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Spring 2015 · Vol. 44 No. 1 · pp. 4–15 

The New Perspective on Paul in Review

Stephen Westerholm

Like advertisements for hair restoration procedures and weight loss programs, this article will attempt to picture Pauline scholarship “before” and “after” the rise of the “New Perspective on Paul.” In this case, however, the juxtaposed pictures will not unambiguously favor the “after.”

It is wrong to see, in Paul’s doctrine of justification, an attack on a purported Jewish legalism or ethnocentrism.


The traditional understanding of “justification by faith” that is opposed or undermined by New Perspective scholars has come, in the pertinent literature, to be known as that of the “Lutheran” Paul: with some justification, to be sure, since its essential tenets were central to the thinking of the German Reformer and long dominated the work of Lutheran Pauline scholars. At the same time, it should be acknowledged that its essential features can be found long before Luther (they play a crucial role, for example, in the writings of Augustine) and that they are hardly confined to the Lutheran branch of the Reformation or to Lutheran scholarship. 1 Its essential features include the following: {5}

1. Human nature, created good, has been so corrupted by sin that human beings (“in Adam” or “in the flesh”) are incapable of God-pleasing action. They are rightly subject to God’s condemnation.

2. Sinful human beings can be found righteous (“justified”) by God only through the divine grace that is operative in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, responded to in faith, and not through deeds of their own. To those whom God “justifies” and who are now “in Christ,” God gives his Spirit, enabling them (in some measure) 2 to do what is good in his sight.

3. The Mosaic law was given, in part, to awaken in sinful human beings an awareness of their need of this divine grace.

4. Justification by grace through faith leaves human beings with nothing to boast of in God’s presence.

As all are agreed, the stimulus that led to the New Perspective came from the publication of E. P. Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion. 3 Much in Sanders’s work was original, but in several important respects the claims he made had been anticipated in earlier scholarship.

At least since Luther, Paul’s “doctrine” of justification (by grace, through faith) was widely regarded as fundamental to the apostle’s theology; indeed, for many, it represented (and represents) the essence of the Christian gospel. In the early years of the twentieth century, however, William Wrede 4 claimed that the center of Paul’s gospel was a message of the deliverance Christ brings to humanity from the dark powers that rule the present, evil age. In the course of a mission propagating this message of redemption, Paul found himself confronted by Jews and Jewish Christians who demanded that his non-Jewish converts be circumcised and take up a Jewish way of life. This, (Wrede’s) Paul realized immediately, was simply impractical, and so—for purely pragmatic reasons—he devised the notion of justification by faith to refute it. Albert Schweitzer (the Albert Schweitzer), too, argued that redemption for Paul meant deliverance from hostile angelic powers and that justification by faith was but a “subsidiary” element of his thought. For Schweitzer, the heart of Paul’s theology lay in his “mysticism”: redemption takes place when one is united with Christ through baptism, thus participating (in a real, not merely metaphoric, sense) in his death and resurrection. 5

The proposal that justification by faith was, in the mission and thinking of Paul, of quite secondary importance is disconcerting enough for many; but Krister Stendahl, in an article as influential as any in twentieth-century Pauline scholarship, 6 went further. To see Paul’s doctrine of justification as addressing the question, “How can I, a sinner, find a gracious God?”, is to read it through the lens of a modern Western concern unknown to Paul and his audience. It is in Augustine’s Confessions that we find the first great {6} testimony to the “introspective conscience” plagued by such anxieties. Luther (an Augustinian monk) took self-examination to an extreme. When Luther found in Paul’s doctrine of justification the divine answer to his troubled conscience, he was in fact giving Paul’s words a direction and significance entirely different from what the apostle intended. For Paul, the question that “justification by faith” was intended to answer was, “On what terms can Gentiles gain entrance to the people of God?” Bent on denying any suggestion that Gentiles must become Jews and keep the Jewish law, he answered, “By faith—and not by works of the (Jewish) law.”

One other aspect of the pre-Sanders era requires attention here—though this relates to our understanding of Paul only indirectly. Many biblical scholars and theologians, from at least the nineteenth century on, have found the high point of Israelite religion in the “ethical monotheism” of the prophets. The essential message of the prophets is seen as rising above the petty nationalism of earlier Israelite religion to a vision of a God whose good will extends equally to all peoples; above the centrality of the cult in Israelite religion to a vision of a God whose only concern is for the ethical lives of his creatures; above any attempt to identify the divine will with the codified (and constraining) laws and institutions of a particular community to a realization that true worship is found in the spontaneous impulses of the (individual) heart. To those imbued with these (liberal Protestant) ideals, 7 postexilic Judaism, with its programmatic separation from other peoples, its elaborate cult, and its “petty legalism” (its preoccupation with the casuistic interpretation of Mosaic law), represented an “immense retrogression.” 8

The point to be noted here is that many scholars saw in this portrayal of Second Temple Judaism the context of Paul’s doctrine of justification: against Jewish legalism (here, the attempt to gain God’s favor by scrupulous observance of the law) and the penchant, among those who so “earned” their salvation, for self-righteousness and pride, Paul brought a message of salvation by grace, without works, leaving no grounds for human boasting. Note too, however, that well before Sanders wrote his magnum opus 9 a standard counter to this caricature of Judaism had already developed among Jewish apologists and other sympathetic interpreters. Israel’s law, they insisted, was itself a gift of divine grace, designed to provide God’s people with a path to life and happiness. 10 Perfect obedience to the law was never expected: God (again, in his grace) was ever ready to forgive his people’s sins. 11 On the other hand (it was pointed out), Judaism does not share the Christian doctrine of “the fall” and the resultant Christian pessimism about human nature: there is observance of the law in the world as well as its transgression, 12 and though God’s help is essential, it is not to be “supposed that human efforts count for nothing.” 13 In short, {7} since God gave the law as Israel’s path to life, assists in its observance, and forgives the transgressions of all who repent, a rigid distinction between law (or “works”), on the one hand, and grace, on the other, inevitably misrepresents Judaism. 14 Law is not found without grace in Judaism, nor is observance of its commandments an expression of self-reliance or self-righteousness, or an excuse for boasting. 15 Yet observance of the law is insisted upon, and (it may be pointed out) failure to recognize human goodness and exclusive reliance on divine grace serve to undermine the very foundations of human morality. 16


Writings in which Judaism was portrayed positively along these lines were not few, but they made little apparent impact on (most) Pauline scholars. It was left for Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism to get their attention. Much of what he said in his depiction of Palestinian Judaism around the turn of the era reaffirmed aspects of this more sympathetic account. But Sanders went further, in effect making the traditional understanding of justification by grace a good Jewish doctrine; alternatively put, he made non-Christian Palestinian Jews appear as good Protestants a millennium and a half before Luther! This was a move the Pauline guild could hardly ignore.

In his own words, Sanders set out “to destroy the view of Rabbinic Judaism which is still prevalent in much, perhaps most, New Testament scholarship” (xii): a view that saw Judaism as a religion “of legalistic works-righteousness” (33) in which “one must earn salvation by compiling more good works (‘merits’), whether on his own or from the excess of someone else, than he has transgressions” (38). Against this view, Sanders proposed that “covenantal nomism” underlies nearly every witness we possess to the Judaism of the period “from around 200 b.c.e. to around 200 c.e.” (422–23). By “covenantal nomism,” he meant the notion that a Jew’s standing before God is secured by God’s election of Israel as his covenant people, understood as an act of divine grace; when Jews obey God’s law, they are merely responding—as they ought—to this initial act of grace (75). 17 While a Jew’s intention to obey the law is thought necessary if the relationship with God is to be maintained, it does not follow that salvation is “earned” or regarded as a reward for human achievements. Simply (and provocatively) put, the relationship between grace and works is the same in Palestinian Judaism as in the letters of Paul: “Salvation is by grace . . .; works are the condition of remaining ‘in’; but they do not earn salvation” (543, emphasis original).

Why, then, did Paul reject Judaism? Sanders found Paul’s real reason for doing so in his exclusivist soteriology: God has provided salvation in {8} Christ, so “no one may follow any other way whatsoever” (519); more provocatively put, “This is what Paul finds wrong in Judaism: it is not Christianity” (552). As a further factor, however, Sanders noted that “the salvation of the Gentiles is essential to Paul’s preaching; and with it falls the law; for, as Paul says simply, Gentiles cannot live by the law (Gal. 2.14)” (496). On a similar note, Sanders suggested that the only Jewish “boasting” to which Paul objected was that which exulted over the divine privileges granted to Israel and failed to acknowledge that God, in Christ, had opened the door of salvation to Gentiles. 18

In the subsequent debate, Sanders’s picture of Judaism proved far more influential than his understanding of Paul; 19 indeed, there was marked variation in the views of Paul put forward by scholars united in their agreement with what Sanders had said about Judaism. 20 Heikki Räisänen, for one, believing that Sanders had correctly portrayed Judaism, concluded that Paul, in opposing divine grace to Judaism’s requirement of “works,” simply distorted the faith in which he had been raised. 21 At the other extreme, some, proposing that Paul found nothing wrong with Judaism, claimed that he believed Jews had no need of Christ and his salvific work; the benefits of the latter were intended only for Gentiles. 22 But “The New Perspective on Paul” is associated, above all, with the writings of James D. G. Dunn and N. T. Wright; a summary of their views, however brief, is therefore in order. For our purposes, we will focus on their understandings of Paul’s crucial statement, “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal 2:16; cf. Rom 3:20, 22, 28).


Though accepting Sanders’s depiction of Judaism, both Dunn and Wright believe Sanders misstated (or understated) Paul’s objections to his ancestral faith. They agree with Sanders that Paul could not have opposed Jewish “legalism”—for the simple reason that Jews were not legalists: for non-Christian Jews no less than for Paul, salvation was by divine grace. 23 Paul’s target was rather Jewish “ethnocentrism.” 24 Dunn makes the point through his interpretation of Paul’s reference to the “works of the law”; Wright, through his understanding of what Paul meant with the word “justified.”

For Dunn, God’s intention from the beginning, in making a covenant with Abraham and his seed, was that divine blessing and salvation would one day be extended beyond their initial restriction to Israel and include all nations. 25 The Mosaic law, in limiting—for a time—Israel’s contact with the Gentile nations, was meant to protect the people of Israel, who were “like a child growing up in an evil world,” from the “idolatry and the lower moral standards prevalent in the Gentile world.” 26 Now that the {9} promise given to Abraham had found fulfillment in Christ, however, those limitations no longer served a purpose and were no longer to be observed. Yet Paul found himself opposed by Jewish Christians who demanded that all who would belong to the people of God, including Gentile believers in Christ, must still observe the laws that separated Jews from Gentiles (i.e., the “boundary markers” of circumcision, food and festival laws). In Paul’s terminology, these people advocated “justification by the works of the law.” In principle, the expression “works of the law” included all the law’s demands; under circumstances in which specific laws distinguishing Jews from Gentiles were the issue, however, the focus was clearly on these boundary-marking ordinances. 27 Paul’s response, the assertion of justification by faith rather than by “works of the law,” thus did not address the question how an individual may find peace with God, or whether salvation can be earned by human works—to that extent, the “Lutheran” tradition has misread the context and point of Paul’s polemic. 28 The operative question for Paul was rather on what terms Gentiles were to be admitted to the people of God, and whether particular “works” required of Israel in the Mosaic law are to be observed by all God’s people now that the Messiah has come. 29

N. T. Wright acknowledges that the normal context in which the term “justified” was used was that of the law court: the person “justified” was the one whom the court pronounced to be “in the right.” Noting (like Dunn), however, that when Paul talks (in Gal 2:16) about “not being justified by works of the law,” he is denouncing Jewish believers who refused to eat with fellow-believing Gentiles, 30 Wright concludes:

[Paul] is confronted with the question of ethnic taboos about eating together across ethnic boundaries. . . . We are forced to conclude, at least in a preliminary way, that “to be justified” here does not mean “to be granted free forgiveness of your sins,” “to come into a right relation with God” or some other near-synonym of “to be reckoned ‘in the right’ before God,” but rather, and very specifically, “to be reckoned by God to be a true member of his family, and hence with the right to share table fellowship.” 31

In sum, a number of scholars, convinced by Sanders that Jews believed “salvation” was a gift of God’s grace to his covenant people, have concluded that the target of Paul’s doctrine of justification cannot have been Jews who relied upon (and boasted about) their “works.” The true target, some have concluded, was Jewish ethnocentrism: the belief that salvation was restricted to members of the Jewish covenant, though including Gentiles who became Jews and conformed to Jewish law. {10}


By way of assessment, at least the following points, I believe, should be noted.

1. To Sanders’s Paul and Palestinian Judaism, primary credit must be given for the more sympathetic portrayals of Judaism found virtually throughout more recent Pauline scholarship.

2. To New Perspective scholars, credit must be given for drawing attention to the historical context within which Paul first articulated his doctrine of justification by faith (i.e., the debate whether Gentile believers needed to be circumcised and keep the Jewish law) and to the social implications of that doctrine (i.e., that people of all nations are united by faith in Christ, and that they must not allow other factors to disrupt that unity).

3. Krister Stendahl was wrong in denying to Paul’s first century audience a concern with finding a gracious God. Given that divine judgment figured largely in Paul’s initial proclamation, precisely such a concern must have provided significant motivation for turning, in faith, to Christ, “who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1:9–10; cf. 5:1–9; 2 Thess 1:5–10; 1 Cor 1:18; 2 Cor 2:15; 4:3, etc.). 32

4. When Paul speaks of being “justified,” he uses the word in its ordinary sense: being “declared righteous [or “in the right”]” (e.g., Rom 2:13; 1 Cor 4:4; 6:9–11). Only when this is recognized can the paradoxical force of his doctrine of justification be properly appreciated: God declares the unrighteous (the “ungodly” [Rom 4:5]; “sinners” [Rom 5:8–9]; cf. 1 Cor 6:9–11) righteous. 33 Had Paul wanted to say (in Gal 2:16) that God reckons people to be members of his family, granting them the right to share table fellowship, he would not have used the word “justified” to do so. 34

5. If Paul, in claiming that God declares sinners who believe in Jesus Christ to be righteous, denies that God does so “by works of the law” (Gal 2:16), he is saying something much more basic than that the “boundary markers” separating Jews from Gentiles need no longer be observed. 35 In fact, Paul means nothing different when he denies, a few verses later, that righteousness can come from “the law” (2:21): the issue is not the observance of particular commandments. He grants that the law promises life to those who do what it commands (3:12); but since humans do not do so, the law can only curse its transgressors (3:10, 13). It cannot provide sinners a path either to righteousness or to life (3:21–22; cf. Rom 3:20; 8:3). 36

6. It is thus wrong to see, in Paul’s doctrine of justification, an attack on a purported Jewish legalism or ethnocentrism. The point of the doctrine is simply that, since human beings (sinners all) do not meet the law’s requirement for righteousness (Rom 2:13; 10:5; Gal 3:12), God can only declare them righteous by a different kind of righteousness than that based on the {11} law and its “works”: as with Abraham, “faith is counted as righteousness” (Gal 2:16; 3:6–9; Rom 3:19–4:5, 22–25).

7. Sanders was right to emphasize that non-Christian Jews, like Paul, believed in divine grace and did not think they “earned” salvation without it. But he overstates his case in claiming that grace played the same role in Palestinian Judaism as in Pauline theology. 37 From his own insistence that, in Palestinian Judaism, “grace and works were not considered as opposed to each other in any way,” 38 it follows immediately that Paul’s insistence on exclusive reliance on divine grace apart from works (Rom 3:24; 4:4–8; 5:15, 17; 11:6; cf. Eph 2:8–10; Tit 3:5–7) cannot have been shared by non-Christian Jews. And there was an obvious reason why such an insistence, though essential to Paul’s theology, was foreign to Judaism. For Paul, the whole mindset of “the flesh” (i.e., humanity in its unredeemed condition) is one of hostility toward God; “it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:7–8; cf. 3:9–20; 6:20–21; 7:18, etc.). No doubt so radical a view of human sinfulness imposed itself on Paul in the light of the radical remedy—Messiah’s crucifixion—he believed God had provided for it (cf. Gal 2:21). Conversely, those who refused to see the Crucified One as God’s Messiah or Redeemer continued to believe that God’s law provided the path to life; again, as Sanders himself notes, “A concept of original or even universal sin is missing in most forms of Judaism.” 39 Hence, a doctrine of justification by grace, through faith, and apart from the works demanded by the law makes no sense in Judaism, but is perfectly at home in Pauline theology.


  1. In my Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), I summarize the understanding of justification found in Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley, noting the essential commonality that exists in the midst of considerable variation (3–97).
  2. In the words “in some measure,” there lies an acknowledgement of significant differences between Luther and Wesley in particular.
  3. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977.
  4. William Wrede, Paul (Lexington, KY: American Library Association Committee on Reprinting, 1962 [1908]).
  5. Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (New York: Seabury, 1931); Paul and His Interpreters (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1950).
  6. “The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West,” Harvard Theological Review 56 (1963), 199–215; reprinted in Stendahl, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 78–96.
  7. It is no doubt the case that for most of these scholars, the primary (if implicit) target was contemporary Catholicism rather than ancient Judaism. {12}
  8. For the substance of this paragraph, see my “Whence ‘The Torah’ of Second Temple Judaism,” in Peter Richardson and Stephen Westerholm, with A. I. Baumgarten, Michael Pettem and Cecilia Wassén, Law in Religious Communities in the Roman Period: The Debate over Torah and Nomos in Post-biblical Judaism and Early Christianity (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1991), 22–27.
  9. Or perhaps we should say, the first of several magna opera—though Paul and Palestinian Judaism is undoubtedly his most influential work.
  10. Cf. Claude G. Montefiore, Judaism and St. Paul (London: Max Goschen, 1914), 30–31; Jacob Z. Lauterbach, Rabbinic Essays (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1951), 268–69; George F. Moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1927), 1:491.
  11. Moore, Judaism, 1:494–95; 2:94.
  12. Montefiore, Judaism, 72; Moore, Judaism, 1:454; Martin Buber, Two Types of Faith (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951), 79–80.
  13. Montefiore, Judaism, 78; R. Travers Herford, The Pharisees (New York: Macmillan, 1924), 127, 131.
  14. H.-J. Schoeps, The Jewish-Christian Argument: A History of Theologies in Conflict (London: Faber and Faber, 1965), 40–52.
  15. Schoeps, Argument, 43.
  16. Herford, Pharisees, 126–27, 133; Lauterbach, Essays, 265–66; and Joseph Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Menorah, 1979), 379–80.
  17. The heart of Sanders’s claim that “salvation,” in Judaism as in Paul, is by divine grace, not human works, lies in this understanding of Israel’s divine election as both the basis of the Jew’s good standing before God and as an act of divine grace. Sanders also duly notes, however, that, in Judaism, God is believed to have graciously provided “means of atonement for every transgression, except the intention to reject God and his covenant” (157).
  18. E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983), 33.
  19. Like Schweitzer, Sanders deemed “participation in Christ” to be fundamental to Paul’s thought, downplaying the significance of his justification language.
  20. In “The ‘New Perspective’ at Twenty-Five” (in Justification and Variegated Nomism, ed. D. A. Carson, Peter T. O’Brien, and Mark A. Seifrid, vol. 2, The Paradoxes of Paul [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004], 1–38), I have sketched a variety of responses to Sanders’s work from the first twenty-five years after its appearance.
  21. Paul and the Law, 2nd ed. (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1987).
  22. E.g., Lloyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987); Stanley K. Stowers, A Rereading of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994). However attractive such a pluralistic approach to salvation may appear to moderns, it can hardly represent the position of Paul, for whom Jews and Gentiles faced the same dilemma (they were alike “under sin” [Rom 3:9; cf. 3:22–23]); for whom God offered redemption in Christ to both Jews {13} and Gentiles (3:22–26; cf. 3:29–30); who expressed a fervent desire for the salvation of Jews (Rom 10:1); and who claimed that his apostolic activities were directed toward that goal (Rom 11:13–14; 1 Cor 9:20–22; cf. 1:18–25). Sanders himself disagreed with the revisionists on this issue: “The crucial point is that Paul applied the entrance requirement ‘faith in Jesus Christ’ to Jews as well as to Gentiles. Even Peter and Paul, who had lived as righteous Jews, had to do something else in order to be members of the people of God; they had to have faith in Christ (Gal. 2:15f.)” (Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People, 172 [see 171–79]; cf. Terence L. Donaldson, “Jewish Christianity, Israel’s Stumbling and the Sonderweg Reading of Paul” (Journal for the Study of the New Testament 29 [2006]: 27–54); Bruce Longenecker, “On Israel’s God and God’s Israel: Assessing Supersessionism in Paul” (Journal of Theological Studies 58 [2007]: 26–44).
  23. Cf. James D. G. Dunn, “The Justice of God: A Renewed Perspective on Justification by Faith” (Journal of Theological Studies 43 [1992]: 1–22), 7–8: “Judaism is first and foremost a religion of grace. . . . Somewhat surprisingly, the picture which Sanders painted of what he called ‘covenant nomism’ is remarkably like the classic Reformation theology of works—that good works are the consequence and outworking of divine grace, not the means by which that grace is first attained. . . . The Judaism of what Sanders christened as ‘covenantal nomism’ can now be seen to preach good Protestant doctrine: that grace is always prior; that human effort is ever the response to divine initiative; that good works are the fruit and not the root of salvation.”
  24. In effect, the charge of Jewish “ethnocentrism” is borrowed (no less than that of Jewish “legalism”) from the nineteenth century criticisms of Judaism summarized above (see note 8). That the Paul of the New Perspective sounds suspiciously modern in his emphases is noted by Barry Matlock: “The susceptibility of the . . . axioms of the new perspective to analysis as arising from, or at least in keeping with, contemporary concerns makes the stance of objectivity look immediately suspect. . . . For indeed, we moderns are not typically concerned so much about sin and guilt and forgiveness as we are about notions of community, so that our theological climate is reflected here.” In “new perspective” writings, Paul at times sounds “surprisingly liberal, Western and pluralist—and that after all the warning of his distance from us (leaving us to ask once more whether Luther’s Paul comes to grief more for his failure to fit the twentieth century than the first)” (Barry Matlock, “Almost Cultural Studies? Reflections on the ‘New Perspective’ on Paul,” pages 433–59 in Biblical Studies/Cultural Studies: The Third Sheffield Colloquium, ed. J. Cheryl Exum and Stephen D. Moore [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998], here 439, 442–43). Cf. my Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013), 4.
  25. James D. G. Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1990), 197. {14}
  26. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 199.
  27. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 358.
  28. Dunn does, however, go on to affirm the essential truth found in traditional understandings of justification (Theology, 379).
  29. Dunn, Theology, 355; cf. his “Justice of God,” 4–5. The similarity between this position and that of Krister Stendahl, summarized above, should be noted.
  30. Like Dunn, Wright sees the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham as bringing an end to the boundaries that had long separated Jews from Gentiles; indeed, Wright speaks of a redefinition of “Israel” as God’s people along lines determined by grace, not race; by faith, not by the “works” (or boundary markers) of Torah. “Israel is transformed from being an ethnic people into a worldwide family” (The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991], 240). Like Dunn, he sees Paul opposed by Jews clinging to the path of “national righteousness.”
  31. N. T. Wright, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 116.
  32. Cf. my Justification, 1–22; Perspectives, 352–407. Whether or not those who did so suffered from an “introspective conscience” is quite beside the point.
  33. Remarkably, with these words Paul claims that God does precisely what Old Testament texts repeatedly insist God does not, and an earthly judge must not, do (see Exod 23:6–8; 34:7; Prov 17:15; Isa 5:23; Nah 1:3). Paul’s doctrine of justification thus raises the question whether a God who declares the unrighteous to be righteous can himself be righteous. Paul both poses the question and answers it: by providing, in Christ, atonement for sins, God shows himself to be righteous while declaring sinners righteous (cf. Rom 3:21–26).
  34. Cf. my Justification, 51–74; Perspectives, 261–96.
  35. Cf. my Justification, 75–85; Perspectives, 300–21.
  36. The argument of Galatians, then, is that sinners justified by grace through faith should not cut themselves off from grace by subjecting themselves to the law and its demands (cf. 5:3–4).
  37. Cf. my Justification, 23–34; Perspectives, 341–51.
  38. Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 297. Sanders’s claim that, since Israel’s election—an act of divine grace—was the basis of Jews’ salvation, the latter was understood to be “by grace” is undermined by his own account of the reasons given in rabbinic literature for God’s choice of Israel: in a number of such texts, God is said to have chosen “Israel because of some merit found either in the patriarchs or in the exodus generation or on the condition of future obedience” (87). No doubt such explanations were intended to meet homiletic needs; they are not statements of rabbinic doctrine. But they are also consistent with a Judaism that did not see “grace and works” as “opposed to each other in any way”—and they are utterly inconceivable in the writings of Paul, who did (cf. Rom 9:6–16; 11:5–6). {15}
  39. Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 18. Cf. 114–15: “It is important to note that the Rabbis did not have a doctrine of original sin or of the essential sinfulness of each man in the Christian sense. It is a matter of observation that all men sin. Men have, apparently, the inborn drive towards rebellion and disobedience. But this is not the same as being born in a state of sinfulness from which liberation is necessary. Sin comes only when man actually disobeys; if he were not to disobey he would not be a sinner. The possibility exists that one might not sin. Despite the tendency to disobey, man is free to obey or disobey.”

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