sins (verse 25) was utterly crucial in order to demonstrate that God’s honor was upheld even as He justified those who believe.

With a covenantal grid, Wright also interpreted Philippians 3:2-11 as Paul’s refusal to grasp racial covenant membership, though possessing it according to the flesh, by virtue of his birth, marked out by circumcision and being a zealous Pharisee. “Faith is the badge of covenant membership, not something someone performs as a kind of initiation test .” [42] However, it is improper to suppose that ‘gaining Christ’ is not an initiatory phase in covenant membership. To “gain Christ” and be “found in Him” (verse 9) is to assume the same positional status as “having righteousness that comes from God” through faith in Christ. The latter is not a mere marker of which the former is reality. That which Paul rejected as “loss” and “refuse” was hardly membership indicators, but the confidence in “the works of the law as the basis for man’s righteousness before God” . [43] His apparent “profit” in the past (verse 7) was antithetical “gaining Christ”. To be sure, the attempt to gain righteousness of our own works and merits was not antithetical to inclusive community boundary, but the salvific, all-surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. Paul gave a similar assessment in Romans 9:31, “But Israel, although following after the law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why not? Because it did not start from faith, but from supposed works.” While Wright is correct to point out that the text is not explicit about a “righteousness of God,” we should not see a false dichotomy here as the “righteousness from God” (alien righteousness which Paul received, not his own) does not preclude that possibility . [44]

After a sampling of crucial Pauline texts on justification by faith, I find that while the Reformation view may require refinement and clarification in light of the New Perspective challenge, its key features emerge from exegesis, not eisegesis. Instead of being a mere boundary marker, Paul viewed justification by faith as the only means of salvation from the wrath of God: “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9).


In summary, there are crucial insights to be gleaned from the New Perspective. Sanders put us all in his debt by refuting a simplistic portrait of Judaism and Dunn brought to our attention much-neglected sociological aspects of Pauline theology. N.T. Wright’s ongoing project on the centrality of the Kingship of Christ in the gospel poses a much needed correction to the popular concept of Christianity as an individualistic, otherworldly religious experience. I have come away breathless and challenged by the clarity and incisive insights with which Wright unpacked Paul’s proclamation as a rhetoric against pagan worldviews and political oppression.

However, if we are to understand the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith, we would do well to heed Westerholm’s call to return and read exegetical masters like Luther once again. The great ecumenical article of faith that once held together orthodox, pre-schism traditions in the East and West needs to be rediscovered, not abandoned, if genuine unity in the gospel is to be achieved . [45] I expect to see the Church’s historic understanding of justification by faith would be significantly refined, but vindicated, in the process of the ongoing debate for the glory of God and the good of His people. The practical pay-off should therefore be nothing less than a renewed zeal and urgency to a missionary enterprise that truly transcends racial and cultural boundaries.


[1] For Schweitzer, only two views were credible contenders for the center of Pauline theology. He argued that “Christ-mysticism” understood in the context of apocalyptic Judaism is the center of which “justification by faith” is but a peripheral apologetic for the inclusion of Gentiles into the church.

[2] In keeping with sound hermeneutical principles, presupposition and socio-historical contextual analysis methodologically precedes exegesis of the text. I have chosen to interact with Stendahl and Sanders because of their ground-breaking contribution in the respective areas. As for Wright, his exegesis on justification seems most persuasive, refreshing and influential among New Perspective scholars I’ve read.

[3] F. Thielman, A Contextual Approach: Paul and the Law, (Illinois: InterVarsity, 1994) pages 14-27.

[4] The article was first published in English in Harvard Theological Review in 1963.

[5] N.T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the real founder of Christianity? (Oxford: Lion, 1997), page 113

[6] J. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion, (London: SCM Press, 1977), page 420

[7] For example, Sanders noted that Rabbinic Judaism is not primarily other-worldly. “What must I do to be saved?” is not a prominent query for them.

[8] J. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, page 75.

[9] Building on Sanders theory, Raisanen’s Paul and the Law went even further to argue that Paul had no consistent theology of the Law at all. For an evaluation, see J. Barclay, Paul and the law: Observations on some recent debates, Themelios, vol.12, September 1986, pages 9 -11

[10] F. Thielman, A Contextual Approach: Paul and the Law, pages 35 – 37.

[11] N.T. Wright, What Did Saint Paul really said: Was Paul of Tarsus the real founder of Christianity?, page 132

[12] J. D. G. Dunn, ‘A Light to the Gentiles’ or ‘The End of the Law?’ The Significance of the Damascus Road Christophany for Paul’ in the monograph Jesus, Paul and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians, (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1990), pages 98 – 99. Quoted in S. Kim, Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), page 22

[13] See Isaiah 40 – 55, Daniel 9 and Psalm 143 for the biblical warrant.

[14] N.T. Wright, What Did Saint Paul really said: Was Paul of Tarsus the real founder of Christianity?, page 96

[15] Ibid., page 98

[16] Ibid., page 119

[17] S. Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), page 53. Kim cited the Thanksgiving Hymns of Qumran as suggesting the possibility for rigorous Jews to sometimes doubt their ability to keep the law perfectly.

[18] C. Kruse, Paul, the Law and Justification, (Leicester: Apollos, 1996), page 83.

[19] Frank Thielman, From Plight to Solution: A Jewish Framework for Understanding Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians and Romans (Leiden: Brill, 1989) page 45. Quote was from Kruse, op. cit., page 45.

[20] Kirster Stendahl, for example, is actively involved in ecumenical dialogue with Jewish scholars via the International Council of Christians and Jews. The perceived advantage of improving post-Holocaust Jewish-Christian relation may be done at the expense of silencing Paul’s exclusivistic gospel. Is it possible that in an ironic twist, the guilty conscience of post-Holocaust Europe has now been read into the text?

[21] Luther wrote, “Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised, even if heaven and earth… should be destroyed.” Quoted in Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Pub.,1998), page 62

[22] Grant Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, (Illinois: InterVarsity, 1991), page 412

[23] In Summary and Conclusions, Don Carson wrote that “Sanders is not wrong everywhere… he is wrong when he tries to establish his category is right everywhere”.

[24] T. Shreiner, The Law & Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993) pages 114 – 117.

[25] Mark A. Siefrid, The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ and Its Problems, essay drawn from Christ, Our Righteousness, published by Appolos, UK.

[26] P. F. M. Zahl, Mistakes of the New Perspective, Themelios Vol 27:1, page 7

[27] C. Hodge, Romans, (Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth, 1989), page 95. Commenting on this term in Romans 3:25-26, Hodge wrote: ‘Justice is the attribute with which the remission, or passing by, of sins without punishment, seemed to be in conflict.’ But God’s righteousness can be displayed in showing mercy as shown in Psalm 143.

[28] David Hill cited Lamentations 1:18 and Isaiah 10:22 in support for his thesis that “within the action of divine righteousness, there is a place for deliverance and condemnation, a place for salvation and for punishment”. D. Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings: Studies in the Semantics of Soteriological Terms, (Cambridge 1997), page 90

[29] M. Siefrid, The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ and Its Problems, Themelios 25.2 (2000)

[30] J. Piper, The Justification of God: An Exegetical & Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), page 112. See also God’s Passion for His Glory (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998).

[31] The implications of Piper’s thesis are more fully developed in Tom Shreiner’s “Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ.”

[32] N.T. Wright, What did Saint Paul really say?, page 126

[33] T. Shreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology. (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001), page 208

[34] S. Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel, page 57. The text was taken from Galatians 2:16.

[35] J. D. G. Dunn, “Paul and Justification by Faith” in The Road from Damascus edited by R. Longenecker, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), page 99 Quoted in Kim, Paul and the New Perspective, page 27

[36] S. Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel, pages 58 – 60.

[37] S. Kim, Paul and the New Perspective, page 49. Kim also pointed out the “problematic implication of Dunn’s minimalistic view… it makes the gospel practically irrelevant to the Jews”. A Messiah who does not save Israel is a contradiction of terms! The notion that Jews have an equally valid system of salvation in Judaism, apart from Christ, is untenable. Genuine tolerance in Jewish-Christian relation should be upheld by the doctrine that man was created in the image of God, not by downplaying the central doctrine of justification sola fide.

[38] Wright, What did Saint Paul really say?, page 129

[39] S. Gathercole, Where Is Boasting? Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul’s Response in Romans 1 – 5. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), page 232

[40] Ibid, page 226. In support of his thesis, Gathercole cited Sirach 31:5, 10 as an example from the various Jewish sources surveyed.

[41] S. Westerholm, Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith: Paul and His Recent Interpreters, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), page 160. Westerholm’s critique here may also be applied to Wright: “Although Sanders and Raisanen both concede universal sinfulness in Romans 1-3, the tenet is dismissed to the periphery of Paul’s thought.”

[42] N.T. Wright, What did Saint Paul really say?, page 125

[43] H. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1975), page 138

[44] J. Piper, Counted As Righteous, (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2002), page 84

[45] T. Oden, The Justification Reader, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pages 26 - 27


1. Dunn, J. D. G. “Paul and Justification by Faith” in The Road from Damascus edited by R. Longenecker. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997. Quoted in Kim, Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

2. Dunn, J. D. G. The Theology of Paul the Apostle. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.

3. Gathercole, Simon. Where Is Boasting? Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul’s Response in Romans 1 – 5. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

4. George, Timothy. Theology of the Reformers. Nashville: Broadman & Holman,

5. Kim, Seyoon. The Origin of Paul’s Gospel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981.

6. Kim, Seyoon. Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

7. Kruse, Colin. Paul, the Law and Justification. Leicester: Apollos, 1996.

8. Oden, Thomas. The Justification Reader. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

9. Piper, John. The Justification of God: An Exegetical & Theological Study of Romans
9:1-23. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993.

10. Piper, John. Counted Righteous In Christ. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2002.

11. Ridderbos, Herman. Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.

12. Sanders, E.P., Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion. London: SCM Press, 1977.

13. Shreiner, T. Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology. Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2001.

14. Shreiner, T. The Law & Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993.

15. Siefrid, M. A. The ‘New Perspective on Paul’ and Its Problems. Themelios 25.2, 2000.

16. Thielman, F. A Contextual Approach: Paul and the Law. Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994.

17. Westerholm, S. Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith: Paul and His Recent Interpreters. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988.

18. Wright, T. What Saint Paul really said: Was Paul of Tarsus the real founder of Christianity? Oxford: Lion Publishing, 1997.

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