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Paul and the Gift

, 2015
ISBN: 9780802868893

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In this book esteemed Pauline scholar John Barclay presents a strikingly fresh reading of grace in Paul’s theology, studying it in view of ancient notions of “gift” and shining new light on Paul’s relationship to Second Temple Judaism. Paul and the Gift centers on divine gift-giving, which for Paul, Barclay says, is focused and fulfilled in the gift of Christ. He offers a new appraisal of Paul’s theology of the Christ-event as gift expressed in Galatians and Romans, and he presents a nuanced and detailed discussion of the history of reception of Paul. This theologically-informed and hermeneutically-useful book shows that a respectful, though not uncritical, reading of Paul contains resources that remain important for Christians today.

Resource Experts
  • Brings a game-changing perspective into the discussion of grace in Paul’s letters
  • Examines the relationship between Paul and Second Temple Judaism
  • Discusses the concept of grace and Paul’s perspective on grace
  • The Multiple Meanings of Gift and Grace
  • Divine Gift in Second Temple Judaism
  • Galatians: The Christ-Gift and the Recalibration of Worth
  • Romans: Israel, the Gentiles, and God’s Creative Gift

Top Highlights

“A modern Western dictionary tells us that ‘gift’ means something handed over ‘gratuitously, for nothing.’1 But even the slightest knowledge of antiquity would inform us that gifts were given with strong expectations of return—indeed, precisely in order to elicit a return and thus to create or enhance social solidarity.” (Page 11)

“We should assume, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, that gifts carry expectations of a return.” (Page 23)

“It is the strategy of this book to place the relevant terms and concepts, both those of Paul and those of his fellow Jews, within the category of ‘gift.’” (Page 2)

“the gifts not only belong to people, they are invested with the personality of the donor.” (Page 15)

“2. Grace is everywhere in Second Temple Judaism but not everywhere the same.” (Page 6)

What else can possibly be said about ‘grace’ in the letters of Paul? Quite a lot, as it turns out. John Barclay reveals just how little we have grasped the multitude of ways in which grace—‘the gift’—was parsed among Paul’s contemporaries, including questions of reciprocity and the worth of recipients. The resulting bold proposal for reorienting Pauline theology is a landmark in New Testament scholarship.

Beverly Roberts Gaventa, professor of New Testament, Baylor University

We have come to expect superb work from John Barclay, but that should not lessen our appreciation when it appears! Barclay’s magisterial analysis results in a powerful and compelling new understanding of Paul’s theology of grace that cuts across traditional debates and disciplinary categorizations, remaps Paul’s location among his fellow Jews, and manages to be both historically sensitive and theologically rich. This major work should—and no doubt will—be very widely discussed.

David G. Horrell, professor of New Testament studies, University of Exeter

John Barclay is Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham, succeeding the position held by James D.G. Dunn. He is the author of Jews in the Mediterranean Diaspora, Paul and the Gift, Negotiating Diaspora: Jewish Strategies in the Roman Empire, and Colossians and Philemon, part of theT & T Clark Bible Guides Collection.


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  1. Michael Worsham
  2. Matthew Robinson
    Incredible book. It's probably one of the most important works on Paul in the last 100 years. It's also beautifully written.