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PHIL 3037OL God Faith And Infinity

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PHIL 3037OL God Faith And Infinity

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Course Code: PHIL3037OL
University: The University Of Adelaide

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Country: Australia

Explain the main aspects of Paul’s message of justification by faith. Which aspects of the traditional understanding of justification by faith have been criticized by the “New Perspective”? How would you evaluate this criticism?

According to the Christian theology, the term ‘Justification’ can be understood as the act of God through which the guilt and penalty of a sin is removed and on the same hand making the person who committed the sin is turned righteous through the sacrifices made by Christ. The Paul’s Doctrine of Justification of Faith Alone was considered as the main point of controversy in the Protestant Reformation at the beginning of 1500s and it has also been identified that rediscovery of this doctrine had led to reformation. The Protestant writers also believe that justification of faith was discovered by the reformers. This also means that the important principles of justification of faith explained and developed by Paul about the truth of salvation have been misunderstood or overlooked.
Another controversy is that a substantial criticism has been raised against the Pauline Doctrine of justification, mainly by the New Testament scholars, such as “E. P. Sanders, Krister Stendahl and James D. G. Dunn”. This criticism has been called as the New Perspective on Paul, which comprises of the general set of the opinions, which have gained significant support and credibility in the New Testament studies over the period of last 30 years. The new perspective have significantly criticized the Pauline theology. Therefore, this essay will discuss the what is the new perspective and what aspects of traditional understanding of justification by faith have been criticized by the New Perspective and how this criticism can be evaluated.
Paul’s Justification by Faith
The Paul’s justification by faith is based on the traditional religious belief of salvation according to which God speaks to his people through biblical writings. Justification is an important term which is not just an important Paulin concept, but also considered as a significant theme of bible. According to the studies, Paul’s ‘doctrine of justification’ emphasis on the earlier ‘doctrine’ also called as the Pre-Pauline Christians, which have also been central to the Jewish scriptures. Scholars have identified that justification in the Old Testament appears as the forensic concept, which is based on the ‘final judgement’. Paul’s justification by faith informs that people are judged on the through their deeds. Another important term that is frequently found in Paul’s doctrine is “God’s righteousness,”, which refers to the God’s creative act of salvation.
Paul’s justification by faith has also been elaborated by the reformers, such as Luther has explained that righteousness from God is attributed to the sinners through their faith alone. Justification which was mainly developed by Paul, has been an important theme in the epistles to the Romans and to the Galatians. Paul has developed justification in Romans, by stating that God wrath at sin, therefore, justification has been presented as the only solution for God’s wrath (Romans 3:21-26, Romans 5:1). Paul states that one could only be justified by their faith alone. Paul further explains sin and justification in the context of Adam and Christ. Paul explains that sin came into the world that eventually led to death was through Adam, while righteousness came through Christ, by bringing the justification unto life (Romans 5:15-17).
What is New Perspective?
The New Perspective on Paul can be considered as the set of opinions, which have gained significance over the period of last 30 years. New Perspective on Paul encompasses various theological and historical fields, such as the Second Temple Judaism, Reformation, soteriology, ecclesiology and many more. The New Perspective on Paul focuses on answering some big questions from the New Testament, which is done differently than the traditional reformation understanding. For example, one question is that the message of Paul on the grace by faith over against can work in righteousness? The reformers will answer this question as ‘yes’, while the New Perspective on Paul will answer this question as ‘no’.
Another question that could be differently answered by New Perspective on Paul and Reformers will be that the concept of imputed righteousness can be considered as biblically valid? Reformers will answer that this concept is biblically valid, while the New Perspective that is focused on ‘legislative’ religion will inform that this concept is not Biblically valid. There have been some significant and prominent figures from the New Perspective on Paul such as Don Garlington, Michael Bird, Krister Stendahl, Robert Gundry, and Bruce Longenecker. The three prominent contributors in this are E.P. Sanders, N.T. Wright and Jame D. G. Dunn.
Criticism of Paul’s Justification by Faith by New Perspective on Paul
For understanding New Perspective, it is significant to understand the Old Perspective, which is considered as the product of the Protestant scholarship (especially Lutheran) and has been significantly based on the old Jewish sources, such as Talmuds. Therefore, the old or the traditional perspective is mainly based on the monolithic religion that was specifically legalistic, devoid of grace and also significantly dominated by fear. According to the New Perspective mainly methodologically limits the Paul’s doctrine or the first century Judaism and this has been specifically limited to the earlier sources only, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Old Testament Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, Josephus. According to the New Perspective, the Second Temple of Judaism is not seen as the monolithic religion or the legalistic religion and in contrast to Paul’s doctrine, the New Perspective is seen as the grace-based religion, which also have variety of branches. The New Perspective rejects any condition or situation and any attempts that displays or portrays the Old perspective or the Paul’s Doctrine of justification on faith as the moralistic and work-based religion.
According to such views, New Perspective can sound obscure and may have an academic tone, however, the New Perspective has significantly changed Paul’s “green screen”. Paul have focused on legalistic righteousness, while the New Perspective focuses on the work-based righteousness, but the question that arises is that how Paul should be interpreted according to New Perspective. It can be answered as that Paul can be interpreted in varied ways in New Perspective, which means that there are plethora of opinions and perspectives. However, one thing which is common in all the perspectives is that they have focused on providing the new century Judaism to inform about their interpretation of Paul. The first key figure, who can be discussed for understanding the criticism of Paul is E. P. Sanders. He has been responsible for coining the term “covenant nomism” that specifically explains the nature of the Second Temple of Judaism. Works of Sanders have significantly challenged and criticised the classical reformation views about the Paul’s Doctrine of Justification. The main focus on Sanders is placed around the Second Temple Judaism.
Sanders have informed that Jews within the covenant had to focus on law in order to maintain their status. In other words, it could be understood that covenant nomism means the Jew ‘got in’ by faith and ‘stayed in’ by works. Sanders have argued that Paul became the Christian only in order to work out the plight of mankind, which is considered as opposite to Romans. However, the interpretation of Paul given by Sanders is considered as incorrect or contradictory, as he more or less eliminated the difference between Judaism and Christianity, as both of them are specifically based on covenantal nomism (“getting in” vs. “staying in”). The second key figure is J. D. G. Dunn, who coined the term “New Perspective on Paul”. Dunn has mainly attempted to correct the incoherent perspective of Sander on Paul and also focuses on providing more effective and consistent framework.
Dunn has criticised the justification on faith by Paul, by stating that Paul had attacked the nationalist and ceremonial aspects of Jewish customs. Dunn has also believed that “works of law” functioned as the “boundary maker” for the Jews and Gentiles. He has also explained the negative comment of Paul about the law in soteriological categories. In other words it could be understood that Paul has been criticised by Dunn as the Jewish Christians were mainly misusing the law, as they were forcing the Gentile Christians to obey the social barriers of Judaism. Dunn also informed that the main problem with Paul was that Gentiles were not required to observe the law to ‘stay in’ the covenant, which also means that Paul was not battling legalism, but he was battling nationalism (anti-Gentile bigotry and Jewish prejudice). Paul has been therefore, criticised as the moralistic legalism was not embedded in Paul’s doctrine. In other words, it can be said that Paul’s Doctrine of Justification was not focused on the repentance of the sinner, but it was mainly focused on including the Gentiles in the covenant.
The criticism of Paul can be evaluated from the various perspectives of the scholars in context of imputed righteousness as a biblical concept. This essay discussed and informed about what is Paul’s justification by faith and what are the different aspects on which the Paul’s justification by faith is criticised. Essay provides the perspective of Sanders and Dunn as the New Perspective, who criticised the Paul’s doctrine.

Colin G. Kruse, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition,D. A. Carson (4th ed.;Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 2 Co 5:117:4
Daniel H, Williams, “Justification by faith: a patristic doctrine,” The Journal of Ecclesiastical Historyissues 57, no. 4 (2006): 649-667.
James DG, Dunn, “Works of the Law and the Curse of the Law (Galatians 3.10–14),” New Testament Studies, issue 31, no. 4 (1985): 523-542.
James DG. Dunn, “The new perspective on Paul.” HTS Theological Studies, issue 64, no. 4 (2008): 1956-1958.
James M. Hamilton Jr., “N. T. Wright and Saul’s Moral Bootstraps: Newer Light on ‘The NewPerspective,” (Trinity Journal, 25NS 2004)
Piper, John “The Future of Justification: A Response toN.T. Wright”, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007                                    
P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977)
Nicholas Thomas, Wright, “The New Testament and the people of God”, Vol. 1. London: SPCK, 1992.
Peter, Stuhlmacher, Revisiting Paul’s Doctrine of Justification: A Challenge to the New Perspective, (InterVarsity Press, 2012).
Philip, G, Arnold, “Pauline Perspectives: A Summary and Critique of the New Perspective on Paul, ” (2015): 184-194.
Stephen, Westerholm, Perspectives old and new on Paul: the” Lutheran” Paul and his critics, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004).
Eskola, “Paul, Predestination and” Covenantal Nomism”-Re-Assessing Paul and Palestinian Judaism, ” Journal for the Study of Judaism, issue 28, no. 4 (1997): 390-412.

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