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One other Huge E-book on Paul? Carry It On!

About a decade in the past, I watched a YouTube video that includes New Testomony theologian Anthony Thiselton. He was holding up one among his books (skip forward to the 7:45 mark) and speaking about how humorous it’s that he wrote a 1,500-page commentary on 1 Corinthians, which takes up about 13 pages within the Bible.

To most individuals outdoors the world of biblical research, that does appear … excessive. However what can we are saying? Biblical students like Thiselton (and me) love to present cautious and extended consideration to all the main points in Scripture.

Over the previous few a long time, the majority of that focus appears to have been directed towards the life and writings of Paul. In 1998, James D. G. Dunn revealed his large Theology of Paul the Apostle, weighing in at over 800 pages. To not be outdone, 15 years later N. T. Wright produced double the dimensions in his two-volume Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

As a lot as some may groan on the considered studying (or reviewing!) an extended guide, many consultants on Paul really relish one other alternative to revisit the thriller and genius of the primary and best Christian theologian. This describes the sense of anticipation with which I awaited a brand new examine from Douglas J. Moo, A Theology of Paul and His Letters: The Reward of the New Realm in Christ.

Basic reflections

Moo is broadly recognized for his work on Romans, articulating and defending a Reformed, evangelical interpretation for a brand new period. He has additionally written books on a variety of New Testomony matters corresponding to eschatology, creation care, the usage of the Previous Testomony within the New Testomony, regulation and gospel, sin and salvation, and women and men in household and ministry. For my part, Moo shines brightest as a author of biblical commentaries, having penned insightful research on Romans, James, 2 Peter/Jude, Colossians/Philemon, and Galatians.

A Theology of Paul and His Letters is a sort of theological textbook introducing the important thing features of Paul’s thought and weighing in on virtually all the “sizzling subject” debates it evokes. Moo’s aim is to not give intensive defenses of his personal views or prolonged critiques of opposing views, however quite to articulate his personal strategy to Paul’s theology and its implications with some crucial reflection. (A great quantity of “colour commentary” on scholarly debates occurs within the footnotes.)

The guide’s content material is advanced, however its group is simple. Partially one, Moo addresses crucial preliminary points, like methodology, influences on Paul’s thought, and the foundations of Paul’s theology (extra on that beneath). Half two affords a walkthrough of Paul’s life and Moo’s fast exposition of every of Paul’s letters. Half three, the longest part of the guide, engages Paul’s theology immediately: Christ and his gospel, the start of salvation, the issue of sin, the advantages of salvation, last eschatology, the individuals of Jesus Christ, and the way to reside out the religion within the right here and now.

Reviewing a guide like that is like reviewing the Oxford English Dictionary—there isn’t any option to discuss every part, and nobody would need that anyway. So allow me to make some normal feedback, after which I’ll hit some key matters of the guide as I see them.

My first response to studying Moo’s tome is that it’s a present to college students and students alike. His a long time of cautious examine of Paul’s letters and penetrating engagement with present scholarship have culminated on this wealthy quantity. A Theology of Paul and His Letters isn’t a response to present scholarship however a examine of Paul’s letters that occurs to converse with different fashionable interpreters. This ensures that Moo’s work will serve readers for a few years to return.

Second, the guide’s foundational ideas are nicely conceived and expressed. Moo identifies the “heart” of Paul’s theology as Christ, significantly our “union with Christ.” That is in all probability apparent however nonetheless value stating, as a result of generally students get so enthusiastic about arguing for sure theological constructs that they overlook or underemphasize the individual of Jesus and the divine-human relationship mediated by Jesus.

Thirdly, Moo introduces a (considerably) new time period to precise what he considers the “organizing idea” of Paul’s theology: “the brand new realm.” The phrase realm is a bit awkward, Moo admits, but it surely aspires to seize a number of necessary components directly: the brand new age, the remodeling gospel, the presence of the Spirit, and the “new individual” in Christ who lives out a brand new life in group, now not below the domination of sin, dying, and the anti-God powers. Moo’s “realm” language brings extra concrete imagery to basic discussions of salvation historical past and eschatology.

I additionally need to point out the tone of Moo’s guide. He’s terribly gracious in dialog with students on “the opposite facet.” I may think about a much less mature scholar feeling the temptation to attain factors by dismissing different views or making them look silly or amateurish. Moo not solely treats his critics pretty however typically quotes from and cites positively students he strongly disagrees with on some main points.

Hitting the recent matters

Beneath, I’ve pulled out six sizzling matters in Pauline research that Moo discusses in his guide, and that struck me as worthy of additional remark.

All 13 letters

When developing his theology of Paul, Moo works with all 13 letters within the New Testomony attributed to Paul’s identify. That defies the educational development of treating Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, and the pastoral epistles (1 and a couple of Timothy and Titus) as “pseudepigraphy” (written by another person). However Moo makes a powerful case that separating out these letters and dismissing them creates a lopsided Paul. Together with all 13 letters permits for a “messier” image of Paul, which helps keep away from artificially simplistic portrayals.

The brand new perspective on Paul

Moo champions core Reformational issues like justification by religion and the salvation of the person. Analyzing the so-called New Perspective on Paul, which questions the notion of first-century Judaism as a works-based faith, he admits it has challenged New Testomony students like himself to watch out about representing the Judaism(s) of Paul’s time pretty and placing Paul’s language about works, circumcision, and traditions into correct historic context.

However Moo affirms that Paul’s gospel was primarily in regards to the vertical relationship with God, not horizontal issues (like unifying Jews and Gentiles). Whereas he acknowledges that Dunn and Wright affirm Paul’s concern for the person, his vertical/horizontal distinction nonetheless strikes me as a bit limiting. In spite of everything, in Galatians, when Paul refers to how Scripture “pre-preached” the gospel to Abraham, the important thing message was “All nations can be blessed by you” (Gal. 3:8), a transparent reference to the Abrahamic blessing prolonged to the Gentiles (v. 14). That doesn’t imply Paul’s gospel was solely about unity or sociology, simply that the vertical and horizontal components are intertwined.

Believing and doing

Moo repeatedly returns to his perspective that the Legislation couldn’t save as a result of it was about “doing,” whereas Christian religion is about “believing.” Sure, Paul does distinction works of the Legislation with religion in Christ (Gal. 2:16), however is that this actually about the issue of doing? Moo offers frustratingly quick consideration to examples in Paul’s writing of perception and works going hand in hand. The apostle speaks, as an illustration, of “religion at working by love” (Gal. 5:6) and the “work of religion” (1 Thess. 1:3, NRSV).

I keep in mind the late New Testomony scholar R. T. France as soon as noting that when Jesus critiques the Pharisees (Matt. 23:23), he factors out their neglect of performing the “the extra necessary issues of the regulation—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” The verse makes a reference to pistis, a Greek phrase which means religion or loyalty, and poieō, which refers to doing. No less than in Matthew’s eyes, then, religion is one thing we do or carry out. This appears to problem Moo’s assertion that for Paul, believing “isn’t one thing that an individual ‘does’—it’s basically receptive.” Religion, after all, actually is a present from God, and we obtain grace and salvation quite than incomes them by righteous deeds. However on the identical time, we’re referred to as to reside by religion, exercising our will in methods according to that religion.

Basic identities

Moo spends time partaking the “Paul inside Judaism” students, a few of whom argue that whereas Paul’s letters are targeted on Gentiles saved by Christ, he noticed Jews as saved by the Mosaic covenant. Moo finds no proof for this interpretation, as Paul praised Christ as Lord of all, Jew and Gentile (Rom. 10:11–13). He agrees with sure students that Paul would have revered believers who most well-liked to watch Jewish traditions (Rom. 14–15). Even so, he affirms that “the church have to be a spot the place such particular [ethnic] identities take a again seat to 1’s extra elementary id as a Christian.” I believe Moo’s factors are authentic right here, although maybe overstated at occasions.

Justification and judgment

Moo spends important time and vitality on justification, explaining it as “God’s judicial resolution to think about a sinful human being to be ‘proper’ earlier than him—entailing each a declaration of innocence within the divine regulation court docket and likewise the conferral of a righteous standing.” As he explains it, though union with Christ is the middle of Paul’s theology, justification remains to be vitally necessary.

Moo insists that, for Paul, justification is “forensic” (a declaration of righteousness) quite than “transformative” (one thing that really makes the believer righteous). We ought to not “smuggle” transformation into justification, he argues. However the query I wrestle with is that this: If union with Christ is the core of Paul’s theology, and one can not assist however be modified by that relationship, how can it not immediately have an effect on Paul’s conception of justification?

One other thorny difficulty on this dialog is how justification pertains to last judgment. Believers are justified by religion in Christ, declared harmless, however Moo admits that last judgment will really study the believer’s life and the deeds carried out within the physique (Rom. 2:8–9; 1 Cor. 3:12–14). He doesn’t clarify, although, how Paul may emphasize judgment and the specter of divine wrath when justification is all however a settled matter. The one reply he affords is that justification texts, like Romans 5:9–10, take “precedence” in Paul’s writings. It’s unclear to me on what foundation that’s true. This looks like an try and resolve a rigidity in Paul’s theology that isn’t meant to be resolved, or at the very least not so simply.

Women and men within the household

Moo solely briefly touches on the subject of ladies within the household and family. With a watch on the New Testomony “family codes” (Col. 3:18; Eph. 5:22; Titus 2:5), Moo views wifely submission to the husband as a theological, and thus common, crucial. This doesn’t justify male abuse or deny that wives (like husbands) finally undergo Christ, however Moo helps a Christian model of patriarchy: “The husband, Paul suggests, has the troublesome and difficult function of being the ultimate authority within the relationship.” He appeals to passages like Ephesians 5:23 for theological assist.

To see the issue with this argument, contemplate that Paul offers the same command to slaves—encouraging them to obey their masters, even when Christ is their highest grasp. “Slaves,” he writes, “obey your human masters with concern and trembling, within the sincerity of your coronary heart, as to Christ” (Eph. 6:5, NET). It will appear troublesome to validate wives submitting to husbands on theological grounds (which Moo helps) with out additionally validating slaves submitting to human masters (which Moo rejects). As a substitute, I believe it finest to say that Paul was calling Christians to adapt, to a point, to the prevalent cultural norms of the time, as a approach of sustaining optimistic relationships with outsiders. Ideally, over time, these relational dynamics ought to be reworked by humility, love, and charm.

Simply as we’ve rethought the validity and morality of slavery, we should rethink patriarchy, and I believe Paul would acknowledge the cultural freedoms we’ve now to free slaves and girls from their respective types of bondage.

Not the final phrase

Moo titled his guide not The” Theology of Paul and His Letters, however A” Theology. He doesn’t fake he has written the final and best work on Paul. In reality, his work invitations response and engagement. It’s a specimen of considerate, mature tutorial reflection on Paul’s letters, with a view in the direction of synthesis wherever doable. Alongside the way in which, Moo is sharp and incisive in criticism, humble in spirit, balanced in (most) conclusions, and finally targeted on the center of the Apostle’s thought: new life collectively within the new realm with Jesus Christ.

Nijay Okay. Gupta is professor of New Testomony at Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois. He’s the writer of Paul and the Language of Religion.

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