Paul and the Mosaic Law: The Third Durham-Tubingen Research Symposium on Earliest Christianity and Judaism (Durham, September, 1994)

By Schreiner, Thomas R. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 1999 | Go to article overview
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Paul and the Mosaic Law: The Third Durham-Tubingen Research Symposium on Earliest Christianity and Judaism (Durham, September, 1994)


Schreiner, Thomas R., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Paul and the Mosaic Law: The Third Durham-Tubingen Research Symposium on Earliest Christianity and Judaism (Durham, September, 1994). Edited by James D. G. Dunn. WUNT 89. Tibingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1996, xi + 368 pp., DM 248.

Perhaps the most contentious issue in contemporary Pauline research is Paul's understanding of the law. This work contains a series of essays presented and discussed in Durham, England on September 19-23, 1994. The lineup of scholars who participated is truly impressive and a wide variety of subjects is tackled. The work commences with an introduction by Dunn. Hermann Lichtenberger briefly describes the Jewish view of the Torah during Paul's day, and Martin Hengel explores Paul's understanding of the law from his conversion until his arrival in Antioch. Jan Lambrecht and Bruce Longenecker suggest alternate interpretations of Gal 2:15-21, while Graham Stanton tackles the law of Moses and Christ in Gal 3:1-6:2. The letter and spirit in 2 Corinthians 3 is examined by Karl Kertelge. N. T. Wright presents Paul's view of the law in Romans 2, and Richard Hays studies Romans 3-4. The contrast between Adam and Christ is carefully interpreted by Otfried Hofius, and the hermeneutical contribution of Romans 7 is sketched in by Hans Hubner. Stephen Westerholm sets forth Paul's view of the law in Romans 9-11. Heikki Raisanen responds to Westerholm, and Westerholm in turn reacts to Raisanen's critique. Peter Tomson helps us think about Paul's Jewish background in 1 Corinthians 7, and Stephen Barton ponders the sociological impact of 1 Cor 9:19-23. John Barclay reflects on the contribution of Rom 14:1-15:6 for understanding Paul's view of the law, and Dunn concludes the work with an essay titled "In Search of Common Ground." A useful bibliography of works composed on the law between 1980-1994 is also included.

The essays are of high quality throughout. In a short review I can only mention a few that piqued my interest. Graham Stanton in his essay on Galatians 3-6 reminds us that the letter was experienced primarily at the oral level. This methodological observation prevents us from "over-reading" the letter, for the main theme-the opposition between faith and the law-is clear when one reads the letter as a whole. Stanton also provocatively contrasts and compares Galatians with Justin's Dialogue with Trypho. This comparison provides an entree into the exegesis of Galatians 3-6 as a whole, an exegesis that is level-headed and stimulating.

One of the most interesting and creative writes on the scene today is N. T. Wright, and his essay on Romans 2 does not disappoint. He rightly argues that the chapter must be interpreted in light of the OT witness. Thus, the Jewish failure to keep the law testifies that Israel is still in exile because of its sin and that the covenantal promises given to Israel were not yet fulfilled in the nation. Conversely, the doing of the law by the Gentiles indicates that the covenantal promises given to the Gentiles are becoming a reality. I find Wright's contention that the keeping of the law by Gentile Christians relates to "status" less convincing. The Ezekiel 36 text, which informs Romans 2, teaches that those who have the Spirit will keep God's low (Ezek 36:26-27). Wright's exegesis also introduces a strange disjunction into the chapter, for on his reading the Jews are indicted for transgressing God's law, whereas the Gentiles are praised not because they keep God's law or because their lives are transformed but because they have a new status. It must be asked what evidence exists for the new status of Gentiles. After all, Jews also claimed to have a righteous relationship with God, but Paul argues that their behavior falsifies the claim. Conversely, he maintains that the changed behavior of the Gentiles testifies to their new status before God.

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