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on February 17, 2000
This is a wonderful summary of Paul's theology written by a prominent New Testament scholar. I have been waiting for a recent book on Paul's theology that combines solid content with readability and clarity. I finally found it in this book! Dunn embraces the "new perspective" on Pauline studies on the gospel and the law. Nevertheless, a traditionalist would still find Dunn's views thought-provoking. I also like this book because it is so user-friendly and well-organized. Dunn organizes each chapter by topics (e.g. "God and humankind," "the gospel of Christ," " the process of salvation," etc.) and it is easy to follow. I highly recommend this book to layreaders, serious students, and scholars alike. It is a must for those who wish to read and understand more about Pauline theology!
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on February 19, 2007
The depth of scholarship in this work is stunning - Dunn is a master of his field. But the true value of this work lies in its closeness to the text - it will have you diving for Paul's letters again and again. His systematic approach is well conceived and structured; he is careful never to over-conclude or run ahead with an argument: this work is clearly the product of careful laboring over the texts, with secondary sources used purely as aids, not drivers of discussion.

From the start his insights are profound, such as his observation that for Paul, 'sarx' (flesh) is very much an ethnic designation, and it is never directly blamed as a source for sin in Romans 7. The book leaves room for as much agreement or disagreement as you care to share - merely engaging with Dunn's arguments and analysis is the most rewarding exercise for truly encountering Paul that I have ever come across. I have never come across a book so erudite at reading between the lines of Paul, and investigating his unstated assumptions about God and humanity.

Take up this magisterial work - but keep your Bible, and preferably a notebook, close at hand: this is no mere rehearsal of the standard debates about Paul, but an earnest and scholarly attempt to make sense of a grand tapestry - an attempt which respects the fact that Paul wrote with a genius that has stupefied two millenia of great minds.
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on February 10, 2005
I think this is a truly exceptional work, from which I have gathered many valuable insights. I feel that it has been a valuable addition to my collection and well worth the money. Dunn presents a scholarly, detailed (and theologically unbiased) study into the writings of Paul.

He is able to tie up a lot of "loose ends", and make many theological connections which might be elusive to the average bible-reader (like me), revealing what he sees as a stable foundation of Paul's theology. It is well organized and annotated, making for easy topical study.

Just note that this is not an orthodox Christian book, although Dunn always treats the Scriptures and the subject matter with a great deal of care and respect.
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on February 17, 2000
This is a wonderful summary of Paul's theology from a prominent New Testament scholar on Pauline studies. I've always wanted a recent work on Paul's theology that combines detailed, informative content with clarity. I have found it in this book. It packs a lot of information and yet it is clearly written and understandable for the lay reader, seminary student, and scholar alike.
Incidentally, Dunn embraces the "new perspective" on Paul and the Law. However, a traditionalist in Pauline studies will find Dunn's views thought-provoking.
I also liked this book because it is very user-friendly. The chapters are organized by topics ("Prologue," "God and Humankind" "The Gospel of Jesus Christ" " The Process of Salvation" etc.) and it is very easy to follow. The reader will also be impressed with the extensive bibliography that Dunn includes at the very beginning. For any student and reader who desires to understand Paul's theology, this book by Dunn is a must! I highly recommend it.
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on November 21, 2007
This is the standard introduction to Paul's theology. Using the template of Romans, Dunn lays out clearly Paul's theology from the rest of his letters in a way that makes for ease of reference. His clear writing style makes this book commendable to college-age students, but his profundity makes it valuable to the most experienced scholar.

This work has some rather stunning insights. For instance, Dunn's thesis that the invitation for those who are in Christ to die Christ's death rather than Adam's clarifies and encapsulates Paul's thought on one of the biggest questions any religion is called upon to answer. That is Dunn at his best, so far in the book as I have gotten.

Dunn is the man who coined the phrase "The New Perspective on Paul" so obviously his work is sympathetic to what may more appropriately be termed a new perspective on Judaism. Thus, those among us who admire reformation theology will have a few axes to grind with this work. But I am yet to find a topic in which he is as unfair to those with whom he disagrees as they are as a rule to him and his views.

Unlike his contemporary N.T. Wright he does not see the "story" of Israel as the overarching category for interpretation, so his work is a bit more atomistic and less likely to find a totally unified theological construction. But unlike some others, he does not see contradiction everywhere he looks in Paul's writing. He accomplishes this admirable feat by not confusing Paul's metaphors with irreducible truth.

This is one of the few books that I have purchased that I wish I had in hardback (or better yet on my computer). I expect to wear at least one copy out in the course of completing my doctoral dissertation.
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on February 1, 2003
Do not let the size of this volume intimidate you. Dunn's work is extensive, and yet friendly to the newer Bible student and the experienced scholar alike. Rather than a commentary of all the letters, Dunn has painstakenly reconstructed for us the mind of the "renegade" rabbi from Tarsus by logically compliling the various topics Paul dealt with.
One small point of interest I personally was glad to see was his explaination of the "corporate" church and sheds light on the overly debated predestination issues of the Calvinist and Arminians, which I think both camps miss the whole point of what "election" means. But Mr. Dunn does not spend a lot of time arguing with other scholars, which is also refreshing.
I plan on buying more of his work based on this book.
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on October 30, 2012
If one needs to get a good summary of Paul's theological thought, here is the one book which could be the very good choice. However, I considered long whether it is justified to give five stars. That's because some points in the book didn't convince me. The greatest flaw, I think, is Christology. It's not because I would be a "traditionalist". Dunn's argument seems just to strike against the meaning of biblical verses and my reason. He claims that, yes, Paul had the idea of preexistence of Christ, but he interprets this so that the preexistent Wisdom worked in Christ and so personally Jesus wasn't preexistent. Of course, there is some points here. Maybe Paul didn't think that the human person Jesus didn't exist before the birth of Jesus (it seems that the impossibility of this is what Dunn reads to the thoughts of Paul). Also, the good idea is to connect Wisdom and Christ. As always, Dunn strives also to present good argumentation for this idea. However, I think that this idea rather makes things more complicated. It seems that one tries to escape the most probable interpretation of Pauline passages, because he assumes claims like "surely Paul the Jew couldn't have the idea that Christ was somehow preexistent". But that doesn't make sense to me. Surely the emphasis on Jewish roots of Paul's thoughts is one of benefits of book, but that doesn't mean that one should read his assumptions to Paul. His idea of Christ was surely different than that in the gospel of John, there was more idea of subordination, but Dunn doesn't remark (I dare to say) that it isn't so easy to say that Christ as historical person is Wisdom (law as personification or imaginary metaphor about Wisdom as woman etc. are different things) . If you think that Christ as person is Wisdom, then it's difficult to evade the idea that somehow he - and not only Wisdom - was preexistent. Somehow his person was connected to Wisdom even before creation. Some other points can be questionable, too. One advantage in the book is, however, that Dunn takes the modest view at least in the end of his book and understands it as dialogue. Some of his ideas can be historically wrong, and then they should be rejected. But one can still grow through dialogue.

Having said that, there are very good reasons why I didn't give just four stars. Namely, the book has considerable good points. It isn't only very comprehensive with over 700 pages. Often Dunn writes in a way which encourages one to ask questions and read more. It's always a good sign when you almost can't leave theological book away but want to read the whole story to the end. Generally speaking, Dunn argues convincingly and profoundly, and although some of his ideas may seem to be not traditional, they can help one to find new aspects in the theology of Paul.

But, honestly speaking, one shouldn't call the book necessarily an unorthodox one. Leave the question of Christology without consideration, and there aren't much more problematic material for the main message of Christianity. Sure, of course Dunn doesn't follow traditional ideas always, but that is hardly problem for orthodoxy. If we emphasize the Jewish dimension in Paul's thought more and think that he had positive idea of law, that is hardly problem. In fact, Jesus respected highly law, so Dunn's book turns out to support the consistency of New Testament. Some Protestants could whine that Dunn seems to reject the idea of salvation by faith alone. As Lutheran, I don't think so. He explicitly says that Paul thought that one is saved by grace alone. However, Paul saw salvation with many dimensions, so that it wasn't only the moment when you are seen as justified but also the process of salvification and the eschatological judgment, when even believing people can face punishment because of their bad deeds even though they would be saved thanks to grace. Yes, the reason for Paul to "find" the idea of justification was that Jews had no privileges anymore compared with Gentiles. But at the same time, he was led to claim the idea about salvation solely by faith, and later generations then did no unjustice to him when they talked more about general attempt to save oneself by one's works. You can take both aspects; it isn't either-or but both-and.

These ideas already should explain why I considered Dunn's argumentation mostly very good. They made much sense both to the Bible and to reason. In fact, they developed my theological thought a lot. One additional good point in book, too, is that although Dunn skillfully avoids reading modern issues to the time of Paul, he remarks if some of his ideas have meaning for issues of our time. That's always the sign that exegete doesn't live in vacuum but wants that his argumentation will help one to understand God, His word, and theology more fully. To conclude, as one specific point, I deeply recommend one to check book if those commands for women to be silent in church have troubled your mind. Dunn's explanation is the best I have so far encountered. He argues that that passage in 1.Cor. 14 rejects only that wives would assess the prophecies of their husbands in congregation, because that would have been great shame for men in patriarchal culture. That would explain both why Paul said something like that when he generally even encouraged women to speak and had even female assistants, and why that command is told in the context of prophesying.
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VINE VOICEon December 17, 2008
This is an amazing study of Paul's theology that exceeds the bar of scholarship and applicable insights. Dunn has poured into this book an abundance of research that is conveyed in simple, explainable terms so that this book is helpful for academic research and the layperson who wants to better understand Biblical theology or investigate specific topics. The book is well organized so that readers can easily track down particular subjects. It is also so well-done that one can also find him or herself reading it through. This is a book that I recommend every serious Christian adds to the shelf.
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on September 5, 2010
This is the most complete and thought provoking study of St. Paul, his Theology, and the Theos that shaped him I have found. It is written in a manner that can be followed from point to point, which is no small task considering the depth and breadth of the subject. I would recommend it to any student of the New Testament.
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on February 24, 2006
This a great scholarly work. It addresses the historical societal conditions of the time of writing, and addresses Pauline metaphors in their original context. Perccieved contradictions reconciled. A great help.
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