No issue in contemporary Pauline studies is more contested than Paul’s view of the law. Headline proponents of the “new perspective” on Paul, such as E. P. Sanders and J. D. G. Dunn, have maintained that the Reformational readings of Paul have led to distorted understandings of first-century Judaism, of Paul, and particularly of Paul’s diagnosis of the Jewish situation under the law. Others have responded by arguing that while our understanding of Paul needs to be tuned to the clearer sounds now emanating from Jewish texts of the apostle’s day, the basic Reformational insight into Paul’s analysis of the human plight remains true to the apostle. Paul was opposing works righteousness.
Paul and the Law is a careful attempt to assault this crucial interpretive problem with a new strategy. Rather than taking a systematic, topical approach, Frank Thielman examines Paul’s view of the law in context: the context of each letter’s language and argument. While many studies have focused on Paul’s explicit statements about the law, Thielman goes further in investigating those contexts where Paul’s language is allusive and his view implied.
The result is an illuminating and significant contribution to Pauline studies. Paul and the Law clarifies our understanding of Paul’s perspective on the law in the light of his Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it reaffirms the coherence and integrity of Pauline theology as it relates to this pivotal axis of his thought.
“But it is not as though the word of God has failed” (Page 204)
“the fulfillment of the prophetic promises of Israel’s restoration” (Page 204)
“When he says that he became ‘as under the law,’ therefore, he means that he adopted certain observances that distinguished him from Gentiles and marked him off as a Jew.” (Page 104)
“Paul’s comment makes sense only if we take it to mean that even those who rely on the works of the law have not kept the law and therefore fall under the curse that the law pronounces on those who fail to keep it.” (Page 126)
“Paul believes that the Mosaic law deals out death to those who live within its power by condemning them. The death that comes at its hands, therefore, is a judicial punishment.” (Page 111)
This book reasserts Reformation concerns about Paul and the law in a manner that will be very appealing to conservative Protestants; it provides a kind of neo-Calvinist slant on the law. It does so in a fair-minded way, and quite persuasively, dealing far more cogently with the different historical contexts of the Pauline letters than is normal in books on this topic.
—Robert Jewett, professor of New Testament interpretation, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Frank Thielman’s exposition of the issues surrounding Paul’s interpretation of the Jewish law is lucid and helpful. Students should find this book a reliable guide through a thicket of formidable exegetical problems. Thielman’s method of examining the role of Paul’s statements about the law within the argument of each individual letter is an important advance in the study of this central topic in Pauline theology.
—Richard B. Hays, associate professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School
The last two decades have seen an explosion of new approaches to Paul’s theology and especially to his theology of the Old Testament and Judaism. This so-called new perspective on Paul has demanded response from various theological traditions. Frank Thielman’s book on Paul and the law is the most thorough response to these issues to date. Not everyone will agree with all of his perspectives and conclusions, but his book forms a fine starting point for further discussions of these matters.
—Douglas J. Moo, professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
Frank Thielman is a New Testament scholar and the Presbyterian professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School at Samford University. He studied at Wheaton College, the University of Cambridge, Duke University, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Thielman is a member of the prestigious Studiorum Novie Testamenti Societas and an ordained Presbyterian minister. He has written several books, including Paul and the Law: A Contextual Approach, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Ephesians, The NIV Application Commentary: Philippians, and Theology of the New Testament.