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The Theology of Paul the Apostle Perfect Paperback – May 17, 2006
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"A synthesis of great power and beauty. Every page betrays the excitement of dialoguing with Paul. . . In the creativity of its approach, the elegance of its prose, and the passion of its conviction that Paul has much to say to the modern church, it sets a new standard against which all competitors will be judged."
"Dunn does what few since Bultmann have dared to attempt, that is, to provide a full-scale, in-depth exposition of the apostle's theology. While others have been intimidated, he boldly moves forward, with appropriate modesty and grace. . . It is clear that he has made a significant contribution to Pauline studies."
Journal for the Study of the New Testament
"The work is thorough, readable, and well-informed. Among its virtues are its impressive breadth of coverage, its wealth of citation of primary literature, and its judicious interaction with secondary literature."
Religious Studies Review
"Will no doubt function as the definitive book on Paul's theology for some time to come."
Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
"No scholar since Ridderbos has tackled the apostle's theology as a whole. James Dunn has now risen to the challenge, producing a theology of Paul that will serve as a benchmark for the next generation of students and scholars."
Catholic Biblical Quarterly
"Dunn is ever provocative. . . It is hard to imagine a scholar in the English-speaking world better equipped to compose a theology of Paul. . . He brings to the task not only comprehensive knowledge of Paul, but also an encyclopedic grasp of the secondary literature and the flow of Pauline studies."
"This book is the culmination of years of thought and study on Paul, and the results are worthy of those years."
Graham N. Stanton
— King's College, London
"Surely this is James Dunn's best book so far. His magisterial, lucid exposition of Paul's thought will be welcomed warmly by scholars, teachers, and students alike. This is a work of outstanding scholarship: there is no comparable book in English."
Paul J. Achtemeier
— Union Theological Seminary in Virginia
"This book is a serious attempt by a widely informed and careful scholar to point the way to finding in Paul's theology an integrated whole, using Romans as the road map for the journey. Using the 'new perspective' on Paul to look in a fresh way at the dichotomy between faith and works of the law, and finding in the apocalyptic notion of 'already/not yet' a key concept, Dunn proposes a way of approaching Paul's theological thought that enables him to find not only theological coherence but also ethical integration. Any such attempt is bound to provoke discussion both pro and con, but it is an attempt that all who are interested in Paul's theological thought will have to take seriously. Truly 'must-reading.'' "
C. F. D. Moule
"An exceptionally fine presentation of Pauline theology — detailed yet clear, lavishly documented yet readable: a major contribution to clarification and order in this confused and controversial field of study."
D. Eduard Lohse
— University of Göttingen
"This careful exposition of the theology of Paul is a brilliant piece of biblical scholarship. In due respect to the broad international discussion, James D. G. Dunn opens new insights into Paul's way of interpreting the early Christian message. In demonstrating that the center of Paul's theology is to be found in his proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ, Dunn explains how the Apostle at the same time remained always aware of his Jewish heritage. This book will be welcomed by all theologians for a deeper interpretation of what Paul has to say in his time as well as today.' "
From the Back Cover
In this major work, James D. G. Dunn brings together more than two decades of vigorous and creative work on interpreting the letters of Paul into an integrated, full-scale study of Paul's thought.
Using Paul's letter to the Romans as the foundation for constructing a fuller exposition of Paul's whole theology, Dunn's thematic treatment clearly describes Paul's teaching on such topics as God, humankind, sin, christology, salvation, the church, and the Christian life. In the process Dunn engages in a concise way what other important scholars have said regarding each area of inquiry.
"The Theology of Paul the Apostle" represents a major contribution to the ongoing discussion regarding what Paul's theology is and what its continuing relevance is to the study and practice of religion and theology.
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Top customer reviews
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.
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.
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.