- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: IVP Academic; First Edition edition (December 14, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780830818549
- ISBN-13: 978-0830818549
- ASIN: 0830818545
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,238,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Paul & the Law: A Contextual Approach Paperback – December 14, 1995
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"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 perspecitves 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'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)
"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)
About the Author
Thielman is associate professor of divinity at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of From Plight to Solution: A Jewish Framework for Understanding Paul's View of the Law in Galatians and Romans. (Brill).
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He wrote in the Preface to this 1994 book, “An increasing number of scholars are concluding that this or that aspect of Paul’s theology, once thought important, hopelessly contradicts the rest, and a few have decided that nothing in Paul’s letters is worth salvaging… At the center of this negative evaluation of New Testament, and particularly Pauline, theology lies the recent cross-examination of Paul’s view of the Jewish law… During the past several decades… Luther’s reading of Paul’s statements about the Jewish law has come under devastating attack. The attack has concentrated on showing that Luther’s interpretation of Paul is based on a caricature of the place of the law in Judaism… If this is true, they have asked, then what did Paul mean by his famous statement that salvation comes by faith and not by works of the Jewish law? … Paul’s statements about the law, they claim, are simply too peculiar and inconsistent to be part of a carefully worked out theology.
“The following pages argue that this final question CAN receive a positive answer if we follow three methodological procedures. First, we should examine Paul’s view of the law nor only topically or systematically but also within the context of each letter… Second, we should give as much attention to those letters in which the law is not a bone of contention as to those in which it is, and as much attention to Paul’s allusive references to the law as to his explicit statements… Third, we should pay careful attention both to our own theological context and to the wider cultural contexts in which Paul’s understanding of the law took shape… The first two chapters of this study, therefore, are devoted to sorting out the theological climate in which we interpret Paul’s view of the law and to understanding the theological climate in which Paul’s view took shape.” (Pg. 9-11)
He notes, “although [in 1 Thessaonians Paul] was writing to a group composed almost entirely of converts from pagan religions, Paul chose to emphasize the continuity between believers in Jesus Christ, whatever their previous background, and the people of God as they are defined in the Mosaic law.” (Pg. 72) Later, he adds, “Paul implies that the Corinthian community, although composed primarily of uncircumcised Gentiles, is the eschatologically restored people of God described by the biblical prophets… Paul has not simply transferred the Jewish law to the church, however, for in his mind the boundaries that mark out the holiness of the restored people of God are not identical to the boundaries laid out in the Mosaic law.” (Pg. 86-87) He continues, “The newly constituted people of God is not … ‘Israel’ in an unqualified sense. It stands in continuity with ancient Israel and can be described in terms formerly applied to Israel, but it is itself a new entity.” (Pg. 89)
He summarizes, “it is clear that Paul assumes the shape of the Corinthians’ faith should roughly duplicate the shape of the Israelite religion as it is described in the Mosaic law… Nevertheless, Paul’s significant departures from the Mosaic law demonstrate that he did not envision a renewal of the Mosaic covenant in the period of restoration.” (Pg. 98-99)
He explains, “The pattern of sanctity in the communities of the new covenant remains similar to the pattern of sanctity in the old: believers are to remain separate from the ‘Gentiles’ and to expel those to flagrantly violate the holiness of the community… Since the new community is not a reestablishment of the old, however, many differences exist between the two communities defined by the two covenants. If the Corinthian believers are not Gentiles, neither are they Jews but ‘the church of God.’… The law empowered sin and resulted in the death of God’s people, and so a new covenant, established by another ritual of blood---the blood of the Messiah---was required. No longer the Mosaic covenant but this new covenant---‘the law of Christ’---is not ‘the law of God.’” (Pg. 118)
He states, “the law of the eschatological era turns out in Paul’s understanding to be different from the law of Moses. Aspects of Moses’ law… are absorbed into this new law, but the covenant that God made with Moses at Mount Sinai is considered obsolete, and in its place Paul has substituted ‘the law of Christ.’ This new law contains none of the parts of the Mosaic law that both Jews and Gentiles of Paul’s time considered most distinctly Jewish, and its contents are articulated only in the board language of love and burden-bearing.” (Pg. 142)
He argues, “Everyone from uncircumcised Gentile to revered patriarch, Paul argues, is ‘ungodly,’ and this justification can come only as a gift and only by faith. This does not mean that Paul assigned to Judaism generally a doctrine of salvation by works… ‘The law of faith,’ moreover, marks out a new people of god, whose distinguishing feature is not circumcision but faith in Jesus Christ, and which can therefore include Gentiles as well as Jews. As a result, God’s promise to make Abraham the father of many nations has been fulfilled, for Abraham serves as the father not only of Jewish believers but also of Gentile believers who… believe in God and are justified.” (Pg. 188)
He summarizes, “The era of the Mosaic law, then, has come to an end. With its end has come the end of sin’s domination over the believer’s life. Gone too are circumcision, sabbath observance and dietary regulations as boundary markers for the people of the covenant. The law and these boundary markers have been replaced with the ‘law of faith’ and a sanctity defined by ‘the pattern of teaching’ handed down to believers in the gospel. This new order has absorbed elements of the Mosaic law and so has some continuity with it, but the Sinaitic covenant as the sign of the election of God’s people and as the definitive guide to their sanctity has come to an end.” (Pg. 213)
He concludes, “then what advantage did the gospel have over the Mosaic law from Paul’s perspective, and why would any Jew believe the gospel? This study has answered this question by arguing that most Jews of Paul’s time believed that they lived under the covenant’s curses… Israel was subject to foreign domination and scattered among the nations because they transgressed the law… The principle that justification could not come through works of the law therefore was not only an acknowledgement that grace is antecedent to obedience but also a sober reminder that the law had not been kept and Israel had suffered God’s wrath as a result.” (Pg. 241-242)
This complex and detailed study may interest those seriously studying Pauline theology of the Law, and related topics.
No doubt they were chosen and they had the Law but, because of their attitude and actions, they gave a bad impression about the Law God gave them at Mount Sinai. Christians, however, by looking into the lives of the same Jews in Jesus' time may arrive to the wrong/distorted conclusion that the Law was evil, unnecessary, and totally irrelevant to the New Covenant that Jesus inaugurated through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. This is far from the truth for stated that "We know that the law is good when used correctly." So the Law has a place in Christianity and it is relevant to Christian's understanding of it and of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.
In his book, "Paul & the Law", author Frank Thielman takes a meticulous exegetical quest into, and a contextual approach to, Paul's view on the Law. In the back cover of the book there is a statement that goes as follows: "No issue in contemporary Pauline studies is more contested than Paul's view of the law." This statement is really an understatement because the negative view Christians have, or have had, on the Law has caused incongruent conclusions because steps into proper biblical interpretation have not been taken. Paul, no doubt is not a novice in the interpretation of Scripture but a well-prepared expositor with great theological and doctrinal background that was also coupled with the revelation of the living Christ. How Paul addresses or views the Law is a matter of being wise and tactful. He uses the Law according to the issues encountered or as a preventive measure in the churches he has planted or has helped built. Reading this book has caused me to shift my negative view of the Law and see the Law as something, though obsolete under the New Covenant, necessary, revealing, intriguing, and important in understanding the concept of living under the New Covenant.
Paul, soaked in his knowledge of Scripture and seeing through the eyes of Christ, sees now that all the promises God made under the Old Covenant have come to pass in Jesus Christ. Abraham, for example, the father of many nations and a great patriarch for the Jews, was called by God while he was uncircumcised but was circumcised as a mark of God's covenant with him. Now Christians, have been circumcised but not with a physical circumcision but by having a circumcised heart. God promised that one day He will replace the stony hearts of His people with a heart of flesh and that He will put His Law on their minds and write it in their hearts instead of the stone tablets as in Mount Sinai when He gave the Law to Moses. Paul sees the fulfillment of these promises in those who, by faith in Christ, have received the Spirit of God who searches all things; even the deep things of God. What Paul is doing with the Law is using it to his advantage in order to propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles. Even in his view of the Law, and according to the way author Frank Thielman presented Paul's view of the Law, Paul sees that there is a new chosen generation; the new people of God. I believe that Paul is seeing both Jews and Gentiles under the New Covenant as the Israel of God in contrast to the God of Israel, which was a chosen people settled in a geographical place and separated from other nations because of the precepts and ordinances of the Law of Moses. Paul addresses his churches as the new people of God who are called to be holy, separated from the world system they now live in. I believe that Mr. Thielman did an excellent exegetical study of Paul's view of the Law. He took many of the diverse opinions and interpretation and dealt with them by letting Scripture, with the help of the Holy Spirit, interpret Scripture.
This makes for a great reference book to get information about each passate were Paul mentions the law. Especially in how there are paralells to the prophets. I'd not read any writtings that did this to any where near this extent before.
My view is that the guiding princible for fulfilling the law in the NT is loving God and loving people. I'd love to read a book dealing with not being under the law but under grace that enables us to love people with an emphesis on the freedom we have in Christ. Since I've not found this idea developed very fully, I'm plugging along myself.