Paul: Apostle of Liberty

Paul: Apostle of Liberty

Paul: Apostle of Liberty

Paul: Apostle of Liberty


Paul's teachings are vital to the Christian gospel, so the turbulent, long-running debate over how to interpret Paul's message is crucially important. Richard Longenecker's Paul, Apostle of Liberty has long stood -- and still stands -- as a significant, constructive, evangelical study of Paul's theology, especially of the creative tension between law and liberty that runs throughout his thought.

When this book was originally published in 1964, Longenecker then presciently anticipated several subsequent debates, addressing many of the same questions that such scholars as E. P. Sanders and Richard Hays did years later. This second edition of Paul, Apostle of Liberty includes a substantial foreword by Douglas Campbell and a lengthy addendum by Longenecker discussing the major developments in Paul studies over the past fifty years.


The republication of Richard Longenecker’s Paul, Apostle of Liberty is potentially a very important moment for modern Pauline studies. in order to appreciate just why this is the case, however, it will be necessary to revisit some of the most significant recent movements within the discipline — in particular, the impact of E. P. Sanders.

The world of Pauline studies was rocked by the publication in 1977 of Sanders’s magisterial Paul and Palestinian Judaism. in that book, first and foremost, Sanders presented a description of the piety of late Second Temple Judaism in terms of what he called “covenantal nomism” — that is, religious conduct responding within a covenantal relationship with God. This “pattern of religion” as he called it — in other words, a soteriology — was exhaustively articulated in relation to the Qumran literature, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, and the writings of the rabbis. But Sanders’s thesis was a simple one, namely, that throughout this material, largely without exception, the religious pattern of covenantal nomism that emerged from the sources was a humane and humble piety.

Jews were “saved” by God’s gracious covenantal election of Israel. God’s

1. It needs to be appreciated that the following is little more than a sketch of what I take to be one or two key movements in recent Pauline scholarship, and the importance of the republication of Paul, Apostle of Liberty in light of those movements. Longenecker himself provides a considerably more comprehensive survey of modern scholarship, along with a fairly detailed journey through previous scholarly phases, in his supplementary concluding essay here. However, it is important to position his own work in relation to that history, something he understandably refrains from doing himself.

2. Subtitled A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress).

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