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With these three summaries now on the table, and with some fine clarifications by others, I wish now to state what we have to do when we start talking about the “New Perspective” because I’m hearing lots of things that I think are gross distortions. Simon Gathercole’s piece in CT is a nice summary; I have only little quibbles with it but I have more than quibbles with what I sometimes hear.
There is no official “New Perspective Institution” or “NP Denomination” that filters everything through a grid to make sure it is sound. What Jimmy Dunn called “the new perspective” was a trend emerging out of the re-discovery of Jewish sources and how Paul fit into how people were re-construing Judaism. But, there is a wild diversity out there of people who have plowed their own furrow. Please avoid saying the “New Perspective” says “X.” Try to connect with a name as much as possible.
Third, when it comes to Paul, there is wide variation in Sanders, Dunn and Wright. It is unfair to say these three are the same when it comes to what they think about Paul. I’m not sure there is such a thing as “The” New Perspective on Paul. Those who say this aren’t reading the books of these authors. Sometimes they are drawing unities that don’t exist. To speak of a unified theory of Paul in a New Perspective is inaccurate. What I’m hearing today is mostly criticism of NT Wright; what is being said about Wright would not always be applicable to Dunn and Sanders. Which means, perhaps most importantly for theological debates ….
Fifth, the NPP does give rise to exegesis of Paul that, however, can lead to some major shifting in theology and, in particular, how to understand salvation. Tomorrow I will give a final consideration and I hope it will give us something to understand.