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Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion [Paperback]

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Pages   627
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.54" Width: 5.51" Height: 1.34"
Weight:   1.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 1977
Publisher   Augsburg Fortress Publishers
ISBN  0800618998  
EAN  9780800618995  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
)"Perhaps the most important book on Paul to be written in this generation,"---Journal of the American Academy of Religion. Written out of an encyclopedic knowledge of Josephus, Philo, the Mishnah, Talmud, Tosefta, Mekilta, Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha, and Pseudepigrapha.

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E.P. Sanders is a Professor of Religion at Duke University.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
An interesting take on Paul and Judaism  Dec 21, 2007
I appreciate Sanders branching out from traditional thought on Paul even if I do not agree with all of his arguments. I agree that Paul's belief was one of participationist eschatology (Paul also believed the end was near): the only way to become one of the People of God was through faith in Christ ("dying to Christ") and the old covenant was no longer sufficient. I agree that Paul had a connection to Judaism but, I do not agree with Sanders keeping with the ideal that Paul was a Pharisee just because Paul says so (he doesn't provide support for this). I found his `covenantal nomism' interesting but, I would like to do some more research on the subject.
Sanders' does touch on Paul's break from the Jewish religion and his Hellenistic ideals which was helpful in the quest to understanding Paul.
A FIRST  Nov 19, 2005
This was THE book that kicked off the "New Perspective" on Paul. Actually the book is mostly about Judaism. Sander's primary point is that Judaism was NOT a legalistic works-for-salvation religion. His principal axe to grind is with Ferdinand Weber and Emil Schurer, both of whom put out books on Judaism in the early 1900s or so.

His treatment of Paul is scant but potent. He sees Paul arguing that ritual works of the law (circumcision and food laws) must not be foisted on Gentile Christians -and NOT arguing that salvation is by faith and not works.

In truth this book is really rather dry - and the average theology student will get more out of reading N.T. Wright or James D.G. Dunn, who discuss Sanders extensively, critiquing and fleshing out his positions.

But if you are a Pauline student you may simply want a copy on yout shelf!
Covenantal Nomism at its best  Sep 21, 2005
For some reason this book became a breakthrough in the late 1970s in Pauline studies. In fact, ever since the publication of this book Pauline studies has never been the same. The impact this book has made since is felt in both the academia and church. Unfortunately, the book is really biased on its use of Second Temple literature and its understanding of Paul's relationship to Second Temple Judaism. Having read most of the first section (the teachings of Second Temple/Rabbinic Judaism) and all of the second section (Paul and his teachings) Sanders portrays a very gracious view of Second Temple/Rabbinic Judaism and a very Jewish and law friendly Paul. However, after reading this book and comparing it to the critiques of this reading of Second Temple/Rabbinic Judaism and Paul's relationship to it I have to conclude that Sanders has not done his homework or that he wrote with an agenda.

Though Sanders does correct some of the negative portrayals of Judaism by many evangelical scholars since the time of the Reformation, I would have to say that he does not totally liberate ST/Rabbinic Judaism as pictured as a works-righteousness or legalistic religion. In fact, even if you read Sanders' take on the Tannaitic and DSS literature you will find that ST/Rabbinic Judaism is still to some degree works-righteous and legalistic. Even though he rightly points out that ST/Rabbinic Judaism is not pelagian or advocates a legalist God, the religion he paints is more semi-pelagian or "Romish." He acknowledges that in ST/Rabbinic Judaism that an Israelite can be kicked out of the covenant for very serious offenses and that everyone will be judged according to their deeds by the standards of the Torah. Even though God will be gracious in how he judges his people, they will still need to do their best (within the realm of the covenant and God's grace) to achieve eschatological salvation. The evangelical equivalent to this view is the view espoused (more or less) by Charles Finney, Holiness Wesleyans, Churches of Christ, Seventh-Day Adventists, United Pentecostals, and Evangelical Outreach. Sanders' attempt to liberate ST/Rabbinic Judaism as a legalistic religion is only partially successful. ST/Rabbinic Judaism even under Sanders' depiction advocates a works-righteousness salvation to some degree. It definitely did not advocate sola fide and sola gratia.

The more problematic part of the book is Sanders' take on Paul. He believes that Paul (since he was still a Jew even after his Damascus Road experience) borrowed a lot from ST/Rabbinic Judaism in regards to soteriology. In fact, Sanders states that Paul held to a "Christian" covenantal nomism (pp. 511-515). Though the new covenant is new and available to non-Jews it still holds to the basic structure of covenantal nomism found in ST/Rabbinic Judaism: one enters the covenant by grace and baptism and one stays in that covenant by obedience to the law (or the new law of Christ). A believer can be expelled from the covenant (and eventually from eschatological salvation) by heinous sin or apostasy (p. 513). Contrary to some misguided and uneducated Presbyterian and Reformed pastors (those P & R pastors who don't even know what their own confessions teach) the view of Judaism and Paul advocated in this book is contrary to the P & R tradition. For instance, in the Westminster Confession of Faith, it states in regards to justification: "God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; and although they can never fall from the state of justification, yet they may by their sins fall under God's Fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance" (XI.5). To say that the WCF promotes a type of covenantal nomism is utterly ridiculous. The confession is clear that even sin still does not forfeit the believer's righteous standing before God's judgment bar.

Another key question to ask is: if Sanders' portrayal of Paul is correct what is the point of Christ's death? Of course, Sanders does not believe that Jesus Christ is the God-man as articulated in the great Christian creeds and confessions thus he is excused from this. However, a Christian who adopts Sanders' covenantal nomism really has to struggle with the idea of what Christ accomplished on the cross. Did Christ merely open the door so that people can start working their way up to heaven? Or did Christ fully pay the price for the sins of the elect? These are questions that Christians who have adopted the New Perspective have to ask themselves.
Paul and Palestinian Judaism  Sep 14, 2005
The best book on Palestinian Judaism avaiable. Sanders is one of the best in his field. Excellent research. Presented well for all who have interest and some background.
A helpful book on Paul  Jul 18, 2003
Sanders has written a big book with lots of details. Obviously, there is still a lot of research and discussion to be done to come up with an accurate description of the patterns of religion exhibited by each form of Judaism. But at a general level, I though his case was more-or-less convincing.

Evangelicals who pick this up to read for the first time will be amazed at how little is said about Martin Luther or about traditional Protestant dogma. Sanders is aiming for specific historians of rabbinical thought. These men were not from the reformation but from liberal Protestantism, as far as I can tell from Sanders footnotes. The impression gathered from his book indicates that these people would have no real commitment to the "particularity" of the Christian religion--specifically the claim that Jesus' death and resurrection really happened in space/time history and that they even constituted the liberation of the world from sin, guilt, and death. Instead, Christianity was reduced to an abstract confidence in the benevolence of God and his willingness to forgive. To explain the divide between Christianity and Judaism, then, required that the latter be understood as an abstract need to earn God's favor by being good enough.

According to Sanders the Rabbis were massively misunderstood, even to the point of claiming that they had a doctrine of "a treasury of merits" by which people could be forgiven because of past works of superogation done by the fathers. Obviously the most superstitious forms of Medieval Roman Catholic theology were being imposed on these people.

Of course, this hardly means that the Rabbis were good Protestants in how Sanders claims they formulated their doctrine. The essentials of Protestant soteriology are, frankly, a lot more specific than a "pattern of religion" that begins with grace. (This lack of clarity is seen in the idea, expressed by some, that "The Rabbis were not pelagians." Fine. But there is still the issue of whether they understood being justified as being made righteous personally, rather than being declared righteous judicially. These issues would be of importance to conservative Evangelicals but are simply not on Sanders radar.)

Sanders discussion of Paul is a mixed bag.

First off, readers who have caught wind of the controversy might be shocked to find out that Sanders denies that Paul's soteriology fitted into the pattern of "covenantal nomism." Rather, mystical union with Christ--"participationist eschatology"--is the pattern of his religion. As has been pointed out, his analysis substantially resembles Richard Gaffin's _Resurrection & Redemption_.

Second, Sanders denies Pauline authorship to a number of the canonical books ascribed to him. This skews his entire discussion, in my opinion.

Third, Sanders claims that Saul the Pharisee had no real crisis of conscience due to some problem he perceived with the Law or with himself in regard to the Law. Rather, when he learned that God had raised up Jesus, he deduced from Jesus being sent as savior that there must have been something deficient in the law. While this is somewhat problematic, it is also a salutary response to the sort of Christless liberal Christianity that mutates it into a general principle of grace. Sanders is claiming that the particularity of Jesus dying and rising from the dead was all-important to Paul.

As part of this issue, Sanders analyzes Paul's appeal to "faith," not as a real principle that he gained from the Scriptures, but rather as an ad hoc alternative to "Law." His main argument is that Romans 3.21-31 defines faith as receiving the gratuity of salvation, whereas Romans 4.1ff and the example of Abraham show faith as an active trust in God's future promises. This is fascinating because Sanders is using traditional exegesis of a specific passage (Romans 3.21-31) to undermine traditional theology, which sees Paul as making a substantial point from Scripture with forceful argumentation. N. T. Wright has defended traditional theology by pointing out that Sanders problem is that he is being too traditional in his exegesis. The phrase translated as "faith in Jesus Christ" is actually referring to "the faith of Jesus Christ." Romans 3.21-31 is not speaking of the faith of the believer but rather about the faith of Jesus. Thus, there is no conflicting definition of the believer's faith in the two passages.

Is this a worthwhile book for an Evangelical to read? I'm not sure. I only read it because of all of the cries of alarm that have been sounding forth. If I had been allowed peace I would have stuck with N. T. Wright, who is much better than Sanders, in my opinion, in any number of ways. Right now, I think that the "discussion" (to use a flattering term) among Evangelicals is so polarized that no one has a right to make any statements about Sanders unless he has read him for himself.

Sanders does show that the historical claims of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century liberals were unfounded. He does not, in my estimation, prove that the Rabbis were orthodox Protestants in their soteriology. Nor, for that matter, does he absolutely prove that there was no merit legalism in first-century Judaism, because it is impossible to prove a universal negative. He does show that the case has not yet been made.

Many are now claiming that anyone who adopts Sanders basic position is allowing non-inspired documents to determine the meaning of Scripture. But that is not true. Even if Sanders is not convincing to some, the fact remains that there is no evidence in the New Testament that Jesus or the Apostles thought the Pharisees taught that one must earn one's salvation. If there were merit legalists in first-century Palestine, they were not important enough to elicit a response in the canonical Scriptures. In my opinion, Sanders book is helpful in confirming what we ought to already know.


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