James D.G. Dunn (On Paul and the Law; Viewpoints in the ‘New Perspective on Paul’)

James D.G. Dunn – 10/27/2011


In James Dunn’s treatment of Paul, he offers a new path similar to E.P. Sanders – whom he states is the only author, in the last 20 years, to truly be worthy of having ‘broken the mould’ of past Pauline studies.  He notes his unity with Sanders, in regards to Sanders assertion that the Judaism that is historically caricatured in conventional Pauline studies is false. Dunn notes how easy it is to read Paul’s depiction of Judaism as being “coldly and calculatingly legalistic”.  That said, he moves on to Sander’s view: that the law has been given by God as a representational framework for a through which a covenantal expression was affirmed in the lives of Judaic believers.  For practioners of the Judaic tradition, the law was not as much how one got into the Judaic faith, and the covenant that went along with it – but rather, how one remained inside it.

While he does praise Sanders, Dunn criticizes him for not doing more. He argues that Sanders has been one-dimension in his critique of the Lutheran Paul, in that he only concentrates on the differences between what Paul seems to say about Judaism and what our conventional, historical understandings of Judaic religion say. Dunn argues that Sanders ultimately fails to make full use of his own innovative method.

Dunn begins his argument with Gal. 2.16. Dunn points out that the justification that is referenced here, seems to portend a future event – one not yet transpired.  Dunn goes into detail regarding the rites and traditions of Judiasm – which are understood as ‘works of law’ – as they relate to the religious identity of the Jewish believers and serve as ‘badges’ which represent God’s covenant grace. Dunn concludes by arguing that Paul is arguing for a separate identity of Covenant relation – one that comes from faith in Christ.




Total Word Count: 305


About hollerscholar

I'm a theology & philosophy student, writer, web developer, and medical laboratory professional.
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