Item description for Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective by Francis Watson...
Overview In its first edition (1986), this book was the first monograph-length response to the groundbreaking work of E. P. Sanders. Francis Watson shared some of the concerns of what came to be called the "new perspective on Paul," but took an independent line on several points. Now, in this new, completely rewritten edition, the discussion has been extended, updated, and clarified, in order to point the way beyond the polarization of "new" and "old" perspectives on Paul. The Paul who comes to light in these pages is both agent and thinker, apostle and theologian. He is a highly contextual figure, yet his account of Christian identity continues to shape the church's life to this day. He is the founder of mainly Gentile, Christ-believing communities, separated from the synagogue; and yet he can see this distinctive existence as an authentic response to Jewish scripture and tradition, as fulfilled in Christ. He is a many-sided figure, transcending all our attempts to categorize him or to co-opt him for our own favored courses. Far longer than the original edition, Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles also contains a new introduction and an extensive appendix.
Publishers Description In this new, completely rewritten edition of his major 1986 book, Francis Watson extends, updates, and clarifies his response to E.??P. Sanders??'s view of Paul, in order to point the way beyond the polarization of "new" and "old" perspectives on the apostle.
The Paul who comes to light in these pages is agent and thinker, apostle and theologian. He is a highly contextual figure, yet his account of Christian identity continues to shape the church's life to this day. He is the founder of mainly Gentile, Christ-believing communities, separated from the synagogue; and yet he can see this distinctive existence as an authentic response to Jewish scripture and tradition, as fulfilled in Christ. He is a many-sided figure, transcending all our attempts to categorize him or to co-opt him for our own favored causes.
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Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1" Width: 6.25" Height: 9" Weight: 1.3 lbs.
Release Date Oct 1, 2007
Publisher WM. B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING CO.
ISBN 0802840205 ISBN13 9780802840202
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More About Francis Watson
Francis Watson is Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion, University of Durham and was formerly a holder of the Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis in the University of Aberdeen (1999-2007), as well as a Reader in Biblical Theology, King's College London. Previous publications include: Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles, Text, Church and World, Text and Truth and Agape, Eros, Gender.
Reviews - What do customers think about Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective?
Good-bye, New Perspective Aug 18, 2008
Imagine a fiercely anti-Lutheran book on Paul, revised years after its author came to believe the New Perspective was equally misguided, yet ending up essentially unaltered, its thesis intact. Is that even possible? Amazingly, yes. This is the book -- now subtitled "Beyond the New Perspective" -- presenting the same sectarian apostle as before, a Paul who believed the law had had its day and sought to theologically legitimate his church communities independent of the synagogue.
Although Watson says he's retained only "the empty shell of what he once argued", I think that's an overstatement. True, he has repented of his enthusiasm for the New Perspective, but that hasn't effected the heart of his argument. It just happens to move us beyond the New Perspective in a way he didn't originally anticipate. The New Perspective paints Paul as Jewish-friendly -- speaking against only parts of the law so as to make things easy on Gentiles -- when in fact, the apostle had no more use for the law than Luther did (if for different reasons). It paints Paul's emphasis on divine grace as readily compatible with Judaic soteriology, when in fact Judaism didn't have the one-sided emphasis on grace that Sanders claims.
In some ways the book reminds of Philip Esler's work. But where Esler uses different social identity theories to account for different situations (separation in Galatians; recategorization in Romans), Watson uses a single sociological model for both letters (sectarian), which results in problems for understanding Romans, where Paul tried establishing a common identity that embraced Jew and Greek identities without extinguishing either. In Galatians he was trying to eradicate Jewish identity in sectarian/separatist fashion ("in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek"), while in Romans he was trying, in large measure, to preserve it.
Watson's insistence that Romans was addressed primarily to Jews -- that they should accept the legitimacy of the Gentiles' law-free gospel and separate from the synagogue -- while a refreshing and more plausible alternative to the New Perspective's focus on Gentile addressees, fails to make sense of the recategorization strategy spotted by Esler, not to mention the exceptionally positive estimation of ethnic Israel (Watson's gloss of Rom 11 as a "comparatively irenic passage" is still the Achilles' heel of his thesis), and even more so the injunction upon Gentiles to abide by minimal Torah standards when in the company of Jews with ties to the synagogue (14:1-15:13). Romans is addressed to "the Jew and Greek" in equal and alternating measure.
Curiously, Watson isn't able to distance himself from Dunn and Wright as much as he wants to. For all his insistence that the law was obsolete -- that Paul did not retain an ethical kernel of the Torah minus its ethnic works -- he turns around and claims that Paul did pretty much exactly that in the context of Christian community. "There is according to Paul a reduced law -- a law without circumcision, dietary restrictions, cultus, or sacred days -- that remains operative in the Christian community (Rom 13:8-10). Thus it can be said that 'circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing -- all that matters is keeping the commandments of God'." (I Cor 7:19) In other words, he thinks Paul believed in a new law fulfilled by Christians. While this is a plausible expression of Paul's view at the time of writing I Corinthians (in which Paul presents commandments and moral imperatives as having force), it finds no place in his writings after the Galatian crisis. Unfortunately, Watson dates Galatians before I Corinthians instead of after, and his arguments for doing so are unconvincing, not least because I Cor 7:19 is seen to be revised by Gal 5:6: "the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" -- again in the exact same context of circumcision, but this time with nothing said about the necessity of keeping commandments. By the time of Galatians Paul was completely through with the law: The best it ever had to offer (love of one's neighbor) was now available through an entirely different route -- the spirit. "To say that the law is fulfilled by love does not affect this conclusion... Fulfillment means that the moral demands of the law no longer have any role for Christians." (Esler, Conflict and Identity, p 334). Paul now believed in the complete replacement of the law by the spirit, rather than a continued ethical aspect of it.
While Esler's books offer the best readings of Galatians and Romans, Watson's remains the most devastating critique of the Lutheran Perspective, and now of the New as well. But what exactly does it mean to move "beyond the New Perspective"? Does Watson's endorsement of Sanders really take us "beyond" anything? Isn't it a step backwards? Aren't we just acknowledging that Sanders had it right before Dunn and Wright came along and tried improving on Sanders in the wrong way?
Sort of. Watson calls us to move backwards to Sanders' view of Paul (which he has always approved) but forwards beyond Sanders' view of Judaism (which he now only half-approves as a corrective to Lutheran caricatures). Of course, to move forward beyond the latter carries implications that will take us -- at least in some ways -- beyond the former. Watson ominously concludes that
"The Lutheran insistence on the centrality and radicality of divine grace is not wholly in error... The claim that Judaism is a religion of grace will prove to be at least as misleading as the older language of legalism or works-righteousness. While there should be no reversion to the Lutheran Paul of the old perspective, one does not read Paul aright merely by criticizing Luther and emphasizing Gentile inclusion." (p 346)
The Gentile issue was obviously crucial, but subordinate to a radical Christology. If we subordinate Christology to ethnicity, we kill the former and misrepresent Paul's gospel as a variant of Jewish messianism. The New Perspective has done exactly that. Watson forces us to face our eisegetical delusions: that the specter of nationalism can be as intrusive as that of legalism, and if we allow ourselves to light on a more alien Paul, perhaps, just perhaps, we'll finally be doing the apostle justice.