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Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo – Part 3 (Pauline Scholarship and His Contemporary Significance)

Matthew S. Harmon and Jay E. Smith, ed. Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 320 pp. $49.99.

Moo FSThis is the final installment of a three-part overview of the Festschrift presented to Dr. Douglas Moo at last year’s ETS Annual Meeting (read part 1 and part 2 if you missed them). Robert Yarbrough kicks off this last section with an essay entitled “Salvation History” (Heilsgeschichte) and Paul: Comments on a Disputed by Essential Category” in which he offers nine propositions for why we need to read Paul with a salvation-historical hermeneutic. Next is G. K. Beale with “The Eschatology of Paul.” Beale first provides as background a brief survey of “latter days” and similar phrases in the OT and Second Temple Judaism, and then goes on to give an overview of Paul’s eschatology, demonstrating it to be an inaugurated eschatology linked with new creation. Finally, Beale shows how the resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit in relation to resurrection and regeneration, the Holy Spirit in relation to sanctification, justification, the law, and ecclesiology are all best understood through the lens of already and not yet eschatological new creation.

Third, we have James Dunn with “What’s Right about the Old Perspective on Paul.” Dunn looks at three things that the Old Perspective got right – the saving righteousness of God, the fundamental role of faith, and salvation not being achievable by works. For each of these points Dunn points out what the Old Perspective is right about, what the weak points are, and what changes are brought about by the “new perspective.” He concludes with the following: “The new perspective by no means replaces the old perspective, but the debate it has fostered cleans the lenses of both and allows the Pauline perspective to be seen in more of its idiosyncratic fulness” (229). Stephen Westerholm presents the next essay, “What’s Right about the New Perspective on Paul,” with the following conclusion: “the discussion engendered by Sanders’s work has led to fairer depictions of Judaism in Paul’s day, a fresh appreciation of the crucial debate that moved Paul to articulate clearly his doctrine of justification, and a renewed awareness of the practical implications of Paul’s doctrine, in his day and in ours. These are results for which even critics of the new perspective should be grateful” (242).

In the next essay, “A New Perspective on Käsemann? Apocalyptic, Covenant, and the Righteousness of God,” N. T. Wright takes issue with the way the NIV translates  δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ (as righteousness from God, whereas Wright believes the phrase speaks of God’s own righteousness and his covenant faithfulness to Israel). He argues for a view similar to Käsemann in terms of Paul’s δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ  as God’s own righteousness, but insists that “this meaning contains within itself the meaning ‘covenant faithfulness'” (250) and proposing that it meant this for Käsemann as well. By looking at some of Käsemann’s later writings, Wright argues that for Käsemann, in contrast to the neo-apocalyptic school that claims him as father, δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ has covenantal overtones that cannot be severed.

Closing out a collection of essays that are pretty academic and technical, the last two essays are very practical and get into matters of the “real world”. In the penultimate essay Thomas Schreiner surveys what Paul says about truth – the unbeliever’s suppression of it and failure to comprehend it, and the believer being granted understanding by God. He concludes with an examination of the believer’s battle for the mind, a struggle rooted for Paul in his inaugurated eschatology. And finally, Mark Seifrid concludes the book with an essay that considers what Paul’s message is to the church today. He looks specifically at three aspects of the timeless message of the gospel and how they speak to believers today: Paul’s message of justification, Paul’s message of the gospel and community, Paul’s message of the gospel bringing a radical break with the world, and Christian suffering.

The essays I found most interesting in this section were those by Dunn and Westerholm. The NPP/OPP debates have tended to be very polarized and polarizing, and so it’s somewhat surprising and definitely illuminating to see the most well-known proponent of the “new perspectives” point out what’s right about the Old, and the most well-known defender of the “old perspective” point out what’s right about the new. I was also surprised by how the book ended, but the last two essays are a good reminder that there are real-life implications for the work done in the ivory tower and that for Christians, biblical scholarship should be done in service of the church. Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo is definitely a must-read for every Pauline studies geek, but especially those who appreciate the work of Dr. Moo. Through essays on key texts and issues in Pauline studies by some of today’s leading New Testament scholars, this Festschrift provides a window into the current academic world of Pauline studies. This makes the book an especially insightful, beneficial, and helpful book for seminary students and budding Pauline scholars, as well as for academically-inclined laypeople with an interest in Pauline studies.

Many thanks to Zondervan Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon


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  1. I just now read your three posts on Moo’s Festschrift. Thank you for this superb account of the book; I do look forward to picking up a copy in the not-too-distant future!

    Liked by 1 person

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