Paul, a New Covenant Jew: Rethinking Pauline Theology

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Paul Caneparo | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Feb 15 2021 10:41 AM

I really can't decide whether to buy this book, which is on sale this month. I can't find many reviews. Has anyone read it and found it beneficial? It seems to address the Old and New Perspectives to some extent. Does it side more with one side or a hybrid viewpoint?

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Lane McKay | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 15 2021 11:24 AM

Hey Paul,

Amazon has several reviews on this book. See link below. Customer reviews: Paul, a New Covenant Jew: Rethinking Pauline Theology 


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Paul Caneparo | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 15 2021 1:28 PM

Thanks all. I was particularly interested in views of those who had read it themselves.

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Beloved Amodeo | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 15 2021 3:34 PM

Paul Caneparo:

Thanks all. I was particularly interested in views of those who had read it themselves.

First, Paul thanks for bringing this resource to my attention. I immediately bought it. The price and subject were chief in driving my decision. Upon inspection, I noted the structure to be interesting, the contributors to be impressive and the Conclusion to be well conceived. The fact that it was ecumenical was also in its favor. I present the contents and conclusion for your inspection. 


Paul’s Gospel of Divine Sonship

In this volume we have attempted to offer an analysis of Paul’s theology in light of contemporary scholarship. In particular, we have argued that Paul’s view is informed by a conviction that the apocalyptic new covenant has arrived in Jesus, the one Paul recognizes as the messiah of Israel. Specifically, Paul views himself as one of the “ministers of the new covenant” (2 Cor 3:6), a notion shaped by Jeremiah 31. This specific feature of the apostle’s thought illuminates various aspects of his theology and helps to reinforce the explicitly Jewish shape of his message. Paul is both an apostle to the gentiles and yet also concerned with the salvation of “all Israel” (Rom 11:26). He views hopes for the restoration of Israel as fulfilled in the inclusion of the nations in the one new covenant people of God. Consistent with his new covenant ministry, he claims that the law is “spiritual” (Rom 7:14) while also holding that it brought “death” (Rom 7:10) because it was unable of itself to produce obedience of itself. In this, Paul’s message was shaped by the scriptures of Israel, which recognized that divine heart surgery and the pouring out of the Spirit would be necessary for the law to be fulfilled in obedience (cf., e.g., Ezek 36:26–27). As Jeremiah announced, the law would need to be written on the people’s hearts (Jer 31:33). This power had arrived in Christ’s gift (grace) and was poured out in believers’ hearts through the Spirit.

At the center of Paul’s theology is his view of Jesus. For Paul, Jesus is the messiah, the “Christ,” the Son of David (cf. Rom 1:3). In addition, Paul’s Christology is informed by Jewish apocalyptic traditions, which looked forward to the revelation of a heavenly deliverer. Moreover, faithful to common Jewish expectations, Paul believes that the restoration of God’s people would occur only through a period of tribulation. In keeping with other Jewish perspectives, the suffering of the righteous could even be seen to effect atonement for sin in a way analogous to Israel’s sacrificial worship.

Yet it would be wrong to insist that Paul’s theology was merely predetermined by preconceived expectations he held before coming to faith in Christ. For Paul, the coming of Christ not only fulfilled Jewish hopes but it did so in ways that confounded expectations. For one thing, Paul tells us that the notion of a crucified messiah represented a stumbling block to Jews (1 Cor 1:23). Despite the fact that Jewish thought often linked the restoration of Israel to a period of tribulation, the revelation of the cross constituted a scandal to Jewish audiences. Nevertheless, for the apostle Christ’s act of giving himself in love was not only to be accepted, it also represented a new revelation about the very identity of God himself. Paul’s Christology was not simply predetermined by his first-century Judaism. Rather, he believed the revelation of God in Christ was so momentous that it even shed new light on the mystery of YHWH’s identity as the one Lord. For Paul, Christ is Lord and therefore “Son of God” in an utterly unique way.

Given this identity, Jesus’s act of self-offering involved a sacrifice that went beyond anything that could have been made in the Jerusalem temple. Because of his righteous act of obedience, the dominion of sin and death established with Adam has ended, and all can live through the gift of grace (Rom 5:12–21). This grace is inseparably connected to Christ’s gift of self and, indeed, involves nothing less than a sharing in the life of the divine Son, which empowers believers to act in faithful obedience as he did (e.g., Phil 2:8, 12–13). In dying, Christ creates the conditions of possibility for the in-breaking of a new age, the new creation, which dawns with his resurrection from the dead. Through his risen life Christ draws the members of the new covenant into his very life of divine sonship.

Moreover, through the work of his Spirit, the risen Lord conforms the members of the new covenant people of God to himself, in particular in justification, bringing about the cardiac righteousness of the new covenant. As Jeremiah announced, in the new covenant God solves the problem of unrighteousness (adikia) (Jer 31:34 [LXX Jer 38:34]). God reveals his faithfulness and righteousness in causing his people to act faithfully and righteously by his Spirit, through which he writes his law on human hearts. Furthermore, this cardiac righteousness is realized through baptism, wherein believers die and rise with Christ and are thereby conformed to his death and resurrection (Rom 6:1–4), such that justification can be rightly defined as conformity to the character of Christ (cf. Rom 8:29). Furthermore, it is through the “table of the Lord” (1 Cor 10:21) that both Jew and gentile are united and drawn into a real participation with Christ as members of his body. Through participating in the sacrifice of the new covenant, the eucharistic table of the Lord conforms the members of the new covenant to his heavenly life by conforming them to himself.

What can we conclude from all of this? We would suggest that Paul was a minister of the new covenant and his gospel is best understood as the gospel of divine sonship. This serves not only to bring together the various dimensions of Paul’s message into a coherent whole but also makes perfect sense given the ancient understanding of the nature of covenants. As we explained above, according to that view, covenant-making was viewed as creating kinship bonds. The message that Paul proclaims is that in the new covenant both Jews and gentiles are invited to become the sons and daughters of God in Christ.

Still, we have to be very clear about the proper order of the gospel of divine sonship. First and foremost, Paul’s gospel of divine sonship is about Christ the Lord, the Son of God in an utterly unique way. It is this gospel that he proclaims to the nations—namely, that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord of heaven and earth, of this world and the world to come. Yet in and through the divine Son, both Jew and Greek are united to the body of Christ and given the grace of adoption in him. At the very core of this message is the proclamation of what the Catholic tradition has long called the admirabile commercium (the “great exchange”): he became as we are so that we may become as he is. From the time of Irenaeus, this has been recognized as the heart of Christian soteriology, and, as our treatment shows, it is a notion derived from Paul. Or, as he put it in his own words, “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).

 Pitre, B., Barber, M. P., & Kincaid, J. A. (2019). Paul, a New Covenant Jew: Rethinking Pauline Theology (pp. 251–253). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Meanwhile, Jesus kept on growing wiser and more mature, and in favor with God and his fellow man.

International Standard Version. (2011). (Lk 2:52). Yorba Linda, CA: ISV Foundation.

MacBook Pro macOS Big Sur 11.6 1TB SSD 

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Kevin Clemens | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 15 2021 7:34 PM

I really enjoyed this book and would heartily recommend it, especially for those interested in engaging with or learning more about a Catholic reading of Paul (especially on justification) in dialogue with contemporary scholarship. The opening chapter (What kind of Jew was Paul?) gives a very accessible lay of the current Pauline landscape, and then situates this book in relation to the other predominant perspectives. A distinctive of this book is in paying attention to cultic language in Paul, especially as it relates to baptism and the Lord's Supper, an element often marginalized in lots of Pauline studies written today.

You also may be interested to listen to the authors themselves talk about their book on the OnScript Podcast:

Interview with Brant Pitre and Michael Barber

Interview with John Kincaid

Finally worth noting: Pitre contributed the Catholic Perspective in the recent Perspectives on Paul: Five Views.

(Full disclosure, I have had all three of the authors for graduate classes in Scripture and Theology.)

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NB.Mick | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 15 2021 11:35 PM

Kevin Clemens:
Finally worth noting: Pitre contributed the Catholic Perspective in the recent Perspectives on Paul: Five Views.

Thanks, good to know (about the fact and about the book, which somehow escaped my notice). Put it on my wish list.

Btw: Your link was broken - I fixed it in my quote of your post.

Running Logos 9 latest (beta) version on Win 10

Posts 1912
Paul Caneparo | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 16 2021 9:01 AM

Thanks for the last 3 replies.

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