Friday, March 13, 2015

A Brief Review of a Short Book About a Big Deal

The next session of my New Testament Genre reading colloquium is focusing on the so-called "New Perspective" on Paul. Books to be reviewed include James D.G. Dunn's The Theology of Paul the Apostle, N.T. Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God, and Stephen Westerholm's Perspectives Old and New on Paul.

Prior to all of this, however, we have been instructed to read Kent L. Yinger's short book, The New Perspective on Paul: An Introduction. For the sake of "perspective" (yes, a cheap pun - I know), here is a picture of Yinger's book on top of Wright's two-volume PFG:

Here is my review of Yinger: It's good. Buy it and read it if you want to know what all the hubbub concerning the "new perspective" is about. There are short summaries of the views of its major proponents  (E.P. Sanders, James D.G. Dunn, and N.T. Wright), as well as short summaries of its detractors, concise treatments of the passages over which the debate turns, and a clear statement of its contributions to the way in which New Testament theology, and Pauline theology in particular, will be done in the future as a result.

Whether one might be inclined toward the new perspective or not, this slim volume is now THE entry point into the discussion and is one-stop shopping for those who want to apprise themselves of the pro and the con in a quick read. I wish there were more books like this. I especially wish there was a book like this for every topic under the heading of biblical and theological studies which people find to be somewhat hard to understand.

If even some part of the new perspective turns out to be correct, it signals a major change in Christian theology. Even though such important events are virtually unheard of among most church-going folk, perhaps a book like this could serve as a subject for study among discipleship groups. Yinger's style is easy to read - easy enough perhaps for average laypersons in most churches to wrap their minds around!

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