The Many Faces of the "New Perspective"

On his blog Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight has composed an excellent series of posts which briefly and accessibly summarize the work of the three most influential pioneers of the “New Perspective on Paul” (E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, and N.T. Wright), and also offer a number of other helpful insights regarding the coherence of the movement, terminology, theology, etc. These were particularly interesting to me, as I spent a good deal of my summer with the various works of these men while preparing and facilitating a four-week study of Paul at my home church in Louisville, Kentucky. Although it’s certainly a close call, I would reverse McKnight’s rankings of the two most important recent developments in biblical studies (he places historical Jesus studies ahead of the New Perspective, a choice which may be related to the fact that he has written at least one magisterial book on the former subject!). In my mind, the radical reassessment of ancient Judaism which followed in the New Perspective’s formidable wake, and the ways in which this reassessment can affect current Jewish-Christian relations, give it a slight edge. Dunn’s reading of Paul, in which Judaism is no longer an inherently flawed system of works-righteousness but merely the recipients of a promise which Paul desires to expand, removes much of the traditional boundary between Pauline Christianity and Second Temple Judaism and brings them closer together–a bond which offers their modern descendants a legitimate foundation for dialogue and fellowship. That’s pretty exciting to me.

If you have a few minutes, check these posts out!

(NOTE: Just after completing this post, I noticed that McKnight has now added a post which outlines some of the objections to the New Perspective. Keep checking for additional updates!)

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August 2007


© 2006-2009, Matthew Burgess. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use of the original content of this website is strictly prohibited. Quotations or citations should include a link to this website. The views and opinions given here are my own and do not represent those of the University of Virginia (or anyone else, for that matter).

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