“For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19). The apostle Paul’s relationship to the Law of Moses is notoriously complex and much studied. Difficulties begin with questions of definition (of the extent of Paul’s corpus and the meanings of “the law”) and are exacerbated by numerous problems of interpretation of the key texts. Major positions are entrenched, yet none of them seems to know what to do with all the pieces of the puzzle.
Brian Rosner argues that Paul undertakes a polemical re-evaluation of the Law of Moses, which involves not only its repudiation as law-covenant and its replacement by other things but also its wholehearted re-appropriation as prophecy (with reference to the gospel) and as wisdom (for Christian living). Inextricably linked to Paul’s view of the law is his teaching concerning salvation history, Israel, the church, anthropology, ethics, and eschatology. Understanding this book is critical to the study of the New Testament, because it touches on the perennial question of the relationship between the grace of God in the gift of salvation and the demand of God in the call for holy living. Misunderstanding can lead to distortions of one or both. This book is something of a breakthrough, bringing neglected evidence to the discussion and asking different questions of the material, while also building on the work of others.
Brian Rosner shows how fruitless it is to ask ‘What was Paul's attitude to the OT Law?’ without first clarifying ‘The law as what? The law functioning in what capacity?’ Answering these questions, he shows that it is not only possible but essential to take with full seriousness Paul’s negative and his positive words about the law, which otherwise seem so puzzlingly contradictory. In that way he helps us out of a particularly unnecessary and divisive argument today around issues of justification and sanctification, by taking at full biblical gospel strength both the free grace of God’s salvation and the call for holiness of life on the part of those who have received it—or what Paul probably meant by ‘the obedience of faith.’—Christopher J.H. Wright, international ministries director, Langham Partnership
One of the great frustrations of scholars is that even when they think they have made a valid and valuable point, sometimes it seems as if no one is listening. This complaint, however, could never be made against Brian Rosner and his new book on Paul and the Law. The book is in part a response to my lament that his previous work did not explicate the various ways Paul viewed the Mosaic law and the Mosaic covenant. Rosner has responded to this complaint with gusto, providing us with one of the best overall treatments of Paul and the Law I have ever seen. Unlike some treatments, Rosner does not try to oversimplify or oversynthesize the various things Paul says about the Law, but rather allows the complexity and variety of Paul’s views on the subject to shine through plainly. His insight that Paul reads the Old Testament, including the Law, as both prophecy and wisdom that is of value and help to Christians is crucial.
—Ben Witherington III, Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary
This is a fresh solution to a difficult puzzle that may sadly be overlooked by its publication in a readable-level series rather than in a technical reader-unfriendly one with a maze of references and footnotes. It fully deserves to be placed alongside such profound classics as C.H. Dodd’s According to the Scriptures, which is written in the same limpid manner.
—I. Howard Marshall, professor emeritus of New Testament, University of Aberdeen
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Brian S. Rosner is principal of Ridley Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia. He formerly taught at Moore Theological College, Macquarie University and the University of Aberdeen. He is co-author of The First Letter to the Corinthians. He is co-editor of the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology and Mending a Fractured Church: How to Seek Unity with Integrity.