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Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People Paperback – June 1, 1983

4.2 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

E. P. Sanders is the Arts and Sciences Professor of Religion Emeritus at Duke University. He previously taught New Testament studies at McMaster University and at Oxford University as Dean Ireland s Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture and as fellow of The Queen s College.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fortress Press; 1st edition (June 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800618785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800618780
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,649,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Sanders eloquently describes 1st century Judaism and the relationship of the Jewish people to the Law of Moses. He explains the meaning of covenant without the usual Christian revisionism. The Jews work to fulfill the law Not to be saved, (a Christian idea), but rather because they are already beneficiaries of the covenant. Paul's problem with the Judaism of his past is not because of anything necessarily wrong with it, but simply because it is not "Christianity". A ready reference for biblical scholars and informed amateurs, this text is not an easy read, but well worth the effort.
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Format: Paperback
I didn't find his project to be as radical as many of his critics and followers think it is. More often that not, Sanders hedges his bets and only gives "tentative" proposals. Many of his conclusions will be familiar to those who have wrestled with the NPP:

1) Judaism was not a religion of works-righteousness.
2) Paul was a coherent thinker, if not an organized and systematic one.
3) The tensions in Paul's theology arise from sets of convictions: He does not view Christianity as a different religion than Judaism, yet notes that it is quite different in focusing around Jesus of Nazareth and a loosening of Torah.
3a) Paul gives numerous treatments of the Law which are not easily systematized.

Analysis:

Per 1) I disagree with him, but any answer to this question is tricky. I certainly agree that the Law God gave to his people was not intended to be works-righteousness (otherwise God is a tricksy fellow). That is an entirely different claim than saying 1st century rabbis saw it as such. I think Sanders is guilty of conflating two issues into one. I can agree with him that the average Jew didn't go around in a crude medieval Catholic fashion worrying about how many Hail Marys he said that day. On the other hand, and even the NPP project hints toward this, many did associate at least one level of salvation with who they were as Jews. Contrary to both critics and advocates of NPP, it really isn't that wide a gap between salvation based on my good works and salvation based on my ethnic identity.

Per 2) This might be tough to say, but we all think it: in one sentence what did Paul really teach about the Law? You simply cannot answer it in one sentence. In some places he says its good; others its bad.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a very informative and a delightful read, however, I did not give it five stars because of the difficulty of reading the foot notes (which are numerous) throughout the chapters. It would be an easier read and more benifical if the footnotes were linked and you could read them as you go through the text rather than at the end of the chapter. The lack of the 'link' between the reading and the end of the chapter is very frustrating.
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Sanders is recognized as one of the leading scholars of ancient Judaism and the importance of seeing that the NT writers were themselves Jews, moving in that world view. While I am always a bit unsettled at some of the presuppositions, based on what I see as flawed premises concerning the matter of inspiration, I nonetheless thoroughly enjoy the historical insights and background that Sanders provides. Sanders has "led the way" for a more proper approach to interpreting Paul.
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